Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Support Couples Who are Facing Infertility or Waiting to Adopt

It’s no longer National Adoption month, and here I am still writing about adoption!  I promise this is the last of the adoption posts (for now).  I have really appreciated your blog comments and emailed questions. 
A question that I often get asked is if Ryan and I will adopt again.  Yes, I have no doubt that we will!  Sometimes people ask me if we will ever have our “own” kids.  This is an interesting question because, although I know what they mean, Noah is our own kid.  If we ever have biological children, we will never differentiate between Noah and the biological ones.  They will all be “our own.”  And even if we do have biological children, I know we will adopt again, perhaps internationally or through the foster care system.  For now, I am focusing on my one little baby, and we will see how life unfolds from here.
That said, I did want to mention that we will never stop looking for opportunities to adopt.  Even if our adoption profile isn’t currently active with an adoption agency, we would appreciate knowing about expectant moms who are considering adoption, and we would appreciate if they were referred to our blog.  If the expectant mother is early in her pregnancy, and we all feel good about it, we would have time to get approved to adopt again before the baby was born.  Furthermore, whether or not she was considering us to adopt the baby, we would love to be a resource for her, and we would LOVE to refer her to some of our wonderful amazing friends who are hoping to adopt.  Every day, I wish that I could help my friends who are still waiting find their babies.  (Don’t we all feel that way?)  So if you know of any young women who are considering adoption, send them our way!
Okay, back to the questions.
I mentioned before that one of my friends emailed to ask me how she should support a friend who is about to place her baby for adoption.  Obviously, I don’t have all of the answers, but I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on how to best support the people in your life who are involved in adoption.
How to support a birthmom...
Tell her that you love her.  Tell her that she is strong.  Tell her that you admire her.  You don’t need to tell her that she is “making the right decision” unless she asks you for reassurance.  It can feel like a judgment on her ability to be a mother if you are too quick to tell her that adoption is the best thing.  I was with Katie when a worker in the hospital started preaching to her about how she was “making the right choice,” and it really rubbed me the wrong way.  Katie knew she was making the right choice, and she didn’t need other people (especially strangers) to preach to her.  This same worker said to her, “One day you’ll have another baby.”  Wow.  As if that would make her grief over this baby any less real.  What she said is true, but the timing wasn't particularly sensitive.
Show her that you care.  Send a card, bring flowers, drop by with a dessert. Don’t pretend like the baby never happened.  Ask her about the baby, about her delivery, and about her days in the hospital.  Ask her about the adoption, and ask her how she is doing.  Ask her if she’d like to show you pictures of the baby.  Ooh and goo over him and tell her how beautiful he is.  Chances are, she will be eager to show him off, as any new mom would be. 
I am a very straightforward person, and when Drew and Katie came to visit us a few days after Noah’s placement, I asked them, “How are you feeling?” “Did you cry today?” “How are your friends and family acting?” “How can I help?”  I wasn’t sure if I should ask these questions, but I couldn’t hold them in.  I genuinely wanted to know how they were doing because I care about them, and they didn’t seem put off by my inquiries--they seemed relieved to talk.
Tell her that you are praying for her and that you love her.  Let her know that she isn’t alone.
How to support a couple who is hoping to adopt...
As I write this, I realize that many of the ways that you can support a hopeful adoptive couple are similar to the ways that you can support a birthmom.  Tell them that you love them.  Tell them that they are strong and that you admire them.  You don’t need to tell them that “it’s all in the Lord’s hands” or “it will happen when it’s supposed to.”  They already know that.  A year ago, I was at a church activity, and one of the ladies asked me how the adoption process was going.  I said, “We are approved and just waiting to get picked by a birth mom.”  She said, “It will happen when it’s supposed to.  You just need to learn to be patient.”  Ouch.  What a sting to the heart.  Fortunately, one of my best friends, Laney, overheard this comment, put her arm around me, and said, “Rachel has been patient.  I think her patience is really amazing, actually.”  I can’t tell you how much her support meant to me in that moment.
When a couple who desperately wants children is hurting, don’t try to fix it.  Don’t give a little sermon on God’s timing.  Just say, “I’m so sorry,”  “I love you,”  “You are going to be awesome parents,” or “I pray for you every night.”  In some of my darkest moments, knowing that dozens of people around the country were praying for us truly sustained me.  I remember saying to Ryan, “Even if God isn’t hearing my prayers, I know He’s hearing my grandma’s!” (That woman is a saint.)
Show them that you care.  Send a card, bring flowers, drop by with dessert.  Don’t pretend that their trial isn’t happening.  In a private setting, when the moment is right, ask them if they are comfortable talking about their struggle.  I think, in general, women need to talk.  

When I first announced that we had started the adoption process, a friend brought over the storybook Guess How Much I Love You and another friend sent a baby blanket.  This was their way of saying, “You will eventually be chosen by a birthmother, and you will eventually be a mother!”  I really appreciated their thoughtfulness.  I should mention that I think this type of gesture is more appropriate for someone who has announced their intention to adopt (and is therefore "pregnant" in a way) than for someone who is struggling with infertility and is not yet pregnant or has not yet seriously considered adoption.  
Finally, when an adoptive couple tells you that they’ve been contacted by an expectant mom, don’t immediately point out all of the uncertainty.  Don’t say things like, “You know, this could still fall through.”  Believe me, they know that.  They are scared stiff about that, and they don’t need you to remind them.  I know people just said stuff like this to me because they were feeling protective and didn’t want me to get my heart broken, but I truly appreciated it when people would just say, “Oh that is so exciting!  I will be praying for you and this expectant mom!” I equate this to how you would react to the news of a friend’s early pregnancy: Everyone knows that the likelihood of miscarriage is highest in the first trimester, but if a friend told you that she was six weeks pregnant, you would not say, “Well, you know, you could still lose this baby.”  
When Katie first contacted us, I expressed to a friend in an email that I was hesitant to invest my heart again.  She responded and said, “I understand your reservations, but we can’t wait to rejoice until this is a sure thing . . . we have to rejoice now for this tremendous blessing! If someone prays and prays to get pregnant and then only worries about miscarriage instead of rejoicing about the pregnancy,  she is missing out on the joy of the experience. Same with the birth of a child. A person can rejoice that there is new life, or worry that the baby will get sick or won't develop properly or on and on . . . Obviously this principle applies to many aspects of our lives, not just in 'new life'. There is a place to be reserved, protective, guarded, worried and wary - but don't let that get in the way of taking a moment to rejoice first.”
I loved that.  (How do I have such wise friends??) 
Finally, if an adoption falls through for a couple, do not say, “Well, another opportunity will come along,” as if this baby didn’t matter at all.  This is especially important if the adoption was in the later stages.  We have some friends whose expectant mom recently changed her mind just a week before the due date, after they’d gone through the entire pregnancy with her; and we have other friends who have actually held the baby and even taken him/her home when the expectant mom changed her mind.  The grief is unimaginable.  It’s like having a miscarriage at 39 weeks or losing a baby who is a few hours or weeks old.  All any of us needs in situations as heartbreaking as those is lots of love, hugs, cards, and prayers.
I am grateful for all of the many many people who showed us amazing support during our wait to adopt.  This post feels like I’m preaching to the choir because those of you who are reading it are the very people who offered me so much love during some of the hardest months of my life.  Thank you, each of you, for what you have done to reach out to us.  It has meant more to me than you will ever know.  


  1. I loved all the adoption posts. I learned a lot and gained an even greater respect for you and your story. I am so so so happy for you guys! Keep the posts coming.

  2. Thanks Rachel! Your insight is so good. I never know what to say or where the line so I don't say anything at all and that's not helpful. I loved all the adoption posts especially Katie's point of view. I have a sister in law that gave a baby up for adoption and it was sooo hard for her. Katie is so strong and an inspiration to me.

  3. Hi Rachel. I'm sure you dont remember me, but I was friends with Tennille Clark at BYU, so I met you and Ryan a few times. And I grew up in Pocatello with Ryan's brother, Cole. Anyway, I've been following your blog for a while now and I absolutely love your writing and I've especially loved the adoption posts. Congratulations on your happy story. Noah is adorable.

  4. Thanks for sharing all of this Rachel!

  5. Great post. You are mostly preaching to the choir, but hopefully there are non-commenters and non-BFFs who are reading this and being educated about the process. xoxo

  6. I linked to this on FB, hope that's ok. People need to be educated on this stuff, because I think it's not anyone unintentionally trying to be cruel, it's just that they don't UNDERSTAND. Let me know if you want me to delete the link. xo

  7. A few weeks ago, I was talking to the Consulate's nurse about some of my medical history. I explained that I had taken birth control for a while, which messed up my hormone levels, and then it took us 2 1/2 years before I became pregnant with Penny. The nurse looked thoughtful for a minute, then said, "You know, you're supposed to stop taking the pills when you want to become pregnant."
    If only I'd thought of that before!! Ha ha ha! Something must have gotten lost in translation.

  8. I must say that you are an awesome parent. My REAL parents are in Boulder and my birth mother lives in Korea. I click on a link on your sister's FB page. I was touched by your story. I myself am an adoptee and a birthmother.

    I resented people asking me if I was putting James up for adoption due to drug problems. I don't do drugs nor would I "get rid of" James for that reason. Much less jeapordize his health that way.

    James' birthfather was a convicted drug dealer and he abused me badly, namely he kicked me and James down a flight of stairs after finding out that HE was carrying a boy.

    I really couldn't put myself through another day of that because James deserved better or that is what I told myself in order to leave. Slowly I discovered that I deserved better. James saved my life, so I saved him from having to live with a mother who had trauma both physically and emotionally from his father. I gave him a clean start in life with new parents so that he could be taught right.

    James is now 9 years old. I haven't seen him since the day he was born. I heard at five months he was laughing and happy as can be. He will always be in my heart and I love him. But, I am glad and thankful for women like you who are true mothers to the very sense of the word.

    I am his birth mother. But another woman is his mom. Moms are there for tears, smiles, and to bandage the scrapped knees. Mothers give life. Moms are there for the long haul. Thank you very much for sharing.

  9. Thanks for all the food for thought. I agree- hearing that people are praying for me is one of the most touching/sustaining things.

  10. Thank you for this AMAZING post. Can I quote parts of it on my blog?
    tyandrebecca (at) gmail (dot) com


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