A family considering adoption extends beyond the potential parents wrestling with the decision and taking the first steps in the journey. It also involves their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, Great Aunt Tilly, and her dog Rex …

Just kidding about Rex, but when you start thinking about all the people near and dear … or far and not-so-dear-at-all-but-still-important, who should or will have an opinion about adding to the family through adoption, the numbers get big very quickly.

The amount of input a prospective adoptive parent chooses to solicit is a personal choice. How much gets tossed at you whether you want it or not, however, is far less controllable. And you can count on everyone having some strong feelings on the topic: foragainst, and sort-of-halfway-between-for-and-against-but-leaning-towards-for-but-worried-about-a-few-things-that-could-make-against-win.

Although adoption is the operative word in the method you’ll be using to bring a child into your family, it does not define you or your child. Adoption is simply the process.

Reproduction is also a process. And unless someone is close enough, or important enough to be involved in your efforts to have a baby one way, they shouldn’t have much to say about the other way.

In other words, anyone involved in the act of procreation gets a vote; everyone else doesn’t. Sure … take in ideas, theories, suggestions, and inspiration. Send up kites all over the place and see how your concept flies. Brainstorm and bounce ideas off loved ones with valued perspectives. Go on! Knock yourself out!

Just keep in mind, though, that unless the person feeding you their thoughts could just as easily be sitting next to you at the moment of conception, their opinions are just that– their opinions.

Should you choose to broadcast the early stages of your process, and welcome pros and cons to weigh as you solidify your position, that’s fine. “Ask and you shall receive,” as they say … and receive, and receive, and receive. Personal agendas will surface, and you’ll need to be discerning about what to take on board and what to jettison straight away, but you will probably end up with a valuable observation or two.

Once the decision is reached and your adoption journey is on its way, however, extended family should become familiar with the advice of that wise old bunny sage (Thumper’s mother in Bambi), “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Second guesses from the peanut gallery are not allowed.

If adoption has already touched your family, you may at least be able to skip the language lessons. If not, you’ll find yourself repeating words like “relinquish” and gently reminding over and over that you will be the child’s “real” mother.