Facing Your Fears During Adoption
Building your family by infant adoption is exciting and joyful. But, it’s also completely normal to feel stark fear in the process. Facing your fears during adoption is a necessary part of preparing for that precious new baby. The good news is that it’s common to have these fears while you are waiting for your baby.
We’ve identified a few of the most common types of anxiety that hopeful adoptive parents have shared with us. Then we gathered here in one post, some great ideas from other experienced parents for facing your fears during adoption.
Will I Be Enough for This Child?
One of the most common fears during an adoption is that “I’m not going to be enough for my child.” It might also crop up in your thoughts as “What if I don’t get picked by an expectant mom?” Frankly, the fear of inadequacy is a common fear in most any type of parenting, so you absolutely are not alone. The good news is that you have identified the truth within that fear: you will not be enough on your own. Adoptive parenting – like any parenting – takes more than just you (or you and your partner).
So, embrace it with the rest of us. Recognize it as a feeling of inadequacy, and then decide what you can do about it. Shore yourself up with pre-adoptive education. Build relationships now with others who are also waiting. But seek out friendships, too, with those who already have their children home. Develop the habit of asking for help. Surround yourself with those who will respond to your needs when you ask. Mobilizing this fear to work FOR you instead of crippling you is an excellent start toward building a stronger family.
How Do I Talk About Adoption Stuff?
Understandably, many hopeful adoptive parents struggle with this fear. It’s hard to talk about hard things. There are indeed a lot of hard things to talk about with our children and their adoption stories. But remember, you won’t jump right into those hard conversations on Day 1 with the newborn you will bring home.
You can face this fear with preparation and practice. While you are waiting, educate yourself on the tools and conversations other folks have with their adopted children. Practice now by talking with “your village.” Join a support group for waiting parents. Listen to podcasts and read blogs by experienced parents, adoptees, and birth parents. Observe how they talk about adoption and practice the lingo before you even get your baby home.
It’s not too early to craft your family narrative. Keep practicing it – and personalizing it as you learn – so that you get comfortable with the language of adoption and the details of your shared story. If there are hard parts of the story that stump you, seek help from experienced parents or adult adoptees in your life who can coach you. Check out our resources for creating a Lifebook for your child – they are great tools for creating conversation as your child grows.
Am I Up for the Challenge of Transracial Adoptive Parenting?
Indeed, this is a big – and valid – fear. Parenting a transracially adopted child brings its own unique set of worries: Will my family be accepted by my community? Can I help my child develop a healthy racial identity and pride in his culture of birth? What is a racial mirror, and where do I get one? All these questions can feel daunting and make you want to shrink back in fear.
Thankfully, again, you are not alone in this fear! Talk candidly during the wait with your social work. Ask your agency or attorney for reading material or pre-adoption education to help you understand the issues to consider and the tools that exist to support you.
This course offers insight from Transracial Adoptees to help you prepare for your child.
Also, thankfully, time is on your side to learn how to navigate the conversations that are bound to come up when you move outside the little cocoon of your home. Being out in public – as a conspicuously transracial adoptive family – will likely steepen the learning curve for you. But here are a few tangible things you can do now to prepare yourself during the wait:
- Begin building relationships in communities of your prospective child’s birth culture
- Join transracial adoption parent groups – online or in-person – to listen and learn
- Visit cultural events of your prospective child’s birth culture – dig into art, music, food, worship communities, etc.
- Find a mentor or an experienced mom to a child of color and build a relationship in which it is safe to ask questions, seek help, and be gently corrected when you get it “not quite right.”
Trying these things now, while you are waiting, will help you feel more comfortable continuing to learn as your child grows and faces the issues himself. If you aren’t a member yet in our online Facebook community, please come and check us out!
Am I Capable of Parenting a Child With Prenatal Exposure?
(Or with special needs? Or with a family history of inheritable mental illness?)
This fear goes straight to the core of every parent’s desire to protect their child from the hardest stuff that the world has to throw at them. In your efforts to be a prepared, educated parent, you are likely reading about the impact of prenatal exposure, early trauma, and all sorts of other scary issues. You might even feel the fear mounting inside you as you are reading this. Hang in there and by all means, keep reading!
It’s pointless to ignore this fear. Doing so will not make the painful truths of prenatal exposure, neglect, abuse, or other trauma go away for you or your baby. Instead, summon your courage and face it head-on.
One way to disarm your fears is to reach out to professionals who can offer you their knowledge and expertise. As one of our community members, Ian, shared,
Early in the process, when we had to indicate what sort of exposure we were comfortable with, we consulted with a couple doctors. They helped us distinguish the differences in short- and long-term effects of different types of exposure. It had the effect of calming us down. As for mental illnesses, we consulted a number of experts, and listened to a Creating a Family podcast, to help understand the differences in severity and treatability.
Robyn, another parent in our community, suggested that you gather as much information from the expectant mother as possible about issues of prenatal exposure, family health history, and other health risks. But she also wisely cautioned that this is a “pretty delicate” line. Your agency or attorney can help you find a balance in seeking information, as it’s also important to be respectful of the expectant parents’ time and space with the baby before the adoption.
Knowledge is Power
As you can see, the recurring theme in facing your fears during your adoption is education! We at Creating a Family believe that knowledge is power. So we love it when our community echoes that in their advice. Facing your fears with education, resources, supportive relationships, and even some practice are all opportunities to exercise your parent advocacy muscles. Equipping yourself while you wait will set you up for a more successful adoption experience when your little one arrives.
Image Credit: Jeff Laitila; jGregor