Confirmation and the Adoption Journey

In a religious aspect, confirmation is the point at which someone affirms their belief or is given a spiritual gift according to their beliefs. In the adoption world, it can imply the moment or event leading up to the recognition that a child (or children) is truly meant to be yours. Or in the case of being the expectant mother, it is the moment when you find the perfect family for your baby. 

Some adoptive mothers don’t experience that aha moment, but they still feel a connection to their adopted children. One mother I asked about it said she doesn’t believe that things are meant to be, but that God works on each of us moment by moment. She says “God and I created a family through science and adoption, but not that it was meant to be.” She has one biological child through the miracle of in vitro fertilization, and three adopted children, two of whom are biological sisters. 

I, on the other hand, had a very different experience and believe it was God’s plan for our family. There were too many things that fell into place to make it just a coincidence. Each situation is unique and we all have the right to see it as we choose. In the event of our first adoption, we were very opposed to open adoption. We were contacted by our attorney about an adoption opportunity in our local community but the expectant mother wanted an open adoption. This was in 1990 when open adoption was very new and we were uncomfortable with the idea. It was a difficult thing to turn down but we felt good about our decision. In the coming months, we had the chance to submit a profile to an adoption lawyer in another city in our state. Within a few short weeks, we received a phone call that we had been selected by an expectant mother and she would like to meet us. We were caught off guard by this request, but my husband was home at the time of the call, which was rare at lunchtime. I looked at him and repeated the request aloud. His response was, “when?” At that moment, we knew we were to go and pursue this possible adoption. Although we were told that she had narrowed it down to three prospective couples, we felt with surety that this baby was to be ours. That distinct feeling came over me again five months later when he was placed in my arms to feed him his first bottle. Of course, we didn’t allow ourselves to believe it was real until several months later when he was officially made ours by a court of law. That son is now 30 years old, and not a day goes by that I don’t recognize that feeling that he is indeed my son. Every time he wraps his strong arms around me with his affirming hug, I receive that confirmation. 

Fourteen years would go by before I  would have those similar feelings again. The circumstances were very different for our second adoption. But I still received a very clear confirmation. Our daughter was adopted from the foster/adopt program in our state. We had begun foster care four years earlier in hopes of adopting a child. During that time, I suffered a miscarriage but also had a successful, full-term pregnancy.  When that baby was five months old we were approached by the State about a possible adoption of a 2 ½-year-old little girl. While it was what we had been waiting for, again we were caught off guard by the circumstances. We agreed to accept her into our home as a foster child placement and see where it led. We began having her in our home for a few hours at a time and then eventually weekends and finally permanent placement. It still took a while for her to be legally free for adoption. It was during one of her short visits that I received the confirmation that she was indeed my child. She was a big girl for her age and also very bright. She appeared to be closer to a 4-year-old than just 2 ½.  Because of her size, it was difficult for me to lift her. My baby boy was sleeping in his crib but she wanted to see him. As I picked her up to look at the sleeping baby, who would eventually be her little brother, I heard a very distinct voice, ”this is your daughter.” From that moment on I knew she was meant to be a part of our family. Too many factors had come into play for this to be by chance. She had traveled across the United States in order to find us and her journey was finally complete.

Another adoptive mother I asked had shared her experience with me. She too had been a foster parent in hopes of adoption. The first night she brought her home and rocked her, she stared up at her with the biggest eyes and there was a” healing that came from just holding her and the possibility that she could be my forever daughter.” She had gotten used to reporting instances to the caseworker, On one occasion shortly after the adoption was finalized, her daughter fell and bumped her head. As she went to take a picture to report it, she realized she no longer had to do that. Her daughter was” free to be the typical toddler bumping into things and scraping her knees.” 

In preparation for this article, I reached out to other staff storytellers from Adopting.org, Adoption.com, and Adoption.org and asked them to share any experiences they may have had in receiving a confirmation regarding their adopted child or children. Following are some of the responses I received:

-We were supposed to be present at our daughter’s birth, but she arrived too quickly. I was able to pick her out in the nursery without seeing any names on the bassinets.

-Whenever my son and I sing the commercial jingles or the theme song from a TV show unplanned, I know he is ours. 🙂

-Also for our second, the day we got the call for our second baby girl was on the first anniversary of the day my sister passed away. Then they told us our baby girl’s due date was on my sister’s birthday. Things like that are hard to chalk up to coincidence 😏

-We were pretty new foster parents when we got the call to foster a newborn baby. I got a bit of her story, and as soon as I heard her name, my heart, and voice, said, “We will adopt her!”. The social worker informed me that that wouldn’t be possible, but that even if we could take her for 2 weeks it would be helpful. We fostered her for 18 months, and then adopted her! A couple of years later, we were fostering another newborn baby, also not knowing how things would go with permanency. She was here for 1 month when I stopped dead in my tracks, in our hallway – I just knew we would adopt her. And we did.

-While we were on vacation we received an email that said that we were being considered for a child that was supposed to be born in the next couple of weeks. And that instant my heart knew he was my child. He was born the very next day but we didn’t find out about it until about a week later when our social worker returned from vacation. All along I knew he was ours… and I knew he was in a NICU needing me. I just had to wait for legalities to happen so that I could meet him.

I loved reading all of these responses. Each situation is unique and special to those whom it involves. Not having a similar experience does not mean that you haven’t made the right decision or that adoption was not right for you. Confirmation is not always received or necessary in your adoption journey. Many adoptive parents begin the process without any kind of certainty that adoption will work out. Oftentimes, even after receiving that feeling of confirmation, some situations are not successful. Sometimes our own desires outweigh the actual facts involved. 

Several years ago, we became acquainted with a sibling group of five who were in foster care. The youngest was a 5-month-old baby girl. We immediately fell in love with these children and had a strong desire to make them a part of our family. My desire to have a baby consumed my life and I did everything I could to have that baby in my home. We became foster parents in hopes of one day adopting them. Over the course of the next eight months, we would have some or all of them in our home as foster placements. When the time came for them to be adopted, another family was chosen as their adoptive family. Our hearts were broken. We were sure they were meant to be our children. This placement ended badly and the children were returned to foster care to their prior home. They were eventually adopted by that family in our community and we were able to watch them grow up. As we watched them from afar it became evident to us that they, in fact, were not meant to be with us. They were raised by a loving, caring family who met their needs. 

The term disruption is used to describe the act of returning a child before finalized adoption. This can happen for a number of reasons. Often a child has behavioral issues that fail to be resolved, or an adoptive parent finds that they are unable to take care of the needs of a child, or children, as in the case of the sibling group described above. In 2010, a study was done by the University of Minnesota and Hennepin County, Minnesota found that between 6 and 11 percent of all adoptions are disrupted before finalization. The numbers increase as the ages of the children get older. Disruption rarely occurs with infants. According to Today.com, it is more difficult to erase behaviors learned from life experiences as children get older. It takes more than love: what happens when adoption fails). According to the study, the older the child, the more likely it is for disruption to occur. If the adoption has been finalized, the process is more complicated. In this case, dissolution or annulment takes place. Usually, the child would then be placed in foster care until a permanent solution can be made. Brooke Randolph, director of adoption preparation and support services at an Indianapolis adoption agency, says that education and preparation are the best tools against disruption or disillusion. 

Adoption is not for everyone but when all parties are in agreement, the process can be a beautiful experience. Whether or not you receive a confirmation regarding your decision it is important to recognize the feelings and emotions of the child throughout their life as an adoptee. It is essential to their well-being to give them words of affirmation to let them know how much they mean to you and how grateful you are to have them in your life. Some suggested affirmations might include: You are incredible, just the way you are; I believe in you;

I am excited about your future. Affirmations are important in any child’s life, but especially to an adopted child due to some of the stigma that still exists surrounding adoption. As we in the adoption community spread more positive words of encouragement, we can change the negative reaction often associated with adoption.

As you search for answers in your adoption journey, remember to listen to your own heart for answers.