How to support a friend through the adoption process
There are many misconceptions about adoption and the process that goes with it. One that I come across often when working with clients is the lack of true understanding and support they are receiving from friends and family.
The adoption journey is emotional, nerve-wracking and irritating at times with all that paperwork! Finding ways to support your friend going through adoption will help her through this roller coaster journey and she will be forever grateful.
I like to think of the adoption process in four main stages, each with a new world of emotions.
- Making the decision to adopt. This first step is crucial. Not only do pre-adoptive parents start educating themselves on the adoption process, but they also have to reconcile with their infertility. Many avoid adoption because they don't want to "give up" on having biological children. It's important for people to view adoption as the start of an exciting, positive journey rather than viewing it as the next step that they "have to" take because nothing else has worked.
- Starting the paperwork. Arguably the biggest hassle of adoption is the paperwork. There are applications and legal documents that take hours to fill out. There is also the profile that the adoptive parents have to create that can be highly stressful because of the critical role it plays in getting selected by a birth mom.
- Waiting. After all the paperwork is filled out, adoptive parents then play the waiting game. Will they get matched? When will they get matched? How long until they get to meet their child? It is a nerve-wracking time that causes the heart to race every time the phone rings.
- Bringing the baby home. After their long journey, the adoptive parents finally get to bring the baby home. But now what? Just like with any other new parent, parents who adopt enter a dazed and tired world once the child is home.
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This is a very basic overview of what your friend is going through during her adoption journey, either with her partner or on her own. At each stage of adoption, there are different emotions running and different ways you can help her through it.
The decision stage
Be there for her while she and her partner reconcile with their infertility and begin to research adoption. Listen to her woes, her questions and her pains. Remind her constantly of the positive actions she is taking for her future.
The paperwork stage
Ugh. Paperwork. The most irritating part of the adoption process. Your friend may be non-existent while she spends the time filling out everything. Be understanding of her absence. Additionally, you can offer to write a referral for her home study.
The waiting stage
Nerves are high and she is probably going through many of the mood swings that pregnant women have. Help her relax during this stage by going out for lunch or dinner, booking a day at the spa, going to the gym with her or whatever activity you know will relax her.
Once she is matched with a birth mom, treat her like any other expecting mom. If she’s OK with it, tell everyone that she is expecting. Figure out if she wants a baby shower and, if so, throw it for her. Help her with anything she needs to get ready for the baby, including watching her pets or house sitting while she spends time at the hospital, whether it's local or out-of-state.
The baby stage
How you can support her after she brings the baby home is the same as any other new parent. Don't invade her privacy by going over the day she is home with the baby to hold and coo to it. Often parents want time alone with their adopted baby to bond.
However, I bet your friend is overwhelmed with chores. Take the liberty of going over to her house with her favorite take-out or a homemade special dinner that will last as leftovers. While you are there, clean and do laundry for her, or offer to take care of the baby while she showers and has me-time.
Just making the effort to understand the ways in which her situation is different from as well as the ways it's the same as that of a pregnant woman, and supporting her throughout the entire process will be more appreciated than you can realize.