My family adopted a beautiful baby boy last year! He was born in the US and we traveled several states away to be there for his birth. Friends and family supported us in many ways which made this process so much easier. After fielding lots of questions and going through the adoption journey, I’ve put together this list to help you share the adoption process with friends or family.
Respond with Enthusiasm to an Announcement
An intent to adopt announcement should be received with the same excitement and joy a pregnancy announcement receives. A family adopting has gone through many steps to get to the point where they are waiting to be matched with a baby/child. I’ve been through both – a pregnancy announcement and an intent to adopt announcement. The adoption announcement was met with much less enthusiasm. I had a few people tell me how they knew others who had horrible adoption experiences… please don’t do this. Adopting parents are aware it can be a rough journey.
Instead, rejoice and give adopting parents your well wishes. Responses like “this is so exciting, you are going to make great parents” or “wow, I’m so happy for you, do you know when the baby will arrive?”, even “your lives will never be the same, get sleep while you can!” are all appropriate.
Support During the Wait
This is the time that a family waits to be selected or matched with a birth mother. It starts at the moment a family goes live with an agency or once they complete their home study.
During this time a waiting family might wish to have a baby shower, set up a nursery, host fundraisers or just keep busy! My husband and I were the people who just wanted to stay busy. Thankfully we had an older son and had EVERYTHING we needed to bring home a baby. However, if a family is adopting their first child, a baby shower might be appreciated during this time.
To shower or not to shower?
In the adoption community, we understand 1/3 of all adoption matches fall through. Meaning the birth mother and/or birth father changes their mind and decide to parent their child. This may occur anytime from before the baby is born to months after the baby goes home with the adopting family. It is a reality and families adopting know this statistic. If the adopting family are ones you are close with and you would ordinarily offer to host a baby shower, just ask! The adopting family may wish to have a shower before they are matched, after they are matched or once the baby comes home.
Adopting can be expensive and many families set up fundraisers. Another avenue to support an adopting family is to help spread the word or make a contribution towards the fundraising effort.
Unlike my first pregnancy, this wait was surreal. It felt like I was waiting for a unicorn to arrive on my doorstep. I had no growing belly, no cute 40 week countdown t-shirt, no “your baby is the size of an avocado” email and no due date calendar to watch. This uncertainty made the wait feel like an eternity.
Friends who frequently asked for updates were both helpful and challenging. I wanted friends to keep us in their prayers and remember that we were expecting a baby, but I didn’t need the constant reminder that this was COMPLETELY out of my hands. It’s best to ask the adopting parents if you should ask for updates or if they plan to tell you when they have news. As our wait time grew and other couples’ pregnancy announcements surrounded us, updating friends and family became exhausting! Please be patient with us if we seem hormonal.
Most waiting families have NO IDEA when a baby will arrive. In many cases, families are asked to head to a hospital immediately because a baby was just born and needs a family! Our agency required us to immediately travel and meet the birth mother/birth father once we were selected. Therefore, I became very anxious when someone wanted to make plans (especially travel) with us. If you live close to the adopting family and want to lend a hand, consider offering your assistance. Help with the care of pets or picking up mail, are a few examples. Gestures like these from my neighbor were EXTREMELY helpful.
When Baby Comes Home
A family who brings home a baby they intend to adopt deserves your excitement! Help in all ways you would assist a family with ANY new baby in the family (cook a meal, offer to watch older siblings, etc.) While the new mom might not be recovering physically from birth, they are in every way exhausted.
- Consider siblings. Depending upon the state where the child is born, a birth mother may have several weeks to change her mind about placing her child for adoption. Please keep this in mind! For our family, this meant we did not tell our 4 year old that this was his new brother. We waited until the waiting period ended (10 days) and then told him we were asked to be his family. We informed everyone who visited NOT to refer to the baby as his younger brother.
- Express excitement and love towards the new addition. Steer clear from asking details about the birth family, as many new families wish to focus on their new child. Focusing on the child means saying things like “he’s beautiful, is he sleeping and eating well?”
Thankfully, our adoption journey went smoothly and we finalized our baby’s adoption when he turned 10 months! Yaaay! We are grateful for everyone who supported us. Although we adopted our son domestically as an infant, many of these suggestions can be applied to older children and international adoptions. When in doubt, choose a few helpful ideas you’d be willing to take on and ask the family what is most helpful!