Adoption is an act of courage and love. It’s a decision that needs to be born of clarity and choice, a decision to welcome into your home a child to be cherished as the precious gift he or she is.
Be sure you and your partner are ready for the challenges.
What does it mean to be a family? Perhaps no one ponders this question more than a couple considering adoption. Today, the ways one can arrive at this point of the journey are as uniquely varied as the faces of the children themselves. Some consider adoption as they near the end of fertility treatment. For others, adoption may have always been a part of their plan. Or perhaps they intended a “blended” family, of both adopted and biological children.
However you find yourself at this place, know that today’s world of adoption is radically different than it was even a generation ago. Open adoption, international adoption, surrogacy adoption . . . no longer is adoption about whispers and secrets. Sheer numbers tell us of its prevalence in this country, with more than half of all Americans having adoption touch their lives in a personal way, meaning that they either know someone who is adopted, or they have an adoption experience within their circle of family or friends.
Take Your Time
And yet, before the decision to adopt can even be addressed, it’s necessary for certain emotional milestones to be reached. Especially if, for you, this consideration comes at the end of a fruitless journey to conceive biologically, it’s important not to move too quickly, hoping that an adopted child will magically heal this grief. It’s often said that adoption may solve the issue of childlessness, but not that of infertility. The dreams of conceiving a child with your partner and maintaining genetic continuity within your family are beyond the scope of what adoption can possibly heal. If you don’t acknowledge these losses, you run the risk of seeing your adopted child as second best, and a reminder of the child you were unable to have. And that would be loss to everyone.
Adoption is about welcoming into your heart and home a child to be cherished for the precious gift that he or she is. It’s a decision that needs to be born of clarity and choice, not emptiness and desperation. As long as you were pursuing fertility treatments, the hope that you would conceive a biological child was alive. Now you must acknowledge that this hope is gone, and you and your husband need to grieve this loss before you can move forward in a different way towards a family.
Although it may be painful to think about letting go of the hope of a biological child, it’s only in doing so that space can be created for something new to grow. For a while, put all decisions on hold. Talk with your spouse about the child you had hoped to create together and give yourself permission to experience all the feelings that come with letting this dream go: sadness, loss, anger, regret, even relief.
For women, it may also be important to grieve the lost hope of experiencing pregnancy and birth—a loss separate from that of parenting a child. My client Kristen, for example, longed to be pregnant. From the time she was a child, she was fascinated by pregnancy. She remembered the special attention her mother received when she was pregnant with her younger sister, then the baby shower, and the breastfeeding after her sister’s birth. When Kristen found she was unable to conceive, she felt devastated, as if some cruel trick of fate was robbing her body of its purpose. Taking the time to grieve this loss allowed her to explore her feelings and discover whether it was really the pregnancy that she longed for, or whether parenthood was her ultimate goal.