We’ve had quite a number of rather somber discussions on adoption so far, so let’s look at a lighter side of it this time round…………..
When you adopt a baby especially if it is your first adoption and your first born, you discover certain things that no one prepares you for. Some are great discoveries and good fun, while others are not. I have discovered lots of strange and interesting things along the way that we can talk about today:-
1. Let us talk schedules: When you adopt a child, you get a highly scheduled baby. Depending on your parenting philosophy, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. I like order and I believe schedules are great for babies, so this was crazy amazing. The baby would eat at a certain time, sleep at a certain time, wake up at exactly10 pm and 3 am for night feeds. I would call this an “adoption perk”. The great thing about this perk is if that children THRIVE in scheduled environments. If you maintain the schedule as is, you end up with a sweet tempered little person for at least the first 2.5 years. There are no guarantees of the sweet temperedness after that age.
2. Let’s talk exhaustion: You will be totally exhausted. I had zero experience with babies when my daughter came home and I knew the learning would be challenging. What I was not prepared for was to go on a 2 week crash diet, where I barely ate for the first two weeks. One of my friends who has a biological child told me she could relate. You imagine that you will get home and since the baby is 5-6 months and highly scheduled, you will operate like a machine? Well……. Nope. The first month went like a whirlwind. Other than a 6 hour battle with colic, I remember NOTHING from that month but exhaustion. I do not remember showering or sleeping in the first 2 weeks. At some point in the second month, I paused and noticed my child as if I was meeting her for the first time as a human being, and not this great bundle I needed to do something for all the time. My advice: Kenya’s Employment Act is not clear about adoptive mothers getting maternity leave, but please please please negotiate with your employer for flexi time if not a full month’s leave when your baby comes home. I assure you – you will need it.
3. Let’s talk cost of baby food! Formula is expensive and babies drink A LOT of it! When I was budgeting for baby’s home coming, I spoke to a few biological moms who were super helpful in helping me prepare. In fact I had a list of 105 items I needed to buy before the baby gets home! Now since most biological mums breastfeed for at least 6 months, no one prepared me for the formula experience. Did you know a bottle of formula costs about Kshs 1,000 and lasts on average between 2-3 days for a 5 month old? Well, neither did I!
I also didn’t know one cannot keep the portion that the baby doesn’t drink if it’s already mixed. This meant mastering the art of estimating just how hungry the baby was to avoid waste. I confirm that this takes quite a bit of practice and quite a number of liters of formula down the drain.
4. Let’s talk weight loss expertise: You will become the weight loss expert at the paediatrician office. Moms share special camaraderie with each other because raising babies is a crazy experience. This camaraderie is especially felt at the paediatrician’s office, where sleep deprived moms assemble with their “sleep deprivees”. Discussions on things like nappy rash, feeding, cracked nipples (I kid you not!) with total strangers is the norm. Do not be surprised when a mom comments about your flat tummy yet you have a 5 month old. When this happens, the waiting room will go quiet for a couple of seconds as the other mom’s turn and look at you expectantly. Here you are faced with two questions or rather a moral dilemma. Number one – There is the privacy question – do I tell them the baby is adopted, which will lead to 1 million other questions about my personal life that are not part of our motherhood open sharing session, or do I honor my (and my baby’s) privacy?Number two – Do I give a general answer with my thoughts (and not my experience) on post baby weight loss? Well………., I always went with the second. I told them I run regularly and running is great for weight loss, and invited them to join our running club. It was great advice yes and it works yes, but I still felt like a con.
5. Let’s talk baby’s resemblance: Get used to it, your child is a carbon copy of you. People love to comment about your resemblance to your adopted child. It is one of the coping mechanisms for the stigma that dogs adoption where people pretend it didn’t happen. Your relatives will comment about this every 3-6 months and each time, the child will look like you EVEN MORE! Everyone you tell about the adoption will comment about it. Get used to this early. And it is a compliment, so please remember to thank them with a smile. Also get used to awkward questions like the tribe of your child, and where he/she was found.
6. Let’s ditch 100-item baby preparation list: It is natural to want to prepare adequately for your child but every mother will tell you that she bought more stuff than the baby needed when she first got a baby. As shared, I had the 105-item list, but my baby’s home coming was totally unexpected (story for another day). She came home 6 months before I had planned, and I knew she’d be coming home 3 days before she actually did. I guess you could say it was the adoption equivalent of an emergency birth! If I remember well, once I knew I had 3 days to prepare, I rushed to Biashara Street and bought 4 onesies, 4 vests, 3 rompers, diapers, a baby basin, 3 cotton cloths, ear buds, formula, feeding bottles and may be 3 other items and we were in business! I bought more clothes later, but I can honestly tell you that I managed to make do with at most 30, of the 105 items that I previously “needed”. In an adoption, the baby is much older, she does not need the things a newborn would, and most of what she needs is already at home. So ditch the list, buy the basics. Seriously, do it! It will be the best thing you will ever do to your pocket and remember you need that money for formula?
So there you have it! Are you a parent? If yes, please share fun and not so fun stuff you have had to discover in your journey.
November is Adoption Month and to mark it, I will be sharing info on adoption on this blog, and talking about adoption social media. Please talk to someone about adoption and share this blog on your social networks. Let us demystify it.