When is an adoption like a pregnancy?
There are more similarities than you think.
My husband and I are adopting a baby in November and my sister-in-law is expecting in December. She has been really great about our adoption up to now but lately has been insinuating that we don't "deserve" the normal attention expecting parents get (baby showers, announcements, etc.) since we are not "real parents". I know this sounds crazy but am I making more out of this baby joining our family than I should?
BabysMomma in NY
As far apart as it seems, there are some pretty amazing similarities between being pregnant and adopting a baby.
During the first trimester (and the first part of adoption preparation) potential parents tend to focus on the basics; preparing, planning, and calling for an appointment (doctor or adoption professional). At this phase, in both adoption and natural birth, you will be wondering if it’s all going to work out. You will wonder who you should tell first or if you should wait to tell anyone until you’re sure. You’ll be listening to everyone’s ideas, advice, and opinions and worrying if this is something you can really do.
The second trimester of pregnancy is the education phase for adoption or pregnancy. While you’re waiting you’re reading, studying, staying in contact with a professional and working on things to prepare yourself for the birth.
In the third trimester you start putting on the finishing touches of the things you started. The last part of your adoption process is more like the 3rd trimester than all the others. You get your paperwork and bags ready to go, check to make sure the nursery is stocked, check-in regularly with your professional and suddenly start wondering what kind of preparation you will need to become a real parent.
Every prospective parent is different in the way they prepare for the birth of their child, whether they are having it or adopting it. Some preparing parents tell everyone they associate with the minute the line appears on the pregnancy strip while others choose to wait until the first trimester passes just in case they have a miscarriage and are disappointed. Similarly, some adopting parents involve many others in their journey toward adoption and others are concerned, as my clients were, that they will prepare and something will happen to dissolve the dream. I guarantee, being a parent myself, that every birth parent is wondering if the journey will be abruptly disrupted just as surely as any adoptive parent does.
Not every potential adoption is a success just as not every pregnancy ends with the life of a child. Some birth mothers decide to parent and some pregnant couples experience heart-wrenching miscarriages or stillbirths, among other situations. Many times, in both cases, well-meaning friends and family members try to comfort with the same idioms and attitudes. Sentiments such as, “Don’t worry you’ll get another chance”, “Maybe it was for the best” and “It’s just a good thing it happened before you got attached” are meant to make you feel better but can make you feel anger, depression and abandonment since most people really don’t understand your pain.
Adoption is not a process that will ever be complete really; no more than parenthood is. Adoption is a lifelong decision, a journey you will take with another human being that doesn’t end when the paperwork is signed any more than when the doctor cuts the umbilical cord.
I have prepared for 7 children in my life; one of which was for an adopted baby whose mother decided to parent two weeks after she came home with me. One was for a baby born stillborn at full term. I still don’t regret all the fun things I did to prepare for either of these and when I remember both of my daughters, I look at the pictures of the rooms I painted and the cribs we bought with a gentle tugging on my heart. Thirty years later, I still remember. I still think of them both.
In pregnancy and in adoption a failed attempt to add a child to your family can make you gun-shy and afraid to celebrate. However, this too will pass and you will find yourself anticipating the time together just as before. Two years after my baby’s stillbirth and one after the failed adoption, I prepared for another pregnancy. After the fear passed I wasn’t any more cautious about preparing. Even though the possibility of losing another one was possible (we didn’t know the reason for her death), I decorated with abandon! The way I eventually saw it was that preparing for this birth was one of the ways I chose to celebrate the fact that being a parent was a possibility. I was thankful that I could even try again!
That baby (a boy by the way) is twenty-seven now and has his own two children. I paid for my celebration of the possibility of parenthood with years of worrying about him, picking up after him, helping him get through high school, waiting for him to come home from Iraq twice and holding his hand through some painful times…but it was so worth it!
A memory of life or a memory of the journey is still a memory. Which memories of life do you want to savor and how will you go about doing that if they are not the memories you wished they were? It’s a personal choice for adoptive parents and birth parents alike.
The truth is that the celebration of birth ALWAYS ends with putting away the pictures and savoring the memories. Celebrate that birth, no matter how it is achieved, every day as you prepare and then celebrate again when it is certain! Join the journey with celebration in your heart and you will cherish every step of it!
On a more personal note: I would venture to guess that your sister-in-law is most likely just worried that her birth will not be as celebrated by everyone since yours is first. Try to involve your sister-in-law in your plans as much as you can and be involved in hers. Be sure to be aware of her feelings when your baby arrives and to bring light to how excited you are that your baby's cousin is on it's way also! Acknowledging her worry may help her to overcome her desire to take the focus off your adoption. Congratulations to you both!