When most of us were little girls, and we dreamed about one day having a family, we imagined our family being built in the same way most families are: with a growing belly and nine months of gleeful anticipation.

Then we became adults, and life led us down a different path. Maybe it was meeting a child in foster care who truly needed a home, or perhaps it was years of infertility that brought you to adoption. Whatever your reasoning was, now that you’re actually parenting as a result of adoption, you realize it’s no different than you once believed it would be.

You’re still every bit the mom you always wanted to become.

Of course, there are a few things that set parenting through adoption apart. Here are 11 things that only a mother through adoption could understand.

1. The insanity of having to convince a total stranger you’re fit to parent

Answering invasive questions about your life, deep cleaning every inch of your house, procuring lengthy recommendations from friends and family, all to prove you’re worthy. Meanwhile, your cousin who still lives at home just announced she’s pregnant with her third. And she doesn’t have a job. Or know who the father is. Or necessarily feel like giving up “wine-o-clock” this pregnancy. But your drawers are the ones the social worker is looking through to judge your preparedness for parenthood.

2. Listening to your friends talk about “trying”

Doesn’t it feel like their baby prep is way more fun than your baby prep? They get naked, you fill out mounds of paperwork. It just doesn’t seem fair…

3. Running to wait

Rushing to fill out this stack of paperwork, only to be told it’s three months until the next qualification class. Working hard to finish your profile, only to wait six months before any interest is shown. Having what feels like a great call with a potential birth mom, only to wait by the phone for two weeks without any idea of which direction she’s going to go. Just… so… much… waiting.

4. Fielding the opinions of everyone in your life

“You should adopt from abroad!” “I hope you’re getting a baby from here.” “There are so many older kids in foster care who need homes! Everyone wants a baby, you should take a child who might not find a family otherwise.” “You’re getting a newborn, right? Older kids have so many problems.”

Everyone’s got an opinion, and they’re all sure you’re just dying to know what they think.

5. The questions that keep you up at night

Are you ready for this? Will you love this child like you would have one you birthed? Will everyone else in your life accept this child as your own? Are you enough? Are you worthy? Will any birth mother ever pick you?

6. The exhilaration — and fear — of being matched

This is it! Everything you’ve been waiting for. Except… what if it isn’t? What if the mother changes her mind? What if she backs out? What if none of this is real?

7. The intensity of loving a child you may not get to keep

The first time you hold them. The first time you take them home. The first time you rock them to sleep. You are already so, so in love. But until finalization, you’re also keenly aware of how quickly it could all be taken away.

8. The urge to do it all perfectly

You want to be worthy of this honor that you’ve been chosen for. And the realization that you’re just as lost as every other new mother out there. And suddenly so, so tired.

9. The sigh of relief when finalization day arrives

In that moment, when everything is officially official, it’s like you’re finally able to release a breath you hadn’t even realized you were holding onto.

10. The unbelievable things people ask

“Where are his real parents?” “How much did you pay for her?” “Don’t you want one of your own?” And the burning desire to kick them.

11. The moment you wake up and realize you couldn’t possibly love this child any more than you do right now

Not if you had carried and birthed them yourself, and not if they did have your eyes and your partner’s nose. Everything about this child is perfect, and you wouldn’t change a thing. Because that bond you once worried might not exist? It’s there, and it’s stronger than anything you ever imagined it would be.