How many articles, blog entries, Instagram posts, or status updates have you come across associated with pregnancy and preparing for a baby to enter the world? Even erring on the conservative side, I am still going to guess it's countless. Although you can argue that literature and social media outlets featuring the nine-month span of bearing a child is wonderful in and of itself, it's also true that the path to parenthood not involving pregnancy is too often underrepresented on these platforms.
For those choosing to become adoptive parents, what does the process leading up to physically taking your child home with you entail? Once kids have entered the picture, regardless of where they originated, parents—both those who gave birth and adoptive parents—can easily relate to each other on the numerous delights and frustrations of raising kids. Those who adopt, however, undergo a drastically different process of becoming parents than those who give birth to their children.
Advice for Prospective Adoptive Parents
The to-do list for a family expecting to give birth is daunting, to be sure, but calling adoption time-consuming and lengthy barely begins to do justice to the grueling course. To draw a comparison to carrying a baby in the womb, my good friends Robyn and Kevin* describe it as being “pregnant with paperwork.”
Having undergone the process to adopt a child while working in demanding careers and raising two biological daughters, this husband-and-wife duo is well versed in its challenges and more than qualified to shed light on adopting. Here are their step-by-step tips for surviving the “gestation period” as prospective parents—which includes endless formalities, mountains of paperwork, an application and adoption contract, adoption fees, and various other challenges—from conception to bringing your child home, while simultaneously trying to provide for your current family.
1. Ask others.
Once you say you're considering adopting, you'll be surprised by the number of people who tell you they've gone through the process themselves or know others who have. Don't be shy in asking for help and insights. All adoptive families have different stories, of course, but chances are, you can use any advice you get.
2. Explore resources.
In addition to asking people you already know, prospective adoptive parents should do thorough research as part of their adoption plan. There are blogs, books, articles, conferences, and workshops readily available if you take the time to seek them out. (Unlike baby bump selfies, they will not automatically pop up on your news feed.) Approach this journey as a learner, and, as you gather more information, you will quickly find yourself building expertise and confidence along the way that will make the adoption plan and proceedings go more smoothly.
3. Break down the load into manageable components.
The adoption process can be terribly stressful. Many adoptive families say it's a full-time job in and of itself. While it very well could become your top priority, you don't have to let it consume your life. Take everything in front of you and sort it all into bite-size tasks. Aim to accomplish a reasonable list of items each week, and you will be amazed by what you can get done over a lunch, an evening, or any chunk of time that normally would go wasted.
4. Utilize your skill set in your favor.
Rather than treating your day job and becoming an adoptive parent as two separate—perhaps even conflicting—entities, allow your professional knowledge base to inform the process. Whatever your career, you're probably equipped with skills that seamlessly transfer and will help. Are you a project manager? Tap into your skills to manage adoption like you would a work assignment. Are you in finance? Apply your know-how to advise the often complicated adoption fees and other financial matters. Are you a teacher? Look through your advanced educational lens to learn and grow throughout the ups and downs. As you draw from your existing skill set, also recognize areas that are not your strong suits and reach out for the support that is lacking.
5. Operate as a team.
If you're becoming an adoptive family with a partner, be sure to function under a partnership mentality, and don't try to do it all on your own. Even if one of you tends to single-handedly oversee certain categories of your life, adoption will require a joint effort and necessitate both of you to be all in. Take advantage of the opportunity to work together as partners, and give your partner a chance to share the invisible workload.
6. Resist becoming overwhelmed.
The process to adopt a child can be intimidating, but fight the temptation to let the obstacles overwhelm you. Instead, focus on becoming an adoptive parent and having the family you've dreamed of having in the end.
A Final Note
Remember that you're not alone as prospective adoptive parents. More people than you probably realize have successfully adopted. Lean on your network—which may include other adoptive families, your own family members, and others who can empathize with the emotional financial strains of the process, and let them support you. No matter which adoption program or method you choose—going through an adoption agency, becoming a foster parent first, meeting the birth parents, or adopting domestically or internationally—someone else has paved the way for you, and you'll get through it, too.
*Robyn is a work-at-home mom as an executive director at Thirty-One Gifts. Kevin is an executive at the global children's ministry Awana and runs The Threefish Group, a consulting firm for ministries and nonprofits. They are proud parents of three girls, ages 10, six, and three, the youngest of whom is adopted from China. With entrepreneurship in their blood, they recently launched a coffee roasting business as a family, Buttonwood Coffee Co.