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This Is What Adoption Feels Like

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Be honest with yourself and do research before making your decision. If you're considering the adoption of a child with special needs, or a transracial adoption, explore your resources. Do you have access to services that a child with disabilities requires? Do you live in a multicultural neighborhood, or would you move to one? If there are multiracial families in your community, especially those formed by adoption, consider asking them for their perspective.

"People worry that their children might be confused by an open relationship with the birth parents," says Brenda Romanchik, director of Open Adoption Insight, a nonprofit organization in Michigan that provides resources and support for people involved in all sides of the adoption equation. "But if you're not confused about the roles and relationships, then your children won't be either."

Have I come to terms with my infertility?
"Infertility is a grief that's revisited many times throughout life — for instance, when you see the birth family and know your child looks like them, not you," says Romanchik. "Can you handle that? You have to be able to accept that adoption isn't the same as having a child born to you." To get to that place, first understand that feeling ongoing pangs of loss over infertility doesn't mean you love your adopted child any less. Find support among parents who have adopted or are trying to — many have been down this path.

Can I handle being "different" from other families?
From "Did I grow in your tummy?" to "Who do I look like, Mom?" there will always be sticky issues that set you apart from other families. How will you discuss them with your children? "Very important — do you have a thick skin?" asks Romanchik. "People will say stupid things to you sometimes, like, 'Aren't you afraid the real mother will take her away?' Do you know how to deal with them in a way that's healthy for your child?" Good adoption agencies offer classes, programs, and counseling that can help you navigate these answers.

Domestic adoption
Laws vary depending on where you live — for instance, some states allow attorney-mediated adoption; others require you to use a licensed agency. Make sure that you understand the rules in your state as well as in the state where the child lives or will be born. You can look up state laws at laws.adoption.com, but attempting a completely do-it-yourself education on adoption law may leave you baffled. So seek a licensed adoption attorney through the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (adoptionattorneys.org) for more advice.

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