There aren't many issues as
emotional, complex and prone to verbal missteps as adoption. From the language
used to the responses garnered by families, misconceptions abound. To honor
National Adoption Awareness Month in November, we asked seven mothers and moms-to-be what
they believed to be the biggest myths surrounding the process … and why everyone
should take a second look at this extraordinary way of creating a family.
Myth #1: You can't love an adopted child
as much as a biological one.
Wagner, now 55, and her husband began the adoption process in 2005, they already
had a 4-year-old daughter named Olivia who was the sunshine of their lives.
"We always wanted more children but I was 48 and not having any luck," she
says. The Crown Point, Ind., mom recalls being excited about expanding her
brood, but admits to wondering, "If I already have a child, is it possible I
can feel the same way about the adopted child as the one I gave birth to?"—a
widespread misconception. "There was no need to worry.
The strength of my love is the same for both of them. There's absolutely no
difference. You bond with your adopted child and love them exactly the same."
Now, she beams, "I just look at Sophie and think, 'That's my daughter.'"
Myth #2: Adopted children will worry that their "real" parents didn't want them.
On the contrary, many might
argue exactly the opposite: That one's birth parents loved her so much and
wanted so badly to give her the home and life they didn't feel able to give
that they were willing to make the ultimate selfless sacrifice. That's how
Janet*, 44, and her twin sister felt growing up after being adopted at age
5. "My family always told me that my birth family couldn't take care of
me and did the right thing by giving me and my twin up," she recalls. Other
kids sometimes teased them, saying that their being adopted meant their "real"
parents didn't want them. "We used to tell them they were wrong; that our
parents wanted us so much they went to court and paid money, and that their parents got stuck with potluck! It
was a big joke to us."Janet encourages other
adoptive parents to trumpet their unique link with their children, rather than
attempt to sweep it under the family room rug. "I can definitely imagine that if our adoption
were less talked about and less celebrated, that I would have felt like the
other kids said I should."
people think—as I did—that adoptive parents don't have many options and
that in most cases, there will be something wrong with the baby," says Becca
Gruenspan, a 42-year-old single mother living in Chicago with her 15-month-old
adopted son, Trey. "But you do have a
say: When you are yearning to parent or
add to your family, it's difficult to pass anything up, but [you] can turn down an
adoption opportunity if it doesn't feel right." In fact, Gruenspan passed on a
few situations before ultimately feeling a match between Trey's birth parents
and herself. That means that if your adoption agency presents you with an
opportunity to adopt a baby who is of another race or who has been diagnosed
with learning disabilities, you needn't feel pressured to say yes for fear of
being blackballed. Gruenspan stuck with her gut, which ultimately led her to
her happy, adventurous, Cheerio-loving son (pictured below), whom she first met just hours after
Myth #4: Birth mothers are always young
media is quick to portray birth mothers as 15-year-olds who forgot to use
contraception, but in reality, the majority of birthparents are
between 22 and 30, according to a major
domestic adoption study funded by the National Institutes of Health; one of five is older
than 30. Steven M. Kirsh, past-president of the American Academy of
Adoption Attorneys and an attorney with Kirsh
& Kirsh, PC, in Indianapolis, has
helped women with their adoption plans for 30 years, and says that while much
has changed, two things have remained constant: The ages of expectant mothers
and their motivations. "Most expectant mothers considering adoption are not teenagers," he says. "Most are in
their mid-twenties or older; many already have a child. They understand the
realities of parenthood. I have found that the more mature, better educated,
stable, and forward-thinking a woman, the more likely she will proceed with an
adoption. I know that sounds backwards, but it is the reality."
Myth #5: With so many children who need
homes, you can "just adopt!"
East coast couple Ashley*
and Grant have been on a wait list to adopt from Ethiopia since mid-2011, and
anticipate (though there are no guarantees) that they'll meet their baby by
2014. "I do think people suspect adoption is fairly easy, because there are so
many children who need families," Ashley says. "When couples struggle with
infertility, a lot of them say, 'I'll just adopt!' but there's nothing simple
about this process. Adoption involves a mountain of paperwork requiring
frequent updating, it's costly and, if hiccups arise, it can be emotionally
trying for the couple as well as their extended families." Calling it "an
enormous exercise in patience, faith and emotional stamina," Ashley points out
that, "we hear about what a miracle it is when couples make a baby, either
easily or against all odds, but bringing home an adopted child requires some
seriously divine intervention too."
Myth #6: Adoptions always take years to go
Yes, we just spoke about
what a lengthy process adoption can be, but, just like pregnancy itself, a baby
seems to come more easily for some than others. Gruenspan, for example, decided that adoption was for her in September of 2010; by July
of 2011, baby Trey was in his new nursery in Chicago. Joan Fortman, 46, of
Morton Grove, Ill., was first matched with a child after just four months
(ultimately, she decided to wait and met her son, Nicholas (pictured with Joan below), after 22 months.) According to a reader poll conducted by AdoptiveFamilies.com,
half of all families were matched with a birthmother in six months or less (not counting time in failed adoptions); 73 percent were
matched in less than a year and most families successfully adopted within two
years of starting the process. Whether
you have to wait two months or two years, Gruenspan, who tried to conceive on
her own, says adopting assures that all the emotional ups and downs are worth it.
"When it does happen and your
child comes home with you for the first time, your emotional rollercoaster is
Myth #7: Your life gets put on hold while
waiting for your child
the adoption process at 43 "after realizing I wanted to be a mom and could do
this on my own and Mr. Perfect wasn't coming along anytime soon. (She hates to
admit that the tabloids helped, but watching single moms like Sandra Bullock
adopt helped encourage her.) "People
think it's so difficult, when having a baby via in vitro is much harder if you
ask me. Adoption allowed me to live my life while I waiting—I traveled to New
Zealand, dated and met my boyfriend, and it allowed me the option to change my
mind. You can't do that when you're pregnant." She's now mom to blue-eyed,
cherub-faced little Nicholas (pictured below).
Myth #8: You owe strangers an explanation
years of infertility treatments, Megan, 39, and her husband decided to create
their family through adoption. Reese was born in February of 2008. When Reese
was just 10 weeks old, Megan received the shock of her life when she learned
she was pregnant; they now have two daughters, 11 months apart. People usually
think Reese and Josie are twins, and when they'd ask, I used to feel like I
owed them an explanation and would explain the whole situation," Megan says.
One day, after hearing the story, a woman pointed to Reese, then 14 months old,
and announced, "Oh, so she's not your
I picked Reese up out of her car seat, pretended to inspect her, and said, 'Actually,
she looks pretty real to me!' Then I made the decision: I don't owe anyone an
explanation. It's not that adoption should be a secret, but people make
insensitive comments and I don't need to expose my kids to that."
Myth #9: Everyone wants to
adopt a white newborn from the United States
At 35, Amanda McKenzie says
she has "absolutely NO interest in giving birth" but is thinking about
adoption. One of 14 siblings, three of whom were adopted (herself included),
McKenzie and her husband, who live in Hawaii, have discussed adopting an older
child from Vietnam, Malaysia or Thailand. "We've visited these countries and
were impacted by the poverty and discrimination against non-newborns we saw,"
says McKenzie (pictured at her wedding with both her adoptive and birth parents). "We see starving children who really need homes but the trend is
that newborns are the most desired. I do not feel this way at all. I feel more
connected to those who are most unwanted."