What's Her Secret?: Bluffton mom helps others through the adoption process

abredeson@islandpacket.comAugust 20, 2012 

Meaghan Mankowski poses on her front porch with her three children. Her children are, from left, Mahana, 3, Trace, 9, and Tanon, 6.

JAY KARR/STAFF PHOTO

REAL MOMS, REAL ADVICE

Name: Meaghen Mankowski

Town: Bluffton

Strength: Coaching friends through the adoption process

Features writer Amy Bredeson writes about Lowcountry moms who have advice to share. Email her at abredeson@islandpacket.com.

Adopting a child can be a complicated and emotional process for parents.

Bluffton stay-at-home mom Meaghen Mankowski has made it her mission to help other parents cope with the roller coaster of feelings that come with adoption.

Mankowski and her husband, Toby, already had two biological sons when they decided to adopt. They brought home their newborn daughter, Mahana, in April 2009.

Question. So, you said helping people through the adoption process is your strength? How did that come about?

Answer. We actually had some friends who went through the adoption process the year before us. So I found all of their advice really helpful when we started to go through the adoption process. And so I think ... that made me realize how important that is -- to have just somebody to ask questions, just even to be somebody to listen. The process of adoption is definitely a roller coaster, and to have somebody to talk to who has been through it is huge.

Q. How were your friends there for you when you were adopting?

A. When you're going through the process, there are times where ... you're just unsure of what's going to happen. I think talking to somebody who has been through it, it makes you realize you're not the only one who has the feelings that you're feeling. I think emotionally was the biggest part. Our friends who had gone through the adoption process had taken a different route. They had gone through an agency, and our adoption was different from that because we had a private adoption. And they lived in different states so the laws were different. So it wasn't necessarily ... the legal questions. It was more just the emotional support that was how they were there for us.

Q. Since adopting Mahana, who have you helped through the process?

A. We have a friend here in Bluffton. She was the labor and delivery nurse who delivered Mahana in Beaufort. She contacted me and said that they were thinking about going through the adoption process. And they did the same thing we did -- they went through a private adoption. She had tons of questions ... I just basically told her our story and helped her through everything she was going through. It just happened to be a year and a half later. We have other friends from out of state who have gone through it. I have a friend who did an international adoption, which even though there's a lot of different things that go into different types of adoptions, the main thing is that you're going to be welcoming this child into your home and just the emotional adjustment.

Q. What is something you like to share with people who are adopting?

A. One of the main things that our friends who adopted before us said that stuck with me ... and I pass this on to other friends, too. If you tell (your adopted children) from the beginning and you just make it part of their life, it never is "the day they found out." If you don't wait until you think they are old enough to understand, it's always part of their life. It's not like you sit them down one day when they're 10 and you decide they can understand. Because that becomes a trust issue. They need to grow up knowing that that's part of them. And another thing I try to help people with is understanding that's not their identity. That's not Mahana's identity. ... It's part of who she is. It's part of what makes her special, but that's not what makes her her. ... And I think that's one of the main things we got from our friends whose child is a little bit older than ours. I think that helped me, and I like to pass it on to other people, too.

Q. It sounds like you're great at supporting your friends who are adopting. What is something you are not so great at doing?

A. I'm not good with follow-through. I'm the queen of telling my kids to do something and telling them again. "You need to sit down and do your homework." I think I don't give them the independence they need, and that's definitely a downfall. ... I say, "Clean up your room," five minutes later, "Clean up your room." And then I do it. I need to follow through.

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