This article will explore why some spouses are opposed to adoption and the importance of jointly agreeing to your adoption journey. While this article will not be an exhaustive discussion of a spouse’s opposition to adoption, instead, it will provide a general understanding of this topic.
When individuals enter into marriage, they become one unit. When married couples build a life together a lot of what they do involves making very important decisions. Starting the adoption process is an extremely important decision, as well as a massive endeavor. Of course, there are some instances in marriage when couples can successfully walk through an experience without necessarily operating in full agreement. However, adoption is very different from any other experience. It is emotionally taxing, complex, and absolutely life-changing.
A Brief Adoption Overview
Although each adoption situation varies, there are a few standard practices that each adoption includes. Whether you are pursuing adoption privately, domestically, or internationally, there are legal procedures that must be followed. Adoptions can occur within an agency or be handled by an attorney or a private relationship. Levels of openness vary among each adoption. Typically, hopeful adoptive parents create some type of profile book that highlights them as a family that an adoption agency will use to show potential expectant parents. The length of time prospective adoptive parents wait varies widely but once an expectant parent selects an adoptive family, adoption professionals will begin to facilitate the adoption process.
Once a child is born or placed for adoption, adoptive parents will continue on the path of parenthood, while completing several steps to finalize the adoption. While this is an extremely general overview of adoption, the point is to highlight the fact that the adoption process is just that, a process. The process requires so much from all parties involved. Specifically, financially and emotionally. There is much learning to do especially within the realm of how to parent a child who has been adopted. You may not be aware of this, but even if the adoption you are involved in is within the best and most ideal circumstances, it is still traumatic for the child. As an adoptive parent myself, I am already making every effort to plan ahead and learn all I can about what my son will potentially need as he grows older and grapples with the fact that he is adopted. You must be informed, intentional, and aware and that is an ongoing job that takes great effort.
The Impact of Adoption on Marriages
Now that you have received a general overview of adoption, you may be assuming that the impact of adoption on marriages is significant. If that is your assumption, then you are correct. Adoption is exhausting and within a marriage, the exhaustion can be amplified as you seek to support your partner and often show strength for them especially if they are not as strong themselves. Although I am now an adoptive mother of a toddler, my husband and I endured six disrupted adoptions before we met our son. No one in our adoption community had experienced the amount of loss we had endured. It seemed as though no one fully understood all that we were experiencing. We did, however, have each other. And very often, the weight of holding up each other was often more than we could bear. Our faith in God saw us through those times, and we are better people for having endured it. It did strengthen our marriage, but it definitely put our marriage to the test.
The financial strain of six disrupted adoptions was significant. The emotional rollercoaster was taxing. Even when we tried to intentionally carve out time to nurture our relationship, the unknowns of adoption always crept in. Though it is healthy to discuss, plan, and dream aloud together, it can become all-consuming. Then, before you know it, your relationship is overshadowed by adoption. Adoption can either strengthen your marriage or make it weaker, and it takes immense willpower to make it stronger. There were many times that my husband and I had to take a break from adoption talk in order to just have a break.
Because adoption is so emotional, it is easy to take those emotions out on your spouse. I remember after our final disrupted adoption, which involved us losing our daughter that we had for several months, my husband and I were both just depleted and broken. While we were unified in our journey of grief and loss, we needed time to heal as individuals and as a couple. Now, nearly four years later, I can honestly say we are so much stronger for enduring all of that together. I do, however, want it to be made very clear that marriages will be tested through an adoption journey. That is not to say that couples cannot survive and thrive through it, but it is to say that couples will have to nurture their relationship even more so since adoption is a complex journey that requires a lot out of a married couple.
Why Are Some Spouses Opposed to Adoption?
I am of the opinion that people are either informed about adoption or they are not. There is not a great deal of middle ground when it comes to adoption knowledge. In my experience, there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding adoption. There may be several reasons why some spouses may be opposed to adoption. Some of these may not be included in this article, but I will discuss the four that I think are the most common causes of opposition. These four include the financial burden, the risk factor, bonding, and the hassle.
The Financial Burden
It is no secret that adoption is expensive. The financial burden that it places on prospective adoptive parents is significant. Savings accounts can be quickly lessened if families are not aware of what is to come or if they are not well prepared. My husband and I had to conduct a great deal of fundraising and apply for grants and scholarships. We did many of these things to lessen the financial burden. I’ve heard it said before that couples argue about money the most. If that is true, then the financial burden can be a tidal wave to a couple who is not prepared financially.
The Risk Factor
As an adoptive parent who has experienced many disrupted adoptions, I can certainly attest to the risk factor involved within adoption. Adoption is full of risks, unknowns, and things you cannot control whatsoever. The more willing you are to accept that and relinquish control, the better off you will be. Unfortunately, this is very difficult for most people, including myself. Adoption laws vary by state but when a child is born and the birth parents place their child for adoption, there is a relinquishment period that must transpire before the child can be permanently placed. So, in other words, a birth parent can change their mind and the child would be placed back in the care of the birth parent.
While this is devastating for the prospective adoptive parents, we must respect and be happy that biological parents feel empowered to parent. Our disrupted adoptions involved biological parents deciding to parent within the relinquishment period. So, the risk factor is very much a part of the waiting game that adoptive parents must play before finalization takes place.
Some people are not risk-takers by nature. But if you are a person of faith, the risks may not be overwhelming or a deterrent for you. To put it frankly, adoptive parents must be brave and willing to navigate the journey. There are emotional, financial, and relational risks. There are also risks regarding the health of the child, and expectant parent.
On a more encouraging note, once my husband and I got to the point where we accepted the fact that we could not control what happened, we were more comfortable. It was reassuring to know that whatever was supposed to happen would happen. Once again, our personal faith in God helped us navigate the risk factor.
Spouses May Be Opposed to Adoption Due to a Fear of Not Bonding
I have heard so many people say they feared they could not love an adopted child who does not share their DNA in the same way they could love a child who did share it. To be honest, I never feared this. I did, however, fear missing out on motherhood, which in the most trying of times, is one of the things that kept me going. We did have people ask us about bonding at the beginning of our journey, which was annoying at times, but we ultimately used it as an opportunity to educate people about adoption.
In terms of bonding, there is a lot to consider. For us, just knowing that another family was giving us the most precious gift was the focal point. Since my husband and I began the adoption journey in 2015, we have had several opportunities to mentor other couples in their journey. The topic of bonding has come up in these mentoring relationships, so I think bonding is one of the reasons why some spouses are opposed to adoption. However, the proper information and education about what can be done to promote bonding at birth and within an adoption with older children can be reassuring to those who are concerned about it. Even if an adoption is not with a newborn, bonding can still take place and there are countless resources on the topic.
Spouses May Be Opposed to Adoption Due to the Hassle
As I have stated previously, the adoption journey is no walk in the park. Personally, it is the most difficult thing I have walked through, but also the most rewarding. Nothing in my life can compare to the heartache and joy I have experienced through adopting our son. In a world of instant gratification where it is so easy to obtain items or information, we often assume every experience in life should follow that pattern. This is a flawed theory and is certainly not applicable to adoption whatsoever. I have never had an experience in my life where I felt as out of control as we were in the adoption process. When we made peace with the fact that we were not in control, our journey became so much easier and our load so much lighter.
Some spouses may be opposed to adoption because it is, quite frankly, a ton of work. There is financial planning, organization, paperwork, checklists after checklists, meetings, trainings, information to review and consume, emotional baggage, and so much more. Adoption will not make you become a parent overnight. Making the choice to complete these tasks is a huge commitment and one a spouse may not be willing to make especially if they are a full-time working adult with many other responsibilities.
Agreeing before Pursuing
Before you make a commitment to pursue adoption as a married couple, it is critically important that you agree before pursuing adoption. Operating in disagreement will only make the process unbearable, which won’t be ideal for a child. So, if you remain in disagreement, it is probably best that you take a step back to re-evaluate and make an effort to reach a consensus before you proceed. If you have trouble doing this, it may be helpful to obtain adoption information from a professional or a couple who has experienced it in an effort to get the answers and reassurance you may need.
A Note of Encouragement
As an adoptive mother of one child after many disrupted adoptions, I should be the one telling you adoption is an experience you should avoid. Instead, I am telling you the opposite; I am telling you that it is an experience that is incredibly worth every amount of stress, disappointment, or difficulty. If you are currently in a time of spouse opposition regarding adoption, don’t be disheartened. Rather, but encouraged that good things come in time and if you are a person of faith, you can trust that the plan for your life will unfold if you acknowledge your faith and allow it to lead you.
Sarah Beth is an adoptive mother through infant domestic adoption. She and her husband experienced six disrupted adoptions before meeting their son. Sarah Beth has experience walking alongside numerous expectant mothers and birth families. As an adoption advocate, she enjoys sharing her experiences in hopes of advocating for both birth and adoptive families and impacting the adoption community. When she is not with her family, she is busy as a middle school Assistant Principal. Sarah Beth enjoys reading, coffee, documentaries, and all things adoption-related.