What is Secondary Infertility?

 

 

Last Wednesday, social media was flooded with photos of siblings—it was National Siblings Day! Some of you may frequently remember your brothers and sisters with fondness and great memories. Others may be reflecting on the colossal efforts you have made to have civil relationships with each other.

Siblings Day is a day of celebration, but it is also a day to acknowledge that not everyone has an easy time getting to a baby, let alone a sibling for their child!

Infertility does not exclusively occur with couples who are trying to start a family for the first time. Some are still facing infertility, even after they have brought a child into their home. They may desperately wish to give their child a sibling but it ends up being more difficult than they realized. This is called secondary infertility. According to the Mayo Clinic, secondary infertility is the inability to successfully achieve pregnancy or carry a baby to term after previously having a child.

Secondary infertility can come as a shock to many couples. And there are several emotions that come with the diagnoses: grief, guilt, shame, and even depression. However, through embryo adoption, a couple can still have hope to successfully expand their family.

Celebrating National Siblings Day does not look the same for every family. Siblings are more than just blood and DNA. There is no right way to grow your family—just look through some social media posts to see the countless unique ways families’ across the country celebrate their siblings. If you want more information on growing your family in a unique way, visit Snowflakes.org to learn more.

Adoption from a Sibling’s Perspective

 

My brother came home on my 5th birthday! He was the best birthday present! Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed he was too little to play school, play dolls or go to the park. He had a beautiful smile and I didn’t mind even when he cried or needed a diaper change. He was ‘my’ baby brother! My sister was born almost 2 years later. Although she and I look very much alike and share the same genetic make up, my brother is just as much my sibling! I loved having younger siblings most of the time. However when doing something embarrassing, like playing with their food at a restaurant or acting annoying, I would ask my parent ‘what they were thinking, having more children?’ It never really occurred to me that there was any difference in my siblings. Either they were annoying or cute, sometimes together and sometimes separately. But, I never questioned our relationship. As adults, we don’t always agree on issues, but we love one another and stand up for one another.

Our children are not all biologically related, yet they are siblings. They all share us as parents. At times like me, they have ups and downs with their siblings. Alliances and arguments occur between siblings just as they do between political entities. When our girls were little, I once heard them arguing and was heading towards their room to intervene, when I heard one of them say, ‘We need to fix this fast or Mama will come in and make us talk!’ I turned around to let them resolve their differences. There can be rivalry between siblings if they are close in age, are jealous of a family relationship or just because they are siblings. Just as I had to get used to having 2 siblings, so my children have adjusted to our successive adoptions and new siblings added to our family.

It is important to plan and recognize that adoption affects all members of the family. Home grown children will have to adjust to the new adoptee just as the new adoptee will have to get used to and develop a relationship with all family members. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, where you have to figure out where each person fits in your family, just as you determine where each piece of the puzzle fits. Adjustment and acceptance takes time, effort and a commitment to love and family. It does not happen right away, but with time, shared experiences and a lot of patience and encouragement.

 

Below are some some articles about siblings and adoption. I hope you find them helpful!

 

Articles:

The Influence of Adoption on Sibling Relationships – British Journal of Social Work Vol 47, issue 6.

https://academic.oup.com/bjsw/article/47/6/1781/4554334

Rivalry with an Adopted Sibling – Regina Kupecky, Adoptive Families journal

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/adoption-bonding-home/rivalry-with-newly-adopted-sibling-older-child/

The Sibling Connection – Lois Molina, Adoptive Families journal

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/parenting/sibling-relationships-biological-or-not/

Welcoming a New Brother or Sister Through Adoption  by Aleta James 

 

Some good children’s books on adoption and sibling relationships:

‘A New Barker in the House’ by Tomie dePaula

Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami

 

Understanding the Adoption Tax Credit

 

Has anyone you’ve ever known (perhaps even you) had a deep and sincere desire to grow their family through adoption, but its price tag was so overwhelming and discouraging that they concluded there is no way I could EVER afford to adopt?

And if that’s you, I truly understand.  Unfortunately, adoption is expensive and many of us do not have unlimited funds to be able to afford adoption. But before you decide that adoption isn’t an option because of the price, I implore you to educate yourself on the financial resources available to adoptive families, especially the Adoption Tax Credit. The Adoption Tax Credit can help families reduce their federal tax liability and greatly offset the costs of the adoptive process. For adoptions finalized in 2018, the adoption tax credit is up to $13,810 per child.

There is a lot of information on the web about the Adoption Tax Credit. Below are a few creditable resources that I want to share with you. It’s a spring board to your understanding of the tax credit.…And now for the mandatory legal disclaimer.…I’m in no way, shape or form, a tax professional nor am I endorsing any of the links. Please consult your tax professional for how you can receive the maximum benefits from the Adoption Tax Credit….and now, on with the show.

 

Here are a few online informative articles about the 2018 Adoption Tax Credit:

  • North American Counsel on Adoptable Children (NACAC): Adoption Tax Credit 2018:

https://www.nacac.org/help/adoption-tax-credit/adoption-tax-credit-2018/

  • Considering Adoption: How to Claim the 2018 Tax Credit:

https://consideringadoption.com/general/2018-adoption-tax-credit

  • The IRS:

https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607

 

 

Here are two YouTube videos that I found informative:

  • Rules for Claiming 2018 Adoption Tax Credit – How Can I Claim the Adoption Tax Credit?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjF9bIbIml8

  • The Adoption Tax Credit // Explained Simple By A Foster Mom

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09L0xJVlG_g

 

 

Please do not let the sticker shock of adoption or your lean financial portfolio be the only reason you do not pursue adoption. Do your research, talk to financial professionals and, if God has etched it onto your heart, never say never!

 

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith”– Billy Graham

Discussing Adoption Through Story Books

 

Finding just the right adoption book for your child can be daunting. When my daughters –who are now 28 and 31 years old– were young, there were very few books from which to choose, and quite frankly, I found the content very narrow. For example, one book told how a mommy bunny placed her baby bunny for adoption due her not being able to care for her little baby bunny. Some parents felt the book presented mommy bunny needing to make an adoption decision based solely on her lack of financial resources. A woman’s lack of funds then begs the question, as pronounced by one little adoptee, “Mommy, why didn’t you just send my birth mother money?” While it is true that finances often play a factor in a women’s decision to make an adoption plan, there are many reasons why an expectant women and her partner may choose not to parent. Addressing why an adoption plan is made is often avoided in adoption books. Some books just tell the joy of the adoptive parents and the child. Some topics, such as abuse and neglect, may be too delicate to overtly state in a book directed at the very young; while stories of Chinese adoptions must either tackle or avoid the issue of abandonment.

With so many books from which to choose, how do you, as a parent, decide which ones are appropriate for your child and her particular situation and her age? Predicting how your child may react to a book can be complicated.

First, you want to consider your child’s adoptive relationship with you. For example, your child may not be legally adopted by you. If your child is in a guardian or relative placement, then a book that discusses various family compositions, without mentioning adoption, may be appropriate, such as The Family Book by Todd Parr.

If your child is or has been in foster care, you may want to read Murphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman. To learn more about other books that address issues of loss, grief, shame, confusion, fear and attachment for children in foster care, visit this YouTube Review of Books for Children in Foster Care.

For those who have adopted an infant, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, by Jamie Lee Curtis, is a favorite. This book tells the story of the parents’ excitement of getting a call to receive their newborn infant. The focus is on the parents and the baby. It really could be a book about any baby entering a family—If only the mom had been in labor instead. It does not address adoption issues, and could be a first book for small children in which you with your child can begin the adoption discussion.

When wanting to share what makes your child unique, you can reach for One Wonderful You by Francie Portnoy. The author states, “You are unique because you are a wonderful blend of two families…”

Shaoey and Dot, by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman, is narrated by a ladybug who accompanies a baby abandoned in China who is then be placed in an orphanage, adopted, and then flown home with her parents. The ladybug shares its feelings and could be a springboard for discussing other strong and sensitive emotions with your child.

 

There is a plethora of books available. So before you present a book to your child, read it first. Also, see what comments/reviews are written regarding the book. As noted, there are YouTube and other platforms to learn more about each book.

 

Although many of the children’s books do not address serious topics, this does not mean your child is not thinking about his birth parents or why he was placed for adoption, abandoned, or removed from his birth parents. These are tough subjects, so make story time very special by creating a cozy and secure setting—free of distractions. Leave plenty of time to talk out questions and feelings your child may have. If you quickly read such a book—especially just before bed—your child may still have some unresolved feelings that can make sleep difficult.

 

As you read books—not necessarily just adoption books—start with the simple. If a book has lots of words and fewer pictures, and may be more than your child can absorb, you can just pare it down. Even non-adoption books can be used to bring up feelings related to having parents, losing parents, as well as proper parental care, and being neglected. Asking questions in a calm and tender way, can help elicit thoughts and feelings from your child that he may not otherwise share.

 

Here are ways to introduce adoption topics to your child at each stage:

 

Pre-school. You can start with the Three Little Bears—a non-adoption book. There is a mommy and daddy, and baby bear. Discuss with your child what the mommy may be thinking. Ask such questions as, “Why would mommy and daddy bear want baby bear’s porridge to be ‘just right’”? Such questions can lead the child, who may have come from a difficult past, to discuss what it may be like to have little food or not to have a mommy who carefully fed her child. You could ask your child, “How do you think the mommy bear fed her little cub?” Then you, as the parent, can show your child how you may have fed her if she were your little bear. You may also discuss with your child how you are sad you could not be there to have fed her porridge when she was just a tiny little bear.

 

Even if the author of an adoption books tends to avoid difficult topics, you can later bring more negative aspects of a child’s life into the story. For example, after reading in the story of Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, for the zillionth time, you may ask, “Why do you think the baby is going to a new mommy and daddy?” From there you can discuss reasons why a child may be placed for adoption. You can ask, “How do you think the baby’s birth mother and father may have been feeling that night?”

 

School-Age: At this stage some of the picture story books may be too “babyish” for your child, but you can use them as a way to snuggle and have the child read to you. Ask your child questions about the various characters and what they may be feeling. “What are some reasons why the baby was carefully placed in a basket and left where people could find her?” “What do you think it was like for a baby or child to be in an airplane going to his new home?”

 

Middle-School: This is a time when you address more serious and negative issues about adoption. In fact, by this time most children should know their full adoption history—regardless of how difficult their past. You may want to read one page while your child reads another page so the reading is a shared experience and feelings can be discussed.

One such book is Pictures of Hollis Wood, a Newbery Honor, written by Patricia Reilly Giff. The fictional story notes:

Hollis Woods

is the place where a baby was abandoned
is the baby’s name
is an artist

is now a twelve-year-old girl
who’s been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all.

 

High School into Young Adulthood:

 

By this time, teenagers are selecting their own books. However, issues may arise and you may feel the need to have a book that helps you with the complex conversations. One such book is Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child, by Betsy Keefer and Jayne E. Schooler.

 

Regardless of what books you read or even if you make up your own stories and revisit your child’s lifebook, what matters is that you consider your child’s feelings, you discuss serious topics, you are empathic and sensitive to your child’s past, and you help your child know that while the past may not have been “normal,” your child is viewed by you as a precious person who can have fulfilling and blessed future.

World Down Syndrome Day: “Leave No One Behind”

This year on World Down Syndrome Day 2019, the charge and call of action for every person with Down Syndrome and the advocates who support them is to tell the world to “leave no one behind.” Every person with Down Syndrome is capable, deserving, and worthy to live a full life with equal opportunities. In a world where many are self-focused and driven in their own paths for life, our brothers and sisters with Down Syndrome often face exclusion and discrimination and are often “left behind.” This is especially true for our waiting children.

I had the chance to sit down with an adoptive family, Ross & Tamara, currently in the process of bringing home their two-year-old daughter from South East Asia for an interview. Here is a snippet of what we discussed.

  • What should other families considering adoption know about Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome is often looked at in a negative light, but there is life and life abundant in parenting a child with Down Syndrome. Above all, she will be our daughter first, our daughter who also happens to have Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome will be a small part of her journey here on this earth, but it will not define her journey. There are opportunities to live a full life and many children are capable of holding jobs, driving cars, and going to college. Yes, parenting a child with Down Syndrome might add more to your life with things like speech therapies, visits to the doctor, and advocating for schooling, however, parenting a child with Down Syndrome will add more to your life in other ways; filling your heart with joy, having a love for others, and caring for the least of these. A verse that we have been praying over our family has been Psalm 68: 5-6; “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling, God sets the lonely in families.”

  • When was your heart first stirred towards parenting a child with Down Syndrome?

My heart was first stirred towards parenting a child with Down Syndrome when I read the article, Where Have All the Kids with Down Syndrome Gone?. The article focuses on the increased rate of abortion when a diagnosis of Down Syndrome is given. As a pro-life family, we want to walk in truth and walk in action. If we are fighting for pro-life, we should also fight for the children that are waiting and take action to support them. For us, that means adoption, for others, that might mean advocating.   

 

  • What does your community and support system look like?

Our community does not have many families that are parenting children with Down Syndrome, however, we have found several online communities and forums that are so supportive and available to answer all of our questions. Our church community has also been very supportive! They have come alongside of us and are praying and patiently waiting for the arrival of our daughter into our community. Our local Regional Center and school district offer plenty of early intervention and educational resources that we are so excited about accessing once our daughter comes home!

 

Let’s stand beside our friends with Down Syndrome and be a part of leaving no one behind! Here are a few links to increase your knowledge of Down Syndrome and to advocate for our friends. Let us know some of your favorites!

Resources about Down Syndrome and Parenting children with Down Syndrome:

https://www.heatheravis.com/the-lucky-few-the-book

https://reecesrainbow.org/

https://www.ndsan.org/

Alone: Keeping Siblings Together

 

 

 

A couple of years ago my husband and I got hooked on a survivalist reality show.  The feature setting this show apart from other survivor type shows is that the contestants were entirely alone.  They were responsible for everything (including filming).  Dropped off unaccompanied in a remote area, the participants hunted and foraged for food, built shelters, and risked their lives for the grand prize.  The only margin between remaining in the game and going home was voluntarily sending a call from a satellite phone, in which they were immediately removed. Faced with wild boars, wolves, and poisonous berries…and yet the most common call on that satellite phone was made because competitors were feeling alone. Desperately missing their families, many grown men and women pressed the button on the phone to get home.

Something these contestants quickly learned is the innate human need to not be alone.  Some hit the button after 40 days and some after only 24 hours, but a majority hit it in despair to see family, hug family, feel the safety of family.  The most prepared and capable people of being alone, simply cannot.

Imagine now, a toddler boy.  Bright eyes, long lashes.  Chubby hands and smooth skin.  He is not a wilderness survivalist, but he too has no familiar shelter.  He is suddenly in the home of strangers.  He too wonders about food.  The afternoon eases into evening.  When the lights go out, fear grips this little boy in the scariest moment of his life.  In tears, he turns over his shoulder looking for the one consistent person in his life, his little sister.  The home he does not know, the adults he does not know, but his sister, his sister is like a thread of his own fabric that cannot be unraveled from him.

There is no stress-free way for a child to be placed in foster care.  Abuse or neglect leads up to the removal and the removal itself can be very distressing.  Just like the contestants in a contrived TV show, these kids long for reliable food, safety, and most of all to not feel alone.  In many cases, every effort should be made to keep sibling groups together.  As you can envision, not all foster families have the ability to accept multiple children at a time.  How sad for the toddler boy who looks over his shoulder and doesn’t see his sister. He reaches for the hand he knows, and it is not there. That satellite phone seems like a luxury in life’s true survival situations.

Psalm 68:6 tells us, “God sets the lonely in families.”  We think the foster family must be where God is setting them, but truly, if children have siblings, then in some regards they already have part of the family to not feel lonely.  Nightlight’s Homes for Hope house is making an effort to ensure that siblings stay together during those initial nights, when fear grips as if wild animals lurked outside.  Having a home devoted to emergency sibling placements is a safeguard against the fear and loneliness throughout the transition.  If adult survivalists use the satellite phone to get to their family, how much more do children need family in their reality?

Nightlight and Adams County Social Services have opened two homes designed to provide safety, comfort, and security to children in foster care at a time when they are most vulnerable: immediately after being removed from their family. This new model of foster care, called Homes for Hope, is designed to provide temporary foster care for children in emergency situations. A large focus of the program will be keeping sibling sets together. To learn more about Homes for Hope or the process to become a foster family contact Meaghan Nally at mnally@nightlight.org, call (970)663-6799 or visit https://www.nightlight.org/colorado-homes-for-hope-program/.

Book Recommendation for Adoptive Parents

 

When you work in the field of adoption for more than 25 years, you get to read a lot of adoption-related books.  Some books stand the test of time and have such broad application to not only adoptive families but all families. The books that address attachment issues perhaps are the most regarded because attachment is critical to forming healthy relationships.

There are two essential types of attachment: parent-child and romantic. To find a set of authors who address the foundational issues in forming healthy attachments in an easy-to-understand manner and from a Christian perspective is a true gift.

This gift is brought to you by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. In a non-judgmental tone, this husband and wife team address what they call “Love Styles” in two books, How We Love, which addresses the marital relationship; and How We Love Our Kids, which addresses parenting. The books are truly companions because the Yerkoviches guide the readers to look at their own childhood issues and how their pasts are affecting their marriage relationship as well as their parenting style.

We adoption professionals believe there is a certain type of parenting style that must be employed when raising an adopted child—especially a child who has experienced trauma. Many of the principles used to parent such a child can and should be used in parenting any child. The Yerkoviches ask the reader to do some of the hard work of looking inward and to make changes to bring about positive changes in the relationships with their partner and children.

The Yerkoviches use terms that are familiar to those who understand attachment parlance—only with a twist. So instead of attachment style, they refer to one’s “love style.” They also list various styles of attachment but use different terms that some may find friendlier and easier to understand.

The authors gently bring the Gospel into the conversation—not with a Sunday school lesson dropped over secular research. Instead, they require the partner or parent to look inward and upward as a means of becoming aware of the negative and protective traits we carry into important relationships as adults. This needs to be part of the reader’s sanctification process for true healing to take place.

Not only do the Yerkoviches write compelling books, they also provide free of charge an online attachment assessment what they call a Love Style Quiz . While there is only one scientifically validated attachment assessment called the Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) that can cost a client anywhere from $100 to $1,000, this quiz appears to be reliable as it asks some key questions leading to seemingly insightful results. There is even a chart to see what happens when one partner has one love style and the other spouse another. Some of us at Nightlight whose attachment styles were evaluated using the AAI have also gone online and taken the Lovey Style Quiz. We found the results remarkably close to the AAI.

In addition, we suggest you take time to listen to one of the best of 2018’s broadcasts on Focus on the Family “Exploring Your Love Style” by the Yerkoviches.

Many highly regarded marriage and family professionals endorse the Yerkoviches’ books and resources. Take the time to explore more of the How We Love information and products.  As someone interested in adoption, make sure these compelling books enter your library.

The Reason I Became a Social Worker

When I was 11 years old, I was watching a television program about a child who had been abused.  That child was talking with an adult, likely a social worker, though I was not familiar with the term at the time.  I knew right then that I wanted to do what that woman was doing.  I wanted to help children, but I had no idea what that would look like.  When I went to college, I started as a psychology major.  Psychology was the only field I was aware of that would get me to my goal.  At my university the psychology degree was very research based.  As I began studying in that field, it just didn’t fit.  I went to see my college advisor and she said, “Describe to me what you want to do.”  After I told her, she said, “It sounds to me like you want to do social work.”  To which I answered, “What’s that?”

She sent me to the social work department at the university to meet with the dean.  After talking with the dean, I knew that this was the right fit.  As I continued in my studies, often when I would tell others what I was studying, they would make a face or comment on how little money I would make in that field.  Those things didn’t matter to me.  I just knew that God had called me to help people and social work was the best way for me to do that.

Over the years, I have worked for child protective services, community development, therapeutic foster care, adoption, and I even did a short stint in hospice.  I have gained a lot of experience and dealt with some extremely difficult situations, but I have never regretted my decision to pursue social work. Social work is not easy.  It is often a thankless job with low pay, high caseloads, and high stress.  If you know a social worker, take the time to thank her or honor her this month (Social Work Month).  Let her know that she is appreciated.

In my very first social work job after college, I attended a training where the person instructed all of the attendees to begin a “warm fuzzy file”.  She said that we would have discouraging days and we would need to keep reminders of all of our good days.  I took her advice, and I have traveled from job to job with that file.  I now have a Masters in Social Work and have been working in the field for 21 years.  My “warm fuzzy file” is stuffed to overflowing, and I am so grateful for that trainer’s advice.  Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I pull it out and read notes and look at photos.  It helps me to continue and not give up.

 

 

 

 

 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Frozen, but Not Forgotten – A Story about Embryo Adoption

 

Nate Birt and his wife Julie adopted frozen embryos through Nightlight’s Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program in 2017. In 2018, Julie gave birth to their adoptive daughter, Phoebe, from those little frozen embryos. Birt’s new book, Frozen, But Not Forgotten, provides potential adopting families with everything they need to know about the embryo adoption process. This is their testimony of their adoption experience.

I never expected to adopt. The concept wasn’t completely foreign—my wife, Julie, and I had discussed the possibility of adopting or fostering before we were married. But three years into building our family, we welcomed our first biological son, then a second, then a third.

Our interest in embryo adoption began with Julie’s work as a researcher in an obstetrics lab. As part of her studies, she witnessed firsthand the amazingly complex design of each embryo. We also knew of families within our circle of friends who had successfully adopted embryos. To be honest, the concept struck me as odd the first time I heard about it. When I suggested to my wife that we try for a fourth child, she replied, “Yes, but only through embryo adoption.”

Her comment took me off guard, and more than that, the conviction with which she said it. I’m not sure why. It shouldn’t have been a surprise given our history and our support of an adoption-funding organization that has helped many friends. I’m ashamed I didn’t appreciate the gift and honor of adoption back then.

I do now. More than ever.

Many families face infertility and remain steadfast in their faith throughout what I can only imagine must be a heart-wrenching journey. So why had God given us three of our own—yet planted the seed of adoption in our hearts? The answer was simple. We loved our biological children dearly, yet having come from large families, we had even more love to give.

By adopting embryos (we were blessed with three), we could give these children a chance at life. We made it clear to our prospective placing family in our letter of introduction that we had overflowing hope for these precious souls.

“Who knows what they might grow up to become—and how they might change the world for good,” we wrote.

Two years after beginning our adoption journey, we welcomed little Phoebe into our lives. (She was the one of which survived the thaw.) We committed to our incredible placing family that we would maintain an open adoption with regular correspondence and the possibility of an in-person visit in the future. Little did we know they lived less than two hours from our home, creating a perfect environment for nurturing a close relationship as our daughter grows up.

In short order, we began exchanging emails, following each other on social media, and generally sharing encouragement. Within two months of Phoebe’s arrival, our placing family had invited us over for a barbecue. It was a celebration I will never forget—of a family who loved its embryo babies so much that it kept them safe until the right time to place them; of our growing family finding its way with adoption; and of a strawberry-blond baby girl who fulfilled my wildest dream of being a daddy to a daughter.

Embryo adoption, as I imagine is true with any adoption, comes with risk and can be emotionally taxing. But if you seek children and the chance to demonstrate and receive love like never before, I urge you: Pursue it.

That clump of cells is a person. And that person will forever change your world for the better.

To learn more about the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit Snowflakes.org or call our Colorado office at 970-663-6799.

Ways to Love a Birth Mom

All the chocolate has been consumed. All the flowers purchased and delivered. All the cards and kind messages relayed to loved ones. As February is drawing to an end, what better time to reflect on what it looks like to love others well in the coming year. As adoptive parents, you often have special people to love that would not have otherwise crossed your paths if it weren’t for adoption. Whether you are still waiting to meet your child’s birth mother or whether you’re walking through life with her already, here are some practical ways you can actively and genuinely love the women in your lives that made the sacrificial choice of adoption and, thus, have become a special part of your family.

  1. Pray. Pray daily for your child’s birth mother. Pray that she would grow in wisdom. Pray that she would know God’s presence and be comforted by His great love for her. Pray that she would be strengthened by His spirit and that any shame or guilt would be laid to rest through Christ’s love and fondness for her. Set aside a special time each day—maybe the hour your child was born or the hour you first met your child’s birth mother—to specifically and earnestly pray for her.
  2. Give. Give your time, especially. Give a listening ear. Give a photo when you promised to send one. Give a special gift on certain days throughout the year. Give validation where it is needed. Birth mothers experience a variety of different thoughts and emotions that are often hard for them to process and express. Validate her fears when they are expressed to you. Validate her sadness and grief. Validate her efforts to remain connected with your child. Validate her value and worth as an individual. Validate her gifts and talents as they become evident to you.
  3. Pay attention. Whether you already know your child’s birth mother or are just beginning to get to know her, take time to understand what makes her feel loved, valued, respected, and cherished. Does she respond well to words of affirmation or prefer receiving gifts? Does she enjoy spending quality time or appreciate acts of service? Be attentive to her needs as an individual and seek to meet them in notable ways. Write a note to her detailing what you love or value about her. Send a bouquet of flowers to her unexpectedly one day. Speak to her as a friend. Really pay attention to what she says and value the opportunity to learn from her.
  4. Do what you say you’re going to do. Birth mothers have often had people in their lives make promises that are left unfulfilled. You can imagine how wounding that can be over time. Overcommitting can often lead to even more heartbreak, grief, and rejection for birth mothers. That is why it is absolutely crucial to avoid overcommitting and only say what you’re actually willing to do. Let your yes be your yes, and your no be your no. If you say you’ll send pictures, send them as you promised. If you agreed to meet up before the birth, make time to meet her! If you told her you would write a letter a few times a year, make sure the letters make it to her.
  5. Empathize. Social researcher, Dr. Brené Brown, made an important distinction when saying that empathy fuels connection, whereas sympathy drives disconnection. Connection is always the goal—for adoptive parents, birth parents, and children. So, when listening to the stories, thoughts, or feelings of these courageous women, try focusing on empathizing—feeling with them rather feeling sorry for them. For more on the distinction Dr. Brown makes and why empathy holds so much more power when connecting with not just birth mothers, but also others with whom we interact each day, I would encourage you to watch this short video.