There are many things to consider as a prospective adoptive parent and many ways to prepare for adoption. First, prior to starting down the adoption path, you need to make sure that you have dealt with any unresolved issues of infertility. Dealing with infertility can be a difficult task. As a society, it is ingrained in us that we are to marry and have kids. At creation, God himself told Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). The expectation that children will come naturally is normal; however, things don’t always go as expected. Make peace with your circumstances prior to pursuing adoption. Become aware of any unrealistic expectations that you might attempt to place on a child, and love that child for the unique individual he or she is. Also realize that adoption is not an inferior choice to having biological children. God builds families two ways—biologically or through adoption. Both are equal in the grand scheme of building a family.
Once you have decided to adopt, you will need to determine which method of adoption you wish to pursue. The type of adoption you choose will also help you choose who will help you finalize your adoption.
- Domestic infant adoption is the adoption of babies from here in the United States. You can choose to work with either a private agency or an adoption lawyer.
- International adoption is the adoption of babies and children from countries other than the United States. Regardless of which country you choose, you will need to work with an adoption agency that specializes in international adoptions from that specific country.
- Foster care and foster adoption make up the group of children with the greatest need for families. Active, licensed foster families are at an all-time low, while the number of children in care continues to grow. In many states, you must first be a licensed foster parent prior to adopting a child from foster care. Because the children’s care is already being supervised by a social worker from a public agency, you will have to work with the agency to pursue and finalize the adoption.
- Embryonic adoption is also a viable option for some couples. Couples who have finished in vitro may choose to make their remaining frozen embryos available for adoption by couples who choose to pursue embryonic adoption. The upside of embryonic adoption is that the adoptive mother has the opportunity to carry her child and control the prenatal care. Adoption agencies and adoption lawyers are not usually needed for embryonic adoptions, but refer to your state’s adoption regulations.
If you are adopting (or just parenting in general), do not stress out over the details. You may desire perfection and the most beautiful nursery possible, but these things can be added over time. If you receive a call that you have a placement, the baby won’t know the difference if the room is ready or not. When we got the call about our first son, the nursery was still set up for the girl that we were supposed to get a few months prior, but her parents chose to parent. My newborn son did not comment that the curtains were purple butterflies for weeks after his arrival; I promise yours will not know either! Concentrate on making sure that you have the basics: bed, sheets, onesies, diapers, dim light, and maybe a comfortable chair. These items are all you NEED to get started. You will have time later to build the perfect nursery.
Another good idea is to help prepare you for parenthood is to take a parenting class. Check out your local hospital or Red Cross for parenting classes and classes in CPR/First Aid. Your agency may also have a list of locations that offer specific classes that you may take in addition to whatever they require. Besides classes, read, read, READ. Now, I said to read, not to actually do everything you read. There is some really bad advice out there. Use what you read and a dose of common sense to determine what the best for your family is, but be willing to flex a bit as each child is so very different.
I am a preparer by nature. I love lists and guidelines and plans, but I have found on my parenting journey that I need to be flexible. No matter how much I prepare, life happens and things change. Being willing to alter my plans and go with the flow has enabled me to stress less and be a better parent. It is all about what is in the best interests of the kids. Sometimes what I have always thought I would do is not the best avenue to parent the child I have.
You could also begin to think about your support system. Every parent needs to have a break or to go somewhere by herself at some point in time. It cannot hurt to think about who you can call to watch your child in an emergency or if you need to go to the doctor or if you just need a night at Starbucks and Target by yourself. Our family does not live near grandparents or other family members, so we have elected to designate church members and friends who can help us out in a pinch. Our circle is small, but it is nice to know that if I have to go somewhere alone, that I have safe, caring places for my child to go. This is not something to sweat over, but rather something to consider. No matter where your parenting journey takes you, you are going to need help at some point in time. Knowing you have back up can make life less stressful.
Above all, have fun preparing. I started a journal where I wrote to each of our future children. I shared my dreams of them and my love for them. One day when they are older, I will give them the journals as a gift. They can know that I was so ready to be their mommy and that I loved them long before I knew who they were. Dare to dream a little as you prepare for parenthood.
Virginia Spence and her husband Eric are parents to two awesome little boys who joined their family via domestic infant adoption. When she is not playing referee or engaged in tickle wars, Virginia can be found cleaning, reading, or drinking giant mugs of coffee. Virginia is passionate about advocating for life at all ages/stages and educating about adoption.