4 Surprises in Adoption

Who doesn’t remember the Friends finale in which Monica and Chandler got the shock of their lives when it was discovered their matched birth mother was delivering twins? (Should I have given a spoiler alert on a show that is twenty years old? Oops.) This type of bombshell is pretty far-fetched, but that’s not to say surprises don’t happen. They do. Some exciting. Some disappointing. Maybe after reading these you won’t be caught off guard.

The Birth Mother Has a Change of Heart.

This is one everybody fears, and it’s a hard one to be sure. It can be emotionally complicated. I believe that adoption is a wonderful thing. I also believe that any time a child can (safely) remain with their birth mother, that too, is a wonderful thing. When we were matched with a young mom expecting a baby girl in the coming month, we were elated. We had chosen a name with input from the birth mom. We had a bed and a car seat. We were ready. Then the call came. She was choosing to parent her baby girl. Our baby girl. It was what we refer to as our first miscarriage, and it was heartbreaking, but I was also truly happy that this mom and her baby girl who would not have to suffer the loss of each other. There were days, weeks, to follow of mixed emotions and tears. Not only do people change their minds but courts can change their rulings as well. Whatever your adoption path, it’s a good idea to consider all possible outcomes.

Unexpected Birth Mother Expenses.

It’s best to talk this over before you are matched with a mom and decide what you can or cannot possibly afford regarding these costs. Our second adoption included birth mom expenses upward of four thousand dollars, but we had time to prepare for this both financially and mentally. Given our knowledge of the extenuating circumstances leading to this request and that siblings of our child would benefit from the assistance, we accepted these costs. Again, having these conversations early in the process may save you from making an impulsive but financially irresponsible decision in the future. Incorporating potential costs into your fundraising/savings plan may allow you to offer valuable support to your child’s first family.

Gender, Age, and Medical Uncertainties

We all know babies can fool even the most advanced ultrasounds and gender surprises do happen. It might be shocking but usually the worst-case scenario, we may have to exchange a basket of blue onesies for pink, or vice versa. Most medical challenges are addressed early on. Your adoption agency will likely have you work through a list of medical issues that you can or cannot accept in your placement agreement. This may rule out some of the biggies, but other medical conditions may not be evident until the birth. My advice is the same: talk it through, talk it through, talk it through! 

These aren’t the only things that can catch us off guard. Our third adoption was a little girl from Haiti. She was two years old and would sandwich just perfectly between our one and three-year-old sons. Or so we thought. We were well into the lengthy international process when accurate medical records surfaced, and we found out she was actually six weeks older than our currently oldest child. Poor records, poor communication, and stunted growth due to malnourishment had us all fooled. This wasn’t a deal-breaker, by any means, but it was quite a surprise.

Sur-prize, Sur-prize, Sur-prize!

Lastly, let’s talk about the kind of surprise that’s most rare.

Lots of us know someone who has an “oops baby.” (Horrible terminology but you understand the sentiment.) Well, there are a rare few of us who’ve experienced an “oops” or unplanned adoption, as oxymoronic as that may sound. Just fifteen short months after our youngest daughter was placed with us, we received a call from the adoption agency. I’ll never forget the sound of our social worker’s voice saying, “Mrs. Sexton, I hope you’re sitting down.” Turns out our baby girl, our grand finale, wasn’t so final after all. She had a baby brother -full, biological sibling. She said we could think and pray about it, but it was really a no-brainer. As soon as she said the word “brother,” we knew he belonged with us.

These are just a few examples. Some adoption surprises are small, little blips in a very large picture. Others are huge and life-altering, but this is true of all life’s experiences. The lesson is the same. Forethought, awareness and consideration of all the possibilities, and mental and practical preparation are the tools that will help guide you through these unexpected moments.