Is Adoption Right For Us?
People consider adoption for many different reasons. Some come to consider adoption as a means of building a family due to struggles with conceiving a child “the old fashioned way.” Some people decide that adoption is a good way to give a home to a child who is unable to be raised by his or her birth parents. And still, others adopt children that were born to their spouses/significant others during a prior relationship. For many people, the decision to adopt a child comes after weighing many factors. Keeping in mind that adoption is a unique personal decision for each and every individual, here are some things that many prospective adoptive parents think about when deciding “Is adoption right for us?” and one adoptive mom's thoughts on these questions.
Can I love them as my own?
I have several friends who have considered adoption, but when it came right down to it, either they or their spouse was unable to wrap their heads around the idea that they could love an adopted child the same way as a child who was born to them. And quite obviously, this one is a “showstopper.” If one of you cannot see yourself loving an adoptive child completely and unconditionally, then this is not the right path to a family for you.
However, as an adoptive parent, allow me to counter with this thought: Your spouse/significant other is not related to you by blood. You met this person and fell in love with them, and now (hopefully), you can't imagine your life without them. You love them with your entire being, yet there is absolutely no blood relationship between you. When you consider that, do you truly believe you can't fall in love with your adopted child just as completely?
What if the birth mother/father/family wants to have a relationship with my child?
When you become a parent, your whole life pretty much revolves around what is in the best interest of your child. Helping them to learn to read and write, deciding when and where they should take swimming lessons, choosing a preschool–the list is pretty much endless. And when it comes to the concept of “open adoption” (described by childwelfare.gov as “a type of adoption in which birth and adoptive families have some form of initial and/or ongoing contact”), there is a growing awareness in the adoption community that the child benefits from establishing and maintaining a connection to his/her birth family. It helps the child to understand “Where did I come from?”, “What is my medical history?”, and “Why did my birth parents give me up for adoption?” Having answers to these questions can have a huge impact on a developing child's sense of identity and provide them with a greater sense of wholeness.
Open adoption is not the only option, but when considering adoption, prospective adoptive parents should educate themselves about the concept of open adoption and the potential benefits for the future child. A great place to start is with the Child Welfare's Fact Sheet for Families on Open Adoption.
Will I know anything about my child's medical history?
Perhaps yes, perhaps no–it will all depend on the circumstances surrounding your child's adoption. If you plan to adopt domestically and decide to pursue an open adoption, you will quite likely know a great deal about your child's medical history, including family history and circumstances surrounding medical issues related to pregnancy and birth. If the adoption is a closed adoption, very little may be known about the child's medical history. And if you choose to adopt internationally, there are situations when you may know a great deal and those where you know absolutely nothing about a child's medical history.
As an adoptive parent, I can tell you that we know nothing about the medical histories of our adopted children. And some of our children do have medical conditions that may or may not have come from family genetics. But here's the thing–it really doesn't matter (to us). We have to manage the health care of our children as best we can with the knowledge we have about their current condition and make the best treatment decision based on what we know, and that's it. I don't worry about what I don't know–I deal with what's in front of me.
On the other hand, I fully realize that my children may someday wish very much to know about their own medical history, and so I mourn that loss of knowledge for them. I know that every time they go to a new doctor and have to complete all of that dreaded paperwork that includes tons of questions about family history, they will always have to explain that they don't know. And I can imagine that sometimes that will be hard. So I think about this as a loss for my child, but not for me.
How can we deal with feelings of loss?
Loss is a fact of adoption. Period. You cannot have adoption without loss. The birth family forever loses the right to raise that child. The adoptive parent may have to deal with a loss related to the idea of conceiving a child of their own genetics. And there is no denying that the adopted child is dealing with an enormous loss–that of their original birth family. To deny any of the parties involved the “right” to that loss is to misunderstand the very root of adoption. So first of all, you have to acknowledge that loss (on all parts) and realize that at different times in your life and in your child's life, the emotions connected to that loss may feel very raw and new, and at other times it may live in the background of your life.
If you are someone who is dealing with the loss of not being able to conceive, it is very important that you give yourself a chance to grieve that loss, and to come to terms with your situation before you enter into the decision to adopt. These are two separate “life events,” and if you decide to adopt a child as a way to deal with the grief of infertility, you may find that your “solution” didn't resolve your problem at all, and now you are still grieving while you are also trying to learn how to parent your newest family member–not an ideal combination.
Should I tell him he's adopted?
In a word … YES! Gone are the days when we as a society tried to assimilate adopted children into their new families by keeping their adoption a secret. These days, we know how important it is for a developing child to understand the circumstances that brought him or her to their current family. We also know that a sense of whole self comes from knowing the truth, and that a sense of trust is best based on honesty rather than hiding the truth.
If you are considering adoption for your own family, it is wise for you to learn as much as you can about how adoption works, the process surrounding the adoption of a child, and how to help an adopted child transition to a new home. Adoption agencies are a great resource to begin that research. Simply do a web search for Hague-accredited adoption agencies in your state. Not yet ready to meet with an agency representative? An online adoption course/webinar such as the ones offered by Adoption Learning Partners is another great place to start your adoption education.
What questions do you have when considering whether or not adoption is right for you?Read More