Peaks and valleys, Y’all. This is how I would describe the adoption journey. It can be a roller coaster ride of emotions, a forest’s worth of paperwork, and just forget about trying to establish a time frame for when you can finally hold that precious child in your arms. However, I wouldn’t change a single thing about our experience. One of the reasons for this is the overflowing amount of love and support we had from our family and friends as we were going through the process of adopting our daughter.
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is how best to support someone going through the process or considering adoption. If you’re wondering how you can help, I’ve compiled a list of tips of ways you can support your friends and family members along their adoption journey.
DO offer your sincere and loving congratulations. When your friends/family announce they are adopting, they are expecting a child! This is a very happy thing! It’s no difference than a pregnancy announcement other than that the time frame for baby’s arrival is a little less set in stone. Be excited for them and show interest in their journey. Ask them about names, gender, due date, country of origin, etc.
DON’T tell them about your friend’s cousin’s college roommate’s sister’s nightmare adoption scenario. Believe me… we have imagined every possible thing that could go wrong in this process and are freaked out about it enough. With adoption, it’s best to abide by the “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all” rule.
DO offer to be a personal reference for them. Among the mountains of paperwork required to adopt are personal references from family, friends, and members of the adoptive family’s community. Before we could even ask, we had several friends and family members step up and deliver some of the most beautiful letters we could ever imagine. I still have them saved in my daughter’s family book. Reading them brought happy tears to my eyes. By doing this, you are positively impacting their experience, giving them a loving keepsake for their baby, AND making their life easier by volunteering before they need to ask.
DON’T talk more than you listen. In the words of A.Burr, (gratuitous Hamilton reference) “Talk less, smile more.” Sometimes we listen just well enough to give our opinions on things. The adoption process is emotional and stressful, and sometimes we just need to vent. There may be a more efficient way, another agency, a different form we could try/use/fill out, but in most cases, we just need someone to listen. We know your opinions are coming from a place of love and concern, but sometimes we really just need you to be still and listen when we talk about the process and offer a smile/hug/wine/chocolate after a setback. If we want your suggestions, we will ask for them.
DO use positive adoption language. Actually, lets say ALWAYS use positive adoption language and terms. When talking with them about the adoption, please make a conscious effort to use terms like birth parent and adoption plan instead of real mom and “give up the baby.” And for the love of God, please do not ask how much she cost. If you’re considering adoption and wondering about financial details, it is OK to ask this question, but please phrase your question in a respectful manner.
DON’T tell them how lucky they are they don’t have to go through labor/child birth/scary medical procedure. Not in all cases, but in some, adoption is taking place after infertility. I believe with every fiber of my being that our journey to become a family happened the way it did because our daughter was 1 billion percent supposed to be ours, but it still stings a little when I’m told how “lucky” I was to not have to go through labor. Until you’ve walked in someone’s shoes, how about we just don’t go there.
DO throw them a baby shower/sprinkle or celebration for their child. Babies and kids need stuff. In my case, our daughter was our first child, and we didn’t have anything except the collection of children’s books I started six years before her arrival. And while I do think books are pretty magical, I don’t think they could have taken the place of the truck load of essentials needed for a new baby. Not to mention, while we were in the throes of a struggle with infertility, I dreamed about having a baby shower of my own. My friends and family came through big time with a unique and FUN shower at a wine bar. We had a wine tasting, played “Celebrity Who’s Your Daddy,” and had an amazing time. The affirmation of having my own baby shower and the feeling of YES, we WERE bringing our little girl home helped to heal a lot of the hurt the struggle of infertility had left me with.
DO ask how you can help when baby arrives. Again, this is where the idea of treating the adoptive parents exactly like any other new parents come into play. Offer to start a meal train for them. (This is especially helpful if they’ve adopted internationally and are trying to sleep train a child on a different time schedule, trust me.) Give them your best parenting advice or funny stories. Call them and check in. Offer to come over to watch the baby so they can shower. You know, regular new baby stuff.
DO love on them and their new child, but be patient if the adoptive parents are in a bubble for a little bit. I was excited for everyone to meet our daughter when we brought her home, but I was stingy with letting others hold her at first. It’s important for the child to bond and feel secure in his new family. We want you to love and hug our baby, we really do… but we need to make sure our child feels safe and isn’t confused about who Mama and Daddy are.
The above list is not all inclusive to every scenario, of course. But it was inspired by the love and support we received from our family and friends throughout our experience.