Adopting A Baby Isn’t A Competition. Or Is It?

Adopting a baby isn’t a competition. But sometimes, it can sure feel that way.

I was thinking about this the other day after I came across this advice column, Couple Reminded That Adoption Isn’t A Competition. Usually I don’t pay a lot of attention to these types of columns, but this one really struck a nerve with me and I think you might find it interesting too.

In it, an anxious and obviously frustrated hopeful adoptive mother says she’s fed up with “bidding” against another couple for a child.

Starting Blocks at Vacant Starting Line Before Event

Why, she asks, would the child’s mother even consider the other couple when it’s so obvious that she has the “better” family. 

She and her husband make more money, have more child care experience, and live in the suburbs while the other couple has a condo in the city.

In her eyes, there’s no comparision. “On paper, my husband and I are the easy choice. Nothing against the other couple, but I believe if it were up to an objective party, anyone would choose us.”

But that’s not what really galls her: It’s knowing that the final decision about who will get chosen to parent that child will ultimately rest with the child’s 17-year-old mother, and that there are only so many things she can do to influence the outcome. 

“Why should it be her decision?” she asks, pointing out that the 17-year-old has already made some questionable choices in her life. Why give her the opportunity to make one more?

“Why is this OK???” she asks at the end.

She’s right: It is not okay. But what’s least about this story is the  sense of entitlement and lack of empathy this hopeful mother has for the child’s mother and the other couple.

Just give me the child, she seems to be saying, and let’s get this thing over with.

By the time you get to the end of her rant, not only have you lost sympathy for her. You also have to ask yourself what did she learn at her adoption training and education classes?

And yet despite her lack of sensitivity and compassion, I suspect that some of her anger and frustration will likely hit home with anyone who has been in her shoes. 

Although the private adoption process is supposed to be about building a family and providing a baby with a loving home,  the reality is not every couple will be successful.

Some families will go away empty-handed and broken-hearted. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s simple math: There are simply many more couples trying to adopt than there are expectant parents who are placing their child for adoption.

As a result, in order to get chosen you have to be either very proactive or very lucky, or a bit of both.

And yet even before you get to this stage, it’s hard not to shake the feeling that so much of the process is about trying to please others and prove yourself. 

It begins early, with your home study. Suddenly, every aspect of your life—from your finances to your medical records—comes under scrutiny  and everything you say– about your marriage, your parents and siblings, your thoughts about parenting and adoption–feels like it can, and will, be used against you.

Then there’s your adoption profile. People will tell you not to overthink it, to just be yourself. But how can you put your heart on your sleeve when you know there are hundreds of other couples just like you out there who are doing the very same thing with the very same goal?

No wonder some hopeful parents will spend hundreds of dollars on a professional photographer or designer, and then spend hundreds more on websites or online ads to give their profile an extra edge.

Hearing about other couples getting chosen can be inspiring—at first. But once the excitement wears off, it can also make you question why you’re still waiting. What do these other couples have that you don’t? What’s wrong with your profile? What’s wrong with you?  

Again, people will tell you not to worry, to sit tight and be patient. Your time will come. Your baby just hasn’t found you yet.

But until you hold your child in your arms, it’s hard to think about the process in that way—and to not view it as a contest between you and other hopeful families.

Do you have an adoption story? Share it and inspire others. 

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