Adoption Has Three Trimesters, Too, And They Are All Hard

by Jessica Simon
Two toddler boys and a baby girl standing while holding hands, smiling and posing
Jessica Simon

National Adoption Month is this month, and I have been thinking a lot about adoption and how it has changed my life.

First, I am so thankful for adoption. This seems fairly obvious because adoption brought us our oldest son and the privilege of becoming parents for the first time. I could not imagine life without him in it, and I am thankful every day for his birth mom who made the toughest decision of her life and chose us to be his parents.

Second, adopting our son opened my eyes in so many ways to the situations and environments that children are brought into. National Adoption Month is a time to shine light on the needs for permanent families for children in foster care.

For me, it is also a month to shine a light on those families who are thinking about adopting or in the process of adopting a child from any background (foster, international, domestic).

We went through an agency that worked exclusively with domestic infant adoption, so much of what I write about and have experiences with is from that perspective. However, from speaking to other people who adopted in different ways, I’ve found there are a lot of similarities when it comes to the paperwork and emotional aspects.

I like to break the adoption process down by trimesters because I feel like most everyone has an understanding of pregnancy, but fewer people have an understanding of adoption. I also think people assume adoption is easy because there is an obvious need for adoptive parents.

Let me assure you, it is not easy, and that is by design although it is very hard to understand the design while you are going through the mountain of paperwork. The point of the paperwork is so a child does not end up in a home with people who have less than loving intentions. Still, even the tremendous amount of paperwork fails a child sometimes.

Bottom line, the paperwork and process can suck and adoptive parents shouldn’t be ashamed to say that. Just like a pregnant woman shouldn’t be ashamed to complain about her sore back or exhaustion. I’ve complained about both. #sorrynotsorry

So, if you are considering adoption, know people who are thinking about adopting, or are in the process of adopting a child, here are a few things to consider:

1. The adoption process and paperwork are incredibly daunting and difficult.

Just like the first trimester of a pregnancy, the paperwork process is new and will be very overwhelming. The adoptive parents may not be creating a human life, but they are building the foundation that will eventually lead to a child. Both situations take an incredible amount of care and energy.

2. Waiting is the hardest part.

The adoptive parents have completed the paperwork. They are feeling pretty good and are anxiously awaiting the call that will change their lives forever. This is when pregnant women want to nest, and just like them, adoptive parents want to nest too. They want to ready their home for a child. But when will the child come? The dream of adopting a child is closer than ever before, but no one really knows how close. The couple feels like if they buy too many things in preparation for a child, it could for some reason jinx the entire process. The waiting and wondering is intense.

3. Just because they have been matched, it doesn’t mean that everything is final.

The legal system needs to run its course. This means that a few things need to happen: The birth parents do not change their mind, birth parent parental rights are terminated, and the legal adoption is finalized. This is like the third trimester of a pregnancy because the couple starts to feel the pressure and anxiety over welcoming and/or meeting their child for the first time — except this trimester for adoptive parents is way longer than three months.

Adoptive parents are also running every single what-if scenario over and over in their heads. The hope is that the child who has been growing in their hearts for so many months is legally theirs and the weight of paperwork and the legal system will be lifted. That’s the hope, but adoptive parents can also experience loss. Birth parents can change their minds, and the window for which they can cancel the adoption is different in each state.

My advice, and I am quoting my husband: “Stay cautiously optimistic.” Don’t let the process take the joy out of what you are doing. You are building a beautiful family.

Jessica Simon