Why did you adopt an older child

This is How Adopting a Child is: The Honest Experience of an Adoptive Mother

Wanting to adopt a child is a very personal decision and can arise for a variety of reasons. Before making a decision, one would like to know what differences or challenges there may be with regard to bringing up a biological child. Personal experiences of adoptive parents are always helpful. With us, a mother of two adopted children talks openly and honestly about her emotional journey and the first steps towards being a parent.

Sabine's * husband (42 years old) always wanted children. With Sabine (37 years old) this wish only really came up when she was 25 years old. After a long phase of trying to get pregnant naturally and an exhausting and painful fertility therapy with several IUIs, an IVF and an ICSI, they said goodbye to the desire to have a biological child.

Sabine now has a happy little family of four with her husband and is the mother of Finn (6 years) and Johannah (4 years). In the conversation she gives you an insight into what it was like to adopt a child and what fears, questions and feelings accompanied her and her partner.

When did it become clear to you that you wanted to adopt a child and how did you feel during this decision-making process?

Strangely enough, it was my decision from the beginning that an adoption would be possible after three years at the latest. Adopting a child was plan B and it was feeling good. The IUI’s (Intrauterine Insemination) were extraordinarily painful for me, the IVF went wrong - it was clear that I didn't want to continue torturing myself. But we didn't switch directly from artificial insemination to adoption. We first moved and took advice from the youth welfare office. The adoption story was promising as we lived in a big city. The chances of success of the adoption were simply higher than with a new artificial insemination. We had the feeling that things were going well and that we could just live normally on the side. The decision was entirely up to me. My partner basically supported me and followed my path.

Did you actually have psychological help or were there situations where you needed to talk?

When we had the IUIs, I only had a few conversations with the clinic's psychological service. But we didn't have really deep psychological support. In retrospect, I would say that support from the family service, for example, would have been good. But at that time we didn't know anything about it and unfortunately the first youth welfare office didn't point it out either.

What type of adoption did you choose and what were the chances of having a newborn?

I would have liked to have had an open adoption. My husband would prefer to be as anonymous as possible, he probably would have even taken a child out of the baby hatch. For me, however, it has always been important how the children feel and what emotional and psychological problems the anonymous forms bring with them. In D. (city) we were practically taught that loose contact with the birth parents is good for the children so that they do not develop any fantasies about their birth parents. We then decided on half-open adoption because that is in the middle, with the possibility of contact no more than once a year. In the end, however, there were two half-open adoptions without contact with the birth parents.

We applied for a newborn with both children. The reason behind this for both children was pretty selfish: The child should bring as little luggage as possible.

With a newborn baby you can grow into the parenting role yourself, with an older child you would have to bring a lot more skills with you. In D. it was not a problem either, it was relatively normal to adopt a newborn. The youth welfare office there had different views than in J. (city) and placed the children as directly as possible with the target family. The age difference between parent and child should not exceed 40 years, i.e. couples with an average age over 40 should adopt an older child. But that wasn't the case with us, so there wasn't much discussion. There are enough babies in a big city, only the waiting time varies from year to year.

You adopted two children at two different youth welfare offices. What experiences and official hurdles did you encounter on the way?

In principle there are no uniform regulations, but each youth welfare office works at its own discretion. Most of them adhere to the 40-year rule, but here, too, it is basically at the discretion of the assigned clerk. In D. the youth welfare office has a relatively large number of employees, in J. there is only one clerk who then connects with the employees of the surrounding districts. In addition, we were told at the first adoption that the children should be placed as directly as possible with the target family. In J., the child usually only came to a foster family until the 8-week period has passed. During this time, the birth mother can still revoke the adoption at any time without giving reasons and without examination.

The preparatory seminars to adopt the child were also very different. During the first adoption process, we were told many positive stories and the second was more focused on potential problems. I think we were really well informed. Accompanied, I wouldn't say so now. We have an extremely good relationship with the clerk in our current city. She is always there with problems and tries to help. More money is simply invested there for adoptive families, there are family celebrations, further training courses with top-class speakers like Bettina Bonus and adoptive parents' get-togethers. In the previous city you just noticed that they would like to take care of themselves, but the time is not there. There was no aftercare there either.

The biggest challenge for me was to come to terms with the fact that you have to disclose everything in front of complete strangers, such as salary slips and Co. I understand, however, that you are looking for the most stable future possible for the children who already bring a package, so that's why probably necessary.

How did you feel until it became clear that you were on the adoption list and that the news can come every day that a baby is waiting for you?

I was very euphoric the whole time. That was the weirdest and craziest thing in my life until then. On the other hand, for us it was somehow just part of it. You take small steps - register for an initial interview, have various conversations, go to seminars, etc. So you can slowly get used to it.

The moment was actually strange when you couldn't do anything anymore because you were recognized. D. always said that they drag the process as long as possible so that you don't have to wait long. Then, however, you suddenly ask yourself whether you should go on vacation again quickly or rather not ... Live on as if nothing was ... You feel a bit paranoid. You think about what you should buy or whether that will be enough when the child is there. There are also practical questions like “How do I make sure that the youth welfare office doesn't forget me, but I'm not annoying either?” So you always write a card. There is already a relatively high level of uncertainty.

When was your son at home with you and how long did it take until he was officially (officially) part of your family?

We knew about Finn 14 days before his due date. That was a comparatively long lead time and we were at least able to plan halfway at work, get things and organize a midwife. It was still exciting because the youth welfare office said that they should not ask, but wait for the information from their birth mother after the birth.

Fortunately, he kept his appointment and we found out before the birth that it was going to start. That was a Friday then. But then the youth welfare office couldn't come to Finn. So we had to wait until Monday and sat with brunch on Sunday and thought of "our child". At around 9 a.m. on Monday the call finally came that we should come to the hospital. The next few hours were just amazing and overwhelming.

Because the little one still had to be examined in detail, since the birth mother had not made any preventive measures, we had to stay one more night and spend the night in the intensive care unit. So he was there without us two days before. It was then that I realized for the first time how stupid it must be if you lose your family right after the birth and despite the great happiness for us, I was very sad for him.

The adoption process then took less than a year before we received his adoption certificate. You then have about once a month a visit from or contact with the youth welfare office.

When did it become clear to you that you wanted to take in a second child? Did you talk to Finn about it before?

Since we basically wanted three children, it was relatively clear that we wanted to apply for a second child. We didn't know how things were going in J. and contacted the youth welfare office relatively quickly after our move when Finn was one and a half years old. At first we didn't tell him anything, but then there comes a phase where the children always talk about babies anyway. We asked him if he would like a sibling one day and that we would speak to our clerk so that she would choose one for us.

You only met Johannah at the age of eight months. How was everything different when they were adopted?

Before we got to know her, there were several intense conversations in which we first heard her story and only later did we see a picture of her. In many ways that was absolutely unexpected, because we didn't expect a suggestion anytime soon and actually wanted a newborn baby.

Johannah was first with her birth mother for a long time and then with a foster family. So it was not within my narrow range of choices. But my partner was immediately in favor of getting to know her, and I wrestled with myself for a long time and was exhausted. I thought it was too early because Finn was only three years old and I had only worked in my company for two years. But the support provided by the youth welfare office was much better emotionally. The good thing was that the clerk sensed exactly what my concerns were and gave the right advice. Ultimately, she chose the child really well for us (or maybe more Johannah, more us ...)

Moving in was the hardest part. We had three weeks of preparation during which we had to take the rest of our vacation and otherwise had to work. Our focus was on getting Finn involved and we did every other visit with him. Since he is a total mummy child, Johannah was very, very much with my husband in the beginning. He really enjoyed having “a child for himself” now. I was very taken with Finn (dethronement) and tried as best I could to deal with her.

She was very adapted and only had a very deep, rarely used voice. When she fell asleep, she just turned around, didn't want to be touched and fell asleep within two minutes. That broke my heart many times. We then gradually showed her how to cuddle and that you can enjoy it.

The little one was so happy that she could just be there and someone would deal with her - that in turn made us incredibly happy. Since she has some physical limitations that weren't addressed quickly enough after giving birth, we had a lot of stress with doctor's appointments.

As a result, I couldn't develop a close emotional bond as quickly as with the first child because I had so many things to deal with at the same time. I always hoped that the heavy wearing would make sure that she would still bond to us - and since she is such a great, insanely resilient person, she actually made it. It was very lucky for all of us.

For me it took half a year before I was sure that I would not give it up again. Up until then, there were moments when I thought I would actually give it back if someone asked for it.

That was probably the toughest admission I've ever made, because I never had the slightest feeling about Finn. He was my child even before he was born. But the overall circumstances of the second were so harsh that sometimes I couldn't remember why we were doing this to each other.

Is there something that you would have liked to have known beforehand or were there things that were not so clear to you before? These experiences can certainly help other potential adoptive parents.

Our current clerk says that having an adopted child is as exhausting as having two biological children, and so far she seems to be right. This is not at all due to the child itself, but to the conditions over which one has no influence. In the case of Finn, for example, it is still somewhat unclear whether alcohol during pregnancy had an influence on him or not. With Johannah we still do osteophathy, physiotherapy and speech therapy on a regular basis because of her muscular problems, which probably simply should have been fixed quickly and quietly right after the birth.

I was not aware of the many places where genetics are queried (ophthalmologist, ear specialist, allergies ...) and that you cannot establish a direct line to other mothers after the birth because you do not have the same topics and have not been in any preparatory course.

Breastfeeding is, of course, less interesting, or that as an adoptive mother you are totally fit and able to run while exercising with the baby, while everyone else cannot.

What advice would you give to other parents considering adopting a child?

My advice is that you should definitely go to the youth welfare office and get advice if you want a child. I have often heard that someone does not dare, but you should be open and see how things are going before rejecting it. But it is important to realize that the child may need more time and attention than other children. You should definitely be prepared to cut back on your own working hours or career, because adopted children are more likely to need a lot of closeness and attachment in order to feel safe.

Many thanks, Sabine, for the personal insights and experiences!

* Our interview partner would like to remain anonymous in order to protect her family. Your name and the names of the children are fictional.

Image source: Getty Images / Liderina

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