Beginning the adoption process is exciting, scary, and all around overwhelming. It is full of ups and downs, but once you take your baby home, it’s all worth it. But how can you know if you’re truly ready to adopt a child? There’s no easy answer for this. As you work through the uncertainty of making this decision, consider this list of red flags that show you might not be ready to adopt.
1. You haven’t dealt with your infertility
Infertility is a huge trial. It’s emotionally, and often physically, taxing. The hurt of not being able to have biological children doesn’t just go away the minute you adopt a baby. Adoption is wonderful, but it’s very different than experiencing pregnancy and childbirth. You need to be okay with that. Sure, sadness related to infertility may come up every once in awhile even after you adopt. But if you don’t learn how to deal with that in a healthy way, you won’t be able to enjoy being an adoptive parent, and your child will feel that.
2. You see adoption as second best
Many people choose to adopt after fertility treatments fail. That’s normal and okay. What’s not okay is to enter the adoption process with the idea that it is your fallback plan. Adoption might be different than your original plan, but it is not worse. If you’re not excited, if you don’t think you can love a baby that isn’t biologically yours, that’s a sign that you should wait.
3. You’ll do whatever it takes to adopt
Many hopeful parents are so desperate to raise a child that they’ll do anything to adopt. Sometimes this means that the lines of ethics are crossed, however unintentionally. If you ever consider doing anything that isn’t right—promising an openness you can’t deliver to an expectant parent, working with an agency you know to be unethical, etc. That’s a red flag.
4. You don’t like the idea of birth parents
Newsflash: adopted kids have other parents, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Even if your adoption is completely closed, you can’t make your child’s birth parents cease to exist. No matter what the level of contact you may have with your child’s birth parents, your child will likely want to know about them, and have questions and complicated feelings about their role. You need to be prepared to honor the part birth parents play in your child’s adoption story. You need to support your child with having whatever relationship she needs with her birth parents, so long as it’s safe and healthy.
5. You don’t plan on telling your child he’s adopted
If you don’t tell your child the truth, or if you encourage him not to tell others that he’s adopted, you are in no way prepared to adopt. Adoption is not a secret, and if you make it one, you make it shameful. You are teaching your child—again, however unintentionally—that there is something wrong about being adopted, and that’s not okay. You will hurt her self-worth and make her feel like she is worth less than people raised in biological families. If you’re not going to celebrate your child’s adoption story, you are not prepared to adopt.
You will likely never be 100% certain that it’s the right time to adopt. But if you see any of these red flags within yourself, take some time to work through them. Educate yourself as best you can, reach out to other adoptive/hopeful adoptive families, and consult with a counselor who specializes in adoption. Do right by yourselves and your child by making sure you are ready to fully embrace the wonderful world of adoption.