The Monster of the Unknown

I'm struggling a bit lately.

With adoption being in the news as of late, there has been no shortage of experts giving their opinions on the matter. Lots of these reports have pointed out all the pitfalls of bringing children from other countries into your home. Those stories are bringing up my own personal demon--the monster of the unknown.

My friend C always tells me that having children is the ultimate leap of faith. And neither Scott nor I are good at leaps of faith. One of the reasons our decision to have a family has been such a big step for us, is because we seemed to have moved past all the unknowns that used to overwhelm us.

Here's one report from Minnesota Public Radio on the complexity of international adoptions. This story is one of the dozens I've read or listened too. Every story is a little like looking at a car crash--I know it's going to scare me, but I can't help it.

It's my own personal Monster of the Unknown. It rears up and swipes at my newfound sureness about adoption. It keeps me up at night. It gives me a pit in my stomach and make me question what we are doing. I read all this stuff because I want to be aware of adoption issues, but in turn, they are making me more afraid.

The reality of adoption is that the children have experienced much more than you will ever know, and those experiences will strongly impact who they are. International adoptees often face huge challenges in their lives. Not only are they dealing with being adopted, but also trying to come to grips with their relationship (or loss of) to their country of origin.

The numbers are scary too. Some Asian children raised in white homes feel isolated, never feeling at ease with the Asian community or the white communities. Emotional problems may surface as the child ages, such as attachment issues, so adoptive parents must be on the lookout all the time, for years after their children come home. They are constantly evaluating if the "phase" the child is going through is "normal" or if it's indicative of some other problems they might encounter down the road.

I try to calm myself with the knowledge that there are plenty of children with these same issues who were raised with their biological families. I know this from personal experience. But maybe it seems a bit more scary to me because of the unknown history in the adopted baby's background. We have no frame of reference for understanding just why they might be acting a certain way, or even knowing specific things to watch for. And the fact that we are receiving them at an older age means that they have much more life experience before they come to live with us.

I know for every story we hear, there are countless success stories. And I've read alot of those too. But those happy stories don't scare me like the others do. I want to know what the path of parenthood might look like for us, but how can I stay informed without letting the Monster in?

It's that leap of faith thing. 

Is all this the same panic that birth parents feel? Worrying about what their children will encounter in their lives? Worrying how you will parent your way through it? Wondering if you can get through the difficulties and live happily?

Heaven forbid, if we should encounter these problems, I do have faith in us as parents. Scott and I are both aggressive problem solvers. We are smart and resourceful. We'd find a way to tackle problems, come hell or high water. 

I have to keep reminding myself that for all the bad stories we hear about, there are plenty of success stories. Lots of happy children. Lots of happy families. Hopefully holding on to the hope of a well adjusted kid and a happy family will be a sword to battle back the Monster of the Unknown when it rears it's ugly head.

(Illustration credit: Sam's Tasty Art found at http://yayeveryday.com)


  1. You are already becoming a great parent... as you are caring about your child. Most parents have fears for their child(ren) and the parents that don't... well they probably should get some counseling!

    Think about it, you care about your husband adjusting to a work environment, getting along well with those around him, feeling comfortable with who he is, having a healthy sense of self-worth. It's no difference with your child. Adopting a child is more like a marriage than a birth. You accept everything about that other person and will do everything you can to help them fight whatever Monster faces them.

    None of us wish for a child to find themselves in a place without their birth parents, but it's just something that happens in the world, and always will. The best thing to happen to a child in this circumstance is to find loving parents who will (during the day to day life) love them so much that the fact that they are adopted doesn't come to mind. When your family loves each other unconditionally those Monsters don't have a chance!

  2. I read your message on LL waiters and your post here. As another mom who frequently battles w/the Monster of the Unknown, I can really relate to what you are going through. I went through many of the same emotions during our first adoption.

    I've been a mom for almost 3 years now and I can tell you with certainty - it is life-changing, challenging, scary and totally worth it. Being a parent is hard sometimes and adoption can bring w/it more complexities. You are doing exactly what you need to do to prepare for any potential issues that come your way. Its good to educate yourself - on both the good and the bad - the key is to remember that each child is different and that while every child goes through an adjustment and grieving process, with the help of a loving, supportive family, they will work through it and your family will reach a point where adoption is part of who your child is, but it does not define him or everything he does. Don't let the stories push you to a point where you convince yourself your family will never be "normal".

    Don't let the Monster win!


  3. Jen, Thanks for the wonderful words of support!


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