Adoption is an amazing gift that allows many couples to grow their families. It also requires a lot of sacrifice. Many people are quick to glamorize adoption and only look at the positive aspects of it. Whether you’re consider adoption yourself or want to understand your loved ones’ adoption better, it’s important to be realistic about the sacrifices involved with adoption.
Giving up the dream of getting pregnant
Many people don’t understand that growing a family through adoption doesn’t fulfill the same desire as getting pregnant. While you’re thrilled to have a new baby or child in your life, you may still be grieving your inability to get pregnant. When couples feel like their family is complete and are no longer pursuing fertility treatments or waiting to adopt, it often becomes easier to move on from infertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy loss. However, grief is an ongoing process. You never know when it will resurface or get triggered and overwhelm you.
Complete a home study is a huge invasion of your privacy. For most families, it takes at least a few years from starting a home study to finalizing an adoption for even one child. Over the course of this period, it’s likely that you’ll share your entire life story and more with multiple social workers. I’m not exaggerating when I say that your social workers will know more than your closest loved ones. You also have a social worker evaluating your home during a home study and then spending time in your home during post-placement adoption visits, further invading your privacy.
Adoption is very expensive. Depending on the type of adoption and agency, the cost of a single home study and adoption is anywhere from the price of a mid-range new car to a sizable home down payment. For most families, these expenses require extensive fundraising, putting other plans on hold (i.e., buying a new house, switching jobs), and/or a significant change in lifestyle (i.e., not eating out, putting vacation plans on hold indefinitely).
There is absolutely nothing about adoption that is predictable. From hitting snags during the home study to waiting for an adoption match to getting held up during the finalization process, so many aspects of adopting a child can get delayed. There is also a lot of “hurry up and wait” during adoption. You’ll have a bunch of paperwork due at once and then you won’t have to do anything for a month. You won’t hear anything from your social workers for months. Then you’ll get a call that a mom who had a baby wants to meet you tomorrow. You have to be ready for anything to happen or not happen at any time and to go with the flow.
Along the same lines of predictability, the vast majority of the adoption process is completely out of your control. You have zero say over the required paperwork, other home study and post-placement requirements, timeline, and legal proceedings. Adoption agencies do their best to provide accurate estimates for adoption and to cap waiting pools, so couples don’t spend many years waiting for a baby or child. But there are absolutely no guarantees. The best you can hope is that everything goes smoothly and you don’t get held up during any part of the process.
Sharing so much information with social workers, letting social workers into your home, and putting your story out there to expectant parents considering adoption requires humility. Fundraising requires even more humility. There are a lot of people involved in helping you grow your family. Some of them know a great deal about you and your spouse. You will share stories about your past or facts about yourself that are embarrassing and that you haven’t talked about in years, if ever. It takes a lot of humility to remain confident about yourself and trust that the process will be worth it.
With so many factors out of your control, you have to adjust your expectations accordingly. Crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a quick adoption and a healthy baby. Even when the process goes smoothly, it won’t meet all of your expectations by a long shot. Additionally, every adoption is different. After completing a successful adoption, a subsequent adoption may go very differently.
Even under the best of circumstances, adoption is an emotional rollercoaster. You’ve put everything on the line. You’re waiting for a couple to make some of the hardest decisions of their lives, so you can grow your family. If you have an open adoption, you and your birth family will be in it together, raw emotions and all. After years of waiting, suddenly you’re parents or parents of another child. You’re sleep deprived caring for a newborn, and your emotions are all over the place. It takes a while to process everything and get used to your new normal.
Lifelong learning process
Adoption doesn’t end with finalization. I think that one of the biggest mistakes many adoptive parents make is only attending support groups and seminars when they need training hours for a home study. The early years with adopted children are among the easiest as far as adoption goes. Once your child is able to start processing the fact that they’re adopted, so many more factors come into play. Having a strong adoption community is key for getting answers to questions and support for any number of issues that may arise. It’s also an amazing asset for your for your child to grow up among other adopted children.
As always, fellow adoptive parents, I’d love your input on this topic!
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