There seems to be a struggle to navigate adoption after infertility -especially in how it relates to a child’s self-worth. I understand the worry on this one. No one wants their children to think they’re second-class or a consolation prize. But the result of that worry is that sometimes parents’ long, tortuous, often silent journey with infertility kind of gets kicked to the curb and edited out of the family story.
And I call bull***t on that.
Adoption is hard as crap. Adoption requires that would-be parents endure a host of mental, emotional, legal, and psychological issues that challenge the very core of adulthood, parenthood, personhood. It’s lonely. It’s incredibly long – YEARS long. It involves multiple losses. IT’S HARD.
It’s freaking HARD.
The only reason ANYONE chooses adoption is because they have a highly compelling reason to endure that singular hardship. For the religious, its the notion of a higher calling, a way to Serve. For kinship adoptions, it’s family ties. And for a lot of people, it’s when infertility makes having biological kids impossible and they just want a family gosh-darnit.
What makes that truth so wrong, or unsharable? Why can’t kids know that infertility was a huge deal in their parents’ life?
I think it has something to do with conflating the process of getting kids with the process of raising kids. Well, guess what? They’re not the same.
It would be way easier to have biological kids, and if I could I totally would. And I’m pretty sure that the majority of kids will say that they’d prefer that their first parents don’t terminate parental rights. That being said, I do not give a rat’s patootie where our kids come from once we get them. It’s the getting that sucks, not the having. This is process and result, cause and effect – two different things. For adoptive families with infertile parents, adoption is the result of two crappy situations equaling one excellent situation. Two crappy “causes” (termination of first parent rights and infertility) equal one excellent “effect.” Two crappy valleys meet at one breathtaking peak.
The quality of the road going forward from that meeting has little to do with how the road looked in the past.
I guess all of this is to say that I would prefer to get kids via naturally occurring pregnancy. That hasn’t changed, and it won’t. If I had my choice, I’d want to get pregnant, have nine months of morning sickness and friendly commiseration with 80% of the adult female population on the planet, and then have a delivery event in a local hospital with my favorite doctor. I want that experience, I want the relative ease, and the collective social knowledge, and the positive support, and everyone telling me “you’ll do amazing!” and “only two more months!” and “try _____ it really worked when I had morning sickness.” I want everyone involved to be comfortable and familiar with the whole process.
I would prefer not to endure multiple months of radio silence from the people who can approve (or not) my ability to have a family. I’d like it if my ability to get kids didn’t depend on the preferences of one very fallible human being (who may or may not dislike multiple pets, people from out of state, adults who play video games, mono-lingual parents, non-Methodists, etc…) I would prefer not to undergo background checks in multiple states. I would prefer that my friends and family not endure reference checks. I would prefer not to attend mandatory training on basics like seatbelts and the effects of recreational drug use. I would prefer not to agonize over how to even begin preparing our home because we have no idea when a child will arrive, at what age, or with what needs. I would love it if all my friends and family didn’t have to learn (along with me) everything about this situation as we go, stumbling and bumbling along with no collective knowledge at all about how this works or what is appropriate or where the hurty parts are.
And that’s where my preference ends.
That set of wants is all about process. It’s all about my preference for how I get kids.
Know what else I want? I want to love a kid so hard it takes my breath away. I want to dry tears and induce kid belly laughs. I want to make quilts, sing songs, fingerpaint, agonize over first kisses and friend drama. I want my kids to meet their cousins and aunts and uncles and second cousins and grandparents and great-grandparents. I want to laugh so hard at some random surprising declaration that I almost pee my pants. I want to stay up all night with a sick kid. I want to pack lunches and chaperone field trips and cry at graduation. I want my kids to be as good friends with their cousins as I am with mine. I want to have birthday parties and playtime with other moms (and kids) at McDonalds. I want to ask those close to me for advice and council when parenting gets tough.
Know how much of those wants have to do with how I get my kid? ZERO.
I can’t have one set of wants. That’s my truth. I can have another. And the value of one is in no way dependent on the availability of the other.
For me, denying that adoption was hard and that it became an option because of the long journey with infertility will be dishonest. So I’m not going to deny it. I’m not 100% sure exactly how we will frame our story when the time comes to share it with our kids but I do know that it will be honest – infertility will be included. Their story about how they came to us matters; our story about how we came to them matters, too.