As an expectant parent or someone looking into adoption, you may be wondering what emotions families looking to adopt feel.

What Families Looking to Adopt a Baby Feel

Hope. Confusion. Optimism. Worry. Excitement. Sadness. Joy. Frustration. Energy. Exhaustion. These are just some of the many mixed emotions families looking to adopt a baby feel. And just like every birth mother’s story and adoptee’s story is different, so too is every adoptive family’s story. 

It’s hard to pinpoint how families looking to adopt a baby feel going into it. Not all families experience and feel the same way. For most adoptive families, the journey leading up to the decision to start or grow their family through adoption most likely started well before the process ever began. 

As an adoptive mom who knew for a long time that adoption would be part of our family plan, I can assure you that there was never a doubt in my mind when it came to adoption itself. The who, what, why, when, and where (not to mention the how in the heck) was another story. 

What I didn’t know, at least in the early stages, was what adoption would mean not just for myself and my husband, but for our adopted child, extended family, and friends. 

What I didn’t know was how I would feel well after our adoption had been processed.

In truth, when you’re a family looking to adopt, your focus tends to be pretty acute. It’s pretty centered on doing whatever it takes to make your dream of adopting a child a reality. It’s normal to feel as if you’re on a ship out in the middle of a storm during that time.

In truth, you become a little self-centered going through the adoption process. Feeling as though you’re being treated like a criminal by social workers, finger printers, certifiers and apostilles, adoption facilitators, physicians, and anybody else who plays a part in building your home study is paranoia-inducing. All of the accompanying paperwork that goes along with adoption can feel maddening. Sometimes you feel a little bit raw at having to answer very intrusive questions from family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers who question your motive and intent. Apparently, what families looking to adopt a baby feel is a question on the minds of many people who feel the need to spray questions like why adoption? Why now and why from there? Why don’t you try this or that and why don’t you talk to this person or that person? 

Here is a general breakdown for expectant parents wondering what families looking to adopt a baby feel.

Hope and Confusion

For many families, the path to adoption has been a rocky one full of ups and downs, often involving infertility, loss, and grief. For some, the decision to adopt has not come easy. 

In the article How Do I Overcome the Pain of Waiting for an Adoption Match, adoptive mom Stacy Stark gives waiting families practical advice with suggestions on how to manage the uncertainty that so many experience while waiting for an adoption match, adding, “Do your best to keep a level-headed perspective and remember that this adoption process is not (entirely) about you. As you wait with anxious excitement to become a parent, someone else is experiencing a difficult and heartbreaking decision. Adoption is one huge bundle of complexities, and this is one of the biggest—your greatest joy comes at someone else’s great expense.”

Most who decide to adopt have put in the time to learn about adoption and how it affects everyone involved. The amount of reading of fine print and fine lines and attempting to understand every step that you’re taking is enough to discombobulate even those who thrive on reading instructions and directions.

There is no real way to prepare for adoption other than to take the first step and proceed carefully.

No matter how much soul-searching you do, there remains equal parts hope and confusion as you wonder if you’re meant to do this. You wonder if adoption is what’s best for your family and for the child you hope to make part of your family.

When you think you’ve got it all figured out and are feeling the slightest bit confident in your decision, you’ll read an article or listen to a podcast or get pinged by a friend on social media. Someone throws a wrench your way and makes you question everything you thought you knew.

Optimism and Worry

When you’ve decided to adopt and you’re all in, it feels a bit like crossing the starting line of a race. You are thinking good thoughts. The best thoughts. 

You smile at the thought that this is really going to happen and you’re comfortable with how things are coming along. To become the best adoptive parent ever, you begin to read all the books and emotionally and mentally prepare yourself.

You start out feeling like it’s all coming together. Maybe you even begin to plan and prepare. Maybe you should start to buy some basic supplies. Baby clothes. Paint the nursery to be. But with each step, you can’t help but worry about what’s coming and how it’s going to turn out.

It’s not that you’re unsure about your choice to adopt. Chances are that’s something you never questioned. It’s everything else. Your dad’s health. Will he be around to see how things turn out? Will your adopted child get to know her grandfather? The security of your job. Is your employer going to be okay with you needing to take extended time off? And what if you decide that you want or need to take even more time off? You’ve read how very important bonding with your adopted child can be to a healthy transition. Your home. How on earth are you going to make everything childproof and why didn’t you think to buy a house in a neighborhood with sidewalks? 

Not to mention will the agency you’ve chosen like you? Can they tell how passionate you are about this? What about the expectant parents? Will they like you? Will anybody be able to tell through paperwork how much you wish to be the best parent ever?

In some cases, families looking to adopt a baby choose to approach the process differently to avoid some of the uncertainty that comes with working with an agency.

In their article A Special Relationship, which talks about direct contact between waiting parents and birth parents, adoptive parents Beth and John share, “…we wanted to have direct contact with expectant mothers considering adoption and wished not to have placement influenced by a third party. We knew that Parent Profiles provided us with that opportunity. …we connected with our daughter’s birth mother. We had time to form a special relationship because she was only 8 weeks pregnant when she first contacted us. Through almost daily communication, we were able to go through the last seven months of her pregnancy with her and we were able to experience the growth of our baby. This special relationship enabled us to be in the delivery room when our daughter was born.”

Excitement and Sadness

You’ve filled out the pre-qualification paperwork and you literally jump for joy. It’s time to celebrate. Step One is complete. Now you just need to work your way down those checklists you’ve read about over and over again in those online guides. 

You’re sure everything is in order from your physicals to your finances. You share your hopes and happiness with your best friend over coffee. You dream about the day that you two can coordinate coffee dates with your little ones in tow.

And then you sit back and wait. You’re sad when you don’t hear back. You wonder if the person who read your pre-qualification paperwork laughed at your hopes and dreams before throwing your application in the trash with a shake of their head. 

Why aren’t they calling you back? Why haven’t you heard anything yet?

Joy and Frustration 

You’re approved and well on your way to becoming an adoptive family. Hooray! You feel comfortable at this point to share your plans to adopt with everyone you know because it’s official that you’ve been accepted and it looks like you’ve been deemed a good candidate to be someone’s parent. There’s no feeling like being approved to become an adoptive family by a complete stranger after all.

No, wait. Your super sweet and understanding just-assigned social worker just retired and now you have to wait until another is available so you can get things moving. There’s a problem with your paperwork. You need to redo a test because they didn’t fill out a form properly. You forgot to sign a document. You now have to wait for an ABC agency to mail it back so you can sign and mail it back to them. There’s a national emergency that’s slowing down the adoption process. There’s international unrest and the country you’d hoped to adopt from has just closed to future waiting families.

In her article Waiting Buckets: A Way to Fill Your Adoption Wait With Love, writer Ellen Hawes shares that she and her husband came up with the idea of filling up two Tupperware jars with items that helped them to keep their hope alive while they waited for their adoption match, sharing, “Each time we thought about our future child, we would add an item to each bucket. We hoped one day that one would sit on the shelf in our child’s room and the other would be with his birth mother so that she would see how much our child was loved even before we had ever met.”

Energy and Exhaustion

You’re in the final stretch now and all the things are in the works. You’ve spent days, weeks, months, or years preparing for this last push. You’re feeling all the feels of a parent-to-be and beginning to let yourself imagine the adoptive family that’s literally so close now. It’s only a matter of time.

But just when you thought the paperwork was the hardest part you realize that waiting to see what happens next is even worse. Why does it suddenly feel so quiet and still? As if you’re still moving a mile a minute, but the rest of the world has slowed way down. The hustle and bustle of running, signing, interviewing, and testing is over and now it’s just you. Waiting. Wondering. Hoping. Praying. Sitting still, but still full of nervous unspent energy.

It’s only a matter of time until the agency, the orphanage, the expectant parent chooses you to be “the one.” You know it’s going to happen soon. Or maybe next month or in a few months. Or next year or in two years.

The fate of whether or not you will become an adoptive parent now lies in the hands of people you hope know you. The real you and not the nervous Nellie you present as because you feel like a raging maniac trying to make sure you’re the absolute best in parent material while also trying not to look like you’re trying too hard. The fate of whether or not you will become an adoptive parent now lies in the hands of an expecting parent or couple you may or may not get to meet based on whether or not they like your information. You begin to wonder if they will think you’ll make a good parent. 

Does anyone in the all-too-quiet, slow-motion universe think you’ll make a good parent or has this whole journey been a failure from the start? Why haven’t you heard anything yet and why did you tell everybody you knew that you were planning to adopt? Now all they do is hound you each and every day asking you questions you either don’t know the answer to or questions you don’t want to answer.

You Should Know that Families Looking to Adopt Feel all the Feels

In truth, waiting adoptive families will go through a journey of emotional ups and downs before a baby is placed. It’s normal to experience positive and negative feelings through all the stages of the adoption process. It can feel emotionally exhausting at times when more seems to be going wrong than right.

Still, no family goes into adoption expecting it to be an easy experience. Most families looking to adopt recognize the serious nature that is adoption, including the ramifications on birth families and adoptees. They also recognize birth moms for their loving and brave decision, an understanding and appreciation that grows stronger and deeper each year as a child grows into their adoptive family and the sacrifice that has been made and a sacrifice much greater than the longest of waits, is simply unparalleled.

“A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege is not lost on me.”

Jody Landers

Susan Kuligowski

Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she's not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.