As I’ve written and rewritten this blog post, I’ve become hyper aware that mine may be a controversial stance and that I harbor very, very personal opinions on this topic. What is right for one family may not be right for another. I get that. I also need to disclose up front that I am the adoptive parent of two children who were born here in the United States. Both of my girls were adopted as infants through open adoptions. Both girls’ birth mothers chose my former partner and me to be the adoptive parents. Both of my children have reconnected with their biological families. In both cases, the birth fathers were out of the picture, though one of my children has a relationship currently with her biological father.
Also worth noting as relevant—my mother was adopted when she was three years old, and my parents adopted my little brother when he was an infant. Both of these adoptions were closed adoptions, meaning the records were sealed at the time of the adoptions and remain closed still.
Given my history with adoption, the fact that my families—both my family of origin and the family I later created with my former partner—would not exist without adoption, I have some strong feelings on the topic. To whit, whenever I hear about a couple’s struggle with infertility and how they are spending gazillions of dollars on in vitro and fertility treatments because they don’t want to consider adoption, my heart breaks a little. In my experience, people’s reasons for pursuing IVF vary, but generally fall into two camps: I want my own biological children and I’m afraid of losing my adopted child.
As a woman who never quite heard her own biological clock ticking, I’m the first to admit mine is not a very sympathetic response. As a mother who came to parenthood slantwise, my point of view is likely uncommon and perhaps unpopular. But, as a parent who, over the years, has worked very consciously to be a parent and to remain a parent in the face of some very daunting challenges, I think I have something valuable to add to the conversation.
First of all, having kids is a crapshoot. It doesn’t matter how they come into our lives. I think the single most important thing potential parents don’t realize is just how little control they will have once that child is conceived and/or born, bundled and placed in their arms. All bets are off. Who gets sick, who lives, who dies, who has disabilities, hidden or otherwise—there is no biological magic bullet that will protect you.
Second of all, children are not possessions with which we are to adorn our lives. Your dreams will not be their dreams; their achievements will not be yours. Their lives are their own. It doesn’t matter if they spring from your loins or from someone else’s—kids are individuals with every right to grow into themselves, whatever they may be, without unrealistic or narcissistic parental expectations, adopted or biological.
We seem to be smack in the midst of a sort of cult of childhood—our culture demands that we dote on our kids, lavish them with opportunities and options in ways our parents never dreamed of. I’m not sure where this urge comes from, but I suspect it springs from our own needs to be seen and doted upon. If our kids look like us, so much the better—it’s that much easier for us to infuse them with our own dreams and ambitions.
I’m not saying that adoptive parents don’t engage in this behavior, but I believe that some people may choose not to adopt because they can’t imagine investing themselves like that in a child that is not biologically theirs. And the world has plenty of children who need families, so it’s unfortunate, I think, that they are overlooked.
As for this notion that adoption is a process fraught with boogeymen who will at any moment demand the return of an adopted child, let me just say this—it’s not that common. In spite of the occasional heart wrenching media report (and very real heartbreak on the parts of all parents involved), the rise of open adoption in the past two and a half decades has gone a long way to deter adoption going off the rails.
I’ve also always been puzzled by adoptive parents who choose to go overseas to adopt. And one of the biggest reasons these folks give is that the chances of the birth parents coming for the kids is slimmer with international adoptions. Given that numbers of kids in this country who need homes, my bias is that we should start here, with our own kids first. And besides, if a birth parent changes his or her mind about placing their child for adoption, shouldn’t they have that right within a particular time frame? Don’t the birth parents deserve the dignity of an open adoption and ongoing communication with the adoptive family?
I have so much more to say on this topic, but it is going to be a long month of blog posts and I’m going to try to keep these things under 1000 words. The A to Z Challenge folks recommend 100-300 words, but I’m just not that good.
If you are considering adoption or want more info, check out these sites: