Sometimes Adoption is Hard – For Everyone Involved

Learning to understand, process, and embrace these difficulties will prove valuable for the long-term health of your family.

Alan Atchison March 04, 2018
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If it were up to me at the beginning, I wouldn’t have chosen to have children by way of adoption. I’d have strode down the aisle hand-in-hand with my bride, Tara, on that beautiful summer afternoon in 2006 after we’d just said “I do” and disappeared into a future that involved pregnancy announcements, ultrasound pictures, and playful arguments over which one of us our baby would resemble more.

Nearly twelve years later, we’ve disappeared into a much different future, as tends to happen. It’s a future in which our two kids share other people’s eye, hair, and skin colors. A future that included no ultrasounds and no predictable due dates. And if we had it to write all over, there’s absolutely nothing we’d change about our story. The journeys that ultimately made us parents, the unconditional love we have for our two daughters, and the indescribable bonds we’ve formed with their birth mothers are more than worth the suffocating agonies surrounding our infertility. However, that’s not to say adoption doesn’t include its share of hardships for all members of the adoption triad, and learning to understand, process, and (perhaps most complicated of all) embrace these difficulties will prove valuable for the long-term health of your family.

Adoption is Hard for Birth Parents

This is nothing short of an understatement. Placing a baby for adoption has got to be arguably the most painful act any human can endure. Even if years have passed since the placement, and a birth parent is at peace with the decision, the pain is always present. Sometimes it’s a dull ache, other times it’s a crippling tearing of the soul.

Chelsea, the birth mother of our oldest daughter, Kaylin, has shared with us that the most difficult time of year for her is the week of Kaylin’s birthday. This is a time in which Chelsea is forced to relive the details of the most excruciating time of her life. Therefore, instead of having Chelsea at Kaylin’s birthday parties, we get together with her a month or so later. For Chelsea, it’s an opportunity to celebrate her daughter’s birthday without big crowds and provides her a safe place to let her emotions play out however they will. For Kaylin, well, she has no complaints. As far as she’s concerned, she’s getting another party with another cake, and a whole new set of presents—as well as some close, intimate time with her birth mother, who she simply adores.

Adoption is Hard for Adoptive Parents

Prior to being matched and placed with Kaylin, Tara and I felt as though we couldn’t go a day without hearing about a new pregnancy announcement, either through social media, at church, at work, or in our community. It got to the point where we started avoiding various gatherings we knew would involve expecting couples. The problem with that was pretty soon, we were just avoiding most areas of daily life. But quite frankly, it was necessary for a season. With everything about the waiting stage out of our control, the pressure cooker of our own psyches felt, at times, beyond what we were emotionally able to bear.

Thankfully, we sought the ears of wise counselors and understanding peers. We peeled back the painful layers and turned toward each other instead of succumbing to the temptation of shrinking away into our own mental conch shells where we’d be subjected to listening to nothing but the repetitive crashing ocean of our grief until we went insane. As a result, our communication and overall marriage was strengthened.

Because of this, you’d think when we finally became parents, the balloon containing the poisonous pain of our journey would have instantly popped for good, and in a sense it did. But when Kaylin came home, and later our second daughter, Julia, we felt what we can only describe as survivor’s guilt. Here we were, at long last, the mother and father of two perfect children, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto, and all we could think about was how our incredible blessings had arrived by way of two women forgoing their motherhood. It wasn’t until our two daughters’ birth mothers went out of their way to affirm us as good parents—the ones they’d hand-picked for a reason—that we began to feel like the rightful mom and dad to our precious babies.

Adoption is Hard for Adoptees

While adoption often serves to welcome children into loving homes, some older adoptees grieve or resent having been placed for adoption at all, and their stories shed light on various forms of adoption-related trauma. Occasionally coupled with this is the horrifying truth that some birth mothers are coerced and manipulated into surrendering their kids, an atrocity that should never occur and should be universally condemned and combated at every turn. As both our daughters grow, they will naturally face unique identity questions and may possibly experience bullying for having been adopted.

While the open adoption relationships Tara and I have with our children’s birth mothers have already proven emotionally and cognitively beneficial for them and for our kids, our oldest daughter, Kaylin, occasionally feels sad knowing how much pain her birth mother felt (and continues to feel) by having placed her. It’s not that Kaylin feels responsible or that she thinks anyone did anything wrong, but even at the tender age of six, she’s starting to grasp that adoption, while a beautiful reality most of the time, is one born out of pain and hardship on all sides.

Are you ready to pursue a domestic infant adoption? Click here to connect with a compassionate, experienced adoption professional who can help get you started on the journey of a lifetime.

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Alan Atchison

 Alan Atchison is a Senior Publications Editor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned a Masters of Liberal Arts in Creative Writing. In addition to his day job, he writes fiction and is currently pursuing publication. He is a strong advocate for open adoption and is an outgoing introvert, which means he'll be the life of the party if necessary, but would rather be home with a book. He lives in Philadelphia, PA, with his wife and two daughters. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.


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