When we decided to adopt, I’ll be honest that it initially wasn’t our first choice. I previously had an awesome pregnancy and carried our 8-year old daughter to term. But when a rare neurological condition complicated things for me, we decided to consider other options; namely surrogacy and adoption. Long story short, we went the adoption route. If you’ve been following here a while you likely recall almost five years ago when we brought our baby boy home. (You might also recall that we first had a failed adoption). Everything happens for a reason.
For context, you can read more about our adoption story here.
I now can’t believe that adoption was not our first choice (sorry for the double negative!). I look at our son and think, holy crap, what if he wasn’t ours? His spirit is so beautiful and light, and it’s so clear he was meant for us.
I (I should say “we” as a family) talk pretty openly about adoption because it’s a beautiful process, and I want to reduce the stigma with it. After going through the process, I can say it gives me such a deep sense of love and joy, perhaps even greater than carrying another baby could have.
I’ve gotten questions privately over the years from readers, from friends, and friends of friends as someone who’s been through the adoption process. I’ve spoken by phone to women I haven’t yet met who are considering the journey, and I’ve had long email conversations with others in all phases of their journey.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that people don’t really talk about when it comes to adoption.
Our Adoption Story: What They Don’t Tell You
It is not everyone’s second choice.
As I mentioned, we decided to adopt after we learned carrying another baby wasn’t a smart decision for me (I can carry but my auto-immune disease called transverse myelitis made my doctors nervous I could become paralyzed again, or worse). That said, there are so many people who chose FIRST to adopt, or foster to adopt. You’d be shocked how often people assume we adopted because it was the only option. I realize now I probably thought that — because that’s the only life perspective I had. I now know that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Maybe thinking its second place is where the stigma starts?
There is a real risk it won’t work out
I hate to mention this but you have to prepare. There is a risk it won’t work out… it happened to us, three weeks before the due date of that child and two days after Mother’s Day. Every state has different laws and it’s important you learn them before you go through the process. We also learned subsequently if you’re going through an attorney, be sure they only practice adoption law. I get asked the next question a lot so I’ll answer it: in the case of our first attempt to adopt, we don’t get reimbursed if the adoption falls through. The birth mother has every right, in Florida, to change her mind until 2-3 days after the baby is born and papers are signed. Interestingly, we also saw how every hospital is different. Our son was born in a very conservative county in Florida; the hospital had very rigid restrictions compared to our county. For example, we could only see him if the birth mother was present as well. Tough few days.
Adoption is a loss, for someone.
When you bring home that gorgeous little chunky baby… you’re filled with joy, while another woman is sitting with incredible loss. She carried this baby to term, feeling kicks and movements, knowing the best thing for this baby is to give it to a family in a better position to care for him or her. Talk about strength, selflessness and what must be such sadness.
When there’s a “failed adoption,” the greatest hope is that the birth mother feels confident she can care for this child. During our journey, this sentiment about loss for the birth mother (particularly since I know the feelings associated with carrying a child) was incredibly hard for me to wrestle with during our adoption story. I found myself thinking about her even more than I anticipated… I still do.
Your house doesn’t have to be spotless.
After you fill out what feels like endless paperwork, there will be home visits. I promise you your house doesn’t have to be spotless. They want to be sure you’re bringing the child into a safe, loving environment. If you have dishes in the sink, clothes around, or whatever… I promise you that won’t lower your chances of adopting. Just be yourself, you got this!
Decide how you want to prepare for baby.
And, if you know someone adopting, ask your loved one what they’d like. We chose to tell only immediate friends and family both times, and only bought a few items before we brought our baby home. I swear to you babies need very few things the first days — a place to sleep, cozy pajamas, diapers, and your cuddles. Everything else can be purchased afterward. Decide if you want to prepare the room, have baby showers, etc., or hold off until afterward. You’re the mama!
The process doesn’t end when the papers are signed.
This is just the beginning. You will want to honor that child’s heritage. You will be asked questions about their medical history you might not know (we don’t, so our son won’t either). That feeling will be there for a lifetime. You will likely get asked, “where did she get those blue eyes from?” or “where did he get that blonde hair?” (I get asked weekly).
It’s a little different based on the age and stage of each child, however if you adopt an older child, there could be scars (emotional or physical) that you’ll need to navigate. In many ways, the idea we adopted our son is such a moot point, and in other ways, it comes up more frequently at his young age than I anticipated. That said, I feel so eternally grateful that we can give him the love, education and resources he deserves. I literally look at him with an unprecedented level of joy and responsibility, knowing his birth mother believed in us. We are determined to help him become the best version of himself.
It sort of is a transaction.
That sounds so gross and crass but there is an inherent cost associated with adopting. It can vary greatly based on a variety of factors: going through an attorney vs. agency, for example, the age of the child, etc. For example, the costs are much lower if you’re adopting from foster care or an agency environment, vs. connecting with a birth mother via a private attorney. We decided to go the private attorney route, a more common route if you’re looking to adopt a newborn (we learned you can wait much longer if you don’t). Please note that we live in Florida and I’m not an attorney. In Florida, we were required to pay for her living and medical expenses during pregnancy, so considering when you connect with the birth mother (8 weeks vs. 35 weeks pregnant) also factors into cost. Set aside more than you think so you’re prepared for whatever comes your way.
Most people do not fully understand adoption.
Most people — friends and family included — are kind, curious, compassionate, loving and excited for your growing family. Yet, it’s impossible to understand someone’s journey until you’ve been there. My friends don’t go to the pediatrician, get asked about their child’s medical history and have internal heartache not knowing the answers. They don’t wrestle with the questions their child will ask them one day about their birth parents. Be sympathetic and understanding as you prepare yourself for this part of the journey, and if you’re a friend, listening and being supportive is the best.
You will love this baby more than you ever dreamed possible.
Most importantly, I swear to you that you will love this baby in the most full, incredible, heart bursting way. They absolutely will feel like yours, wholly and fully. I went into our adoption story ready but very tentative. I was anxious and unsure how my love would grow compared to our biological daughter’s. Every time I look at our son I can’t even believe we get to be his parents. He picked us as much as we picked him. It’s not an easy road, but our love for him is so big because we fought for him. We fought so hard to have this little man complete our family. I mean look at that face. <3
What to tell a first time mom, here.