So…you’ve decided to adopt! Congratulations! Will you do me a favor? Can we pretend we’re sitting across from each other in a coffee shop, hands wrapped around warm drinks, chatting for just a bit? There are a few things I would like to share. Let’s also pretend that you actually asked for my opinion. Mkay? Thanks. 🙂
I am not an expert on all things adoption, and I am coming from the experience of domestic newborn adoption. My opinion on some things now is quite different from what it was over two years ago. It’s not a bad thing – but I’ve read and listened and learned and there are a bunch of thoughts rattling around in my brain now that I would love to share with you, if you’d like to listen.
So…over my soy chai latte, I would tell you these things:
Adoption is really complicated. Each situation is so incredibly different so there is much room for variance, but I would tell you that adoption is very beautiful and selfless and, in some cases, a marvelous picture of the gospel. But adoption is not only about you, the adoptive parent. You cannot have adoption without a biological family suffering profound loss. Adoption is bittersweet, because on the day that your family is celebrating its greatest joy, another family will be deeply mourning.
She is not a birth mother yet. Your words matter. A woman is not a “birth mother” until the baby has been born and her parental rights have been irrevocably terminated. Up until that point she is an expectant mother who has made an adoption plan for her baby. A plan which she may or may not choose to continue with at any point. She has (and should have) every right to do so. This might seem like mincing words, and your agency will likely still use the term birth mother. Ultimately I think the specific term we use is much less important than the intention behind it. Which brings me to…
Be careful to guard your heart from a sense of entitlement. Whew. This one would be said across the table with as much kindness and grace as possible. I see so much gray area here. an adoption “match” is not a guarantee of a placement. It is a precarious dance between excitedly expecting and graciously waiting. A friend and I were discussing via text message recently that the tough job of the adoptive parent during a match is to love and support the expectant parent(s) no matter what, being careful about laying “claim” to the child too soon. They are not giving you a baby. They do not owe you a baby. They are giving their baby you. This is hard hard hard hard hard! I would sit in on doctor’s appointments with our daughter’s (now) birth mom, thrilled and excited to be there hearing the heartbeat and viewing the ultrasound and loving and supporting… excited, hopeful, but with the quiet understanding that this was not my baby yet.
Adoption is (emotionally and financially) costly, but it is so worth it. Also, it doesn’t have to be THAT costly. There are domestic newborn adoption agencies or attorneys that charge fees (that do not include medical or legal expenses) in the neighborhood of $30-40k. Can’t afford it? Yeah, neither can we. Don’t use them. It does not cost that much to provide good care and coordinate an adoption. They charge that much because people are willing to pay that much. So don’t.
And by then we would probably be finished with our drinks, and hopefully you wouldn’t be mad at me. Hopefully? I would tell you that adoption has blessed my life and that I am excited to cheer you on through this wild and crazy journey, and that I will bring you diapers and a casserole when your little one finally comes home. It is all worth it, and it is important that it be done right, that it be done ethically. Since we all just love discussing ethics, don’t we? Um no. Not really. But it needs to be discussed, now doesn’t it?
Thanks for listening. 🙂
Stacey lives in Kansas City, MO with my husband Tim and their two kids, born in 2012 and 2015. Both were adopted locally at birth and now Stacey has a huge heart for open adoption! She works part time as a bookkeeper for a local nonprofit, but the rest of the time, Stacey loves being outside with her kids and drinking lots of good coffee.