Please Stop Telling People To 'Just Adopt'

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Nicole De Khors/Burst

Twelve years ago, my husband and I made the decision that we were going to adopt. We knew we wanted to be parents, but I was newly diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and I didn’t want to subject myself to a high-risk pregnancy. Adopting was an easy decision for us.

However, the more women I met and talked to, the more I realized that adoption really isn’t an easy decision. Many of my friends have experienced infertility, miscarriage, and child loss. And one of the most hurtful things someone would say to them was to proclaim that the woman should “just adopt.”

As if adopting a child would heal every heartbreak and cure every ailment. Adopting doesn’t bring back children who have passed away. And, in fact, adoption is entirely different from having a biological child.

After we adopted our first child, I had a handful of people gush to me, “Now that you’ve adopted, you can try to have your own kids!” Their statement was steeped in ignorance. The child we adopted was our own child, and adopting isn’t second best to having a biological child.

Plus, they didn’t have a clue what the adoption process was like. Today, my husband and I have four kids, all of whom we adopted. I can tell you there is absolutely no “just” in adopting.

First, we had to choose an adoption agency. You can’t do a quick Google search and randomly pick one. Every agency has different stipulations, costs, and availability. Some have long waitlists.

We had to narrow down the type of adoption we were interested in—domestic, international, embryo, or foster care. For those who choose international, they have to then select a country to adopt from, and each country has their own rules as to who does and who doesn’t qualify. We had considered adopting from China, but we both weren’t thirty—the minimum age requirement—at the time.

Once we selected an adoption agency in our state and opted to adopt an infant domestically, we filled out and submitted an application and application fee. We waited a few weeks to be accepted by the agency.

The next step was to complete a homestudy. It involved state and federal background checks, physical health exams, an extensive second application, six character references, a home fire safety plan, a contract, and fingerprinting. We also had to visit with a social worker three times for individual and couple interviews and have our home inspected.

Then we had to fill out several questionnaires pertaining to our finances, education, and background. There was even a form we had to fill out on our sex lives. In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s incredibly awkward to tell a stranger what it’s like in the bedroom. Yet we had to, because this stranger—AKA the social worker—was deciding if we were “worthy” of becoming parents.

Then we had to fill out what I call the “dreaded checklist.” A hopeful adoptive parent has to state what they are or are not open to in terms of adoption. One is the adoption relationship and level of communication with the child’s biological parents. We had to state which races we were open to, if we would or wouldn’t adopt a child with special needs and what type of needs, were we open to adopting multiples, and if we preferred to adopt a boy or a girl.

And yes, all of these questions make a person feel like a jerk. We were not ordering a sandwich. We’re talking about a human baby.

Then there is the cost. While adopting from foster care is generally free, adopting an embryo or adopting internationally or domestically is very expensive. Many hopeful parents have to fundraise, take out loans, and apply for grants in order to have the chance to adopt. The cost of a domestic or international adoption ranges from $10,000 to more than $60,000.

angelique rademakers/Reshot

We had to select a lawyer, obtain copies of our marriage and birth certificates, and sign multiple pledges. One of these was to promise we wouldn’t administer corporal punishment to our kids. Another was our intentions of contact with our future child’s biological family.

No. That’s not all. We then had to attend multiple adoption and baby care classes. We spent a Saturday in CPR training. And once we were finally approved by the social worker, our homestudy completed, we had to create an adoption profile book.

We were not ordering a sandwich. We’re talking about a human baby.

An adoption profile book is a photo-and-caption book that agencies and attorneys show expectant parents who are considering placing their child for adoption. The profile book is incredibly uncomfortable to create. We were showcasing our lives for strangers to view and judge if we were worthy enough or not to raise a baby.

Despite all the requirements of the homestudy, it was actually the easier part of our adoption journey. The hard part? Waiting to be chosen. It’s nothing short of sheer torture. Every day was an emotional tug-of-war.

We had our adoption profile shown about fifteen times during our first adoption wait. Every time the social worker called to tell us the expectant parents hadn’t chosen us, either because they chose a different couple or decided not to move forward with adoption, our hearts broke. We wanted to be parents—desperately.

Friends and family tried to encourage us, telling us, “If it’s meant to be, it will be.” But after waiting for fourteen months, we began to wonder if it would ever “be,” if we would ever be chosen to be a child’s parents.

The hard part? Waiting to be chosen. It’s nothing short of sheer torture. Every day was an emotional tug-of-war.

Twice we had an appointment to meet an expectant mom who was interested in us. The day we were supposed to leave to meet a mom due with a baby boy, she went into labor, had the baby prematurely, and decided to parent him. The other time, the expectant mom was only five months pregnant, and we could sense her hesitancy in moving forward.

I confessed to a friend who had recently adopted a son that I was at the point of giving up. Not even two weeks later, my husband and I were painting our kitchen when his phone rang. He took the call and then looked at me, his eyes wide. He handed me the phone without a word. It was the social worker. We were parents.

We went from just the two of us to three of us in a split second. We packed our bags and headed out of state to meet our daughter and her birth mom. Then we went to court and swore to a judge that we would care for the little girl forever.

After adopting our daughter, we adopted three more children in a span of six years. Each adoption journey was difficult, exciting, and bittersweet. Children who were adopted, also known as adoptees, can experience a lot of emotions. Adoption is complicated, and transracial adoption is even more complex.

When I hear someone nonchalantly clapback to a woman struggling to become a mom that she should “just adopt,” I’m quick to step in and say that nothing about adoption is easy. There are thousands of steps that are taken to get from here to there. And adoption isn’t for everyone, nor is it the answer to every heartache.

I’m thankful for my children, and I’m certain adoption was the right choice for us. But it’s not an easy way to become a mom. No path to motherhood is.

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