Dear Mr. Dad: After trying for several years to conceive the “regular” way, my wife and I decided to adopt. She’s super excited and has already started outfitting the nursery and buying baby clothes. I’d like to share her joy, but, honestly, I’m feeling a little depressed. Is there something wrong with me?
A: Nope, nothing wrong with you. Think about it this way. The time between your decision to adopt and the actual arrival of your child could be considered a “psychological pregnancy.” Of course, unlike a biological pregnancy, you won’t usually know exactly how long it’s going to take from beginning to end. But what’s interesting is that most expectant adoptive parents go through an emotional progression similar to that of expectant biological parents, says adoption educator Carol Hallenbeck. The first step is what Hallenbeck calls “adoption validation,” which basically means coming to terms with the idea that you’re going to become a parent through adoption instead of through “regular” means.
This might seem straightforward, but it’s usually not. Researcher Rachel Levy-Shiff found that for many parents, adoption is a second choice, a decision—like yours—that is reached only after years of unsuccessfully trying to conceive on their own and years of disappointments and intrusive, expensive medical procedures. Infertility can make you question your self-image, undermine your sense of masculinity (how can I be a man if I can’t get my partner pregnant?), force you to confront your shattered dreams, and can take a terrible toll on your relationship. That’s enough to depress anyone. If you’re having trouble accepting the fact that you won’t be having biologically related children, talk to some other people about what you’re feeling. Your partner certainly has a right to know. Even though she’s very excited, she’s probably feeling a lot of similar things.