I want to adopt another child. My husband doesn’t.

Guest post by Jennifer
Waiting for You Adoption Signs by StarStreamDesign

Five years ago, my husband and I began the process for adoption out of the foster care system. Our intent was to adopt a sibling group (two to three children). We’d been through a few miscarriages, and my doctors were sure my combination of medical conditions made pregnancy impossible to sustain.

Surprise! I got pregnant. (I was on birth control pills for THREE pregnancies, folks. I took it correctly, but it just doesn’t work for everyone. It also won’t work if you’re on antibiotics, and some other meds. Make sure you know you’re protected!) The pregnancy was hell, but I survived. And my daughter was born in 2013. She’s an actual miracle. We’re the luckiest people alive.

But, not-so-surprisingly, my pregnancy and her birth derailed our adoption plans. Now my daughter is four years old.

We have no intention of trying for another biological child, and have taken permanent steps to prevent it. The pregnancy was high-risk and miserable, and a miscarriage would be even harder now that we know what we’ll be missing. All that said… here’s my problem:

I want to adopt another child. My husband doesn’t want to adopt another child.

My husband carries the burden of parenthood with much less ease than I do. He’s the best dad I’ve ever seen— truly incredible — but the worry and stress associated with it really wears on him. He’s scared that adding child number two would double that burden. And, knowing what I know about raising kids, I can’t assure him it won’t. It very well might.

I have motherhood in my DNA. It’s the best and most fulfilling thing that I’ve ever done. I’ve always been a caregiver; that’s just my personality. And I feel guilty even thinking that my daughter isn’t “enough,” but I do feel that I’m meant to mother more than one child. I want my daughter to have a sibling. It’s incredibly important to me.

We’re at an impasse. We fundamentally disagree, and we completely respect each other’s feelings on the subject. A mediator or therapist seems unnecessary, since we’re already completely open about our thoughts and feelings with one another. We just don’t agree.

One of us is going to “lose” the argument here, and I don’t know how to cope. In 13 years together, we’ve never been in a situation where we could not reach an agreement.

Has anyone else been in this situation? How did it feel to “lose” and/or how did it feel to “win?” Are there any other outcomes?

Comments on I want to adopt another child. My husband doesn’t.

  1. Maybe you guys should try fostering a child for a while to see how the dynamic works. It would let your husband see how having two kids feels, and let you see how hard it can be. It may set both of you stronger in your ways, or it may change on of your minds. When in doubt, I believe the person who wants fewer kids should be respected. You don’t want to raise a child who is secretly resented by one of the parents. Good luck!!

  2. As an adoptive (and bio too!) mom, I would encourage you to wait until your husband is on board. Adoption is really hard for everyone involved – yes, its awesome but its so hard – especially the process and the first year. You will need your husband to want to be a part of it or it could tear you both up.

    speaking from experience, the first time we adopted, we lost our family, our friends and our church…. so we were completely on our own. No one was happy for us at all and a lot said very hateful things about our child and asked why we would ruin our family by adopting. If we both hadn’t been 100% in it, then I don’t think we would have survived.

    And the first 6 months were hell…. it was awful and when one of us needed a break, the other stepped in. Neither of us could have managed on our own.

    Now our second adoption was much easier but still super hard and again, we didn’t have any real support but each other…..

    I cant say this will be your experience – maybe you will have a supportive community – we thought we would to when we first started, but really when it comes to your family you can only count on you and your husband to be there for each other and for this child, and if your (or your husbands) heart isn’t in it, it isn’t fair to either of you or your first daughter or your new adopted child.

    I had to wait for my husband to come around on both of our adoptions, but he did and he is an amazing father… but there is no way I would have survived without him there wholehearted…. so I know your pain, and I know how hard it is, but it will be worth it when you both can go into it whole and ready

    just my 2 cents….

    (all that to say that although the first year of our first adoption was hell, we persisted together and didn’t give up and now we have 4 amazing children – 2 bio, 2 adopted and we love our family….it was so worth all the hard)

    • People said hateful things and that you were ruining your family by adopting? SERIOUSLY?! I really can’t get my head around how people could be so horrible, especially if you considered them friends 🙁

      If you don’t mind saying, what sort of objections did they have? I get adoption isn’t everyone’s first choice and people have many reasons why they personally wouldn’t go down that route, but it sounds like it was more than that with your community. They were commenting on YOUR choice, not making their own, and they must have felt very strongly to voice their opinions in such a nasty way. I’m baffled as to what their objections could have been, but maybe they had some valid points that could help the OP?

      • Most of our friends just asked us why we were adopting when we could have bio kids and distanced themselves from us. They were not happy at all that we were adopting when we could have “our own” kids and a lot of people just quit talking to us

        our family was the most vocal though about it – one family member even offered us a large sum of money to not adopt…. we were told that since this child was older and special needs that he would ruin our family, our marriage, our bio kids and our finances… pretty much this one child would ruin our whole lives… it was completely hateful and hurtful – and we had to distance ourselves from most of our family – which was our main support for us, we were very close before we decided to adopt

        It was very very hard on us realizing that we had almost no one who cared about us, our child and our family… or our happiness… it made us (me especially) very jaded about people in general… but we still wouldn’t trade any of that for any of our kids or the family we have now

        • That’s awful 🙁 It sounds like they voiced some valid concerns (as other posters have mentioned, adoption can sometimes be harder than having biological children), but in the worst possible way and with no regard to your feelings or the fact that you’d already considered everything and made an informed decision. I’m so sorry you had to go through that, and I hope anyone else whose family has concerns for them voices them in a supportive, respectful way. Good for you for staying strong and doing what was right for your family, both adopted and bio. I’m sure all your children are very lucky to have someone who loves them as much as you and your husband do.

          • thank you… any time we hear of others adopting, we try to offer as much support/friendship to them as we can so no one else has to go through what we did

        • “They were not happy at all that we were adopting when we could have “our own” kids”

          What, because there aren’t enough kids to go around!? Ugh how awful. Why would anyone NOT want a kid to have a home??

          • not sure about other places, but here its very deep cultural belief that adoption is only for people who cant have children biologically…. foster children and orphans have too many problems to bring into your house if you don’t need to

            its so sad and we believe the same thing that you mentioned – why would you deny a child who needs a home and a family when you have one to give?

  3. Here’s my experience on this issue, (which I think is super complex and very complicated and totally different for every individual, so I don’t necessarily expect it to apply!).

    I have an adopted brother and a bio brother. My parents adopted my brother when I was 13, and in the same year got pregnant when they thought they could not. I went from being an only child for 13 years to having to siblings within a year, which was pretty extreme. However, I was a pretty independent kid and a very independent teen so I helped out a lot when I was home, and otherwise had a job and busy social life and did my own thing. In many ways my teenage years were spent observing my parents raise these other children, and I was there just assisting on the sidelines because I wasn’t really a child anymore so I wasn’t really having the sibling “experience” in the same way most people do.

    The point of this is that I got to watch what it is like to raise an adopted child and a bio child in tandem. I think that those parents that are well equipped for adoption are truly awesome people, because it most cases, if you are adopting within the US or Canada (I’m assuming that’s the case since most people on this website are American, but apologies if that is not the case) it is going to be very hard, because poverty is not the main reason people cannot care for children. If you are adopting in Canada (like my family did) chances are this kid is going to be put up for adoption because their parent had issues with mental illness, substance abuse, or the child had disabilities that their bio parents were not prepared to cope with. It is statistically very likely that you will adopt a child with a high genetic predisposition to wide spectrum of tough issues to deal with. This is not meant to be a deterrent, cause these children all deserve love and homes FOR SURE, but is just something that needs to be understood. Raising adopted children is USUALLY more difficult than raising bio children, and people who adopt need to be prepared for that.

    My brother has very severe ADHD (in the top percentile, symptoms mirror some of those on the autism spectrum), a language based learning disability, depression, all seemingly inherited from his bio mom, and he definitely deals with trauma from his earliest years (he was officially adopted by us at the age of 5, admittedly adopting a baby would be different). My parents have spent almost 2 decades in and out of psychiatrists and doctors offices, advocating for my brother, spending many thousands of dollars on meds, treatments, assistive technology, special schools, special summer camps, etc. Their marriage was definitely tested to the limit and I know that my youngest (bio) brother who actually really grew up with my adopted brother deals with a lot of crappy stuff because of all the attention and focus that isn’t on him. I do think my parents have done a kick ass job, because they worked super hard to get my bro the help he needed, and partly due to my dad’s awesome benefits, free health care in Canada, and having a decent income. I don’t think they were at all prepared though, and my mom has definitely carried most of the weight because she was the most invested. I’m amazed that they have kept their marriage together.

    Mental illness runs in my family, and I have an anxiety disorder myself, and of course you can give birth to your own kids that have a whole gamut of issues, but the point is we have very little info about my brothers family history and what we do have on his fam is a long history of mental illness and alcoholism, and that is pretty typical, going by all the other children they considered adopting. And being adopted can be a confusing/terrifying thing for a kid regardless of their age, and helping a child adjust to this knowledge as they get older can be very hard.

    I think if someone is unsure about having children, it’s respectful to the unborn or unadopted child not to have them. Kids deserve to have parents that are all in, 100%. And adoption is likely going to be HARDER. So if it’s already hard, it seems like it could break your husband.

    Personally I have wanted to have children when I was growing up, but seeing my brother who is a young adult and is still super dependant on my parents in many ways, and everything they have gone through makes me realize that I my own mental illness would cause me to break under that pressure, and that I am not 100% down. And if you’re only 50/50 on whether or not to have children at all, or another child, it’s probably not enough. My spouse doesn’t want kids at all, and since I am on the fence and we act as a single unit, as many partners do, we won’t have kids. My feeling is that if one says yes (or maybe), and one says no, the only thing you can do is opt for inaction.

    • I can definitely see where you are coming from, but having kids biologically doesn’t mean they can’t/won’t develop medical issues.

      I’m a closed adoptee and, yes, my family and I are essentially flying blind when it comes to what could be on the horizon for me or what I could pass on — but even biologically when you and your partner mix you never know what could be lurking from several generations ago or when the two of you mix provides the perfect storm for rare genetic diseases.

  4. I’m sorry but I think you need to be the one to lose. Parenthood (or further parenthood) is not something anyone should taken on in order to appease their partner – no child deserves a parent who didn’t want them (especially these kids who have already lost their bio parents!)

    Maybe you can talk him into fostering? Which may well turn into an adoption if he totally falls in love with the child, but if it doesn’t, at least you still helped them. If not, maybe you can find some way to volunteer with children or otherwise express the extra maternal love you have to give. A pet, even 🙂

  5. “One of us is going to “lose” the argument here, and I don’t know how to cope.”

    While you two are totally open with your feelings, this sentence indicates (to me) might be a good reason to see a therapist, actually. It might help you adjust your point of view to not feel like there is a “winner” or a “loser” in this situation, and provide strategies to cope with disappointment without resenting your partner in the long run.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself, but I’m the one who’s putting on the brakes. My husband and I always wanted two children, but now that we have one, I’m not sure I do. Everyone says it’s normal to feel that way at the beginning, but it doesn’t seem to be fading. He still definitely wants a second kid. Many, many days I’m 100% no, some days it’s “probably no, but we’ll see”, and once in a while I think “maybe it could work”. But I find it more stressful than I expected, and I think my husband does too, albeit in ways that are less likely to change drastically with a second child (he stresses about the “what if I lost my job and couldn’t provide for us” kinds of things; I worry about “how can I do this again, but with the added pressure of another kid running around needing simultaneous attention”). It doesn’t help that we both struggle with anxiety.

    I didn’t love being pregnant, I had a relatively traumatic birth, and the newborn stage was overwhelming due to complications (mine) from birth. (Although I feel inexplicably sad that I might not get to experience those things again… perhaps because I feel like I know which parts to enjoy, or how to do it better, so I wish I could have a do-over?) But I don’t want to resent him (or the new baby) if things are that hard again.

    Our daughter is so incredible, and I feel like she has filled the “baby” void in my heart. I’m also worried, even though intellectually I know it’s not true, that I could never possibly love another child as much as I love her! (And I worry, more selfishly, about the fact that so far, she has been physically healthy and developmentally normative. What if we roll those dice again and our life is made immeasurably more complicated?) There are good reasons to have another (many of which are emotional & familial), and good reasons not to (many of which are pragmatic), and they can’t be objectively compared in any definitive way. I feel awful for moving the goalposts on our life plans, especially because there’s no such thing as compromise when it comes to having a child.

    Maybe I will want another. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe we’ll never have another child, and our family of 3 will be perfect and we’ll all be incredibly close and feel like our family is complete. Maybe we’ll have one anyway, and I’ll despise myself every time I feel the littlest bit of resentment when the hard days are compounded by having to juggle the needs of an infant and a toddler. Maybe we’ll never have another child, and someday we’ll look back and wish our daughter had had a sibling to bond with and to help her cope as we grow old. Maybe we’ll have one anyway and I’ll be overwhelmed by love for both my children, and everything will work itself out, and I’ll delight in watching them grow and play together.

    Or maybe it’s not either/or. Maybe there will be a little bit of everything, no matter what, and no way to escape the feeling that the grass is always greener. OP, I wish you the best of luck with your family planning decisions. That crossroad is a tough place to be.

  7. To be upfront, I am not a mother. I, too, have been told it would likely be impossible for me to get pregnant due to a medical condition. So I’ve thought about this a lot. When I was a kid, I had a foster brother. Who is my brother. No matter what. Love is thicker than blood. If you feel passionately about mothering kids, foster care for children who need love the most and haven’t gotten it, might be a good fit. And it might give your husband the chance to see what it might be like to parent more than one child. I’m the VP for my local CASA board. Becoming a CASA volunteer can be very rewarding. Again, giving support for a child who feels helpless.

    Having the instinct to love and protect children is a wonderful attribute.
    I love kids, but I don’t feel a desire to have any of my own. I’m a great aunt, though. This kind of caregiving is different, of course, but it’s so important. I hope somehow you guys can find a compromise!

  8. I’ve never adopted, but I am in a similar situation in that I desperately want more children, and my husband firmly does not. Digesting my own emotions about the topic, I can say without hesitation that therapy might really assist you, if nothing else, in either mediating the conflict, or assisting you with the grieving process this rift has caused in you/your relationship. You may also need to grieve a child your family may never know, and a therapist can help you walk through that valley. Best of luck!

  9. I feel like we are/will be in this same situation. I did not love being pregnant (except for that 1 month in the 2nd trimester that was great!) and I do not feel the urge to be pregnant or give birth again (although I could deal if it happened). I had major post partum depression and anxiety (that probably started during the end of the pregnancy). My husband and I are just not sure that we can/want to deal with that again (even if the situation were handled in the best possible ways). People used to ask us all the time if we wanted more kids/when we were going to have another… but that has all but stopped with people who truly know about our/my post partum situation. I am in the camp of probably wanting another child through foster-to-adopt through our county/state. I always used to say that if I had kids, I wanted 3. But, now I’m not so sure about that. 2 sounds better to me now! He is in the situation of possibly considering/maybe wanting to adopt an older child (the baby stage is definitely not his favorite!). I’m just not sure at this point how everything will or will not play out.

    I have an acquaintance that was in a similar situation (with the addition of a traumatic pre-term birth and long NICU stay for the baby) and they have decided to just have the 1 child (now 13yo). She said that they discussed foster care and adoption at length, but ultimately decided that they just could not do it. I wonder if there are other people with single kids who have similar stories and just don’t want to make them public. (although, I’m sure that there are also a lot of people that have 1 child by choice!)

  10. This was a big pain point for my brother and his wife with their biological children. They had three, including twins, and he was done. He hated the baby phase, it caused him a lot of emotional distress, and absolutely didn’t want to go through it again. She desperately felt like her family wouldn’t be complete without four. They were in a tense tug of war for at least a year before he finally relented, “Not because I want another baby, but because I love my wife and I am willing to do this for her.” It turned out that their fourth son (!) is a delight and was a very easy baby, but it easily could have gone the other way. My brother also got a vasectomy very shortly after the fourth was born.

    I would recommend fostering or at least respite fostering, to see how the dynamics play out. I had friends who were convinced they wanted to foster to adopt until they went through a year of respite foster parenting and realized it wasn’t for them.

    • You have described exactly what happened with some close friends. Except he grew to resent her eventually especially as it became obvious their child has special needs. After years of sacrificing his own needs, he suddenly cracked. Just walked out one day. They are now in a nasty divorce and she is a depressed single mom of three with one kid severely impaired developmentally.

      I think you need to ask yourself; if the worse case scenario happened, do you feel like you can raise two kids alone. If the answer is not yes, then I think you have your answer. You need your partner on board and forcing him into something he is not ready/willing for is not a good idea. If you feel competent as a Mom of two (even if it is really not your first choice) then go for it.

      • Totally agree SonyaG. My son was born with multiple birth defects and it is very common in my circle for marriages to be stressed to unbelievable limits.

  11. Every man I’ve spoken to (short of a gay friend) has been distinctly against the idea of adoption for themselves, even if they want a child but can’t have one with their spouse. I actually had a conversation with a stranger about it last weekend, and told him I think there is something about the pride of the bloodline that causes many men to feel that way. I hate that idea. It’s one thing if it were about knowing health history, but all the men I have suggested adoption to dismiss the idea completely, saying things about not wanting “someone else’s child.”
    Maybe your husband felt differently about adoption before he had a biological child, but now he doesn’t “need” an adopted one so he no longer values the act of adoption.
    I think your husband’s reasoning might be best explored in counseling, possibly revealing other causes for his position than just the burden.
    Have you asked him if another child would be too much burden were you to get accidentally pregnant again? Why would that child be more desired than an adopted one, if so? Just because he wouldn’t want to terminate, or is there more to it?
    Another possibility: I know many people don’t adopt because they don’t know what “damage” has been done to the child prior (or they foster and discover trauma-based bad behavior then return the child to the often hopeless foster system). Even biological children come with a massive question mark over their personality, behavior, traumas, and how they turn out though.
    Just throwing out some thoughts on the topic, in hopes something may lead you to greater understanding. I know this is a sensitive matter! Wishing you luck.
    PS: Active charcoal drinks and foods are trending, so just a note to ladies taking medications such as birth control – it will make your medications not work. This is what they give people who have overdosed on pills to make the pills less effective.

    • We are adoptive parents (I’m a cis woman married to a cis man) and my husband had no concerns about or resistance to adoption, but many of the men I know did. A very perceptive teenager in our adoption group said “Maybe it’s because men are socialized not to express emotion and are not expected to fall in love with their kids, and they’re afraid that without the biological bond, they won’t be able to attach to the baby.” Made me think.

      Our daughter’s adoption was very straightforward. We attempted a second adoption and it was the stuff of nightmares, so we have an only child. Not what we intended. Not what she wanted. It took me years to feel like the three of us were a “real family” – but I do, now. I feel the grief of our losses but do not regret where we are.

      I join the chorus of voices suggesting that therapy may help even if you can already talk to each other openly. You are both having emotional responses and a good therapist can support you both through that and may see dynamics that you don’t appreciate. Therapy just for you would be helpful as well. This is *hard.*

  12. I wouldn’t write off counselling, you’d be surprised at how having another point of view in the mix can help. Also a good counsellor can ask the right questions and prompt discussions about aspects of the issue that you two may not have considered.

    I was adopted at birth, under what many would describe as ‘ideal’ conditions and it was ROUGH. You need at least two very committed adults in the mix who are doing it for the right reasons. Unfortunately my parents adopted because they couldn’t procreate, which I would argue is not a good reason. Adoption works best when the parents are operating from the stand point of giving a child a home and family. From my experience it doesn’t work well when adoptive parents see themselves as gaining a child, so not only does your husband need to be on board but you both should also be in the right mindset.

    I do think there is the possibility of you both getting to that point, you just may need loads of soul searching and some help (i.e. counselling). But if your husband can’t get there you may need to be the one to ‘lose’, as you say.

    • I do know a single man who has an adopted son (at birth) of 8 years, and they are doing fabulously, just to put that out there. No intention of negating your experience though. <3 It's true that they have a very supportive community of people around them willing to step in as needed.

      • That is fantastic that your friend’s adoption situation is going well. I do still think it’s important for there to be other adults involved, whether they be grandparents, aunts, uncles etc. so that both the child and father have other support systems to lean on. I was essentially raised by a single parent (my adoptive father did not ‘parent’ us, he ignored us and was usually not around) and because my mother was so ashamed that she didn’t have everything under control (she was more concerned with how other’s saw our family than my, or my brother’s actual feelings) she completely floundered and made very poor decisions on her own. This is always a factor when raising kids whether adopted or bio, but with adoptions there can be some really heavy emotional stuff going on that can have disastrous consequences if not handled correctly. I was able to pull myself together in my late 20’s but sadly, a few of my other adopted friends have not been so lucky.

    • Also, I’m with you on it being for the child over the adult. Adopting is an act of love. Sometimes for the adult, but firstly for the tiny human with no family or home.

  13. Congratulations on your baby’s birth. My mother was adopted by family after WWII (both her parents were killed in Poland). I have an adopted at birth daughter and a biological son with my husband. In Judaism, it is considered a “mitzvah” (blessing) to adopt. I have a chronic disease and my son was a “high risk” pregnancy. I was told not to have another biological child because of that. Nine years later, we were able to privately adopt our daughter. We had the support of everyone we knew, including our clergy. In the process of finding the perfect birth mother, we had two unsuccessful adoption attempts. It was a long road to travel, but that road was smooth because of the support network we had. If your husband is not 100% behind the adoption, it will be a rough road. Parenting is not easy and you will not always agree on ways to raise a child, but, if from the start you disagree, feelings of betrayal and hurt will surface and no one will be happy.

  14. I think what a therapist would be useful for is to help both of you hone in on precisely what you do and don’t want. “I don’t want to have another child” could encompass a vast range of things, from “I don’t know what expenses we’d cut or how we’d increase our income to afford childcare” to “I never want to go with less than four hours of sleep at a stretch again” to “I need an hour of quiet alone time every day and I don’t think you would make that a priority if we had another kid”. And “I want to have another child” could encompass a similarly vast range of desires and emotions. There is a “winner” and a “loser” if the question is “will we have another child?” But if you switch the question to “How do we make sure both of us have our needs met?” then I think you can find an outcome. And honestly, therapists are REALLY good for helping drill down into what you really need or are really afraid of, five layers below the thing you’re stuck on.

  15. Bless your big, generous heart! And bless your husband for knowing his limits.

    Could you express your maternal instincts in some other way, perhaps a career change? You could become a teacher, a camp counselor, a social worker in any of a number of fields involving children,or run a daycare center. You could also volunteer at a children’s shelter, juvenile hall, a refugee camp, or a pediatric hospital. You could become a Big Sister, a Scoutmaster, a tutor or a mentor. Or be a friend to young people who really need one.

    I speak as someone who cannot have children, and could never afford adoption, and have ached because of it. I befriended young teens who really needed an older woman to listen to them and give them some perspectives. They grew up to be fine adults who still keep in touch. One who lost her mother young sends me mother’s day cards.

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