The Labor of Adoption

A long post I hope will convey some of my feelings on the journey of adoption…


Colin and I knew early on in our marriage that our children would come by way of adoption. Though we both have infertility issues, we decided that the fertility treatment road was not for us. Prayer confirmed many times throughout the years that such a course was not necessary for us to grow our family. I believe that pregnancy and birth are beautiful and noble experiences, and I’ve wondered what they would be like, but they have never been an aching need for me. I just wanted to be a mother. Adoption always seemed the way I would get there.

Despite my peace with this answer, I’ve felt the sting of misunderstanding as others have expressed their opinions and thoughts on adoption. Not once but several times people have commented about how lucky I am to go through this process instead of childbirth because of the lack of physical pain or the discomfort during pregnancy. To them, adoption appears easy because you never have to give birth.

Easy would never be a word I would use to describe this process. For all the joy and love that accompany adoption there is also much worry and heartache. Indeed there is a labor to endure, only this one is emotional.

As many of you are probably unfamiliar with the specifics of the adoption process, I thought I’d explain some of what it entails. It is complicated, and involved, and varies greatly among those adopting, but here is the general idea:

Becoming certified to adopt

Though I understand the reasoning, I still haven’t gotten over the feeling of being scrutinized or the irritation from needing to prove over and over again that I’m not a psychopath. Why, you ask? Because the following must be completed each and every time we apply to be foster parents, which then makes us eligible to become adoptive parents:

  • An application and fee
  • Autobiographies (which includes family background, financial data, marital history, and parenting philosophies)
  • The MMPI-2 psychological evaluation
  • Live Scan fingerprinting (both at the Federal and state level)
  • Employment verification
  • Medical examinations and reports (including TB tests)
  • Current drivers’ histories (including DMV records, license info, and proof of insurance)
  • First aid and CPR training
  • Parent education classes (40 hours)
  • Letters of reference (at least 3)
  • A home inspection and home study (personal and couple interviews with the social worker assigned to your case)

Waiting to be chosen

It is wearing going through such rigmarole only to have to wait an indeterminate amount of time for anything to happen. At least that’s the case with private adoption agencies such as LDS Family Services. You become certified, you tell everyone you know that you’re hoping to adopt and then you wait. And wait. Birth parents have access to a thorough adoptive profile that you’ve compiled and you hope that someone looks it over. But the reality is that so few contacts become a possibility. We had two calls from Family Services in the year and a half we were on their waiting list this second time around. Neither one amounted to anything. With fostering through the county, especially with a liaison organization like Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara, there is no waiting. You are placed with a child almost as soon as you are certified. But there are drawbacks to that route, of course, as the placement may not end up being permanent.

Receiving a child

The joy of holding for the first time an infant you’re hoping to call your own is indescribable. In my experience, there is no turning back at that point. The moment I first looked at my little Warren’s face I was in love. Our first day of caring for Madeline, my heart was immediately linked to hers. But one mother’s joy at this amazing gift means the heartbreak of another. With both children, I have wept pondering their birth mothers’ grief and loss. No matter the circumstances, willing or unwilling relinquishment, there is tragedy knowing that the birth mother sacrificed her rights to raise the child you now call your own.

So it’s not the red tape or the waiting period that are the source of unease and worry, though jumping through those hoops is more than a little annoying. It’s the fact that nothing in adoption is ever guaranteed. Ever. Not until the judge stamps his seal of approval can you breathe easier. Countless people have cared for babies they’ve thought would be theirs forever for months only to have a birth parent come back and change her mind. And the foster-to-adopt path is even worse since the goal of foster care is to reunify child to biological parents. It is a walk of faith to open up your heart and home to a child this way.

This post is not to complain but only to show that it’s far from easy to adopt. I’m not even attempting to claim that adoption is harder than pregnancy. I only hope to demonstrate that both roads to parenthood come with ups and downs. Who’s to quantify the pains of physical versus emotional labor? Both are difficult. Both are valid.

Tomorrow, Madeline will legally become a member of our family. We are overjoyed! Cliché as it may sound, all this worry, all this waiting, it’s all worth it.

In a year, we’ll start all over again with number 3…

13 thoughts on “The Labor of Adoption”

  1. Jeannie,
    I admire your courage and dedication. I figured adoption was trying, but hearing your take on it really brings it more into perspective. That’s exciting that Maddie is a legal member of the family tomorrow!!

  2. Jeannie I am so glad you wrote a post about this. When we were trying to adopt I also felt that there was a lot of misunderstanding. And through you and Hilary I’ve felt just a portion of the heartache for the sacrifice that the birth mother makes. I am so glad Maddie is finally going to be an official [member of your family]!! HOORAY!!!

  3. I’ve never experienced either situation, but I’m so glad that now I have a little taste what your experience has been like. I’m SO, SO, SO excited for you and your wonderful family! Congratulations! The long, long wait has paid off and I know that you knew it always would!

  4. Maddie is so lucky to get to be in your family. You guys are an inspiration. Seriously. I’m so happy that you get to be together!

  5. YAY!!! I am so excited that Maddie will be ‘officially’ yours. I am sorry for all the ups and downs that come with the process you willingly put yourselves through. I don’t think I would have been so bold to say one way is easier than another…now, I know neither is easy.

  6. Yay for Maddie!

    I’ve been through pregnancy and child birth, and I thing that adoption is WAYYYYYY harder!!! When you are prego, there is always a fear that something may go wrong. But, when you look at the statistics, the likelihood that you may lose your child in adoption is WAY greater. Plus, you may lose your child to a situation that is neglectful or abusive. The fear must be overwhelming.

    You and I have discussed this. You know I want to one day adopt. Claron and I have discussed starting the process many, many times, but even the thought of knowing that for at least a year, we will live in a constant state of worry is a bit overwhelming. I’ll get on the horse soon though. You are definitely an awesome example!!

  7. Jeannie,

    That is really good news. You’ve been incredibly patient with the whole thing (twice!), and I know it’s not an easy road. I’ll look forward to offering an official congratulations when you post that picture of your whole family in the courthouse with no faces blocked out!

  8. Congratulations on Maddie finally being an official [member of your family]. That is so exciting. When do you plan to take her to the temple? I hope that I have never been insensitive to your family’s situation. I just thank God that He knows us and gives us trials which are within our capacity to bear. You and Colin must be some of the best parents I know and your children are lucky to have you (because we are ALL lucky to have our children), especially since it is such a process to go through! I hope they realize that when they are teenagers!!

  9. What a beautiful family–I am so glad to see you all together. Congratulations on getting everything finalized. Your children are lucky you found them and worked so hard to make them a part of your family. I appreciate your example of mothering.

  10. I wish our culture wouldn’t focus so much on the pain of childbirth. 🙁 What a lucky, lucky girl I am to be pregnant, to feel life inside of me! I admire you and Colin for so many reasons, for your acceptance of the hand you have been dealt in life, and your willingness to push through the many obstacles found in the path to adoption.

    We won’t be adopting (unless something drastically changes) as it just isn’t the right choice for us, but you are doing so many wonderful things by bringing these kids into your family. With Maddie you are providing medical care and support, with both children you are working hard to discipline them and turn them into wonderful citizens, and most important, you are introducing them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the all-consuming love of their Father in Heaven. There are few things more wonderful than that I think! The two of you are changing the lives of each and every child you adopt, and I’m grateful there are people like you out there willing to work and sacrifice to make that happen.

    When I pull my baby out of the water (fingers crossed for a waterbirth for me!) our family will be sealed and one step closer to perfection. I think you four will experience that same thing, once again, when you kneel in the temple and are sealed together as an eternal family. The journey to get there may be different, but the outcome is exactly the same.

    Again, I’m so happy for you guys.

  11. Thanks for sharing this, its very helpful for people like myself who really had no clue the process. Congrats on finally getting call Maddie truly your own!

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