8 Things Adoptive Parents Worry About

by Emily Westbrooks

I'm not naturally a worrier. Sure, I try to work out problems before they happen, and have been known to overthink a thing or two, but I wouldn't classify myself as a worrier. However, there are things adoptive parents can't help worrying about and, well, I'm an adoptive parent. They're not daily worries and they don't keep me up at night, by any means. Instead they're the kind of worries that sometimes just breeze through the back of my mind, like a shadow, while I'm busy focusing on something else.

Adoption is, by definition, complicated. It is beautiful and heartwarming, as well as heartbreaking and complex. It usually involves more people than a biological birth, usually requires more outside help, and there are usually more questions and wonders and worries. Then, of course, is the fact that it's not the common way for families to be made. It's not something we grow up talking about unless your family has been directly affected by adoption and, even then, adoptions are always so different from each other. Very rarely do two look alike.

I don't think adoption comes with more worries than having biological children, I just think those worries present themselves in different ways and when you least expect it. So, with that in mind, here's a handful of concerns that often sneak into my mind, usually when I least expect it.

What Is My Baby's Medical History?

I wonder about my daughter's medical history every single time I fill out a form or take her to the doctor. Now, some adoptive parents have extensive medical histories of their adopted children, but that still doesn't mean that if a question comes up in the future they'll be able to have it answered.

Who Are My Baby's Birth Parents?

No matter what your adoptive situation, I think adoptive parents think about birth parents pretty regularly. Honestly, it's hard not to wonder what they were like, what they're doing now, or what your adopted child will wonder about them when they're older.

For the record, those are only the questions I have as an adoptive mom, with no contact with her birth mom. Imagine the complexities if you do know the birth parents.

Does My Baby Have Biological Siblings Or Stepsiblings?

I honestly didn't think about my daughter's future biological siblings or stepsiblings until well after she joined our family. Then it occurred to me that one day she could have more siblings from either her birth mom or dad, and we might never know about it. Or we might know about it, and what would those relationships be like for our existing family?

Can I Handle Transracial & Cultural Situations Correctly?

As a white adoptive mom of a biracial daughter, I'll tell you that one of the biggest I have when we're out in public, is whether or not my daughter's hair is done. I don't know why that sticks with me so much, but I feel a responsibility to do her hair "properly" all the time. I got a comment a few weeks ago on Instagram from a black woman stranger offering to teach me how to do my daughter's hair, and I burst into tears. She had pinpointed the one thing I worry about, but never talk about. Turns out, my worry was also valid.

However, my daughter isn't just Black, she's also Mexican. As her parents, we want to honor all of her ancestry, as well as teach her what our family is made up of. It's complicated, to say the least, and many adoptive parents put a lot of pressure on themselves to get this one "right."

Will My Baby Be Able To Find Their Birth Parents?

When and if my daughter wants to find her birth parents, will we be able to find them? I worry about that often, and I worry that if we don't have contact now, my partner and I will never be able to track them down in the future.

Arguably an even scarier thought that has crossed my mind a time or two: if we do find our daughter's birth parents, will they even want to meet her? If the answer is "no," how will I tell my daughter the news?

Can My Nurture Outweigh Her Nature?

I don't want to overwrite my daughter's DNA. Trust me, I really don't. I want her to be who she was created to be, and my job is to encourage her to be her true self always and regardless.

However, and because my partner and I don't know what her birth parents were like, we just don't know what she's pre-disposed to. In other words, when she displays bad behavior or makes a bad choice, I can't help but wonder whether it's my bad parenting or just her inherent nature.

Then again, I have to assume that most parents, biological or not, wonder how often they're contributing to negative attributes or behaviors. Right?

How Are We Going To Talk About Adoption?

My daughter is still too young to understand how to use the toilet, so she's definitely not ready to understand the concept of adoption. Still, I do worry and wonder how and when my partner and I will eventually have the conversation about adoption. We've talked about it and made a plan, but as most of us know, those plans often don't pan out the way we'd like.

Instead, we'll probably be surprised one day and have to think on the fly, struggling to find the right words and how to adequately express how wanted and loved she is (and has always been).

Am I Using The Right Words?

At all times, I'm conscious of using the right words to describe everyone involved in our adoptive situation. I had a student ask me last week something that started with, "Well, if she was your real daughter..." and you can imagine how that landed us in a conversation about the words we use to describe our family.