“So how’s it going with your brother’s adoption process?” I asked.

I hadn’t seen my friend Jeff in a few months, and I knew his brother was on a waiting list to adopt. Struggling with their infertility issues had been hard and, like many couples in similar situations, they turned their focus toward adoption.

“Good and bad,” he said. “The good thing is they have a baby on the way. They actually got pregnant even though they were told they’d never have biological children!”

Isn’t that just a kicker? Ha. If there’s one thing hopeful adoptive parents hate hate hate to hear, it’s, “Once you put in your papers, you’ll get pregnant.” It does happen, sure, but it’s hardly the rule. Still, it’s said so often that we adoptive parents cringe every time someone says it, even if they think they’re just being clever.

“So what’s the bad?” I said. “That sounds all good.”

“The waiting process really took a toll on them. We spent a weekend with the two of them and they kept saying things like ‘our baby’ and ‘when our son comes home’ and all of that.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “That’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.”

“Yeah,” he continued. “So, they were there at the hospital with the biological mother and she decided at the last minute to parent her son. It seemed like everyone knew that was a possibility except for my brother and his wife and they were absolutely devastated.”

So, this type of situation begs the question: At what point is that child MY child? Is it okay to get attached?

The man and his wife in this story crossed into territory that was asking for trouble. First of all, I’ve been witness to a case where the hopeful adoptive parents were so overbearing with their sense of entitlement that the biological mother chose to parent largely because she felt she couldn’t choose THAT couple. The couple treated the biological mother like she was just a means to their personal goal. Who wouldn’t be turned off by something like that?

Simply put, that baby does not belong to the hopeful adoptive couple until the court system says it’s final. After that point, yes, fight fight fight for the child no matter what comes your way. Before that point, though, the child is not yours, and you have to be willing to accept the biological parents’ decision.

This happened to my wife and me with both adoptions– especially with our second. We made a deliberate and conscious decision to support and love the potential birth parents no matter what they decided. If they had decided to parent, we would have loved and respected them just the same. Would it have been tough? Yes, of course. Having high hopes for something and then having those hopes fall apart would naturally lead to pain. There’s nothing wrong with that. The couple in the story above weren’t wrong because they hurt inside. No. They were wrong because they had a sense of entitlement to someone else’s baby. That type of mentality only hurts the adoptive world– both on the biological side as well as the adoptive side– because it causes a divide between those who should be united. If I were an expectant parent and considering placing a child for adoption, that would be a huge red flag.

On the other hand is attachment. Should hopeful adoptive parents let themselves get attached? Well, this may seem a little odd to some people, and some may disagree with me, but I say yes. Get attached. Are you setting yourself up for pain if it doesn’t happen your way? Yes, of course you are. There is a difference between being attached and feeling entitled. As the old saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Love that child with all your heart, even if that child is not yours, and even if that child is not born. What child doesn’t deserve all the love the world can give? Just keep in mind that the child is not yours until the judge bangs the gavel. Love is what matters– love for the child and love for the biological parents. Base your life on love and you’ll be okay, even if you are at risk of feeling pain.