Many people these days compare the stages of adoption to the stages of pregnancy. The term they use is paper pregnancy. While there are a lot of similarities between the two, the differences are huge. Some people even take offense to the comparison. What about you?
Conceived in passion (and often in love) — Both begin with conception (pregnancy can first begin with mental or physical conception, adoption begins with mental conception). In our case, adoption was conceived through a dream that took place nearly a decade before we actually brought our daughter home.
Stephanie, of the blog “A Lovely Problem to Have,” does an excellent job in her post A Paper Pregnancy: Preparing for Adoption discussing this phase of pregnancy and adoption (paper-pregnancy). She discusses ways of preparing yourself by: managing your health, gathering support, planning for powerful emotions, becoming educated on parenting and developmental stages of childhood, preparing your home and more.
False Labor—Many times in physical pregnancy, a woman will experience false labor pains. In a paper pregnancy this most closely relates to times of a near match only to be met with a closed door. Having experienced false labor biologically and as an adoptive parent, I think false labor in adoption is much more traumatic. In Bumps, Braxton Hicks, and Birth, I share the importance of keeping the end in mind.
Labor and delivery – In Stages of a Paper Pregnancy, Khadine Kubal tells about each trimester of the “paper pregnancy” and then likens labor to getting “the call” and heading to the airport. I think the labor phase of a “paper pregnancy” also includes meeting your child and the first difficult hours and days that a mom experiences with a strange child (and the child experiences with the strange lady who wants to be Mom). Sometimes the labor is more painful emotionally and physically then you might imagine (see Not the Fireworks I Expected).
Conception – While there are similarities between adoption and pregnancy, and while Rebecca Lyn Gold does a great job of expounding upon those similarities in her article, What to Expect While You’re Waiting to Adopt, she also talks about the importance of the infertile mother mourning the inability to conceive.
The Physical Act of Being Pregnant– The fact is an adoptive parent never goes through the bodily changes of pregnancy (unless they also have biological children). Pregnancy causes physical and emotional and mental changes to the pregnant woman, such as swollen ankles, weight gain, nausea, hormonal changes, etc. An adoptive mother will also not experience an ultrasound, baby hiccups, baby’s first kick, high baby, low baby, baby turning into head down position, etc. Malinda, in her blog “Adoption Talk,” discusses the phenomenon of adoptive mothers taking baby bump pictures with beach balls and posting ultrasound photos of their child’s birth country. Malinda, an adoptive mom, is not fond of the term paper-pregnant. Read more about her view in the post Paper Pregnancy, Country Ultrasounds, Faux Maternity Photos.
In utero bonding– This is not replicated at all in adoption. Some close experiences include adoptive parents receiving pictures and info on the child and the child receiving pictures and info about the family that will be adopting them. But for the most part, in adoption the bonding takes place after the adoption and often takes time. An adopted infant might be able to bond after 9-12 months. An older adopted child can take years to bond (see Year for Year on my blog Nine Year Pregnancy).
The Reception of the News—How do friends and family receive the news of pregnancy? Often they receive it with joy and excitement and the reality of a baby growing inside their loved one. While Diana Stone likes the term “paper pregnancy” and draws similar analogies in her post Paper Pregnancy: How Adoption and Pregnancy are Similar, she also discusses how people have a difficult time responding to and getting excited about the concept of adoption until there is a referral.
As pointed out in this article, When is an Adoption like a Pregnancy, some family members even believe that adopting couples should not receive the same fanfare and excitement that pregnant couples have grown to expect and enjoy.
Is paper-pregnancy an offensive term to you? Entire forums dedicate themselves to this topic. I personally can see many comparisons and believe that people should be free to express their adoption in similar terms or not as they desire. What is your view?
For more differences between adoption and pregnancy, you might want to read—
The Ways Adoption is Not Like a Pregnancy by Operation Nomes
9 Months DTE by Don and Sara (regarding the length of time for adoption v. pregnancy)