I've been a mom-by-adoption for almost seven years now. We are an apparent adoptive family because we are white and our children are black, so we are often approached by strangers and asked questions. Consistently, these eight subjects come up in conversations:
1: Parents who adopt can develop Post-Adoption Depression (PAD).
Just like a woman who has given birth can have post-partum depression, a parent by adoption can be depressed, too. The changes in schedule, the uncertainty of a legally risky adoption, the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a new child (or children), the language barriers, the constant interrogations from strangers, a child's medical or psychological needs, and more can all lead to depression. I experienced a lot of guilt and grief from the empathy I had toward my children's biological families and the situations they faced.
2: Women who adopt might be able to breastfeed their children.
Women can induce lactation through a variety of protocols developed by medical professionals and internationally board certified lactation consultants. Some tools that help women induce lactation include taking the birth control pill, taking a medication called Domperidone (known as Dom in the adoptive breastfeeding community), utilizing a breast pump, taking certain herbs, eating "milk friendly" foods, listening to a recording of a baby crying, and more. There are also at-breast supplementaional systems such as the Medela SNS and the Lact-aid. Some women aren't able to produce much at all (or any), while some produce a full supply for their children. I was able to establish a nursing relationship with my youngest child, and it was not only a wonderful way to bond with the child I didn't birth, but it provided both of us with quiet time together that was exclusive to us.
3: Open adoption is considered a norm in the adoption community.
Open adoption is defined as a biological parent or parents having an ongoing relationship with their birth child whom they placed for adoption. An open adoption might involve communication via video chatting, text messaging, phone calls, and e-mailing as well as visits. The benefits include the child having access to updated health information and having relationships with not just his or her birth parents, but also extended birth family members. Many question if this is strange or confusing for the child, and the answer is generally no, especially when an open adoption is established early on in the child's life. Open adoption eliminates much of the secrecy and shame that came with closed adoptions which were common in the past. As a family who is part of three open adoptions, we are advocates of the potential benefits.
4: The child's family is his or her "real" family.
We are often asked about our children's "real" parents or if our children are "real" siblings. The truth is, it's all real. Their birth parents are real, their siblings are real, we are real parents. Though the dynamic of adoption can confuse some who are outside the adoption community, those of us "on the inside" understand that families come in all shapes and sizes and makeups, and no matter what that family dynamic looks like, it is the child's reality. Often strangers incorrectly use the word "real" instead of "biological" in their questioning; however, it's inappropriate to demand that a family prove their authenticity.
5: Some adoptees say they "were" adopted and some say they "are" adopted.
"Were" indicates a point and time in history that is now past. "Are" is an ongoing identity with being an "adopted person." Neither is right or wrong, and it's up to the adoptee to identify as he or she pleases. In our family, we use the term "were adopted" because our children were legally adopted at a court proceeding. We do not introduce our children as our "adopted children," nor do we identify ourselves as our children's "adoptive parents." We are simply their parents, and they are our children.
6: Not all adoptees have problems related to adoption, but some do.
Many outside the adoption community have remarked that they know an adoptee who has problems, and the assumption is that the adoption is the root of that child's problems. The truth is every adoptee is different. Every story is different. Does adoption or the child's past cause some of those issues? Possibly. But do children, whether they are with their biological families or not, have issues? Of course. Adoptees might face or be diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) or other attachment issues, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or a similar diagnosis, and failure to thrive, though most of these aren't exclusive to children who were adopted.
7: Not all adoptees of color were adopted internationally.
We have often been asked what country our children are from, and the surprise is visible on the stranger's face. Our children, who are black, were adopted from the United States, not another country. In the United States alone, there are over 100,000 children waiting to be placed in a forever home. This includes children of different races, sibling groups, older children, and children with disabilities. Though adopting children of color is common when the adoption is international, not all children who were adopted internationally are children of color.
8: Some parents who choose to adopt can have biological children.
Adoption is often viewed as a second choice or default option for parents, but the truth is, many parents who choose to adopt can (and have) had biological children. Some parents-by-adoption choose to adopt simply out of a desire to do so. Some do not have an interest in having biological children. There are others, like myself, who live with a chronic disease or have faced a diagnosis that makes having biological children risky or dangerous to both the parent and child. Often parents who adopt are believed to have experienced infertility and are subject to advice and questioning from fertile friends and family members. No matter the reason a person chooses to adopt, a child joining a forever family is an occasion worth celebrating.