Choosing to adopt a baby is one of the most exciting, momentous decisions you will ever make in your lifetime. We congratulate you for taking this incredible step. You are on your way to becoming a parent, to fulfilling your dreams, and to completing your family. More than likely, you are also very eager to share this big news with family and friends.
Whether you have just decided to adopt, recently finished your adoption home study, or have just been matched with an expectant/birth mother, you might be wondering: How (and when) do we announce our plans to adopt?
The decision of if (and when) to share your adoption journey will depend on your family and your comfort level. Some hopeful parents tell their families, friends, and co-workers right away, out of uncontainable excitement. Others tell only a select few loved ones at first, to field any pressing questions such as, “When is the baby coming?” “When will you have updates?” and “What if the birth mom changes her mind?” When you inform your family and friends of your adoption plans, the fact of the matter is, most are going to have some questions. They will not know how adoption works today, or about the emotional aspects of adopting a child. This leads us to our first tip on announcing your plans to adopt:
- Be prepared to educate others about adoption.
Adoption has changed significantly over the years. In the past, most domestic adoptions were closed. Adoptive parents and birth parents were often in the dark about one another. Adopted children had little to no knowledge of their family history. Many adoptions were also kept secret, kept even from children. So, when your parents (the soon-to-be grandparents) and older relatives think about adoption, they may think of the way it used to be.
Today, 99 percent of adopted children know they were adopted. About 95 percent of domestic, private adoptions involve some level of openness, meaning the birth mother and adoptive parents know one another and have a relationship to some extent. This is very beneficial for everyone involved, but especially the child, who can have access to their genetic background, family history, and important medical information. In fact, studies show that children in open adoption arrangements are generally happier than those with closed adoption plans.
Before announcing your plans to adopt, take time to learn about adoption and be prepared to educate your loved ones on the journey. Set the record straight about certain issues and debunk any myths surrounding adoption. Be prepared to also answer impersonal questions like, “Why don’t you have ‘your own’ child?” and “Where are the child’s ‘real’ parents?” Try not to take these questions to heart. Use them instead as an opportunity to teach friends and family about positive adoption language and the positive aspects of adoption today.
- Think about who you are going to tell, and who you will tell first.
Before announcing your big news to the world, it is very important to tell your closest family first – those who will be directly affected by the adoption – your immediate family, for example. For those of you that are already parents, this means telling your children about your adoption plans first. Talk to your children before sharing the news with others, so that they do not find out through anyone else. Be as honest as possible with your children, and try to avoid making promises or estimates about when the baby will be home. If your child is preschool-aged and still learning the concept of time, try waiting until you have been matched with an expectant/birth mother or until you are ready to bring the baby home. Show your child a picture and make it a more tangible experience. Give your child a “big brother” or “big sister” t-shirt or books, to get them excited about welcoming a new baby into their life.
- Decide on the right time to tell everyone else.
Unlike with pregnancy, there is not always a set “due date” for waiting adoptive families. Your loved ones are not going to know when you are expecting. Adoption always comes with some level of uncertainty, and can feel like a long process for eager parents. Having the support of family and friends can be especially comforting along the way. That is why some waiting families will tell their friends and relatives about adoption plans early in the process. However, many prefer to wait until they are further along – for example, after they are officially approved to adopt (after the paperwork and home study is complete), after they have confirmed a match, or simply as the expectant mother’s due date approaches and they are more certain of the outcome. There is no right or wrong time to announce your adoption plans, only the time that is right for you.
- Be patient and give your family time to adjust.
You know that your siblings will make great aunts and uncles. You know that your mom and dad will make wonderful grandparents. They have talked about it for years! Still, you might be nervous about how they will react to your adoption plans. Most likely, they pictured you getting pregnant, continuing the family lineage, and sharing little pieces of themselves with your little one. While they may be one-hundred percent supportive of adoption, they may also need some time to adjust to the idea of loving a child who does not look like them. Chances are, your family wants to embrace your decision to adopt — they may just need more time and information before doing so. Stay patient and positive.
- Include your family in your adoption plans.
Adoption is an exciting journey. More than likely, it is one your family would love to be a part of in some way. Whether your family is supportive of your adoption plans or just coming around to the idea, ask if they would like to help you prepare for your baby’s arrival. Make their wait as “normal” as possible – like how they would help you prepare during a pregnancy. They can help you plan out the nursery, shop for gender-neutral baby clothes, and start a family photo album for when your little one arrives.
If you have family members who less enthusiastic about your adoption plans, know that you can still get them involved by talking to them about adoption. Have ongoing conversations about their concerns, and try to put their unknowns or uncertainties into perspective. Share positive adoption stories. Share your excitement. Get them excited, too.
Learn more about telling family and friends your adoption plans! Simply download our free “Massachusetts Adoption Process” guide below. If you are a Massachusetts family hoping to adopt, know that you can start your journey with Adoptions With Love. Call us at 617-964-4357 today or visit https://adoptionswithlove.org/adoptive-parents to learn more.