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Reluctant Family

Mother in law not on board


My husband and I are in the process of completing our home study. My mother in law is not ok with our decision. Mi found out yesterday that she thought that when she gave us her opinion a few months ago, that she thought she “won” and that we were not going to adopt b/c she didn’t like the idea.  It really upsets me that she thinks we should do what she says even though we are adults. Mshe seems to be obsessed with “biological” children, not understanding that this will probably never be an option for us.  And she also thinks we are only doing this because my husbands brother recently became a father. She thinks we are rushing, n
And doesn’t understand we wanted children as soon as we were married.( 5 years now). I don’t know how to make her understand, or at least try and be supportive and I’m afraid my children will be treated differently. Not sure what to do.

Replies

You might want to have your husband ask her what are her objections/concerns.  My father is a psychiatrist, and he was against adoption because statistically adopted kids are more likely to have emotional problems, more psychological problems and more likely to be in mental health therapy.  These numbers are biased, because in the first place they look at all adopted kids, including those who suffered abuse and neglect and were shunted around foster homes for years, and secondly, adoptive families, in general, are more likely to seek professional help when there is a problem.  Your mother-in-law may also be worried about the possibility of baby being born with drug exposure.  Although my father never said that, I know it was in his head.  None of my kids were born with drugs, but you should research this because some substances, particularly narcotics, cause short term problems but are not associated with long term health issues.  And remember that many people think a birthmother can “come back and get the baby”, so adoption scares them.

If you and your husband think the issue is she needs more education about adoption and adoptive families, then do that.  When I had a calm discussion with my dad, he never brought it up again, even though i know he was still concerned.  If your mother-in-law wants a biological connection, then you can’t do anything to “fix” that, but maybe your child will.  I recently asked my father’s advice about a book on adopted kids’ emotional health, and he laughed.  “What are you worried about, they are fine!”  was his answer.  And he absolutely adores his three youngest grandchildren, and no one ever refers to them as “adopted”.

Some people on this site have posted about family members who never came around, I was lucky not to have that problem.  I will say that not everyone in your life can be supportive and positive during this process, so do not expect it from her.  Her attitude may change when you bring your child home, and if it does, then great! Don’t waste any energy on it now, though, because you have a long and bumpy road ahead, and you have more pressing things to deal with.  My only other advice is not to divulge any details regarding your child’s story.  It is your child’s story, but yours to tell them.  As soon as you tell others, you run the risk of others divulging details to your child before you are ready, or the risk of those details coloring the way your child is viewed by others. 

Good luck on your journey!

Posted by jszmom on Aug 01, 2013 at 7:52pm

I think that she is definitely concerned that a baby will be born with problems.  Her biological granddaughter was born addicted to drugs also.  When my husband has tried to talk to her calmly she just tells him he is being dramatic.  The rest of the family thinks she will come around once a baby is here, but idk.

Posted by Smudra on Aug 01, 2013 at 8:03pm

Well, I know it bothers you, but you will just have to let it go.  Look for support elsewhere.  Are you doing private domestic adoption, foster or international?  We did private adoption through attorney.  With all three of our kids, bmom agreed to drug testing which was negative (our attorney requested, ob did test, and we paid for it).  There was a recent discussion about drug exposure on this board, can’t remember how far back, you may want to look at that.

I had this habit for many years of explaining my decisions to people, but adults don’t have to explain or justify their decisions.  Believe me, as people in your life find out, you will be amazed at the rude and intrusive questions you will be asked!  Be ready with a stock phrase that ends the conversation.  Mine was “this is the right choice for our family”.  (Feel free to use)

Posted by jszmom on Aug 01, 2013 at 8:23pm

My Native/French MiL lived through adoption hell as a child who was rejected once her white adoptive parents had bio kids. She eventually gave up 3 children for adoption, but is completely against our own adoption (even though she didn’t raise hubby). My FiL & husband had very different adoption experiences, so hubby is totally gung-ho.

We do not intend to let this be an issue. We considered adopting a Native American child, as she’s more amenable to that, but refuse to limit ourselves when our family is Native, French, African, Indian & Chinese. It would be preposterous. A child is a child.

Family is more than blood. Our friends are on board. Our siblings will just be happy we’ve taken the heat off of them producing progeny and love all kids. Blood was never there for us. Our real family plans to be there for our child.

Everyone is entitled to a personal opinion and we get “Don’t you want your own?” all the time, but we’ve never had more than a passing interest in “seeing what happens” with our DNA. We would much prefer to continue choosing our family. It seems to work for us!

Your MiL doesn’t have to like the idea. She does need to understand that you won’t stand to for her to treat your child with anything but kindness and love. Otherwise, try to put her at ease by asking parenting questions and getting her as involved as possible. My aunt & friends will help us decorate, my mother will crotchet blankets, my sister will knit booties, MIL will be asked to write a teen friendly scary story, many will pray for the process. If she’s invested in the child, the way she would be in a pregnancy, it may help. Particularly if she feels that the problem is that she may not be able to connect with the child. We are most attached to those we are fully invested in.grin

Posted by Myri&AJ; on Aug 01, 2013 at 8:32pm

We didn’t tell my in-laws about our adoption plans until 3 days before we brought our son home, mainly because of this reason - we didn’t want my mother in law interfering by telling us all the Infertility treatments we should pursue and telling us uniformed horror stories about adoption that had little basis in fact and the statistics. We wanted a baby and adoption was the only viable avenue for us. So it made no difference to us whether our parents agreed with the decision or not - the alternative was not to have any kids at all and that wasn’t part of our plan. So when we announced to my in-laws that we were adopting they were not thrilled with the idea and they took a long time to even come and visit to see our son. And when they did they were quite distant and unaffectionate towards him. But eventually they came around and now they adore him. But I still did have to listen to “you should have done this, that and the other infertility treatment.” And we got some weird inappropriate comments at first and still do from time to time. I think what forced my in-laws to eventually come around is that it really wasn’t in their interests to not be on board with this because it would have meant being shut out of our lives and they need us in their old age. And our son is their only grandson and he is a very charismatic and engaging little boy - as far as he’s concerned they are his grandparents and he has his own ideas about his place in the family and he will not be denied. That’s the thing that I think people forget sometimes - before a match, an adopted child is an idea and for many people they think the worst. But when it happens, it’s an actual person - a child with a personality and identity and a future, not some statistic. And while there are some people who can never get their heads around the idea of family not being genetically related, most reasonable sane people can’t deny the attention and affection demanded by an actual child sitting in front of them.

Here is a book that has been recommend on this website about educating family about adoption. You might find it helpful. I wish you luck with your journey.

Adoption is a family affair: what relatives and friends must know? Patricia Irwin Johnston.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1849058954/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_3?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Posted by Birdienumnum on Aug 01, 2013 at 9:12pm

There are some studies that children adopted as infants are over represented in mental health clinics as well as in residential treatment.
Adoption issues often arise when the children are 8-12 and unless you seek help from a provider who gets adoption the child’s adoption needs may not be addressed and therefore never heal.
That said most studies comparing infant adoptees and birth children show the same mental health issues (obviously some will have serious issues the same as birth children) they are pretty much the same with identity issues being more difficult.
There are also some studies that show an increase in suicides among children adopted as infants.
What part is heredity? what part is grief and losing the birth mom? what part is attachment issues? who knows.

Posted by Regina on Aug 02, 2013 at 12:23am

My Native/French MiL lived through adoption hell as a child who was rejected once her white adoptive parents had bio kids. She eventually gave up 3 children for adoption, but is completely against our own adoption (even though she didn’t raise hubby). My FiL & husband had very different adoption experiences, so hubby is totally gung-ho.

Myri, I note you say “She eventually gave up 3 children for adoption, BUT is completely against our own adoption” whereas it is possible her background combined with her relinquishments may have made her LESS likely to find adoption appealing.  Just a thought.

Posted by catherinenz on Aug 02, 2013 at 5:25am

“There are some studies that children adopted as infants are over represented in mental health clinics as well as in residential treatment.
Adoption issues often arise when the children are 8-12 and unless you seek help from a provider who gets adoption the child’s adoption needs may not be addressed and therefore never heal.
That said most studies comparing infant adoptees and birth children show the same mental health issues (obviously some will have serious issues the same as birth children) they are pretty much the same with identity issues being more difficult.
There are also some studies that show an increase in suicides among children adopted as infants.
What part is heredity? what part is grief and losing the birth mom? what part is attachment issues? who knows.”

Good points, Regina.

Also, you may find this study quite interesting. 

http://mrkhcanada.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/stress-and-coping-in-adopted-children.pdf

I suggest everyone goes to the “Discussion” on pages 6 and 7 because it is talking specifically about the feelings and issues that the average basically “well adjusted” domestic infant adopted adoptee may feel.

Posted by catherinenz on Aug 02, 2013 at 5:32am

When we announced our plans to adopt again, I was surprised that many people in our life were not as supportive… One of our close friends said “you have a great kid, why chance it?”  Can you imagine saying that to a pregnant woman?!? 

Anyway, the same less than supportive folks adore our second child as much as our first.  Of course, everyone thought we were nuts when #2’s birth mom called and asked us to parent her next child… We now have three children four and under, and they are the darlings of our family and friends.  Having said that, you will have people in your life who just don’t get it, and my advice is do not let those people “rent space in your head”, as my husband says.  The decision to have and raise children is intensely personal, and your only obligation in this is to your immediate family, that is you and your husband.  Some people will support you, some people you can educate, some people you will have to tolerate while you educate, and some people you will find are not worth the time. 

Catherinenz, thanks for the link.  Regina, thanks for the info, also.  Yes, everything I have read says that children adopted as infants, as mine were, will experience adoption grief when they are old enough to understand biology vs adoption.  We are trying to lay the groundwork by talking about adoption and telling their birth stories.  We have semi-open adoptions, bmoms’ choice, but my husband and I agree if any of our kids choose to search we will help in any way possible.

Posted by jszmom on Aug 02, 2013 at 8:45pm

Smudra…I am single so did not have a mother in law in the picture.  Still I decided not to tell anyone in my family for quite some time as I did NOT want to have to consider anyone else’s opinions at all…just what was right for the child and me. I told good friends first and found them extremely supportive for the most part. I finally told family as it started to feel too weird to keep hiding all of what and why I was doing!

The ironic thing is though my family is very family oriented - no one said anything negative.  Still I got no response at all regarding adoption! This is true even from other adopted family members.  Very bizarre!! So thanks for reminding me Birdienumnum of the book to read and send. I suspect I will write my own similar version of the letter below!

Sorry to hear you MI is still negative gqqfier15…you’d think your darling child would have put that to rest.

  So in your case Smudra, how about you tell your MI gently, “Mom we tried seriously for 5 years to have a child and it didn’t work. If we are to have children, adoption is how it will have to be. We have thought carefully about this and educated ourselves on the process and made up our minds. This is what is right for our family. We are excited about having a child join our family this way. It is a stressful process, and would mean a lot to us if you were there for us. It is also very important to us to have you be there as a grandparent for our child.” 

Then I’d just not share all the gory details of the process if it continues to be painful for her, (but enough so she knows you are moving forward).  Also keep to yourself anything negative about the child’s history.  Hope and trust when the child is here she will be won over.

Posted by Happy Camper on Aug 03, 2013 at 7:34am

Hi, I’m sorry that you are experiencing this.  Since your husband has tried to talk with his mom and she seems reluctant to have a discussion about it, then you can only be open to talking about it with her if she wants to in the future.  You can nicely share with her that you are happy to discuss it more with her if she would like to, but that you would both really like her to be supportive of your decision for your family to adopt. 

We were the last of our family/friends to have children, and most of our family/friends that knew were supportive including our moms (our dads had passed away).  My closest friend and birth sister were not really that supportive and I think would have wanted us to try in-vitro as they both mentioned after finding out that we wanted to adopt that they would have done a surrogacy for us (which was strange because they didn’t say anything before that).  My adoptive mom was supportive that we were adopting, but did not seem really excited yet during our adoption process and I think was trying to be patient and wait for God’s timing and help me to do so also, as she kept saying in “God’s timing.” 

God blessed us with adopting a little girl in an open adoptive about two years after we began the adoption process and everyone seemed really happy for us and supportive when we adopted her.  About a year later our daughter’s birthmom told us that she was pregnant again and God blessed us with adopting our daughter’s little sister.  Our second adoption process was different than the first (most of it was done after the baby was born), and we did not tell many people about our daughter’s sibling and hoping to adopt again until right before the baby was going to be born, and my adoptive mom was one of the few people who knew about the baby from the beginning.  My mom loved our oldest daughter so much, yet again did not seem excited about us possibly adopting again until after the baby came home with us.  Granted I was trying to be cautious about hoping to adopt the baby and I think she was too and also was worried that they were too close in age (she told me that later). 

So maybe your mother-in-law is just worried too and will be okay after you adopt.  It sounds like she is concerned about potential problems because of her other granddaughter, rather than feeling uncomfortable about accepting an adopted child in the family.  I have heard of people having reluctant/worried parents or in-laws that loved the child very much after the adoption took place.  My maternal grandmother was one of them and did not want my mom to adopt (it just wasn’t done in their cultural background back then) and later on told my mom that she loved my brother and I the most of her grandchildren.  Wishing you well in your adoption journey   smile

Posted by twicethelove on Aug 03, 2013 at 8:06am

Gqqfier15 - I’m sorry your mother-in-law is not supportive again of your second adoption process and hope that she will fall in love when you adopt again too.  smile 

Jszmom - I agree that what your friend said is not something that someone would say to someone who is pregnant or trying to conceive again and shouldn’t have been said to someone who is adopting either.

Happy Camper - I liked what you shared about saying to the original poster’s mother-in-law and how to share with her during the adoption process and think that is helpful   smile

Posted by twicethelove on Aug 03, 2013 at 8:28am

You’ve gotten a lot if great advice about how to talk to your MIL, so I’ll just add that when the day is done, your family is about you, your husband, and your child.  If she doesn’t get on board, she can be left at the train station!  I spent over a decade trying to understand my in-laws and get them to like me.  Why were they so cold to me, why weren’t they interested in our life, why don’t they invite us over or visit us?  Then after adopting, why weren’t they interested in their only grandchildrens’ lives?  Sure, they buy Christmas presents, but that’s about it.  When I had a baby, their first “blood” grandchild, MIL spent hours at the hospital, then hasn’t been around but twice in two years since!  I gave up.  I used to pressure my husband to call and update them on our life, but if they don’t care, why should I?  It used to drive me crazy, but now I couldn’t care less.  They know where we live.

Posted by housefrau on Aug 03, 2013 at 12:27pm

Thanks so much everyone!  Lots of great advice.  My sister inlaws feels too that she will come around once a baby is here, and if not I still have the rest of my hubby’s family who is supportive and my family too!

Posted by Smudra on Aug 04, 2013 at 9:01am

twicethelove, What wonderful validation from your maternal grandmother!  I bet that felt great! smile

Posted by Happy Camper on Aug 05, 2013 at 7:52am

It’s such a disappointment when you are embarking on something so wonderful and the people around you just don’t understand. A friend of mine and I have tried to make light of the situation with a little humor- if you need a laugh, check out our video at https://youtu.be/dFY0-rYeCLk

Posted by Shella Shell on Jan 06, 2018 at 3:19pm

It’s such a disappointment when you are embarking on something so wonderful and the people around you just don’t understand. A friend of mine and I have tried to make light of the situation with a little humor- if you need a laugh, check out our video at https://youtu.be/dFY0-rYeCLk

Posted by Shella Shell on Jan 06, 2018 at 6:12pm

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