"Adoption is created through loss," says Linda Hageman, executive director of adoption services at The Cradle, an Illinois adoption agency.
That's a statement you don't often see among the pretty pictures of giggling babies and happy families in adoption brochures. But it's true. The child loses his or her first parents. The birth parents face the loss of their child. And the adoptive parents often lose long-cherished dreams and expectations about having biological children.
Some parents consider adoption after they've already built a biological family, but many others come to adoption after struggling with infertility. As a prospective adoptive parent you may wonder: Am I going to love this child as much as I would have loved a biological child? Will I have the same parenting instincts? Will our household feel like a real family?
The answer to all of those questions is a heartfelt yes, says Hageman -- but it will take some work first.
Talking About Adoption
Most important, talk about those losses rather than sweep them under the rug. "List all the losses you've gone through in getting to adoption and the feelings you have about them. Do you feel anger? Resentment? Guilt or shame?"
Next, connect with the experts who can give you a real picture of what adoption may be like for you: other adoptive families. "The time to join in the adoption community is before you adopt, not after," says Hageman.
Finally, come up with rituals and traditions that reinforce this child's place in your family. "It's all about establishing markers that help you envelop this child and make them a part of your whole family system."
Getting Ready for Adoption
Thinking about moving forward with your adoption plans? Hageman and Adoptive Families magazine offer these tips.
Choose your path. Adoptive Families magazine's online "decision matrix" can help you pick which type of adoption may be right for you based on your age, finances, and the characteristics of the child you would like.
Learn more. Attend adoptive family meetings to find out more about the type of adoption you're interested in pursuing. Check local "parent papers" for listings, or call adoption or foster care agencies in your area.
Find a professional. Adoptive Families has a searchable list of agencies. Do very thorough research on any adoption professional you're thinking of working with. Calling the Better Business Bureau and state licensing agencies is just a start.
Take off the rose-colored glasses. Beware of promises to have a baby in your arms in X amount of time. It's hard to wait, but you're better off with an ethical agency that doesn't make too-good-to-be-true claims.
Take time for yourself. Focus on you and your partner. Embark on that last solo vacation. Read a book not about adoption. Before you know it, a little person will be taking up all that spare time.
"Always remember: Family is not necessarily who you were born with but who you choose." -- fiannakyn, WebMD community member
Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine."