The most monumental acts in our lives, in history, are driven by emotion. The emotions we feel can change the course of our paths. Fear is a very strong emotion, and is ever-present in adoption.
1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
2. a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights.
3. concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone’s safety.
4. reverential awe, esp. toward god.
5. that which causes a feeling of being afraid; that of which a person is afraid: Cancer is a common fear.
In the adoption world, fear is not talked about enough. Most people don’t like to admit fear because fear denotes weakness. If adoptive parents mention that they have fears about adopting, the response seems to be either “Then don’t adopt” or “You’ve got to work through that before you should adopt.” Basically, as an adoptive parent it’s easier to confess that you are not afraid because you want to appear strong, brave, and capable. You are hoping to be chosen by expectant parents because of your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Well, today I’m going to list the fears I’ve had in this adoption journey as a hopeful adoptive parent. Keep in mind, that some of the fears I list were fears in the beginning, but are no longer; and you will probably cringe at the improper terminology I may use and laugh at some of the absurdity of the fears because they are misconceptions, but these were the fears I had.
- I couldn’t love another mother’s child the way I love my own.
- If I have an open adoption, the birth parents and grandparents will know where we live and will have more reason to return to take their child back in the later years.
- If I have an open adoption, the birth parents may feel like they have the right to discipline my child.
- If I admit my weaknesses as a parent and as a spouse, an expectant mother will think less of me and will never choose me as an adoptive parent.
- Being overweight makes me less appealing as an adoptive parent.
- One day my (adopted) child will tell me that she wants to live with her birth parents and she wishes she’d never been adopted.
- The birth father will contest the adoption.
- The birth mother will change her mind at placement and choose to parent.
- The birth grandparents will convince the birth parents to not place for adoption.
- My family/my husband’s family will treat our child different because he was adopted.
- I won’t feel a mother-child connection.
- An open adoption means that a birth mother can come by the house unannounced any time to see her child and expect to be given certain rights; we’d have no privacy; she’d want to live with us.
- A closed adoption means my child will have severe psychological issues of not knowing who he is or where he came from and be bitter because he didn’t know.
- An open adoption is giving my identity away to strangers whom I do not know or trust.
- No one will ever choose us because there’s something wrong with us (our child is too old, we have a biological child, we’ve been waiting too long).
- Our pass-through expenses (extra expenses we agree to pay if the birth mother needs it) will simply be too expensive.
- The age gap is too large between kids (my son is almost 7 now).
- Getting to know birth mothers and expectant mothers means I’m trying to be coercive and make myself look good.
- Being an adoptive parent means I’m a baby snatcher.
- Being an adoptive parent means I think I’m entitled to another mother’s child.
- We will never adopt.
- The birth parents will live too far away for an open adoption.
- The birth parents will live too close and the adoption will be too open.
- Using an adoption agency means that I’m trying to buy a baby, and the caseworkers are coercive and try to lure expectant mothers in.
- All adoptees are bitter.
- All birth mothers eventually become bitter.
- If I take a gift to an expectant mother when I first meet her, it will look like I’m bribing her. If I don’t take a gift, it will seem like I don’t care.
- I won’t know how to be myself around a birth mother.
- Being myself will turn an expectant mother “off.”
- Networking on the internet will surely lead me to scams.
- Advocating for adoption will mean that all the adoption “meanies” will attack my blog and my family.
If I sat all day, I’m sure I could come up with more, but the point of this post is not listing all of the fears that ever exist and talking about each one individually. By looking at this list, it’s obvious that I have had some major misconceptions about adoption. The hardest thing for me to admit is how long I was stuck in fear; how long I just glossed over the fears I had.
It’s true. Fear can be rather debilitating, and it can drive your actions for good or ill. The point is to learn what fears are healthy and which fears are detrimental. As an hopeful adoptive parent, it’s essential to list your fears. You need to learn what you are facing, what is holding you back. Most of the “sins” I’ve seen in adoption are usually sins of omission — things people don’t do simply because they’re afraid. We think that doing nothing is not wrong, but doing nothing is really doing something. . .got that?
How do we combat these fears? How do we become healthy hopeful adoptive parents? Do you remember the “Just Say No!” campaign that came out in the 80’s and 90’s? The point was to teach children to learn how to say no to drugs, bullying, alcohol, etc. The curriculum was (and still is) to teach children by using case studies and giving them a chance to practice. Well, as adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents, we need to do the same things.
List your fears. Face them, and then educate yourself. Knowledge is power. Branch out. Read adoption literature, talk to people involved in adoption from all branches (adoptees, birth families, adoptive parents, caseworkers). As you do this, you will learn that some of your fears really aren’t unfounded, but there are ways to face them head on. You will find your truths. You may be surprised at finding out that your truths change or that they stay the same.
Yes, some fear is healthy. It keeps us aware of our actions and inactions. Fear can keep us humble in remembering that our pains and losses are not the only pains and losses, and many times, they are the lesser pains. The point is to not let fear run and ruin your life and your adoption path. Don’t let it become the fog. Remove your fears, replace them with confidence, with knowledge and compassion. Make your weaknesses yours strengths.