My Advice to Families Considering Adoption

Over the past few years, I’ve had the joy of talking to many families who are considering adoption—both close friends who I know well and blog readers I’ve never met in person.

I will never tire of having these conversations because adoption was the best choice my husband and I made in our lives! Nova changed our lives in the best ways. We clearly remember the questions, the fears and the challenges we faced as we began our adoption journey. So today I wanted to take the time to compile a lot of the advice we’ve given out into one big blog post! If you’re even 1% considering adoption in your future—this post is for you!

How did you know you wanted to adopt instead of having biological children? 
My husband and I always felt open to pregnancy or adoption. They both seemed scary and challenging to us. We weren’t a family who had a very strong first choice toward having biological children, but we did try to conceive for a couple years (on and off) before we began our first adoption. When we decided to move on and pursue adoption instead of pregnancy, it was not a painful choice for us—it was honestly more of a relief. I think the planner in me liked that I could actually begin to plan toward something rather than waiting and not knowing. Very soon after we began Nova’s adoption, we were so happy with and excited about the process that we knew we would like to adopt exclusively and we’ve prevented pregnancy ever since.

I think it’s normal for women to want to experience pregnancy or to be curious what your biological children would look like. But it wasn’t something that was such a big deal to us.

Adoption has its own magic! When women say pregnancy was the best experience they ever had and that to not experience it they see adoptive mothers as “missing out,” I think that’s fine—that’s their experience. And to be 100% honest, after my adoption I feel that those who don’t adopt are “missing out.” There is SO MUCH magic in every different path to becoming a parent—that I’m sure of!

Where do I begin? What program do you recommend? 
There are so many amazing programs. We loved adopting from China, but I never want to send the message that that is the best or only great program.

My advice is to look into all the options. Almost every agency and adoption lawyer and program do free informational calls. Do as many as you can! We talked to so many different agencies, lawyers and adoptive families before making our choice.

Each program will have its pros and cons and it’s really just a matter of finding the right fit for your family!

What if my family doesn’t support me or is disappointed in my choice to adopt? 
This is painfully common, and I have very strong feelings about this subject.

When we first told our family and friends we were adopting, there were people who were visibly disappointed. There were a few times we had to answer awkward questions. In some cases, people tried to warn us or protect us. I promise—THIS IS NORMAL. It may be awkward and a bit sad, but it’s incredibly common and if it happens to you—you are not alone.

Since meeting Nova, every single member of our family loves and adores her and supports us 100%. They got on board really quickly.

What I’ve learned is that many people (of all ages, but especially those from older generations) have a lot of fears and misinformation surrounding adoption. A shocking number of people still don’t really know anyone who is adopted, or who has adopted. I feel very strongly that as adoptive parents we are ALL advocates. This is the main reason I share so much of our adoption story is to normalize adoption.

Sadly, the bad stories get passed around more quickly than the good ones. A lot of the common myths about adoption are super outdated or very uncommon. Yes, adoption has risks, just as becoming a parent does in general. But to avoid adoption out of fear of the unknown is so sad to me—and ignorant.

If you’re thinking of adopting, it’s important to understand that there is still a lot of bias and misinformation that needs to be corrected in the world. Every adoptive family can be a part of spreading the beauty, love and power of adoption!

If you’re thinking of adopting, here’s my pep talk for you! 
People are going to have opinions, but the only thing that matters is that you and your partner (or just you if you’re a single person adopting!) are on the same page. People will catch up. You can’t worry about pleasing every single person in your extended family or circle of friends. But I truly believe that for couples it’s essential to be on the same page every step of the way.

Adopting Nova was the best choice we ever made. We had normal fears just like any first time parents and adoption-based fears as well. It’s scary! It’s normal to feel fearful. Just don’t let fear make your decisions for you.

Adopting a child with special needs was a great decision for our family! I could probably write a whole post just on that subject. For now, I will just say that if you feel your heart opening up, listen. You only have to take one step at a time. Based on my experience, it is a complete myth that adoption agencies will try to get you to adopt a child with greater needs than you feel comfortable with. Our agency was always very cautious and clear with us that it was OK if we said no. We made each decision on our own terms, together, and at our own pace.

Looking back on our story, I always cry when I realize just how close we were to never being matched with Nova because we initially were not open to her specific medical condition. My advice is to leave your heart as wide open as you can. If you begin to feel open to something new, work through it together.

As a mom to the most incredible little girl with non-correctable special needs, I always want to advocate for this type of adoption. It’s obviously not for every family (and that’s OK!), but we have benefitted from being Nova’s parents far more than she has benefitted from us. We feel so lucky. OK … I’m crying now.

I hope this post is helpful to someone out there who is considering adoption! Every story is different and yours will be too. Thanks so much for reading! Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photo edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • So beautifully written and heartfelt. I have followed you and your blog for years and am always so happy seeing your posts and updates and what a wonderful family of 4 you have 🙂

  • this is such a beautiful post – thank you because i have personally felt a negative reaction from my partner’s family when we told them we most likely are not having biological children. it was hard to experience but not surprising (older generation, bad experiences in the extended family) or deterring. i know what feels right for our family and i believe she will come on board when the time comes.

  • My children sometimes check what I am up to on my phone and thus have been following your adoption story too. Now and then we talk about the future with both my girls and my 3 y/o wants to have 5 children when she grows up. My 5 y/o wants to adopt two girls from China, just like you.

    I told her I fully support her on that and look forward to my two granddaughters from China. <3

  • This is great. My boyfriend and I are very much like you, we’re open to either. We haven’t started to try for a family yet, but it’s nice to know there are so many options to be parents!

    K A T E L A T E L Y || fashion & lifestyle blog
    http://www.katelately.co

  • As an adoptive mom, thank you for this post! I so appreciate you using your influence to provide such a positive outlook on adoption.

  • I love this post and I would so love to read a post about your feelings and experiences adopting with Nova and Marigolds special needs. I hope you continue to share your adoption story in all the ways you can.

  • Elsie, I love how you write about your family’s adoption story. You are always so heartfelt, frank and honest. I am learning so much from what you share. Thank you, and much love to you and your beautiful family!

  • As a mother of a daughter from China with non-correctable special needs, I can say that I wouldn’t change one single thing in my life if it meant I hadn’t gotten the privilege of being my child’s mom. She is the most amazing and wonderful person I have ever known (she is now a teenager and I still stand by that statement) and I feel like the luckiest mother in the world. I would add that one thing adoptive parents need to be prepared for is grief. Even if your child is very young at adoption, there is still loss and grief involved. No, they may not consciously remember the loss, but it needs to be acknowledged for the well being of your child. It can be a long, expensive journey, but oh, is it worth it! Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this post! My wife and I have been considering adoption but are scared both because of scary cost stories we’ve heard and because we’ve heard stories about agencies turning down LGBTQ+ families which would be heartbreaking for us. I appreciate the recommendation you gave regarding calling different agencies for information and felt it was really helpful. Nova and Marigold are so adorable and our family loves checking in on you guys!

    xoxo

    Jamie

  • Thank you for telling your story. As a single mom who adopted through foster care it’s wonderful to hear the similarities in our stories. Yes I adopted my son and yes I’ve been on birth control for 20+ years. Adoption can be a first choice just like pregnancy is for others. Also nice to hear others in your life were cautious and not necessarily supportive at first. I think my family was more worried about what needs my son would/will have that I ever was. Love is love! Please keep telling your story.

  • I wanted to adopt a special needs child,(actually I am still open to it later ❤️) but the price was a little daunting to me and my husband. He was very iffy at first, but your story and a few others are what I showed him. I was about to seriously start the process…but then I found out I’m pregnant! I am still a very firm believer in adoption and fostering! I follow your story, because I think you are inspiring to all types of parents or guardians. I cannot wait to start a music jar and hopefully paint with our son. I share your story with my friends considering adoption.

  • I felt the same way about adopting. I have endometriosis and trying to conceive was a frustrating and painful process. We weren’t that attached to the idea of giving birth to our own biological children, and once we decided to adopt through foster care instead, it felt like such a relief. Of course that process was nerve-wracking too, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m thankful for my medical condition, and all the pain and tears and helplessness that came with it, because it led me to my daughter.

  • I’m not a parent myself but I am a step mother to my partner’s young sons. They still have their mom whom they spend time with as much as with us (not quite one week/one week but another type called 2/2/3). Anyway, my partner doesn’t want any more children and it’s a conversation we had early on that if I wanted kids of my own, he could not give that to me. However I have never desired to be pregnant myself or have a child of my own. I like children and they like me but having my own baby never really was a need for me. I would gladly embrace pregnancy and child baring if I got pregnant “by surprise” but we’re actively preventing this. Growing up, I always believed that if I were to have children, they would either be adopted or stepchildren. I strongly believe in adoption. There are so many children in the world who were abandoned and need a loving home. They were brought up in a world that wasn’t prepared for them and they are paying the price of a mistake/society they didn’t choose. But they are there, they are important and they deserve loving families. I know adoption is not easy on those children once they grow up but most of them do appreciate how loved and desired they were by their adoptive families. On the other hand, I’ve seen my friends struggle tremendously from trying desperately to have children of their own. I know some women feel this viscerally but man, it’s so sad to see your friend ending relationships because their partner can’t give them children, struggle to find new partners who will want children and turning 40 and being all messed up, seeing psychologist to deal with this need to have their own flesh and blood baby. Seeing these wonderful women descend into their own personal hell and not even stopping for a minute to think that they could have a child through adoption. They could be mothers and raise a human being from infancy if they would just open their heart up instead of focusing so much on pregnancy and making themselves sick over the fact that they can’t get pregnant (either because of medical issues, or partner issues or age). My best friend struggled with fertility for 3 years and had to be inseminated and financially ruined to get pregnant. And now that her daughter is 1 and a half, she’s struggling with the fact that she hasn’t gotten her period again which means she can’t get pregnant right now and she so wants her kids to be exactly 2 years apart. It’s maddening to watch her get depressed over this! My point is, I understand some people can’t help this need of having their own child, but I say this, why wait until nature takes its course, when there’s a child out there that could be yours for whom you could give your heart and who will bring you the same joy if not more. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

  • Thank you for sharing your experience. Can you recomend any reading material (books, websites, blogs, etc.) to those in the first initial stages of exploring adoption as an option? I’ve recently started considering adoption but I haven’t really begun looking into it at all yet, though I’d like to. I’d love a suggestion on where to start. Thank you ❤️

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story. You’ve no idea what it’s meant to me. Your story is the first story of adoption I’ve read (and still have) where you weren’t choosing to adopt as a second choice. When I was 18 and girls were talking of someday experiencing pregnancy, I quietly imagined being given a child through adoption. It’s always been my heart that I’d be a mother through adoption but often people find that so odd. Especially when no infertility is involved. So thank you for sharing your story. It’s given me hope and encouragement and validation that maybe there wasn’t something wrong with me that I’ve always preferred adoption for myself. My husband and I have our first weekend seminar for adopting next month and I am terrified and SO excited.

  • Your adoption story is beautiful and uplifting and it’s wonderful that you’ve been able to increase awareness and advocacy for such an important topic! I, too, am an adoptive mom with a daughter from China. Our daughter has medical special needs, and through the years and challenges, it has been the special mental health needs related to her early developmental trauma and grief that has presented the most life-stretching experiences. I think it’s important for all adoptive families (and hopeful adoptive families) to take the time to research this side of adoption because we have a unique responsibility in advocating and supporting our adopted children through their unique experience of grief.

  • Have you thought about the racial implications of raising a non-white child? It’s something we think of often as we are discussing adoption. How are you connecting her to her culture or origin?

  • You do such a beautiful job articulating your feelings and experience. Thank you for being a voice of compassion and frankness through this journey.

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