Adoption changes the way in which parents prepare for a child. When you are preparing to have a child biologically, you typically have 9 months to think about your registry, what you might need, and time for friends and family to offer to throw you a baby shower where you get many of the items you might need to bring home a new addition.
If you are adding to your family through domestic infant adoption, many prospective adoptive parents struggle with whether and when it is appropriate to have a baby shower, but at the same time they could really use the baby items and the support from friends and family before they take home their child. Especially since prospective adoptive parents are likely already spending a lot of money on their adoption (see this info about The Truth About Adoption Costs). So, I do think prospective adoptive parents should consider having an adoption baby shower, but I think the timing of that shower is really important.
Personally, I didn’t have a baby shower before we adopted my daughter Cora, and I found I was constantly running to Buy Buy Baby, Target or having an Amazon delivery those first few days and weeks that she was home. Through no fault of their own, none of my friends or family offered to have a shower before our adoption, in part because we were the first of our close friends to grow our families this way and I’m sure they (like us) were naïve and didn’t know whether to offer or what to say on the subject. Our path in adoption was also relatively quick, not giving friends or family much time to learn about or really absorb our adoption journey and what that might entail. We started the home study process in April 2015, were certified to adopt and matched with an expectant mother in August 2015, our match disrupted in October 2015 and we matched with our daughter’s birth mother only one week before Cora was born in December 2015. Many wonderful friends and family hosted Sip and See Showers after she had arrived and that was so helpful for gathering books, clothes and toys as she grew older, but we did have to purchase many of the large, staples well before that shower took place.
Based on my own personal experience, and my frantic gathering of baby items in the first few weeks of Cora’s life, I have the following ideas about whether and when to have a baby shower:
Considering having a shower BEFORE you start the process of matching with an expectant mother, ideally while you’re in the home study process or right when you begin the search for your child
I recommend having a baby shower during the home study process because it can really serve a few different purposes. You can share your journey to grow your family through adoption at this shower, including educating friends and family about the process (including Positive Adoption Language, the Basic Steps in an Adoption, 5 Adoption Myths, Respect and Empathy for Expectant Mothers, and an Adoptive Parent’s Labor) and you can even use it as a way to start planting the seed and starting your own adoption outreach, which could ultimately lead to a self-match. And of course you can gather all that necessary and expensive baby items and gain that love, support and community from friends and family excited that you’ll be growing your family, even though you might now know exactly when. I would work closely with your shower host on the invitation, making clear that you are starting the journey but that you have not yet identified your child. Because of that, the invitation should encourage gender-neutral items, and also items that can be used no matter what season the child is born in. It could also include a link to an adoption website, where you describe your journey, your reasons for pursuing adoption, and some basic information about what your journey might look like. That way, you are educating and preparing them for adoption, at the same time reminding them of you if they come across someone that might be considering an adoption plan for their child. If you are doing any sort of adoption fundraising, families can include links to their fundraising pages, or even encourage tax deductible donations to your adoption through programs like AdoptTogether.
As for the registry itself, there are so many gender neutral things you can register for: car seats, strollers, Pack N’ Plays, swaddles, boppy’s, burp clothes, baby wearing wraps, bottles, diapers, teethers, and wipes are all things perfect for this type of shower. Basic white onesies in short-sleeved and long sleeves are good for every newborn baby. You might also consider encouraging guests to give money or gift cards. Some people will not feel comfortable recommending cash, but I think it is totally acceptable for adoptive parents to say, “We don’t know exactly what this child will need yet, so Target/Walmart/Amazon/Visa gift cards would also be tremendously helpful.”
I would NOT recommend hosting a shower after you have been “chosen” by or “matched” with an expectant family
As parents through adoption, being chosen is an amazing step in the adoption process, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that is going to be your child. Many adoptive families are chosen at some time during an expectant mother’s pregnancy and there may be weeks or months where you are expecting and preparing to adopt a specific child, but that child is in no way yours yet, and that expectant mother has every right to change her mind and decide to parent the child at that point. We were matched to adopt a baby boy, and even went out and bought a bunch of blue/baby boy items. Then it disrupted, and we ended up using a blue carseat and stroller for our baby girls. Because of that, I don’t recommend hosting the baby shower after a match, or in connection with any specific baby. Adoption disruptions happen frequently, can happen at any time during the match, and they can be really painful. It is very possible that that particular match might not work out and you might even be adopting a child of a different gender. So, to avoid unnecessary pain associated with the already difficult adoption process, I would either recommend hosting the shower before you begin the matching process, or after your child arrives and irrevocable consents are signed.
Consider having a baby shower or “Sip and See” after you’ve taken home your child through adoption
As I mentioned before, some amazing friends offered to host a “sip and see” for me after we took home our daughter Cora. It was held a few months after she was born, and many of our friends and family hadn’t met her yet until that day. In order to avoid passing her around and exposing her to too many germs at a young age, my husband took her out of our home for a few hours, but brought her back at the end of the shower so that everyone could at least see her quickly. We had such a special day, and friends and family were so generous with gifts, clothes, books and toys. I was still pretty naïve about adoption at the time, but I wish I would have used that sip and see to educate people about adoption as well. That would have prepared me better for some of the common phrases you’ll hear as an adoptive parent, and might have helped me learn earlier how to answer questions to friends and family, but still protect my child’s adoption story.
But to sum it up, you deserve to be celebrated too!
Sometimes parents through adoption miss out on some of the things bringing home a child biologically. There may not be gender reveals, ultrasounds, birthing classes, 9 months of bonding while that child is in your womb or breastfeeding. But, there is no reason you should miss out on the baby shower too! COVID has changed the way many people are dealing with baby showers during the pandemic, but I have seen many successful drive-by baby showers where families can still celebrate the new addition and get some much needed baby items! ! I would just consider carefully the timing of your shower and then use your shower as a way to educate friends and family about the uniqueness of growing your family through adoption!