If I Knew Then What I Know Now

May 9, 2015

Adoption blogs are like WebMD – if you want to sleep at night, be very careful with your search terms. If you want to read about families with perfectly-adjusted adopted children heading to MIT and Julliard, google “China doll, joy, blessed, adoption, America.” Add in #ILoveMyLife and #ItsASmallWorld for good measure.

If you want to scare yourself right out of adopting, you’ll want to read about the broken children, the re-homing stories, the accounts of horrific abuse in orphanages and RAD.

I land somewhere in the middle, and it’s a hard thing for me to write about. Not because it’s emotional or because I don’t know what to say, but because I know that there are a handful of readers out there who are considering adoption. It feels like a lot of pressure.

I’ve been thinking on how to weigh in on this for quite a while when, about a month ago, I was talking to another adoptive mom. Not any adoptive mom, but the other Arizona mom who was on our China adoption trip. She and her husband adopted Mia, a tiny, beautiful bundle of hyperactive, hand-holding goodness.

This mom doesn’t just understand our journey, she was on the same freaking trip.

We were catching up on therapies and school and progress while the kids were screaming, I mean, playing, and she said, “If we knew then what we know now…”

Whoa Nelly. Those are some big words.

If we knew then what we know now…                       

It hit me. Potential Adoptive People, this is what you’re really asking me, isn’t it? This is the question you want answered when you reach out to me and try to politely find out if it’s possible that you’ll end up with a child who struggles like my son struggles.

You want to know if, six years ago, sitting at the same kitchen counter I am sitting at now, staring hard at a 2×3 photo of a frowning, chubby-cheeked Chinese orphan, if I knew what I was signing up for. You want to know if Jax’s adoption file had included the ticker tape of the diagnoses and emotional issues I now know exist, would I have been on that airplane to China?

Are you kidding me?! Not a snowball’s chance in hell! Gah.

I would have run and hid in holy terror. I would have gotten a dog, embraced my role as aunt, and started a blog about all my extra money and travel adventures.

I was a young-ish, naïve, ignorantly optimistic wannabe mother who adopted a child I was in no way prepared for, or my god, even remotely qualified to bring home. My experience with special needs up to that point was a friend with a peanut allergy. I want to be kidding you, but I am so absolutely not. When I look back at the photos from China, I am honestly amazed someone didn’t stop us at the airport and say, “Nǐ hǎo, we’ve decided this isn’t the best idea. Have you considered a fish? Or a ceramic bird?”

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 12.50.29 PM

(People. The week before I left to ADOPT A CHILD, I blogged a photo of a cute wardrobe, had no idea what day I left, and was bummed about my ugly passport photo. I remain amazed that someone let this happen.)

(People. The week before I left to ADOPT A CHILD, I blogged a photo of a cute wardrobe, had no idea what day I left, and was bummed about my ugly passport photo. I remain amazed that I was permitted to bring a child home.)

Did I know what I was signing up for? Puh-lease. I thought the child needed a palate surgery and a hug.

Before your collective gasps cause a cosmic shift that spills my coffee, and before you shred the adoption application that’s been taped to your fridge for three months, ask me what is really  important. Ask me the only thing that is important.

Ask me if I would adopt this kid again.



Of course I would do it again. I would do it over a thousand times, a million. This is my son we’re talking about, my child. What a dumb question I made you ask me.

Adopting this little boy is the least rational, but straight up best decision I have ever made. My heart announced that I was ready and capable of raising someone else’s child (A real child!! What absolute insanity that was.), and when my brain raised its hand and started to discuss things like early childhood development and trauma and why isn’t this kiddo looking at the camera, my heart shut that sucker off like a light switch.

Thank God for hearts.

To the maybe-possibly-is-adoption-the-right-decision readers out there looking for some good advice – pshaw, I’ve got nothing. I’ve got no statistics, no checklists, nothing that a reasonable person would want to consider before making a decision of this magnitude. That’s not how I did this.

All I’ve got to offer is the truth that on this Mother’s Day, and on every Mother’s Day, I lift my glass and toast to being unprepared, a little irrational and very optimistic. Cheers to not knowing then what I know now.



  1. stealingnectar

    Couldn’t love this post any more. Sincerely, an in-process adoptive momma. 😉

  2. The Echo Umbrella

    I think your unpreparedness in the early stages is the mark of a true parent. 😉

    My hubby and I have thought about adopting. It’s not for us unfortunately (I wouldn’t make a proper mom) but still, I love the idea… and I love honesty and the humor in this post of yours. 🙂

  3. Kristi

    My friend, you’ve done it again! Honest and messy. Just like our lives.

  4. Staci Conrad

    Yes! Yes! Yes!! SO MUCH THIS! 🙂 I never would have chosen this much pain, this much chaos, this much mess. However, I would have missed out on all this love, all this joy and all this blessing. I am glad I didn’t know.
    Have a Joyful Mother’s Day!! (Happy is just nonsense!)

  5. pamela

    Recently found your blog….so glad I did! I am an adoptive mom of a beautiful baby boy diagnosed with ASD. It’s nice to have someone to relate to in this crazy world. I’d do it all over again and again and again and again…….

  6. Shellie Woods

    Reblogged this on Shellie Woods and commented:
    Love your article! It looks like we have alot in common. Happy Mother’s Day!

  7. Deirdre Simmons

    Hi Becca,
    My friend and my daughter’s principal, Mary Glover, hooked me up with your blog. She thought we might appreciate each other’s lives. I really appreciate your candor and would love to meet you and your son some time 🙂 I think I may have been more prepared for the possibilities that have faced us, but guess what? It hasn’t really helped that much. I learn so much more every day than I can ever put into practice. Learning to be the parent she needs seems as hard for me as learning social skills are for her.
    I am very lucky, for the first time in the past couple of months she has initiated some hug-requests! She is 9, in 3rd grade and home for 7+ years. She had open heart surgery in China, the least of our concerns here in the USA. I love my baby fiercely! Happy Mother’s Day Becca!

    • Rebecca Masterson

      Deidre, I think I met your beautiful daughter last summer when Jax spent two weeks at the Seed in the summer program. Possible? Either way, I would love to meet you! Shoot me an email. Emails4becca@gmail.com

  8. Julie

    Love this post! Multi generations of my family are adopted from the 1940’s and continuing today – my daughter is considering this as well. Without adoption, our big beautiful family would have never been 😀


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.