Years ago, if you went to an adoption agency seeking to adopt a child after having had a child by birth, you were turned down. It just wasn’t done. It was thought that you shouldn’t mix the two – the children would be too different, and the difference would be insurmountable. Today, we see all kinds of combinations of children in many kinds of blended families, including families with children by birth and adoption. This article addresses some of the concerns facing these families.
Thinking about adoption when you have a birth child
There may be any number of reasons why you are thinking about adopting now. Maybe the first pregnancy happened easily, but the second one isn’t happening so easily. Maybe the first pregnancy occurred only with the intervention of costly and invasive medical procedures that you do not want to go through again. Maybe you have a humanitarian concern: You have been fortunate to have one child by birth and now you would like to provide a home for a child already on the planet who needs one. Perhaps you come from a big family and always envisioned a home with lots of kids running around, but biology seems to have provided you with “only” one or two.
Whatever your thinking, there are some additional questions to consider. (Some of these come from the article “Completing the Dream” by Joan Rabinor in the newsletter of Resolve of the Washington Metropolitan Area.)
- Can you love and bond with an adopted child as much as you’ve bonded with your biological child?
- You have a wonderful child. Why invite trouble? (This may be other people’s attitude as much as yours. How will you deal with this?)
- Will your extended family favor your biological child?
- To what degree are you willing to accept differences among your family members in terms of ethnicity, physical traits, special needs, and inherited abilities? How will that differentness affect your other child?
- If you pursue adoption, are you giving up on the hope of another pregnancy? Can you seriously consider adoption while still trying to get pregnant?
- Will you always wish you had tried a little longer to get pregnant again?
- How much should you involve your child in the preparation for adoption?
Answers to think about
The first question, the one about bonding, is very important. Your answer must be yes. But a feeling of closeness does not necessarily develop overnight. You will need to work at it, particularly if you adopt an older child who challenges you with difficult behavior, or who turns out to be a person who is quite different from you. And it can take a while even with a baby. Your biological child will watch your behavior and listen to the words you express about how family members are adjusting to one another. You will need to model acceptance, love, and inclusiveness if you want your biological child to start to feel those feelings, too.
The last question is significant as well. Ordinarily when a couple is trying to get pregnant again, they do not share that information with an older child, nor do they ask for the child’s blessing. Usually parents know what their child thinks about having more children in the family. It is something that has come up in conversation as they have observed friends and relatives adding children to their families.
If you don’t know how your child feels about having a sister or brother around, you do need to start talking about it. Because adoption has so much activity associated with it, it would be hard not to share the process with your child. After all, a social worker comes to your home, there is paperwork to complete, there may possibly be a trip to a foreign country in the planning stages or a visit with people called birthparents, and there is often a period of not knowing whether a new child will or won’t be coming to the family. A child will sense that something is going on with this activity surrounding him, so you need to discuss it. The social worker doing your home study will want to know what you are doing to set the stage for welcoming the new child, and if you have thought about the sibling conflicts that could possibly result. The more your child is involved, the more likely he or she will be invested in the outcome. Some good hints specifically about adopting a second time but that apply to any adoption are presented in Sharon Kaplan Roszia’s article, “Adopting Again: Talking to the Other Children in the Home.”
Answers to the other questions will be unique to you and your situation. They depend on what kind of dream you are completing. Are you remembering how special your older brother was for you and hoping to recreate that specialness for a child in your family? Adoption might achieve that, if you work at creating a family culture that encourages cooperation and respects all children’s unique and intrinsic value, no matter how they joined the family and what talents or special needs they may have. Is your dream to raise a bunch of athletes just like you and your siblings, to continue the family tradition of athletic achievement into the next generation? That won’t necessarily happen with adoption. If that-or something like that-is your dream, you may need to hold back and reconsider. It is not fair to heap expectations upon a child who may have totally different abilities, either because of genetics, the child’s prenatal environment, the child’s early life experiences, or a combination of these.