So you have friends who are adopting a child soon! You want to celebrate with them and help out in any way you can, but what exactly doe they need? What might be similar to a traditional baby scenario and what might be different? In honor of National Adoption Month, let’s take a little crash course in supporting your friend’s adoption.
1. Organize a fundraiser
Depending on the route taken, adoption can be very expensive. Ask your friends if they would like you to organize a fundraiser to help alleviate the cost. You can go the old fashioned route with a multi family garage sale or utilize modern technology by gathering donations from artisans and hosting an Instagram auction. The internet is full of other fundraising ideas as well, from GoFundMe accounts to t-shirt sales. Find an avenue that you have vision for and run with it!
2. Throw a baby shower
She won’t show up with a large belly for everyone to oooh and aaah over, but chances are your friend will enjoy receiving a baby shower every bit as much as a pregnant woman does. A communal gathering is a meaningful way for an adoptive mother-to-be to feel validated and celebrated by the people in her life. Certain tweaks might need to be made (gender neutral themes if they don’t know the sex of the baby or a nontraditional registry for a toddler or older child), but a new life in the family is always something to celebrate!
3. Read an adoption book
Going the extra mile to invest time and energy into understanding your friends' new family dynamics will speak volumes to them about your love and commitment to the friendship. There is no lack of excellent adoption literature available, but be sure that the book you select is tailored to their circumstances: a book about infant adoption after infertility will obviously speak to a different experience than a book about adopting a teenager from foster care. If you don’t know where to start, find out what book their adoption agency recommended (a good agency will likely have some required reading).
4. Offer a listening ear
The adoption process is an emotional and often overwhelming one. Some couples find that the grief of infertility they thought they had resolved unexpectedly returns during this time. Others may experience depression as they are forced to live their daily lives while their child is stuck in an orphanage. One of the greatest gifts you can give a waiting parent is to simply listen (without judgment) for as long as they need to talk.
1. Remember the new mom basics
Many of the gestures people offer towards women who have just given birth are equally as appropriate for a mother who has welcomed a child through adoption. Organize a way for friends to sign up to bring hot meals throughout the first few weeks. Stop by and confiscate their laundry, returning it clean and folded in a few hours. Drop off a latte or a bottle of wine. Although your friend isn’t physically recovering, her life has just been turned upside down. New motherhood is new motherhood, no matter how you slice it.
2. Understand attachment and help spread the word
This is where your friends' experience differs from the typical course. If they have just adopted a newborn straight from the hospital, mom, dad, and baby have still missed 9 months of bonding. The baby is still learning her parents' voices and her mother's rhythms, which are new and different than what she experienced in the womb. This is a sacred time for the three of them, so respect that. If your friend has just adopted a child beyond the newborn stage, this point is every bit as important. Human attachment is a tender thing, and children who have been through the trauma of biological separation often need help learning what it means to belong to and trust their parents before anyone else.
Ask your friends what they have learned about the topic and what their preferences are. Many adoptive parents will ask that you refrain from holding the child for some months while he is learning exactly who he belongs to. Be a good sport, even if you feel disappointed, and know that your cheerful compliance proves your committed friendship. Your friends will no doubt be facing criticism from some friends and family members about being stingy with the baby, so be sure to support their wishes and help educate those who complain. If you are active in the same faith community or other group, give the other members a heads-up on your friends' wishes (and the reasons behind them) so that the couple doesn’t have to personally explain it to everyone they encounter.
3. Offer a listening ear
From bemoaning her sleep deprivation to musing about how best to navigate birth parent relationships, your friend has a lot to get off her chest. Once again being a reliable, non-judgmental, safe place to confide in will be the greatest gift you can give. You don’t have to be educated on the issues she’s discussing; simply open yourself up to learning without necessarily offering advice. And don’t forget to bring chocolate.