Things to Consider
- Be Honest About Your Own Feelings "You need to start thinking about what kind of baby you want; what kind will feel comfortable to you," says Berger. "And you have to be very honest. It can mean dealing with your feelings of racism and thinking through the issues that you will have to deal with throughout his or her life." If you're thinking of adopting a baby who doesn't look like you, for example, you have to be comfortable in dealing with questions from your child and others. In addition, if you're adopting due to infertility, coming to grips with your own feelings of loss is important, says Berger. "You need to feel that for the most part you have dealt with your feelings of loss that come with infertility. You don't have to completely resolve them, but you need to feel positive about going through adoption."
- Be Realistic Especially in international adoptions or adoptions involving special needs children, you must be realistic in your expectations and assess your own comfort level with dealing with problems that might arise. Just as you would if you gave birth to a child who had special needs, you'll need to be ready and able to adapt to the challenges your adoptive child may face. You'll also need to be patient and understand the time frame for the type of adoption you've chosen and the risk of "losing" a child before the adoption is completed, a risk that is usually higher when you're adopting an infant.
- Be Open Most adoption experts today advocate that parents have some level of openness with their adoptive child, whether it is talking to the child about the fact that he or she is adopted, maintaining links to the child's culture and history, or establishing a relationship with the child's birth parent or parents. Generally children will have a desire to know about their birth parents and where they came from, say Pertman and Berger.As birth coach for her adopted son's mother, "that's how I got to know his birth mother, right at the last minute," says Berger. What she learned in helping the birth mother through her delivery has helped her pass along information to her son. "I'm able to really describe what she looked like and what kind of person I think she was, which really helped him develop an acceptance of himself as an adoptive child," she adds. "At this point, he's very open about it and very proud of being adopted."
- Be Prepared to Answer Questions Expect to answer questions from your child, family members, friends and even complete strangers. Although comfortable now, Berger's son went through periods of questioning why his birth mother gave him up for adoption, a question Berger was prepared to answer. "I explained to him that she couldn't take care of him. So it's something he has heard many, many times," says Berger, who advises parents to read some of the many books on communicating with an adopted child. "People may even need counseling to be able to come up with the right answers," she adds. Many parents of internationally or transracially adopted children also have found that helping their child learn about his or her culture is healthiest for the child. And, of course, part of communicating with your adopted child should involve preparing him or her to answer questions from other children, especially if your child doesn't look like you.
Christina Breda Antoniades is a freelance writer and mother of 9-month-old Vasili. She has written extensively for Discovery.com, including the Travel Channel Online and Discovery Health Online. In her nine months as a new mommy, Christina has come to learn the joys and pains of parenthood.