Mary Jo and Claire
Extended Family Support
If you’re excited for your new son or daughter but are worried about how to help support them through the ups and downs, you’re not alone. Many of our future parents have asked for help.
Let Mary Jo tell you her story…
My husband and I became proud grandparents in March of 2012. We knew we wanted grandchildren but were happy and contented without, enjoying each other and our adult children. But, when our little granddaughter was born and became part of our lives through adoption we were instantly enriched. We didn’t know how we had lived without her!
My journey while waiting on my daughter’s placement was a roller coaster of emotions. I went from excitement to fear and back again. I think I can speak for most grandparents when I say it is emotional when your children are expecting a baby, whether it’s through pregnancy or adoption. The journey is different in each situation though and my feelings seemed unique to the adoption experience.
I believe some of my feelings were due to just plain fear. Would the baby be healthy? How do we know the mother is telling the truth when she says she hadn’t smoked, used drugs or alcohol? Would the mother change her mind after my daughter held the baby or worse yet, took the baby home? I wore myself out and lost more than a little sleep worrying about things I really could do nothing about. What happened to the woman who taught her kids to live their lives without fear and not be afraid to take chances?
Emotions can be surprising and I was surprised by many of my feelings. In addition to concerns about the birth mother and the health of the baby, I worried about how I might feel about a baby that didn’t look like my daughter or others in the family. Would I be able to love that baby as much as one that was biologically ours? Little did I know how unfounded these concerns would turn out to be as my little granddaughter is so special in part because she is such a unique little person. What is different is also endearing.
As I stated, of great concern was that a baby would be placed with my daughter and she would hold the baby, maybe even take the baby home, and the birth mom would change her mind. I knew this would be devastating for her and for our family and at times it seemed safer not to adopt than to run the risk of this happening. I didn’t know how often this happens but we’ve all heard stories and it seemed like all my acquaintances had a story that they just had to tell me. I think if I would have understood more of the legalities of adoption I would have been more at ease. My worries would not have completely gone away but at least I would have understood that once initial papers were signed it is difficult for the birth mom to just change her mind and take the baby. My daughter was able to take her home at 48 hours of age and that morning she met with the attorney who was able to explain to me the adoption procedure, what the initial signatures meant and how difficult it was for the mother to change her mind once that initial paperwork was signed. I was greatly relieved after that meeting and wished I would have had that information during the waiting period.
Because my daughter is single, and for other reasons beyond her control, it took a while for her to get a placement. I began to feel that maybe there wasn’t going to be a baby for her and in spite of all the other emotions this was the most unsettling. I wondered if all prospective adoptive parents get placements. As time passed I became more and more anxious about this.
Of course, I shared very little of this with my daughter, not wanting to add to her stress. I knew she was eagerly awaiting a baby and on the surface was trusting that there was a baby out there intended for her and that it would happen at the right time. I was very proud of her during this time. She exhibited patience and trust at a time when I knew she was very eager to have a family.
As I write this my granddaughter has been with us almost a year. It has been a year when my concerns have been replaced by pure joy and love. I continue to be amazed each day what a wonderful experience adoption has been for my daughter, our family and all of our friends who join in our joy. I think often of and am thankful for the birth mother who chose life for her child. I am thankful for my daughter’s unselfish love and her faith that this was the right path to a family. I am thankful for the gift of God’s love in this little girl.
~ Mary Jo
Most Asked Questions by Extended Family Members
Read the handouts that have been given to the adoptive family during their home study process.
The Seminar handout, “How to Activate” and “How to Adopt” are all very helpful. They WILL address your questions about agency staffing, costs, law, attorney choices, birth mother living expenses, drug or alcohol use, race, timing of activation and placement, correspondence and visits, open adoption and the home study process.
How can I support my child and their spouse during their wait?
Be supportive, patient and understanding. Please try not to question everything. They have probably, painstakingly, done their homework on ASC (and their attorney) and don’t need to have that questioned during a stressful time. I assure you, if THEY are worried, they will call us! Do ask them how you can help – you might be surprised with their answer. And support the type of child they chose to adopt – the race, health and age of the child; twins or a sibling group; whatever they chose to embrace, back them 100%.
Can I call the agency or attorney with questions?
We would prefer you don’t. (Realize the attorney will probably charge the family, if you do.) But if you cannot find the answers to your concern in one of the handouts, do call us. Please understand we cannot talk freely about the adoptive family or birth mother – this is a very confidential process. They are our clients and we must keep their stories private.
Can I go to the hospital when the baby is born?
No. You have not been trained by the agency on what to say and not say. And it isn’t fair to the birth mother to see and hear celebrations down the hall from where she is grieving her loss. Do offer to help babysit any siblings at home awaiting their new brother or sister. Do offer to get their house ready for their return from the hospital.
After the baby comes home, bonding with the primary family is important.
Please let the new mom and dad be the primary caregivers – let their smells and sensations become common to the baby first. Let them bond. Due to a different immune system, please don’t pass the baby around for the first few months. Do offer to fix meals, clean, do laundry, grocery shop – free up the family to enjoy their new role.
If there are older siblings…
Do help them feel special and involved in all the excitement.
Do have baby showers after the placement, not before.
Because there are NO guarantees the adoption will happen.
If the baby is jaundiced or has health issues…
Do offer to help so they are not sleep deprived. If there are business trips or times when the spouse is away, or if your single daughter is the one adopting, do help during this time.
Which brings us to an exception, if your daughter is single and adopting on her own…
You can play a very different role. We encourage all single women to pick a support person, instead of a spouse, to be an integral part of the adoption process. A mother, sister, or best friend can be the new partner. Know that if you accept, you must attend the seminar, home study meetings, possibly birth mother lunches, and be available for labor and delivery and the hospital stay. It is a big responsibility because we are training you like we would a spouse. Do not accept if you cannot be available for the long haul.