Adopting a child requires a lot of people to be “on board” with your decision, but probably no one more important than your spouse. After all, you’re about to be parents, so even if your extended family may take some convincing, they’re not going to be the ones left with the day-in and day-out of raising a child.
But what do you do when one of you is ready to take that first step and sign that first paper but the other is hesitant? Here are 6 very important discussions to have when you are not on the same page as your spouse with adoption.
1. WHO is the child you are considering adopting?
Every perspective adoptive parent has an idea in his/her head about what the child they adopt will be like – in fact, many adoption agencies require adoptive parents to fill out a child characteristic checklist with what you will and will not accept in a child, from gender to disabilities to behaviors.
You and your spouse need to be on the same page when it comes to your future child. Unlike being pregnant, adoption does give you some control, if it’s important to you, in choosing what type of child you feel able to parent. The recommendation is to be open to many possibilities, but honest with yourselves as you discuss your future child. If you are willing to parent a child with disabilities but your spouse is not, it’s best to not check “will consider” on those boxes because it could cause tension in your marriage and future with your child. In this case, honesty is always the best policy.
2. WHAT do you need to do in order to be ready?
Physically and emotionally there’s a lot to prepare for when adopting a child. Will your house pass a fire inspection? Do you have a nursery set up, or are you planning to set one up? Is your house baby-proof? You and your spouse may have to do some physical prep to your house to get it ready when your child comes home, and working together will make the projects go faster and will make them more fun! A plan needs to be made for how you are going to get your house ready for the home inspection and the day your child comes home.
Be sure to connect with your spouse emotionally and ask what you can do for them to help them adjust to the idea of adoption. Discuss your fears and excitements, your dreams for your future child. Adoption is an emotional choice from all viewpoints. Embrace those emotions and help each other through what is the ups and downs. Check in frequently to make sure you are both in a positive emotional state before moving forward.
3. WHERE would you like to adopt a child from?
Agency verses lawyer? Domestic verses international? In state verses out of state? Be sure to discuss where you are willing to travel to meet your child. Location is important in keeping a relationship with your child’s birth parents or her culture. When your child is older she may want to spend some time in the country or state where she was born. Will this be a feasible trip if you must travel a long way to get to that place? If you are planning an open adoption with visits, how far in advance will you have to schedule trips in order to meet up? Decide what you both are comfortable with and use that as your guideline.
4. WHEN are you ready to start the process?
There’s never truly a perfect time to make a big, life-changing decision, but there certainly are times that are better than others. Do you feel emotionally, financially, and mentally prepared to parent a child? Are you ready for the added challenges and joys that come with being an adoptive parent? If so, then it may be your “perfect” time. The homestudy usually takes several months to complete, and the entire adoption process can be a lengthy experience. When you start, make sure you are ready for the waiting.
5. WHY do you want to adopt?
The answers to this question are as numerous, different, and personal as the people who answer them. As long as you are thinking of your child’s best interests (even if you’re never met him yet!), there is no wrong answer to this question. Sharing your “whys” with your spouse is a great way to support one another and connect on a deeper level when discussing the adoption.
6. HOW can you help each other?
Discussing this question on a regular basis might be the most important conversation you have. The adoption process is long and hard. Sometimes it can become discouraging and you’ll forget why you are even doing it in the first place. This is when you need to lean on your spouse and ask for help. You’re not in this journey alone. The more you help each other, the better your relationship will be—not only with each other, but with your future child as well.
Adoption is a huge decision, but you’re not making it alone. Taking time to communicate with your spouse will make the entire process a lot smoother and will make you and your family much better prepared when you are finally able to bring your child home.