What do families looking to adopt a baby feel? This is such a complicated question but the most prominent, even overwhelming, feeling for us was hope. We hoped we would be matched. We hoped we would be chosen and that the baby would be healthy. We hoped the paperwork would go through. We hoped, hoped, hoped everything would turn out okay. That sounds nice but it translated to a lot of anxiety. Our adoption was different too in that we were a foster-to-adopt family. Our path, which led us to eventually adopt our baby and big kids, wasn’t the same as if we had been a matched adoption. However, after having spoken to many adoptive parents, I can say that the emotions surrounding the event are very much the same.
Families looking to adopt a baby feel hopeful, yes. They also feel, in many cases, desperate. Some have spent years silently struggling with infertility, spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatments and surgeries only to be told their only hope for parenting was adoption. By the time they have finished signing all the paperwork and have begun to wait for a match, they’ve watched friends and acquaintances have multiple babies. Their friends and acquaintances didn’t struggle with fertility. Their friends became pregnant on the first try. Maybe a distant cousin laments that she had another baby when she was hoping to go back to her career this year.
Every announcement that should bring happiness and excitement instead brings tears of pain. Every friend who slowly distances themselves from her because they don’t know what to say will bring another stab of depression and feelings of ineptitude. By the time this couple has exhausted every option, they’ve decided that adoption might be the way to go. And now they are desperate. They don’t care if the baby comes out polka-dotted with purple hair. They just want a baby to love. They want to experience what feels like everyone around them gets to experience with no trouble at all. A warm baby on their chest, midnight feedings, sweet rocking to sleep in the rocking chair, cute little outfits to squeal over with friends. A precious child to love and adore.
What do families looking to adopt a baby feel? For some of us, fear. Fear that they won’t be chosen, fear that they’ll be passed over. Fear that they weren’t meant to be parents and this is God’s way of telling them. They fear that a prospective birth mom will find them too weird, too fat, too skinny, too old, too young, too different to parent their precious child. Fear that they won’t pass the home study or that some weird uncle will say something rude if they use their favorite aunt as a reference.
They fear, overall, rejection. Rejection from a birth family, rejection from their own family, that the baby they eventually adopt won’t attach to them and will ultimately reject them. They fear that this thing they have been dreaming of literally for years will end up not being what they dreamed. They fear for the future.
What do families looking to adopt a baby feel? For some of us? Depression. Crippling, life-stopping depression. They cannot get out of bed because every single thing they do reminds them of the baby they lost in miscarriage or never became pregnant with. The little onesie they bought hopefully years ago that they simply cannot bear to get rid of makes them sob loudly into their pillow. That baby would be 12 now. Should be 12 now, could be 12 now if things had gone according to plan. They open up social media then immediately close it when they see another birth announcement or another ultrasound picture. They try to perform a normal task like making breakfast and find themselves sitting on the couch watching their favorite show for the 10,000th time to numb the pain.
A baby won’t solve this any more than someone saying, “Just try being happy,” will. 10 babies won’t fix this. There’s a chemical imbalance that therapy and the right prescription can help. But the dream in their heart is that a baby would make this all go away. They feel like it would all be okay if a baby grasped their finger and looked into their eyes. They’re wrong and they might even know they are wrong but they don’t even care. Depression lies like that.
What do families looking to adopt a baby feel? Impatient. They’ve waited and waited and endlessly waited. And they may even be matched. The baby may be due in a few weeks. They are tired, exhausted, exasperated by waiting. They are done. Done with a capital D. Stick a fork in them, done. The nursery is ready. The rocker put together. The modular furniture that caused marital strife assembled. The clothes laid out. The hospital bag waits by the front door. The bottles for formula purchased.
Videos watched. They just want the baby now. It doesn’t feel fair that after all this waiting they have to wait some more. They’ll wish for the time back that they wasted staring at a calendar and their watch, especially when they are bleary-eyed from the fourth late-night diaper blowout. They will wonder then what exactly had them so very impatient for this exact moment.
But for now, they are begging the hours to tick by faster. They are looking at each other and tearing up. The baby is coming. Soon. “Not soon enough,” they think. But soon. While the birth mother is gearing up to say her goodbyes and hoping that soon she won’t need to pee 800 times a day, adoptive parents are trying desperately to not be a bother but want to physically scoop up the birth mom and cradle her while they wait for the baby to come. They want to give birth mom space but also want to serve her breakfast in bed and give her foot massages. They are impatient to meet the little person they have been waiting for all this time.
Families looking to adopt a baby feel unsure. They want to make sure that the birth mom is really, really, really, absolutely sure. They want to have the assurance that the birth parents will sign the paperwork and not decide at the last minute they want to parent. This is the thing that keeps hopeful adoptive parents awake all night. Did they get everything ready for nothing? Did the birth mom really choose them? Is this all some sort of twisted nightmare? Are they even going to be good parents?
They aren’t sure of anything except the clawing desire to scream to the heavens that this whole thing is unfair and why did any of it have to happen anyway. They want this baby but they want the birth mom to be okay. They want her to be happy and they know she won’t be entirely happy either way. Either she will be parenting a baby on her own with little support or she will only be in her baby’s life on someone else’s schedule. The adoptive families know this. And it keeps them awake at night when they should be sleeping.
What do families looking to adopt a baby feel? Overwhelming, uncontrollable love. They feel love for potential birth families. They feel love for all the babies needing a home. They feel love for the new adventure they are starting. They love the caseworkers working to make their family complete. They love their photographer who made them look so cute. These families feel so much love it makes them feel like they could actually burst at the seams. What kind of miraculous precious life is this that they could be handpicked parents to a sweet baby? They feel so very much love it flows over into everything they are doing. They find themselves drawing little hearts over their I’s and signing paperwork with “Love” instead of “Sincerely.”
Families looking to adopt a baby feel excited. They are excited to fill out their packet. Excited to attend their classes and look at adoption profiles. Excited to be chosen. They are bundles of nerves like sparklers lit by the handful. Excited like a shaken can of soda kicked around the floor before opened. They are excited like a person about to take their first skydive. Excited like a dog whose owners left the room and came back in. Excited like a little kid on their first day of school, like a contestant who won a game show. There is no excitement like the “you’ve signed all this paperwork and now you could be a parent soon” excitement. It’s amazing.
That is most of what hopeful adoptive parents feel. I could spend hours talking about what hopeful siblings, aunties, uncles, cousins, and grandparents feel. They go through (to a different degree) many of the same emotions. Parents feel excited for their children but nervous that an adopted child might not fit in with the family. Or they may be over the moon to see their child hold a baby in their arms but it might bring up their struggles to have or adopt their children. Adoption brings out strange things in some people.
Suddenly hopeful adoptive parents find themselves surrounded by people touched in some way by adoption. Sometimes those are good stories. Amazing stories of families completed by the gift of adoption. Some scare and mean to dissuade, about children who are differently-abled, who grow up resenting their adoptive parents, who run away to their birth families. Some are downright mean. Telling the hopeful parents about the story they saw on the news about an adopted son murdering his whole family. About an adoptive daughter who got her parents in trouble with CPS by lying.
For whatever reason, some people feel strongly one way or the other about adoption and will feel the need to express their opinion. I’m not entirely sure why that is but it is an almost universal experience. There is nothing to do to prepare for this, just expect it and move on. This feels invasive because it is. Close relatives may disappoint. Distant relatives may tell you that they were adopted and that it was the best thing that could have happened for them. Stories left untold for years may come to your knowledge.
Adoptive siblings may feel lost. They may have biological siblings that weren’t adopted with them and feel resentment towards the new adopted sibling. Or they may develop an incredible bond with the new baby and refuse to be in a different room for more than a few minutes at a time. I have watched siblings who were adamant they didn’t want another kid in the house become that child’s voluntary caretaker and eventual best friend.
Families hoping to adopt feel a wide range of emotions from fear to joy. There is no one prescribed way that any particular family feels and it varies each day. I know my feelings were not as unique as I thought they were when I reached out to an adoption community. I found out that everything I was feeling was normal, even depression, to a degree. Because I reached out, I got the help I needed.
If you are in the process of hoping to adopt, I hope you find a community around you that can help you through the rollercoaster of emotions you might be feeling. Rest assured you are not alone. If you’re an expectant parent and you are thinking about placing your child for adoption, you can be sure that your child will be so loved. Adoption is choosing to love someone. It is choosing to feel all the feelings and learning to deal with them so that your child has a home filled with love.