Being ready to adopt a baby is full of emotions. If you’re of a certain age or happen to watch a lot of early ‘90s movies, you may be familiar with Mona Lisa Vito (aka Marisa Tomei), agitatedly, and with a stomp of her foot, declaring to her boyfriend, Vinny (aka Joe Pesci), “my biological clock is ticking like this, and the way this case is going, I ain’t never getting married!”
Many people feel that there’s a timetable or schedule when it comes to life’s milestones–including schooling, first jobs, marriage, first houses, starting a family (“Grandma’s not gonna be here forever you know!”), etc. But the truth is, if life is a road race, every runner begins at a different starting point, different route, different pace. We face different obstacles along the way, and our finish line may look a lot different from that of our fellow runners.
Still, that doesn’t keep some people from feeling pressured to start families when they begin to see siblings, cousins, friends, and colleagues starting theirs–especially now with social media to keep us all up to date on what everyone is doing at all hours of the day and night. The pressure can feel real and can make some people feel anxious or confused when someone isn’t quite ready to take that step in their life to become a parent. Add in the fact that not everyone is able to start a family the traditional (or biological) way. Now you’ve got a lot of people grappling with a lot of unknowns regarding adoption and whether or not adopting a baby is right for them.
So, how do you know if you’re ready to adopt a baby? Well, it’s personal and truly, no matter how many well-meaning family and friends tell you that you are, only you can know for sure. The decision to start a family is one of the most challenging of the mile marks along your race route that you’re going to encounter. It will impact the rest of your route moving forward. You may be able to help identify whether or not you are ready to adopt a baby by taking an inventory of your life to see where you are, where you hope to be, the people and resources surrounding you, and understanding that adoption is a lifetime commitment to someone who is going to count on you to be there for the remainder of the race.
Some considerations you may want to focus on to help you to figure out whether or not you’re ready to adopt a baby include:
Determine your Emotional Place
When you were younger, you were most likely encouraged to “find yourself.” You were encouraged to figure out who you were as a person, what you liked to do, what made you happy, and what you might be able to contribute to society. Before you decide to start a family, it’s especially important that you have this (at least most of this) figured out. Once a baby is in the picture, you’re no longer going to have time to find yourself in the same way. You will be devoting every hour of every day taking care of a little one, finding and providing what he or she needs to survive, and finding lost favorite toys in the wee hours of the night–for years.
If parenting is not for the faint of heart, becoming an adoptive parent is not for the faint of heart who sometimes have had to heal their heart from the loss of a child, infertility, and the worry that a family may not be in the cards at all. Not all adoptive parents adopt as a result of infertility, those who do need to make sure they have properly grieved and come to terms with what isn’t going to be so that they can be ready for what is.
Adoption blogs and resources, such as adoption.com, suggest potential parents ask themselves certain questions before starting the adoption process such as:
- What is my desire in adopting?
- Do I have the resources to provide for a child?
- Am I willing to put in the time and effort, even if the journey is difficult?
- Is there anything restricting factors in my life? (age, marital status, medical history)?
- Am I excited to share my adoption plans and will my family, friends, and others be supportive?
- What age would I be willing to adopt?
- How would I feel about international adoption?
- Will I be comfortable talking about my child’s adoption story?
- How much contact would I like with the birth parents?
- Are there other important people and variables to consider?
Recognize That As Much As This Is About You–It’s Not About You
Yes, taking that deep breath and the first step to adopting a baby can be scary. You’re going to reach out to your community and ask all the questions. You’re going to look inward and you’re going to do more research than you’ve ever researched anything before in your life. You’re going to make pros and cons lists and you’re going to get angry at yourself for second-guessing yourself.
One thing to remember is that becoming a parent, while it may begin with you (biologically and or via adoption), it’s really about giving a family to a child who needs one.
In our case, we chose international adoption and with it came a slew of additional questions and what-ifs. I remember one of the biggest topics that would come up was that of our children’s birth country–not known for being a peaceful one due to certain truths of political and social unrest as well as decades of movies that portray it as the last place you should ever want to visit.
I had to step out of myself, though, and remind myself that if my children were born into this place and living in this place, and surviving this place then certainly, their mom could do the same. And I did. And as a result of embracing their first home I was able to see beyond the negatives and notice the beautiful positives. No matter what the situation is–uncertainties, unknowns–the day you sign up to become another human’s parent is the day you begin to put their needs first and begin to help them to make sense of it all.
The adoption.org article, “How Will I Know If I’m Ready To Adopt,” poses the following questions to potential parents:
- Am I ready to put the child’s needs before my own?
- Am I willing to adjust my expectations?
- Is my family ready to adopt?
These questions leave the reader with the following to consider: “being mentally and emotionally prepared is just as important as being physically prepared. Perhaps adoption has been a dream of yours for years. If you don’t feel ready, don’t rush it. Postpone it until the time is right. The time will never be perfect, but there may be better times than others. Adopting a child is one of the most important things you will do in life. Isn’t it important to be prepared?”
Are You Prepared Financially?
Not many people like to talk about the financial factor associated with adoption. Why would they? The truth is, for many, money is the one obstacle keeping hopeful parents from pursuing their dream of becoming a family. It’s scary for many to think that they so desperately want to become parents, that there are so many children in need of families. Steep fees may prevent that dream from ever becoming a reality.
The cost associated with adoption differs greatly depending on the type of adoption and the adoption professional you work with–private vs. foster to adoption vs. international adoption. According to a report from Adoptive Families Magazine, domestic infant adoption costs families an average of $43,000. While I’m sure that number makes potential families want to run for the hills, it’s important to do your research. Not every adoption is alike (foster care to adoption is a good example of this) and there are ways to finance adoption that you may not be aware of or discovered in your research so far.
Before you decide to adopt, you should be in a good place financially, no doubt; however, do not count adoption out if you are not a high-wage earner. My husband and I did not have high-paying jobs, derive from a trust-fund family, or come into any last-minute lotto winning before starting our adoption journey. We did, however, prioritize well ahead of time our finances with the understanding that adoption is not cheap. We did make compromises and sacrifices. We did find ways to make up the difference afterward as well–not everything you buy has to be new. And you don’t need to buy absolutely everything out there. Yes, there are amazing gadgets and doo-dads out there that sellers will make you feel that you need in order to raise a baby/child. Guess what? You don’t. What children need most is a safe and loving home with a parent(s) who try their best.
Parenting as a Partnership
If you’re adopting alongside a spouse or partner, it’s especially important to be on the same page right out of the gate. I have talked to friends desperate to have a family. When I’ve suggested adoption, I’ve received a quick, “oh no, he would never go for that.” That being the case, adoption is probably not in the best interest of you as a couple, but more importantly not in the best interest of a child who deserves to have two parents who are equally invested in starting a family via adoption.
An additional adoption.org article spotlight talks about the need for spouses to be in agreement when it comes to deciding whether or not to pursue adoption and presents some reasons, why a spouse may be struggling with the idea of adoption, to begin with, and the risks of pursuing adoption with a spouse who is reluctant.
Marriage is not easy, raising a family is not easy. Couples who are deciding whether or not to pursue adoption should do some soul searching to confirm they are prepared first in marriage before committing to becoming parents. Even if you are both in line to start your family via adoption, it’s important to take your conversation to the next level to ensure that you agree on how you will parent your adopted child.
Where’s Your Support?
“You just call on me brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to lean on. I just might have a problem that you’ll understand. We all need somebody to lean on.” “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers
The song, “Lean on Me,” holds true for the amount of love and support adoptive parents require not only maneuvering through the adoption process but in becoming and adjusting to being an adoptive family.
Before you decide to pursue adoption, it’s key to determine your support circle–beginning with your spouse if that is your situation. But it shouldn’t start and end with the two of you if possible. Having the support of family, friends, and those in your community who you are going to need to lean on is extremely important.
From your pediatrician to your school district to your church to your neighbors, making sure that the support both you and your little one are going to require will be available can make all the difference.
Taking it a step further, the adoption.org article, “How Do I Find A Support System In My Adoption Journey,” offers valuable insight about all members of the adoption community about and for birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees.
It is important to understand what adoption is, whom it impacts, and all of the avenues available to those involved to truly piece together a picture of what you can expect in becoming an adoptive parent. From family to social workers to healthcare workers to educators to your neighbors, adoption impacts and touches us all. It’s key to find others who are going through or have gone through the process to understand what it will mean for you and your child. You can be prepared for the positives as well as the challenges as you make your way through life together and an adoptive family.
Check out adopting a baby and the adoption process overall click on adoption.org’s Adopt A Baby page.
Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at Adoption.com. 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.