I cannot speak for everyone. I can only tell you what we did. When our first son, Joshua, was eighteen months old, we began the adoption process to add another child to our little family. We talked about the room that would be the baby’s. We talked about the fact that Joshua would be a big brother, and that he would get to love the baby and teach him big boy stuff. We told Joshua that the baby was going to come home to our family just like he had.
When Joshua was almost three, we were finally matched with a birth mother. Her baby was already born but was in intensive care because he was premature. We excitedly told Joshua about his brother and that he was “very small and in the hospital so that he could grow and get stronger.” As a family, we began to celebrate that little life and the soon-to-be addition to our little family. I am so glad that we told Joshua as soon as we learned of the match because Caleb ended up staying in the NICU for another two weeks. Our “placement” could not technically happen until he was discharged from the hospital. Every day for two weeks, I left Joshua with a friend and drove to the hospital in a neighboring town to hold my tiny son.
During the weeks prior to placement, we spoke about Caleb frequently. Joshua knew he had “a beeby bruver in da hopsital cuz he wuz vewy tiny.” The day Joshua got to meet Caleb was the most amazing thing ever. The look of awe on his face as he touched the tiny, downy head was so sweet. Over the next few days, he seemed to understand that Mommy was going to help his “bruver” so he could come home.
When the day finally arrived for Caleb to discharge, Joshua was elated to stay with his grandparents who had come to town for the homecoming of their grandson. Even though we were considered Caleb’s parents when he was 10 days old, he could not legally be irrevocably ours until we stepped out of the hospital and the nurse placed him into the social worker’s arms, who then turned and placed him in my arms. Upon arriving back at home, Joshua fell more deeply in love with his “bruver” and could hardly believe that he was really home to stay!
I am so glad that we allowed Joshua to share in the anticipation of the wait to bring Caleb home. As a result, he adores his baby brother. Their bond is truly unique. If we had waited, we would have missed out on the celebrating in the present. Could we have waited? Yes, we could have. Could the match have fallen through? Yes, it could have.
Prior to either of our boys, we were matched with a precious little girl. We learned of her when her mother was only three months pregnant with her. We loved her for six months prior to birth. I was there when she was born. And due to the rights of revocation, we lost her on day seven of ten. Our hearts were broken.
While we did not have any children at that time, we had joyfully shared the news of the match with our friends and family right before she was expected to give birth. It had been a bit of a rocky journey with the birth mother, so we elected to wait until closer to placement rather than during the majority of the pregnancy. When things fell through, our hearts broke. We watched our friends and family grieve with us—some to the point of being angry that it had happened. It was tough. I’d like to believe we would do the same thing we eventually did with our second son and tell him up front, but that the match was a legal risk and could fall apart at any time.
I tell you all this to answer your question in this way: Telling your other children about a match prior to placement is entirely up to you. You know your current children. You know how they think and react. You know what they have been through, and what they might be able to handle. You also most likely have been given an indication by your social worker or lawyer whether the expectant mother is at legal risk of changing her mind and deciding to parent.
Most adoptions have some form of risk. Life, for that matter, is not without risk. Loving anyone comes with the risk of being hurt. For our family, we chose to share in the joy together. We chose to prepare together. Your family most likely looks different than ours. You have to do what you think is best for your family, and what you choose for one adoption may look different than what you choose for a second or third adoption. Your decision to share early may result in heartache and hard explanations. No one can predict what will happen exactly. But remember that your choices may also result in pure joy and deep bonds.
I believe that our family would choose joy again just like the previous times. Joy doesn’t negate hardship, but joy does make life a little sweeter.
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.