The decision to adopt is a very intimate and life-changing journey. You are most likely finding yourself being pulled to becoming a parent. This may be as a single person or as a couple. There is no right or wrong way to consider adoption. Each of these ways in the end will allow you to become a parent. You may be single or part of a couple but choosing to adopt as a single person. Maybe you are in a relationship and you both have decided to adopt together. This article explains my own experience with adopting as a single person and then later as a couple. If this is new and you’re still trying to decide on an adoption agency, this article might be of assistance.
I began my journey as a single person when I realized in 2007 I wanted to adopt. As of then, I had not found my partner but the calling to be a mother was loud. I had a home and love to give. I was working as a social worker in child protection. There were a lot of children in foster care and I felt I could help. I also had infertility concerns and felt adoption was a better choice for me. Later when I met my partner, we decided to adopt together. The experience was similar but different.
Embarking on the adoption journey is stressful regardless if you are doing as a single parent or a couple. Each has benefits and struggles. My first adoption as a single parent had unique challenges. The journey began with a home study as most adoptions do. An assigned social worker evaluated me on all levels. The assessment questions were similar to when we adopted as a couple with a few exceptions. There were many more questions related to long-term plans than when we adopted as a couple.
I was also encouraged to adopt one child and not one with as many challenges. Talking with my support system was important as they would be helping me. I made a pro and con list of different situations I thought I could handle and others that may be beyond my means. It is important to educate yourself as much as you can around the birth parents and the child. I cannot stress enough to take your time.
After the adoption assessment’s approval and once I began attending adoption events in search of my children, I felt some resistance. I learned very early that the adoption process was very much marketing your strengths while acknowledging their perceived challenges. You were allowed to bring one piece of paper that included a picture and a small synopsis of what you would offer to the child.
In the beginning, I had simply printed it from my home computer but once I started attending a few adoption events, I saw most went all out. It was such an odd feeling and I often felt very alone. I had met another mother who was adopting as a single parent. She was supportive and I encourage anyone doing a single parent adoption to seek out an event partner. We would attend as many as we could together and it helped to have someone to immediately process what we were seeing and feeling.
I have known other single parents that have chosen to privately adopt and they reported having similar feelings. One described it as “super competitive” and “felt like she was marketing herself for a child” which is a unique feeling to have. I also felt this way at times and realized it was normal. I wanted so much to become a mother that it pulled me through the awkwardness of these feelings. Once you choose adoption as the way you will build your family, it helps to focus on the overall goal and not these in-between parts. I had to remind myself that this was all a part of my adoption journey and I would find my children soon.
At one of these parties, I met a social worker who felt I was a match for his placement. He saw my strength in accepting children with challenges and didn’t limit me to one child. They matched me as a single parent with a sibling group, ages five and six. They had their challenges but I fell in love immediately. There was no doubt that these beautiful children were meant for me. After my children’s placement, the reality of turning from a single person into a family of three washed over all of us.
There were so many blessings in becoming a mother. It was challenging to learn all about these little loves all while assimilating myself into a parenting role. I was not naive to think I could do this all on my own. My family and friends were a big help. Moreover, I found myself developing a team of professionals to assist in the transition. It is important when considering single adoption that you are open to using all resources.
I felt financially secure but after the children’s placement, I got a reality check. It was important for me to budget and take things slowly. It was tempting to spoil them or try to make up for what they didn’t have in foster care. I was cautioned not to do this as it would set a precedent that could be hard to break later. I also had many self-checks and balances within myself to make sure I wasn’t going overboard but providing enough to nurture and support.
My next adoption was very different but similar. A few years after adopting my first children, I found my partner. We knew early on that we were going to expand our family through adoption. We started the process shortly after we married. The home study process was similar to my first experience but with fewer long-term questions. This time, the focus was on our relationship and how we would handle the pressures of adding another child. They would meet with us together and then separately. Little was discussed about how we would support a child in the long term, which I found ironic as my partner was a stay-at-home parent and my income remained the same since the first adoption.
Adopting with a partner had its pros and cons. I had someone who shared the same desire to become a parent, which was an amazing upside. We would talk throughout the night about our dreams of growing our family. If both of you are providing income, then that can help while adjusting to your new addition. It is important to look into whether or not your employer will honor maternity leave for adoption and how long you can take. Taking maternity leave together was a very unique experience and helped us develop attachment.
It was also nice to have someone willing to be home with our children so that they had stability and structure. This was a bonus but I can assure you that if you need your child to have childcare, it has its benefits. I used child care for my first child and this helped with their social/emotional development. The next pro was that there was now even more support from additional family and friends. This helped as it is important to be aware of the impact children have on a relationship and know when to ask for a break.
This leads me to what I loosely call a con. We had many nights discussing the differences in our parenting style and often struggled to exist as a blended family. This is very normal for the family situation I found myself in but this will happen in all relationships. I cannot stress enough that you must talk through the hard conversations regarding discipline, schools, chores, and other daily living encompassed in parenting. If this is new, then it is hard to know what it will feel like when your child is placed. Communication must be at the forefront of your relationship as a couple. We know expectations can ruin relationships if not communicated effectively.
Expectations within the adoption community and society itself are that adoptive parents are superheroes or have all the answers. This is not true. Each child, no matter how you adopt, is going to experience life at their own pace with their feelings. You can guide and teach but in the end, they will experience the world the way they want to. The more you can come together in strength around these hard topics, the easier you will find parenting to be.
That said, it is normal to see increased stress in a couple’s life when moving through the adoption process. This can even happen after the child’s placement. You might find that your unidentified past trauma or heartaches resurface. If you find that you are getting more frustrated with your partner, it is okay to ask for help. I can’t stress enough that making time to nurture your relationship is important. Your child will see this and their attachment will grow stronger. This doesn’t matter if you are adopting an infant or a teenager.
Someone may find themself in a relationship as part of a couple but want to adopt as a single parent. There are many reasons one might choose this path. This type of adoption is more common than one may think. The process of the adoption assessment and then placement with a child stays the same. It is important to have hard conversations with your partner around what you expect from them during this process and after placement. This lessens uncommunicated stressors later when already experiencing the ups and downs of the adoption process. It is important to define your supports and understand your personal needs regarding your child.
The next area applies to both types of adoption. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single parent or will be parenting as a couple. You must nurture yourself! You can easily get lost in the role of parent or partner. There is an emphasis on attachment, nurturing, setting boundaries, and rules for your family. Not to mention the physical expectations of having to do the day-to-day tasks in raising a family. It is very easy to lose your sense of self.
This will not help your child, your relationship, or you in any fashion. It is okay to take time for yourself and allow your support system to come in. You can decide on what feels right for you. It may be as simple as getting your hair done, playing a sport, or getting a cup of coffee with a friend. This is not selfish, even though it may feel that way at times. It is modeling behavior that your child will take with them throughout life.
Overall, the experience of adoption is hard to put into words. It didn’t matter if I was single or in a couple; there were still roller coasters of emotions on top of mounds of paperwork. There is always some sort of financial expectation either with the adoption or in raising your child that
comes up unexpectedly. Being honest with yourself is the key to find the right path. I assure you that when your child is placed, all of these hard questions start to make sense. Finding the best fit for yourself and your family helps with the attachment process. Couple adoption and single adoption each have their challenges. There is no right or wrong way to adopt if it feels right for you.