This is the heartwarming story of the Ciccone family, who opened their hearts and home to a child through adoption. The decision to adopt was not new to them, as Mike’s brothers had been adopted as well. Through their experiences, they have gained valuable insights into navigating the challenges of the adoption process and have learned important lessons that they are eager to share with others considering adoption and permanency.

Tell me about your adoption story. What made you decide adoption was right for you?

We weren’t able to have a baby naturally, so initially we thought, okay, we’re just going to be those great uncles and aunts, spoil our friends’ kids, and go that route. Then it was just obvious that we had to be parents, and we wanted to be parents really badly.
We had thought about adoption earlier in our marriage and talked about it not so seriously. Then at that point, we said why don’t we do this, that’s our option, so let’s do it. We went to a few workshops and contacted some friends, and I have adoption in my family. My brothers are adopted, so we were used to that family setup; it never felt unnatural to us.

What was something that surprised you most about the adoption process?

We had a bit of a unique situation with our adoption in that we were there for the birth. Rebecca was actually in the room for the birth. We know that’s really unusual, and in hindsight, we realized it was a little naive on our part and very risky since the birth mama could have changed her mind.

It was a bit of a surprise to think about afterward the fact that both of us put ourselves in a situation where it could have been very uncomfortable for the birth mother and us. That would have been a really tough decision, and we know it was still a tough decision for her. Being honest with yourself was something we had to come to grips with.

One of the most emotional experiences was that moment once everything was done, legal papers were signed, and birth mama had officially made us her parents. We were still in the hospital, and it was that moment of absolute sadness and heartbreak knowing what the birth mom was going through and absolute elation and joy for us. The moment of we were a family, and we were holding our baby, and she was coming home with us, it’s something I never anticipated. You don’t think about that part of it, but when it happens, it’s this unbelievable emotion of each end of the spectrum that you really can’t prepare yourself for.

Is there something you wish you had heard or something you want to share with families that might help them with the adoption process?

For families in situations like us, where we tried to have a biological baby, and that didn’t happen, you have to grieve that first. You can’t just decide instantly, “ok, now we’re adopting.” That is a big life upset. You really have to grieve that and go through that emotional process to prepare yourself for a clean slate and to be able to fully embrace this new way of becoming a family.

Were there any other programs or services the Belonging Network that were helpful?

There are a lot of great programs that are offered, and I think it’s essential for anyone who wants to adopt to get in contact with the Belonging Network and find out everything they possibly can. As an adoptive parent, you must be willing to soak up information. You can’t go into it naively because you have to do your work and be comfortable with so many aspects of it.

How has the Belonging Network made a difference in your life?

You were there to get us prepared for what was to come. I think people think, “oh, let’s adopt a baby, and let’s go and do it,” but you don’t realize how much there is to learn and how much there should be to learn. Also, you need to comprehend that it’s not just about you. As much as the baby is a gift, of course, there is trauma at the end of the day. Ideally, we would always want a baby to stay with the birth family whenever possible, but when not possible, we feel blessed that we were able to become a family in that way. The Belonging Network helped us better appreciate what the birth family goes through and what your child will go through.

What is something about adoption you wish people knew?

The biggest one is just to educate yourself and be honest with yourself because you will have to answer some hard questions about parenting, about being a family, and about what you want in a family. Some of them are difficult, and some of them are selfish. You really have to be yourself, be honest, and understand that you will have to do a lot of learning and be ready for that. It’s not an easy process in many ways, but for a good reason, it shouldn’t be easy.