Let me being this post by acknowledging that I have never been pregnant. I don't know what it is like to be pregnant, but I have observed three sisters go through pregnancy, and several friends. Just like each pregnancy/child rearing is different, each adoption is also different. Different costs, timelines, reasons for adoption, reason a child is abandoned/relinquished, bonding processes, and needs during rearing the child. This is our first adoption and we will be first-time parents.
Since beginning the adoption process this spring, we have received several comments that compare adoption to pregnancy, and I just want to address this subject. Although both means are beautiful ways to bring a child into a family, and both are ordained by God, they are very different processes. We certainly may try to go the pregnancy route one day, or we may have all adopted babies- and we'd be happy either way!
Timing. This is pretty obvious, as with a pregnancy there is a definite countdown. You know that your baby will come in roughly 40 weeks, give or take, from conception. With adoption, you have no clue. There are families that get on the waitlist and get a referral in the same day/week, and some families that wait months or years for a referral. Each type of adoption- international, domestic, foster-to-adopt has its own timeline, and in most cases, it is completely unpredictable and you can't compare your story to another's story.
Mom-To-Be. This year was my first "Mother's Day" as a mom-to-be. One sweet friend of mine messaged me and said "If you were pregnant I would wish you a mother's day, and you are a mom-to-be, so happy mother's day!" While I am just as much an expectant mother, it is hard for people to grasp that I'll "really" be a mom, or share the same excitement with me because of the whole timing issue. An adoptive mom-to-be may celebrate many Mother's Days without having a baby in her arms. An adoptive mom may not know what age to prepare the home for- a newborn, older infant, toddler, older child? To some extent you get to choose some details, but even if you get a referral for a 3 week old baby, the child may be several months old by the time he/she comes home, and the development may not always be at the average rate.
Milestones. As an adoptive parent, milestones are treated differently. You may miss significant milestones, like the first smile/craw/laugh/walk/birthday. But with adoption, you get to not only celebrate birthdays, but can also celebrate "gotcha days" when a baby finally becomes an official part of the family. With pregnancy, you get to watch the milestones from the beginning, even with the development in the womb during ultrasounds.
Gender Ultrasound/Referral. Some families choose to find out the gender during a pregnancy. Although this is compared to a referral (when you find out the details of your child- age, gender, etc) this is not at all the same thing. (see next point).
Background. In pregnancies, the parents know the child's background. You generally know who the father is, and the details of the birth. With adoption, you don't always know every detail. But one thing you do know is that with every adoptive situation- there is a family somewhere that has loss. The loss of a grandchild, child, birthmother, or the sacrifice of knowing that the best decision for the baby is to let someone else raise the baby. When you get a referral, you have the joy of knowing all the details of your child, but you also know that your new baby comes to you because of someone else's loss.
Gospel Opportunities. With an adoption, you are taking a child, who has experienced loss (even if the child doesn't realize it yet), who needs a home, and giving it a family. There are countless ways to compare adoption to the way that God adopted us into his family if we are his children (believers). But, just like with pregnancy, each believing parent is charged with teaching the gospel and living out the gospel. Each marriage must represent Christ and the church, thus providing countless opportunities to share the gospel. Each parent shall love unconditionally and point children to Jesus. Every family, whether adopting or not, has opportunity to mirror Christ! I recently listened to a Voddie Baucham sermon on adoption, and he made a very great point: Bringing a child into your home through adoption IS NOT about how much love you have to give as the adoptive parent. Having love and not being poor and living on the streets isn't the issue. The issue is the gospel. You are adopting because you now have the opportunity to bring the gospel to more people. You can now teach a child the gospel that may not have heard it otherwise. God's charge to married couples in Genesis 1 to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" is not so that we can have one big, loving, rich family. It is for HIS GLORY to be among the earth. Me being a parent means that my babies will be taught who Jesus is and how to glorify Christ. In the same way, any family that has children should not just have children to fill a void in their life or because they want children- Christian families have children to further the gospel and to bring God glory.
I hope that this post is well-received. As mentioned above, I'm not against pregnancy and we certainly may go down that road in the future. But please, consider how you talk with an adoptive family. Don't compare adoption to pregnancy, because they are very different, but both beautiful ways to have a family and both are means to do exactly what God called us to do: bring glory to Him.