Still Standing Magazine

10 things you need to know before you adopt after loss or infertility

You could just adopt. It’s true (but very wrong to say).

Yet if you do want to adopt after loss or infertility, here are 10 things you need to know to help you prepare emotionally for the experience of adding a child to your family and to your heart:

  1. You may need to be upfront in your home study about your infertility or loss experience. Few of us enjoy small talk about pregnancy loss or infertility. Let alone with a social worker. Yet you need to be prepared to “go there” when doing your home study. Your adoption worker might ask “If you suffer another pregnancy loss with this child in your home, what will that look like?” Or “How will you handle feelings of grief or depression during this process?” These questions can be triggering, but your adoption worker will likely need to ask.
  2. You might become jealous of the biological parents. Even though these parents are no longer going to have rights to your adopted child,  you may find yourself jealous of what they somehow still managed to achieve: a pregnancy and birth resulting in a live child.
  3. You may still long for, and grieve, pregnancy. Growing a family through adoption is such a vastly different experience than growing one through pregnancy. Neither is better or worse. Just different. In fact, you may still be pursuing pregnancy at the same time you are pursuing adoption. Your biological clock may be ticking, and there isn’t enough time to put it on hold. That’s OK. Just be aware that this may come up in your homestudy.
  4. Adoption cures childlessness, not infertility. Even after that child is placed in your arms, it will not cure the physical causes of infertility and loss, and my not ease all of the emotional repercussions of infertility and loss.
  5. Others may see this as a replacement child. Women with rainbow babies often face this same expectation. Those of us in this community know how ridiculous this thinking is — people are irreplaceable — and yet, it’s a sentiment others might express to you. Just be warned.
  6. You may grieve all that you missed out on as an adoptive parent: A shared experience during pregnancy. Breastfeeding. The ability to carry a child to term. Giving birth to the baby. The child looking like you or your partner. The amount of time that passed between birth and making it to your home. Even though you are grateful this child ended up in your arms, there may be moments you wish you were the one to carry them from conception on, and mourn what you missed because you didn’t have that chance.
  7. Your child’s loss might trigger feelings of your own. Adoption is birthed from loss. And few understand the loss of a parent/child relationship like a mom or dad who has had to say good-bye far too soon. Watching another parent place a child for adoption, and lose that bond is heartrending, and will likely trigger feelings of your own losses. You will also feel deeply the loss your own child has gone through to be apart of your family. While this can be incredibly painful, it also creates a beautiful gift of empathy few others would be able to give your child or the biological parent.
  8. You may deal with post-adoptive depression or anxiety. Even though you did not give birth and experience fluctuating hormones or postpartum body, you and your family have undergone a massive change in your home. And, like a rainbow pregnancy, your previous losses or infertility experience may put you at a higher risk of experiencing what is normally referred to as postpartum anxiety or depression. If it has been several months, and you are still struggling, you may need to find a supportive community like this one and find a therapist who specializes in adoption and attachment to help you through.
  9. Breaks are necessary. A paper pregnancy to adoption can be long, tiring and full of frustration. Just as you may have taken “breaks” while trying to conceive, you may need breaks during the adoption process to get grounded and reconnect with your partner. Once the child is in your home, make sure you have a supportive community where you can get some respite as needed — especially if your child has special needs.
  10. You can experience loss along the way. The biological parent may change their minds, the child may leave your home, the country may close its doors, or the biological parent may also experience a pregnancy loss. The risk of loss is high.

Adoption can be incredibly healing and redemptive. It absolutely was for us. But like pregnancy, it can be challenging in its own right. I hope knowing what you might experience emotionally through the process will help you on your journey to your child.


Photo Credit: Rachel Lewis