Having a newborn join your family is exciting. But if you’re an adoptive parent, it can feel extra exciting.
Finally, all those hoops you jumped through and years of waiting have finally paid off.
Just think, no more worrying about updating your home study. No more fretting over your Google ads account. No more jumping out of your seat every time the phone rings, or wondering why your social worker hasn’t called you back — again.
Congrats! And welcome to the club!
But just like any club, memberships has its rules as well as its privileges.
So before you shout your wonderful news from the rooftops, here are 10 things you can expect after adopting a newborn.
1. Adopting means adapting.
From that first moment you hold your baby in your arms, you’ll ever want to let her go. All you’ll want to do is just stare at her perfect face and and marvel at her amazing features.
But raising a baby is a lot of work and requires big changes to your life and your lifestyle. Just ask any new parent. After the initial honeymoon period wears off, you’ll find that as an adoptive parent you’ll face a host of challenges that biological parents never have to worry about.
2. People will want to visit.
And coo over your baby, and hold her, and feed her… And why not? Everyone loves a brand new baby.
But as a new parent, you’ll need to carve out some alone time with your little one. You’ll need to start the bonding process and settle into a new routine that revolves around your child’s wants and needs. So for those visitors who suddenly appear on your doorstep and never know when to leave, don’t be afraid to set limits on their visits and take time for yourself.
3. People will ask questions about the baby.
Lots of questions. And not just the usual ones like, “Is he a good sleeper”” and “How are you adjusting to your new schedule?” But also a long list of others that are adoption-specific like “Where’s he from?” “What’s his real mother like?” and “Are you going to tell him he’s adopted?”
Knowing these questions may come up, it’s important to create a game plan now to deal with them. Remember, it’s your child’s story. And as a parent, one of your key jobs will be to protect her from prying eyes and ears.
If there parts of your son or daughter’s story that are hard or you feel uncomfortable talking about, you don’t need to share it. If you’re not sure how to proceed, here’s a good rule of thumb to follow: think about your child 12, 15, 20 years down the road. How will she feel if she discovered that you had shared sensitive details about her birth story without her knowledge or permission?
4. People will ask questions about the birthfamily.
Remember what you were like when you first heard about open adoption? All the questions and concerns you had about birthparents and the role they would play in your lives?
Well, now it’s everyone else’s turn. So brace yourself for an onslaught of unusual questions and comments.
Some people may be curious, others may just be nosy. Either way, it’s a touchy topic that requires sensitivity. Of course, you’re under no obligation to answer anything you don’t want to. But if you do respond, make sure that whatever you say honours the birthparents’ decision and respects their privacy.
It’s up to you to decide how much information to give out and to whom. At the early stages, until you’re more at ease, it’s best to share less than more. Again, keep in mind that it’s your story. You control it. And once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to put it back in.
5. People will ask questions about your adoption journey.
Close family members and friends may have been aware of your adopting plans. But for others, suddenly seeing you one day with a baby may come as a surprise.
So be prepared if the neighbour that you’ve never talked to suddenly stops you in the street when you’re pushing your stoller and starts peppering you with questions.
When you become a parent by adoption, you don’t just become a parent. For better and worse, you automatically become an ambassador for adoption, and that means spending a lot of time fielding questions and busting myths and stereotypes.
6. Bonding will be easier/harder than you thought.
Before you became a parent, chances are you spent a lot of time trying to picture what parenthood would be like. What kind of parent would you be? What kind of baby would you have? Would you connect right away or would it take time for you to attach?
Every situation is different, just like every baby is different. Some parts of parenthood will be easier than you thought they would be, others will be harder. So don’t be surprised if those first few months are nothing like you imagined them to be. That’s parenthood! Everything is a work in progress, so just take things one day at a day and go with the flow.
7. You may get the baby blues.
Biological parents aren’t the only ones who experience post-partum depression. Parents by adoption may also experience a version of it, especially if the reality of parenthood doesn’t match up with their expectations.
After the emotional high of adopting, most waiting parents eventually come down and settle into their new normal. Others, however, crash.
Maybe they thought that becoming a parent would solve all of their problems and make them happy. Or maybe they can’t keep up with the new demands of being a parent. Or maybe they feel the weight of responsibility not only to their baby, but also to his birthparents and birth family.
Whatever the reason, if you have an ongoing problem or difficultly coping, don’t sweep it under the rug. Post-adoption depression is real, and it’s easy to pretend that it’s not happening and withdraw. Look for support and seek help as soon as you can.
8. You may feel guilty.
Becoming a new parent is a time to celebrate. But many adopting parents are surprised by the depth and the intensity of the guilt they feel for the birthparents and say that celebrating is the last thing on their minds.
Watching your child’s birthmother go away empty-handed after placing her baby in your arms and knowing that she’ll be missing out on your child’s milestones is difficult to deal with.
And then, of course, there’s the other fears and insecurities that every other new parent feels: Am I doing a good enough job? Am I good enough? Why do other mothers have it together and I don’t?
Hard as those early days may be, don’t fall into the trap of judging yourself too harshly and start thinking of yourself as a bad mother or person. It’s comes with the territory. Instead of beating yourself up or dwelling on your problems, find solutions by joining a parenting group and reaching out to other adoptive parents.
9. You’ll make mistakes.
From your home study to your adoption profile, so much of your journey to adopt a newborn is about proving yourself to others and showing that you’ll be a perfect parent — give us a chance, and we’ll prove to you that we’ll be the best parents ever!
You very well may be. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t stumble here and there along the way. Whether it be suddenly discovering you’re out of diapers or not getting your baby to fall asleep, you’ll make mistakes.
The good news is, parenting is pretty forgiving and you’ll get a lot better at it over time. Best of all, you and your baby won’t remember half of it. So don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back when things go right and learn from your mistakes when they don’t, because it’s all part of the package.
10. You will be tired.
Of course you’ll be tired. You’ll be exhausted. Some days you’ll just want to collapse on the couch and fall asleep. But that’s what becoming a new parent is all about. Welcome to the land of midnight feedings and around-the-clock diaper changes.
Don’t worry about it. Just do your best and enjoy your time together. Or at least as much as you can enjoy it. Because before you know it, your child’s days as a newborn will be over and it will be time to join another club!
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