On more than one occasion, someone has approached me and said, “I think it’s wonderful what you’re doing.”
“What am I doing?” I reply.
“You know. And taking in these poor children and giving them a good Christian home. They are very lucky.”
“You’ve got it all wrong,” I respond. “We are the lucky ones.” We have been blessed by God with the privilege of raising children. They are his gifts to us.
To think of adoption as a favor to a child focuses on you and the gratitude you may expect from a child. That is a heavy burden to place on a child. The child needs to be loved for who he or she is – a wonderful creation of God – and not for any misguided motivation on the part of parents. The only reason to adopt is that you want to become a parent.
Wrong reason #2: Our other child will have a playmate.
A lady I once met was marveling at how well my first two girls, who are 17 months apart, played together. This lady had a two-year-old girl and was weary of being her daughter’s best playmate. She said to me, “Do you think I could adopt a two-year-old so little Suzy would have someone to play with?”
I tried to explain to her that it was not like renting a video – when you are done with it, you could return it to the store and life would go on. If you are looking for a toy for your other children to play with, or for an accessory for yourself to play with and dress-up, you are missing the point.
Just hire a neighbor’s kid. It’s a lot less trouble.
Any other hand, perhaps you have three girls and want to adopt a boy to experience what a boy would bring to your family. Or maybe your dream has always been to have the family of a certain size and there is room in your hearts and homes to accommodate this dream. These are perfectly valid reasons to pursue adoption.
Wrong reason #3: We’ve been through the mill of infertility testing and treatments and we deserve a baby.
Many couples have gone to enormous lengths to try to conceive, exhausting all biological and hormonal solutions. The disappointment and despair you experience after these options have failed can be so overwhelming as to impair your judgment.
What if the experience of adoption only leads to more disappointment before you are emotionally prepared to cope? On the other hand, could you love and accept an adopted child if he were still harboring bitterness over the disappointment of infertility?
When we began our journey to becoming a family, it really didn’t matter to us how our children came to us. However God would see fit to fashion us together, we would accept joyfully, and he has blessed us by giving us four wonderful children.
The experience of infertility leaves a couple in an emotionally jangled and mentally drained state. You should consider adoption only after you have dealt with your feelings and grieved over the impact infertility has had on your life. When you are ready to choose adoption, don’t let it be your second choice for building a family. Instead make sure you are preparing emotionally and spiritually for it to be your best choice.
Wrong reason #4: Raising a baby will help our marriage.
Those moments of blissfully rocking a quiet child to sleep are fleeting, few, and far between. Many of the remaining moments are tiring and stressful. They can strain closeness and communication in even the best marriage. If you don’t believe this, offer to watch a friend’s infant for a weekend. Measure your fatigue level at the end of that time. This will give you a good glimpse of the added stress of having a baby around the house.
Of course, a new family member can and should lead to increased closeness, but the relationship should be on firm footing before undertaking such an endeavor. The pressure of adding a baby to an already shaky marriage will only aggravate existing problems, not solve them. Seek some solutions first before considering adoption, for the sake of your marriage as well as for the sake of your child. Children deserve a stable, loving home environment.
Wrong reason #5: Having a baby to raise will make me feel loved and complete.
As a Christian, I believe in a personal, loving relationship with Jesus Christ is the only thing that makes me complete and loved. There was a time in my distant past when I believed that a career, a good husband, and a house full of children would make me feel happy and fulfilled. God has graciously granted meet all of these things and they have brought me great joy, but only Jesus has made me whole and redeemed my soul.
When I struggled with infertility, I had an aching in my heart for children. I would have carried great sadness in my life if I were not allowed to raise children, but my basic wholeness and completeness came from my Savior. Life would have been okay without children. If that had been God’s will for my life, it would have been my task to cheerfully accept that and move on. Perhaps there was other work he had for me to do, like being a foster parent or becoming more deeply involved in children’s ministry.
The Bible tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) If you think adoption might be for you, ask God first to bless your inclination and give you direction. Seek first to do his will. The psalmist tells us, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.” (Psalm 143:10) When we are in his will, he can do an amazing work in our lives and in granting the desires of our hearts. If adoption is not in his will, that is a reality that must be faced.
The best life to welcome a child into is a rich, full life grounded into the love of Jesus. If you are not so grounded, open your heart to Christ first. Let him make clear his will for you and your life.
Wrong reason #6: My spouse really wants a child.
It is not a good reason to adopt solely to make someone else happy. If your spouse has always wanted children but you don’t, don’t adopt. If your parents are anxious for grandchildren and you want only to make them happy, don’t adopt. If your friends are pressuring you to join the ranks of overworked parents, think long and hard first. It is not a good reason to adopt solely to prove something to others or to make someone else happy. The joy your spouse has that the addition of a new life to your family should be shared by you.
Wrong reason #7: Adopting a child will help us to conceive our “own” child.
Fertility issues should be sorted out separately from the desire to adopt if adoption is to be entered into freely and clearly.
The anecdotes of increased fertility after adoption are legion. Indeed, it happened in my own family. Researchers say that this occurs for 8% of couples suffering with infertility.
Even though our family fit into the 8% to conceive almost immediately after adoption, it was a bittersweet adjustment. As a logical as it sounds, I felt I had somehow let down my first adopted child by having a newborn biological incident to care for. My first daughter had been the one to help heal my broken heart from infertility and dashed dreams, and how dare I immediately have a biological child when I wasn’t done raising that beautiful first child! I felt I had done something terribly wrong to her. Those feelings passed and we are now grateful to have each child with their own unique gifts and attributes, but there were some irrational emotions to contend with at the beginning. As always, God provided the wisdom, patience, and discernment to deal with the situation.
I did not initially adopt to increase the odds of conceiving. That should not be your motivation, either. If that is what God has planned for you, however, you can embrace it joyously and thank him for many blessings – after you recover from the shock!
Sorting out fantasy and reality
Adopters are risk takers. The process of adoption does not guarantee a child, much less a perfect child or a perfect family life. Life holds no such guarantees, either for birth parents or adoptive parents. Yet birth parents seem more willing to accept a less than ideal child. “He gets that annoying habit from Uncle Charlie,” they might to console themselves. It is easier to accept a difficult child who shares your biological heritage, it seems. “That’s just the way we are in this family,” I have heard parents comment.
That is why it is so crucial to examine your motivation at the outset. The process of adoption as well is the process of parenting an adopted child is not for everyone. It is best to sort out the fantasy from the reality of both.
Your adopted child may not be perfect. He will have flaws and habits that drive you to distraction, and so do biological children. You have to be ready to accept everything about their child before you can fully accept him into your heart. Your love for him cannot in any way be inferior to your love for a biological child. He cannot be allowed to feel he is in any way second-best.
Each child is unique and a special gift from God. As for me, I thank him every day for the privilege he allowed me to raise his children.