You’re going to feel many things during your adoption journey. There will be moments of pure joy, as well as times of deep frustration. You could experience grief as well as happiness — anxiety and hope side by side.
To some extent, these are all feelings that make sense when you’re preparing for a long, complex and life-changing journey. But one feeling may sneak up on you: the feeling of jealousy.
Jealousy? It may sound surprising or unlikely, but it’s much more common than you may imagine. To help you prepare for this challenging emotion, we’re going to walk through some of the most common triggers, as well as provide keys to a healthy response.
Why Would I Feel Jealous During My Adoption Journey?
There are several common triggers for feelings of jealousy in adoptive parents. These events can cause feelings to come on rapidly and unexpectedly, which is why it’s good to be aware of them from the outset of your journey.
We’ve separated these causes of jealousy into two categories: during the process and after placement.
Feelings of Jealousy During the Adoption Process
Many adoptive parents feel jealous of the ability of the birth mother to carry a pregnancy to term. This may be uncomfortable to read or even consider. However, it’s better to face difficult realities than to avoid them.
Adoptive parents come from many different circumstances. Many have gone through a painful struggle with infertility. Even if you have taken the necessary time and steps to find healing after infertility, this feeling of jealousy can still sneak up on you when you least expect.
It may help you to learn that this is a common phenomenon even outside of the adoption community. Stepmothers often face similar feelings, which have been named “biological jealousy.”
There will also be times of disappointment during the adoption process, like when a prospective birth mother chooses a different family. When this happens, you may feel resentment toward the prospective birth mother and jealousy toward the other adoptive parents.
Jealousy After Placement
Adoption doesn’t “end” with placement. It is a lifelong journey. Like all journeys, it will have ups and downs, and that includes moments when jealousy rears its head again.
One common catalyst for this post-placement feeling is a child’s interest in their biological heritage. You may begin to feel the twinge of jealousy when your curious child asks about their birth parents or why they look different from you (if you are a transracial family).
If there is a connection with their birth parents through open adoption, your child could come to have a great fondness for their biological parents. This could also cause you to feel jealous.
Parents of children in a transracial family could also feel jealous when they realize that they cannot be everything their child needs. For instance, a black child in a white family will benefit from seeking out black role models. When you’re a white parent, this is not a role you can fill. That can be difficult to process.
These are only a few examples of the many instances that could cause an adoptive parent to feel jealousy toward the biological family. If these situations resonate with you, you should know that it is okay to feel these things, as long as you respond in a healthy way.
Responding to Feelings of Jealousy
You may know instinctively that it is “wrong” to feel jealous, so you try to deny what you’re feeling. But, that’s not the most helpful response. Rather, it is best to acknowledge your feelings, identify the source and then find a constructive way to move forward.
You’re not alone in this process. It is common for adoptive parents to deal with jealousy. American Adoptions has been working with families for more than 25 years. In that time, we have seen thousands of parents encounter similar emotions on their journey.
The first step toward a healthy response is dispelling shame. You don’t need to feel bad for your feelings.
Once you have the right frame of mind, you can move forward and process your feelings in a healthy way. Here are some proactive steps you can take:
1. Speak with your adoption specialist.
Your adoption specialist is there to support you during your journey. If you are struggling with challenging emotions, talk with your specialist. They have counseled many parents through similar situations and can encourage you, too.
2. Speak with a family counselor.
If strong feelings of jealousy still cause disruption in your life (even many years post-placement), it may be wise to seek out family counseling. This is not a sign of weakness but rather a show of wisdom as you find the resources you need to thrive as a family.
3. Be honest with yourself and your partner.
Do you need to take a step back from the process? Are you ready to move forward? Are your child’s questions about their biological family overwhelming? Clear and honest communication between partners is vitally important. Ask each other these tough questions and respond truthfully.
4. Try to place your child’s needs before your own.
You have a need to feel valued and loved. Your child has a need to understand their story and form a positive sense of self. A connection to biological family may be incredibly beneficial to your child’s journey, even if it is challenging at times for you. Can you put their needs ahead of your own?
5. Always give yourself grace.
This is the first and last point for a reason. It’s okay to feel what you are feeling. The feeling isn’t bad. It’s all about how you respond. You won’t be able to find your way to a better future unless you give yourself the grace you need to work through your struggles today.
Speak with an Adoption Specialist Today
One of the most helpful ways you can respond to feelings of jealousy toward a prospective birth mother is by speaking with your adoption specialist. If you already have a specialist, contact them today. If you are still considering adoption and are interested in working with American Adoptions, please request more free information online.