When my husband and I decided to start a family, we knew we would adopt. But with so many possibilities and so much information out there, we were overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin. Ultimately, we decided to start with the people who knew best: the adoptive families in our lives. As we get ready to celebrate our fourth Thanksgiving with our biggest blessing of all, our son, I wanted to share with you five steps to take if you are thinking about adoption.

Whether over the phone or in person, talk to people you know who have a personal adoption story. You will gain valuable insight about the process and the unique nuances of parenting through adoption. If you don’t know any or many adoptive families, ask your friends to connect you with those they know. Many families are happy to share their stories—from the lows to the highs—and all of those personal experiences will allow you to start your journey with your eyes wide open.

From memoirs to instructive guides, there are so many great books out there that address adoption. Reading as much as you can will inform your process and also help you become aware of what your parameters might be in your adoption journey. Also check out the thoughtful blogs that capture families’ stories and Adoptive Families magazine.

There are basically three adoption options: international adoption, domestic adoption through a public system like foster care, or a private domestic adoption. To get a sense of how each works, use the Adoptive Families online adoption guide. If you are considering international adoption, visit the State Department’s adoption website to better understand which countries are open for adoption and what parameters exist. Finally, Creating a Family, a non-profit that supports families who have been touched by infertility and adoption, provides great information.

Read Related: Starting a Family: An Adoption Story

There are many experts who can help you determine what makes sense for your family. An adoption medicine specialist, a pediatrician especially sensitive to medical issues that might present in adoption, can identify challenges you might face. Dr. Jane Aronson, a renowned adoption medicine specialist, offers pre-adoption consultations, but you can likely find a local specialist near your home who could also work with you later, when you receive a referral and bring a child home. Also, reach out to social workers who offer home studies and early childhood intervention specialists who can let you know what to expect and what services are available in your community.

When you are ready to talk to agencies, don’t just gather general information. Interview them about their processes and values. Be sensitive to what you need and don’t just choose based on timeline or cost. Ask for referrals and have candid conversations with those families.

Finally, with all the information you’ve gathered, sit down and draft your plan. This will give you peace of mind in a process that is largely controlled by outside forces. Having a sense of where you are headed and how you might get there offers comfort as you embark on the rewarding but challenging path of adoption.