What exactly does it mean to be adoptive parents? There is, of course, a dictionary definition of what it means to be an adoptive parent. Such as, an adoptive parent is “someone who provides a permanent home to a child or children through a legal process.” Seems easy enough. But what does it really mean to be adoptive parents? Are you an adoptive parent? How would you define your role?
Of course, the end result is you are a parent. The only difference is you came to be a parent through the gift of adoption. Whether you have additional biological children doesn’t change the fact that you are also an adoptive parent. And it will come as no surprise that you will face the same challenges, joys, heartache, frustration, laughter, and fun as a naturally born child. Your decision for growing your family through the gift of adoption will be personal and very well could be emotional.
Let’s start at the beginning and work forward to becoming adoptive parents. There are several reasons why you may have chosen to pursue adoption. Here are some thoughts you should consider as a motive for pursuing adoption.
1. You want to give a child a family. Not just a roof over their head and food in front of them, but you want them to become a part of your family unit. You want them to become part of you, your faith, your family traditions, and family heritage.
2. You also probably want to give a child a different path in life. You may be able to provide financially or emotionally for a child differently than that of their birth family. You have a yearning and desire to provide the very best for the child.
3. There could be a laundry list of other reasons why you chose to become adoptive parents. Many of which could be very personal reasons. They also could include someone you know needed to make an adoption plan for their child, and your paths just happened to cross. Or it could be you started as a foster parent. Whatever the reason may be, there is no right or wrong answer in becoming adoptive parents. Remember, you did it for a reason that felt right for your family. Also remember, you matter in the life of your child.
Of course, it is no secret a lot of people come to adopt because of the inability to conceive children naturally. Even though it’s still a taboo subject to many, it is very common. In fact, 1 in 6 couples is diagnosed with infertility every year. Though it can be a very long and emotional process, you have to ask yourself if you want to become pregnant or if you want to be a parent through adoption. We chose the latter of the two. We simply wanted to be parents. We knew we had the love in our hearts, the financial ability, support, and structure to raise a child. The fact that our child was born to another woman does not affect me if anything it inspires and encourages me. We endured a long (almost six years) wait for a child to call our own. There were doubts, questions, and impeccable days of sadness and grief. However, we endured it all, and now we are adoptive parents to an amazing little boy who we know was created just for us to raise!
But what does it take to be an adoptive parent? Oh, I feel that is a loaded question! Let’s see if we can explore some things that it takes to be an adoptive parent.
It takes support, in a lot of different ways. Have you heard the expression, “it takes a village to raise a child”? It is no different in an adoptive family. You will need support in the beginning stages of the adoption process because it can be overwhelming. I know for me I needed it the most in the beginning because the life I thought I was going to have wasn’t quite playing out. I knew there was a plan for my life and for the child we were to adopt, I just couldn’t always see it in the beginning. We had, and still have, an amazing support system of family and friends. I know I could not have gone through the process without their love and support. Find your people and let them hold you up on the days you can’t hold yourself up!
You will need to be able to provide support to your child. Unconditional, unwavering support. Adopted children can come to you with a string of emotional and physical needs, even if adopted at birth. I suggest you do as much research and reading on the topic as possible. I was hesitant to believe children adopted at birth could have any behavior or emotional issues. I was wrong. There is a lot of research that shows stress, even in utero, can play a big factor in the child’s brain development.
You will also need support once the child arrives. Again, it takes a village to raise a child. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. First-time moms (and dads) try to do it all on their own. They try to prove that they can. Don’t worry, I was one of them; I thought I could do it all. I got this baby thing down, no problem. I was wrong. You can’t be a good mom, wife, dad, husband, etc. if you can’t properly take care of yourself. One big piece of advice, when the baby is sleeping, you should get some sleep too. An overtired parent is not a good parent! Keep that support system around you, you will need them in various stages throughout your child’s life.
It is also no surprise that adoptions can be expensive. There is a cost to them. There are several reasons for this, even though it is hard to see the reasoning sometimes behind charging so much to give someone a chance at life. I also understand the concerns people have with “having to pay for a baby.” While those words aren’t completely accurate, there is a financial component to adopting. Be prepared for those costs when going into the process.
Not only is there usually an upfront cost of adopting, but you will also need to provide financially for your child. Research has shown that the average cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 is $233,610. The USDA has broken this number into age ranges:
· Birth to 2 years old: Average yearly cost is $12,680
· Ages 3-5 years old: Average yearly cost is $12,730
· Ages 5-9: Average yearly cost is $13,180
· Ages 10-17: Average yearly cost is $13,900
That, of course, is an average number. There are a lot of factors that go into how much it will cost to raise a child, a big one being where you live. The cost of living ranges all over the United States and all over the world. Just remember, they come with financial responsibility to you as well.
I have been reading a lot of articles lately between research for articles or simply out of curiosity in raising an adopted child. But I read an article the other day that asked the question, will I love an adopted child as much a biological child? Woah. What a question. There is not a shadow of a doubt that I would love my child any less than if he were born to me naturally. I have actually debated that I love him more (that is for another article). But there is a lot of acceptance that also goes into becoming adoptive parents.
First, for me, it was accepting that I was not going to have biological children. This did not come overnight. It took years of patience and understanding the will for my life. Once I came to terms with this simple fact, I also had to accept that I would be raising a child born to another woman. Would he or she look like me? Would he or she look like her? There were several situations, scenarios, and outcomes that played in my head. Did any of it matter? Would it matter to me if my son or daughter didn’t look like me? That I did not bear them? In the end, it didn’t matter to me. But I still had to process that emotion and accept that I was okay with it.
Then, I had to accept there would be hard days ahead. I didn’t know the extent of them or what they would contain, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy being an adoptive parent. Is being any kind of parent easy? I think not! But would there be questions I couldn’t answer? Would our son question his identity? His self-worth? Lucky for us he is still too young to know the answer to some of these questions, but also lucky for us, we have an incredibly beautiful open relationship with his birth mom. Which leads me to the next acceptance.
I am our son’s mom, there is no question about that. But the truth of the matter is he was born to another woman first. He will most likely need to process that. Which means I could hear things such as, “You are not my real mom.” Or, “I want to live with my birth mom.” I am sure many adoptive parents have heard those exact words. I need to accept that there is another role in this relationship and it is that of his birth mom. She plays a big role. She can explain and connect with him in ways I cannot. That acceptance is not always easy but it is hands down the best thing for him.
Read this quote by Jody Landers, “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of tragedy and depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”
As an adoptive mom, I will never take this role for granted.
It is about love. Your child really needs their most simple needs met. Are they fed and clothed? Do they have a roof over their heads? That is pretty basic human understanding. Beyond that, I think one of the most crucial needs is to know they are loved. I especially address this with adopted children. Whether your child came to you at birth or later on in life, this is crucial.
This is one of the main reasons I firmly believe open adoption is the best for your child. Of course, there are situations when this is not possible, I get that. But if it is a possibility, I urge you to put in the effort. I urge you to look past your fears and insecurities and show your child you love them more than anything in the world and that you will allow their birth family to be a part of their lives. We have embraced our relationship with our son’s birth family. Has it always been easy? No. Will it get harder? Probably. But is it worth it for him? Absolutely. One of my biggest goals in raising our son is that he feels secure in knowing his identity. And that his identity was for us to be his parents and for him to be our child. I firmly believe that allowing his birth mom to be a part of his life will allow him to process those emotions with great security.
There is a reality in being an adoptive parent, actually being any kind of parent: is it is not about you. It is about love. Love for your child. A love so unexplainable you would do anything for your child. I find this to be extremely true in our parenting style and experience. Our son loves to be told he is loved and finds great comfort in knowing his parents will be there for him no matter what.
So, what does it mean to be adoptive parents? It means someone else has entrusted you to raise their child. It means there will be good days. It means there will be bad days. It means there will be fun, excitement, tears, drama, ups and downs. But in the end, it means you are a parent. You are in a role to set an example for your child. Provide for their needs. Be there when they need. Have a shoulder for them to lean on. Be a constant support in their life. Be their parent, not just an adoptive parent, but be his/her parent, period, the end of it!
Now go enjoy some time with your children before they are grown and gone.