The Dos & Don’ts Of Adoption Announcements

The waiting stage of the adoption process is brutal. An eternity within a matrix of eternities. Your tower of paperwork is long since submitted, home studies are complete, and you are what is known as “paper pregnant.” And then—often when you least expect it—you get The Call. And before your brain can stop merry-go-rounding, you’re matched. You’re going to have a baby! Next come the adoption announcements to tell the world. Right?

Well, yes…and no.

In 2010, my wife and I were chosen by a woman who was eight months pregnant and looking to make an adoption plan. The meeting that followed was exhilarating; the two sides fell in love almost immediately and by the next day, the match was official. Hearts bursting with euphoria, we picked up our megaphones and made the announcement public to the world—calls, texts, social media posts, and blog entries. We cemented the cart firmly before the horse and jumped into it head first.

A week later, we received the devastating phone call that the woman with whom we’d been matched had decided to end the adoption plan. Her reasons were her own and we respected her choice. However, to us, this was what we can only imagine a miscarriage must feel like. The pain of losing a  baby—even one not yet born, nor carrying our own genes—was second to none. Compounding the agony was the knowledge that every soul in our social network knew that not only were we preparing to welcome home a baby, but also the name we’d chosen, and how confident we were that this was our destined match, etched in the stars long before the dawn of mankind. As a result, we faced the unthinkable (and quite impossible) task of having to untell the world. In many ways, it was just as painful as the end of the match itself.

When our first child finally came home for good a year later, we played the whole situation pretty close to the chest. Only our parents, siblings, and a very select community of friends knew the initial details. Once we’d waited out the thirty-day revocation period (per PA law), our grand announcement could not have been sweeter or more gratifying. We were able to rejoice with others and share baby pictures and the wonders of infant-rearing without the fear of our dream-come-true crashing into another worst-case-scenario nightmare.

Having been on both sides of this unpredictable coin, here are my suggested “dos and don’ts” of making adoption announcements.

DO let others know you’ve begun the adoption process.

Just as you’d likely go public with the news of your engagement, the proclamation of your decision to adopt is a similar example of a healthy “already/not yet” announcement, wherein you’ve made a positive life-altering choice that will eventually come to glorious fruition. It also allows you to revel in others’ excitement on your behalf without the risk that comes from tying it to a specific placement opportunity.

DO seek out community with those who’ve adopted.

The vast majority come to adoption after experiencing the searing  pains of infertility (my wife and I included). This is an exceptionally lonely road, especially when it seems like your friends and family are getting pregnant by way of high-fives. Or perhaps you’ve given birth to one or more children and you’re looking to further grow your family by adopting. Regardless of the path that brings you to adoption, the journey can initially seem like climbing twenty stacked Mt. Everests with no legs and a migraine. Meet with those who’ve actually been through it and can validate your emotions and help you process. In many cases, these will be the people with whom you’ll be able to share exciting new developments before it’s a good idea to tell the world. And should you experience a painful setback, these will be the people who will weep and mourn with you in deep, understanding empathy.

DON’T use social media to lash out at birthparents, your social workers, the adoption community, or those who appear to have it easier than you.

The adoption process will bring on its share of frustrations, no getting around that. It may be tempting, especially in your most depressed, jealous, or furious moments, to take to the interwebs and blast off about your beefs. We’ve all been there. Instead, take that very legitimate energy and channel it privately to those walking alongside you in this journey or to the ears of a professional counselor. Remember, for all of social media’s benefits, once we say something online, it’s out there for better or worse. Choose your vents wisely.

DON’T believe it will never happen for you.

When adopting, the destination is almost always guaranteed, but each journey is unique. I’ve known people who’ve seemingly spent a day in the process before becoming parents, and others who’ve agonized in the wait for extended periods of time. Remember, every situation that could have been—while excruciating—is a step closer to the day when you will finally look into those beautiful eyes and see your whole world looking back. And at that point, your announcement to the world will have been well worth the wait.