Adoption can be a beautiful journey full of love and joy — but it’s also a journey that comes with some unexpected moments, especially for those who are new to the process.
Researching online can only get you so far, so we’ve gathered some of the most important things about adoption every adoptive and birth parent should know. These topics may not be openly discussed in viral, “feel good” stories about adoption, but they are just as important to be aware of before starting.
Remember: If you really want to learn about the realities of adoption — easy and challenging — requesting free information online is the best starting point.
1. It’s Not All Rainbows and Butterflies
For most people, the only references they have to adoption are “feel good” viral stories and videos. While these stories can be helpful, they don’t tell the whole story of adoption.
Infant adoption in a process inherently born out of loss — for adoptive parents, who may not be able to conceive; for birth parents, who relinquish their rights and role as parents; and for adoptees, who lose their intimate connection with their birth family. Ignoring or avoiding these realities creates a skewed view of adoption for those in the triad and the community at large.
American Adoptions educates prospective birth and adoptive parents about all the challenges associated with adoption prior to starting the process. That way, they can go into it with realistic expectations and knowledge that it’s truly the right solution for them.
2. Not All Adoptees Come From “Bad” Situations
There are a lot of stereotypes out there about birth parents and the reasons they choose adoption. And while many birth parents are facing tough circumstances when they choose adoption, just as many are in more stable positions in their lives.
Children placed for adoption aren’t always placed by those dealing with addiction, abusive relationships or financial hardship. In fact, many birth parents have the means to parent the child of an unplanned pregnancy — but they choose adoption because they believe it’s still the best choice for their babies.
Assuming all adoptees are “better off” with adoptive parents invalidates the real experiences of birth parents. For many adoptees, life with adoptive parents is simply “different” than the life they would have had with their birth parents.
3. It Will Bring Up Some Tough Emotions
There’s a lot of joy in adoption, but there is sorrow and grief, as well.
Many adoptive parents choose this path after struggling to conceive naturally, and that grief must be properly dealt with prior to adoption. Even those who choose adoption for other reasons must cope with the grief in and loss of control over the pregnancy and delivery experience. And, as an adoptee grows up, an adoptive parent should be prepared for the conflicting emotions of jealousy and excitement as relationships with birth family grow.
For many expectant mothers, placing a child for adoption will be the hardest emotional choice they ever make. While American Adoptions will be there every step of the way to provide counseling and support, an expectant mother must cope with emotions like grief, sadness and guilt in her own way, too. Suppressing those emotions will just cause more damage in the long run.
4. There Will Be Some Awkward Moments
Adoption often brings together two families who are complete strangers. Like with any new relationship, there will be some awkward moments as you get to know each other. You may not be sure how to answer a question or how to address others’ misunderstandings about your personal connection. Remember, most birth and adoptive parents will be learning about adoption for the first time together, and there will be a curve as you create a plan that works for all of you. Embrace those moments and use them as a learning opportunity.
5. You’ll Meet Some Amazing People
Of course, infant adoption brings together birth and adoptive families — many of whom create genuine, lasting relationships with each other. But there are also countless people along the way you’ll encounter during your adoption journey.
First and foremost: Your American Adoptions team. We want to support you through your journey, however that looks, and we genuinely care about your well-being. We are here to answer your questions and provide information now and in the future. When you work with American Adoptions, you become a part of our forever family, too.
We also cultivate a network of caring adoption professionals who will help you meet your goals and preferences. Your local social workers, adoption attorneys, doctors and resource families/birth parents all play a unique role in your story and want to see you find success, whatever it may look like for you.
6. Parents May Have Trouble Bonding
Adoptive parents often expect everything to be “perfect” once their child is placed in their arms. But, as we’ve mentioned before, adoption is a lifelong learning experience for everyone, and it may take some time to get used to your new normal.
Don’t feel bad if you aren’t connecting with your child right away. You won’t have the nine months of in-utero bonding that most parents have; some adoptive parents only have a few hours to prepare themselves for the immediacy of parenting! Focus on trying new bonding activities and on meeting your child’s needs, and the parent-child bond will come naturally.
Remember, if you’re struggling, your adoption specialist will always be there to help.
7. Not Everyone Understands Adoption
It would be an ideal world if everyone understood and appreciated adoption for the nuanced journey it can be. However, for many, adoption is still a misunderstood and “taboo” topic to discuss.
You’ll likely meet people along the way who hold outdated views of adoption or do not support your adoption plans. It’s hard to hear, but remember that you have to do what is best for you and the child at the center of the triad. Focus on educating where you can and, where you can’t, move forward with a positive attitude, knowing your adoption truth.
8. Every Adoption Experience is Different
While there are certain steps every private infant adoption follows, no two journeys are exactly the same. Reading about other people’s experiences can be helpful, but take them with a grain of salt. Your adoption experience will be truly unique based on your goals and preferences.
Try to be as prepared as possible, but recognize that there may be certain things you can never predict. That’s okay — you’ll have a support team of professionals to guide you through all those unknowns as they occur.
9. An Adopted Child is Different — In a Good Way
Many adoptive parents are tempted to treat an adopted child the exact same way they would a biological child. But adopted children are different, with different needs. Even if they happen to physically resemble their adoptive parents, they will stand out — and you, as an adoptive parent, will need to celebrate and honor those differences.
Adopted children may not be just like you in looks or in interests (but then again, neither are most biological children). Be prepared for tough conversations about adoption and birth family (and, if your child is a different race, about racism and cultural differences). Make sure your extended family celebrate and honor those differences, too; if those family members treat your child differently, they will notice, and it will impact their self-esteem as they grow up.
Be kind and empathetic when an adoptee expresses feelings of not belonging or fitting in. These emotions are absolutely normal for those who have been adopted, and your support will make a huge difference as they come to terms with their identity as an adoptee.
10. Adoption Isn’t Right for Everyone
Why don’t you just adopt? Adoption worked for us; it could work for you! I would recommend adoption to everyone!
We’ve all heard similar phrases. And, while they may be well-meaning, they’re not accurate for everyone.
The fact is that adoption is not easy — and it’s not the right solution for every adoptive parent or expectant parent. It comes with some challenges and requires a lot of dedication. Those who choose adoption have to be 100 percent prepared for the realities of this journey (positive and challenging) and commit themselves to doing what is best for the child at the center of the triad.
Adoption is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution for tough situations. Instead, focus on what’s right for you and your needs, whether you’re a prospective birth or adoptive parent, and follow your heart to what path is best for you.
Want to learn more about adoption with our agency? Request free information online anytime.