Originally Posted November 15, 2010 by Rebekah McGee. Rebekah is a New York Adoption Consultant with Adoptions from the Heart. She and her husband adopted an infant son from Ethiopia in 2012 after a 2.5 year adoption process. Their family then had two biological daughters in 2013 and 2017. They are a transracial and special-needs family as her oldest child has multiple disabilities.
Let me being this post by acknowledging that I have never been pregnant. I don’t know what it is like to be pregnant, but I have observed three sisters go through pregnancy, and several friends. Just like each pregnancy/child rearing is different, each adoption is also different. Different costs, timelines, reasons for adoption, reason a child is abandoned/relinquished, bonding processes, and needs during raising the child. This is our first adoption and we will be first-time parents.
Since beginning the adoption process this spring, we have received several comments that compare adoption to pregnancy, and I just want to address this subject. Although both means are beautiful ways to bring a child into a family, they are very different processes. We certainly may try to go the pregnancy route one day, or we may have all adopted babies- and we’d be happy either way!
Timing. This is pretty obvious, as with a pregnancy there is a definite countdown. You know that your baby will come in roughly 40 weeks, give or take, from conception. With adoption, you have no clue. There are families that get on the waitlist and get a referral in the same day/week, and some families that wait months or years for a referral. Each type of adoption- international, domestic, foster-to-adopt has its own timeline, and in most cases, it is completely unpredictable and you can’t compare your story to another’s story.
Mom-To-Be. This year was my first “Mother’s Day” as a mom-to-be. One sweet friend of mine messaged me and said “If you were pregnant I would wish you a mother’s day, and you are a mom-to-be, so happy mother’s day!” While I am just as much an expectant mother, it is hard for people to grasp that I’ll “really” be a mom, or share the same excitement with me because of the whole timing issue. An adoptive mom-to-be may celebrate many Mother’s Days without having a baby in her arms. An adoptive mom may not know what age to prepare the home for- a newborn, older infant, toddler, older child? To some extent you get to choose some details, but even if you get a referral for a 3 week old baby in international adoption, the child may be several months old by the time he/she comes home, and the development may not always be at the average rate.
Milestones. As an adoptive parent, milestones are treated differently. You may miss significant milestones, like the first smile/craw/laugh/walk/birthday. But with adoption, you get to not only celebrate birthdays, but can also celebrate “gotcha days” when a baby finally becomes an official part of the family. With pregnancy, you get to watch the milestones from the beginning, even with the development in the womb during ultrasounds.
Gender Ultrasound/Referral. Some families choose to find out the gender during a pregnancy. Although this is compared to a referral (when you find out the details of your child- age, gender, etc) this is not at all the same thing. (see next point).
Background. In pregnancies, the parents know the child’s background. You generally know who the father is, and the details of the birth. With adoption, you don’t always know every detail. But one thing you do know is that with every adoptive situation- there is a family somewhere that has loss. The loss of a grandchild, child, birthmother, or the sacrifice of knowing that the best decision for the baby is to let someone else raise the baby. When you get a referral, you have the joy of knowing all the details of your child, but you also know that your new baby comes to you because of someone else’s loss.
Please, consider how you talk with a prospective adoptive family. Don’t compare adoption to pregnancy, because they are very different, but both beautiful ways to have a family.