Adoption or trying for birth children – which should I do first?

All we actually know is that God has us in His hands. We can trust him for the path ahead.

Recently, some friends of ours shared the joyful news that they’re expecting their first child.

I was excited for them, not just because of the obvious, but because this couple never assumed that birth children were a given, and had been praying about adoption too, wondering which route they should try first. Through all the pros and cons that we discussed, one thing was clear: God would guide them one way or the other.

In the full knowledge that fertility is not something we can take for granted, my friends committed the growth of their family to Him, with an openness that He requires in every area of our lives, and now He is growing a new life inside Mum.

Of course it doesn’t always work this way – every situation is different. But with Home for Good raising the profile of adoption and fostering amongst Christians, it’s no surprise that more and more younger people are sensing God’s heart for vulnerable children before they’re in a position to start a family. So while each situation is different, I believe that the dilemma is similar.

Perhaps you’re thinking something along these lines:

“We’re sensing God’s heart for adoption. But we’re young – we don’t yet know whether we could have birth children. We think we’d like to have a birth child if we’re able. What should we do?”

Not everyone, of course, has the option of making this decision. If you're reading this while on a difficult or unexpected journey in which doors seem to have closed, I pray that you're being well supported by your family and friends.

For those of you currently weighing up different options, then I hope these thoughts are helpful as you pray and discuss this with your spouse, parents or close friends.

The first consideration is timing. There’s no getting away from our biological clocks, and – although there are never any guarantees – we all know that our ability to conceive reduces with age. I know a couple who adopted in their mid-20s, and went on to have two birth children – no problem.

But the couple I mentioned in the opening paragraphs are in their early 30s, so one concern was that if they adopted first, the option of having birth children might be snatched from them. However, they were very realistic about the possibility that they might not be able to have birth children at all, in which case they would have pursued adoption with joy. When making this decision, do think practically as well as prayerfully.

Another consideration is whether you are drawn to adopting a particular aged child. There is a huge need for adopters of children aged three and over – but it’s recommended that any birth children you already have are older than the child you’re going to adopt, and usually by at least two years. Whilst there are exceptions to this rule, if you feel you could adopt an older child, you might want to consider adoption first, or if you have birth children first, whether you’re prepared to wait until the youngest is at least five.

It’s no secret that many adopted children struggle with things that birth children take for granted. I wrote here about the impact of the trauma that affects all adopted children, even if they’ve never been abused or neglected. From this point of view, to have a birth child first can potentially mean that younger siblings have an older role model to look up to, who has always known security and love.

From personal experience, it’s a great help that, although our adopted boys struggle to manage their emotions and have many triggers that we can’t always predict, they adore their older siblings (our birth children) and seek to emulate them in many ways. We didn’t hear God’s challenge to adopt until just after our second birth child was born, so the order of our children wasn’t a conscious decision, but it shows that God knew what He was doing in our family!

It’s also worth considering whether you really want birth children, or whether you’re just succumbing to the wishes of those around you. You may simply not feel a desire to experience pregnancy and childbirth, or to fulfil the cultural 'norm' of having birth children, and that’s ok. Perhaps you feel a strong call to care for a child who already exists.

In that case, consider whether you can perhaps adopt an older child or a sibling group, who often have to wait longer for their forever family.

I know a family in this situation, and they now have an adopted son and no desire for birth children. Friends of theirs adopted first, because they wanted their adopted son to always have assurance that he was their first thought. They then went on to have a birth child.

Adopting always carries with it a level of uncertainty, and one aspect is whether more siblings would be advisable. Some children have a profile which reads, “Needs to be an only child” or “Needs to be the youngest in the family”, due to what they’ve experienced and the level of therapeutic parenting/attention anticipated.

But other children have profiles with no such stipulation – yet, after a few months of parenting them, you may feel that it simply wouldn’t be right to have any more children.

Anyone choosing to adopt first would need to be able to hold lightly onto the idea of going on to have birth children (or adopt again), just in case it was felt that it wouldn’t be in their adopted child’s interests.

But remember that there are no guarantees with birth children either. Consider what might happen if a birth child is born with additional needs, which would then cause you to have to rethink your family size and type. Will you be dissatisfied with not having been able to adopt?

An excellent principle which underlies all this is that only God can see the future. Whilst we might dream of this family or that family, all we actually know is that God has us in His hands. We can trust him for the path ahead.

We can be confident that God is good and will guide us in His perfect ways. Our families certainly won’t look ‘perfect’ to the world, but they will reflect God’s perfect heart as He showers love on all of His children – us included.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

Author:
Written for Home for Good by Lucy Rycroft (LucyRycroft.com)


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