For those of you on the fence regarding adoption - or - for those that have a
bias (believing that somehow, it's not as good as raising your bio
child) towards rearing a child not of your own making - this one's for you.
At the start of our family making journey, adoption simply wasn't a
consideration. We were going to have our "own" child, when I was good
and ready. Said child would have the looks and attributes that combined
the best of my hubby and I, and our genes would move into the future
assuring a certain feeling of immortality.
Adoption was for other people, and they were certainly more selfless and
philanthropic that I was, so I believed.
I'd like to be completely honest here regarding my biased perceptions
towards individuals and couples that pursued adoption, as I imagine
sharing these (less than attractive or informed) will aid you in sifting
through your own thoughts and feelings. So, here we go -
1) Simply put, I thought that creating a family through adoption was less
desirable than through the all-powerful blood-and-genes connection. It
seemed 2nd best to me. A compromise; leftovers for the desperate.
Certainly one couldn't attain the closeness, the bond, the attachment felt by
the experience of creating and sustaining a life through one's own body.
2) Parenting by way of adoption seemed sub-par; the experience being
more like babysitters versus feeling the empowered sense of being
parents. I've heard numerous clients in my office echo similar concerns - "I
don't want to raise someone else's child." And who hasn't heard the
question, "Where are the real parents?" This further exacerbates the
(misinformed and hurtful) notion that adoptive parents are the opposite of
real - they're the fake parents, the stand-ins.
3) Having two sets of parents (bio and adoptive) would be too confusing for
the child. Better just to say goodbye early on and then let them navigate
biological connections, if they desire, later in life. The thought of an open
adoption where we kept in touch with the birthparents, simply terrified and
4) Adoption is too risky. I'd envision getting the baby home, attaching, and
then poof - the biological family would swoop in, claim genetic rights, and
we'd lose - the child and then our minds.
5) Adopting a child won't fill the void, won't replace the hole that represents
what my hubby and I couldn't produce. The legacy of loss will override any
real joy that's created through adoption.
6) I can't take a failed adoption. I can't take any more loss.
7) The failure to perpetuate my own genes into the future means that my
life ends with me.
Now that I've got substantial professional and personal experience with
infertility, donor-assisted reproduction, pregnancy loss, and adoption, I'd
like to challenge the above assumptions.
Assumptions #1 & 2: Adoption is a less-than experience than creating your
Simply put, it's bullshit. Misinformed crap. I once read the anonymous
quote, "Adoption isn't for sissies," and that's damn right. Parenting is
joyous, challenging work, and adoptive parenting is a bit more work. A
labor of love. You'll be surrounded, at times, by intrusive, uninformed
opinions regarding the way you created a family. You'll develop a thicker
skin and learn how to best handle these experiences over time. You'll likely
have additional challenges that biological parents won't, but you'll also be
privy to the associated growth opportunities that these experiences invite.
You will eventually feel empowered as the parent - the real parent - not the
babysitter, not the stand-in. Biological parents experience entitlement from
the onset - the fact of having a right to something. Empowerment is
superior, however, because it's the authority or power GIVEN and EARNED
to parent. When my daughter was nine months old, I remember thinking
that I have now parented as long as my daughter's birthmother had carried
her in utero. This seemed significant to me at the time. I needed affirmation
that I was doing the work, the hard stuff of parenting, to feel
empowered. Today, I'm parenting a 3-year-old, and I'm the mom. I just
celebrated Mother's Day yesterday, dropped my daughter off at school this
morning, and will take her to soccer practice later today. That's the stuff of
parenting. If you'd like to cover the math on this one, I've been parenting
for 29,160 hours since my daughter's birth. Her birthmother has 6,480 of
gestational parenting (in utero). When you consider who the "real" parent
is now, the question appears absurd. I am forever grateful to the
birthparents for the masterpiece they created, the lovely young lady that I
get to call my daughter. I've put in the work, and I've earned the title of
"mom." And did I mention I'm crazy in love with her?
Assumption #3: Adoption is confusing for the child.
Generally speaking, do you tend to be confused when you don't have
information - or - when you do? For most people, information provides
clarity. When you are open and loving regarding the way your child came to
your family, everyone benefits. Secrets and withholding information breed
shame over time. While the information surrounding an adoption may be
private to your family and close friends, it's not secretive.
As my daughter grows up in an open adoption, she will become familiar
with her birthparents. We lay a foundation for her, similar to planting a seed
and watering it, so that someday, if she wants to further develop these
relationships, she won't be starting from scratch. Is it sometimes
uncomfortable to navigate the relationship between parents and
birthparents? Yes, absolutely. But it's necessary. Our daughter's well-
being as an ever evolving person is simply more important than our current
Assumption #4: Adoption is too risky.
Isn't taking risks the spice of life, though? Seriously, I have no interest in
people who try to avoid risks. There are laws in place for adoption, and the
best thing you can do is get informed about the laws in your state.
Everyone has a horror adoption story to share, but really, they're rare.
Don't let your fear determine your actions. Feel it, and move forward
Assumption #5: Adoption won't fill the void.
This assumption goes hand in hand with Assumptions 1 & 2, espousing
that the family created through adoption is just not as good as the one
that's biologically based. Remember how I called bullshit on that earlier.
Let's go deeper with this one...
For a large majority of people, adoption is the end of a long, often painful
journey towards parenthood, punctuated by a variety of losses along the
way. I call this the "legacy of loss."
To get right to the point, suffering is a part of life. To imply that loss or
previous suffering compromises the (adoptive) parenting experience, never
really healing the wounds of what could have been biologically, is to speak
the language of rigidity and inflexibility. It's my way or the highway, as the
saying goes. For some people, no amount of light can fill their darkness. If
you choose to adopt this philosophy, or if it's been passed down to you, it
will do more than just affect your parenting journey, it will affect the most
significant aspects of your life.
It is the very losses that I experienced along my journey to become a
mother that make the experience of parenthood extremely meaningful and
fulfilling. It is the opposite of void. Are the losses magically erased? No,
and I wouldn't want them to be. I want all of life, not just the pretty,
presentable parts. The opposite of void, the antonyms are - - filled, full,
valid, abounding, brimming, world, cosmos, meaningful, allow, permit.
You must allow the possibility for the unknown. You must invite it to
transform you. You will be filled, even if you also feel the legacy of loss.
Assumption #6: I can't take any more loss, any more disappointments.
To paraphrase the famous psychologist Albert Ellis, 'You can stand
anything but death.' It's harsh, and yet it challenges you to call upon the
reserves of your resiliency. If you've experienced a legacy of loss already,
you probably can't imagine what will happen to you if you pursue an
adoption that doesn't go through. My hubby and I painfully joked, before
taking our daughter home from the hospital, that we'd go on a homicidal
rampage if things fell through. I felt so vulnerable, beaten down, and
powerless. I understand your pain, but you can and will survive this, and be
better for it. Maybe you can't see it yet, but I can. Just hold on. As Ellis
said, "The art of love is largely the art of persistence,"
Assumption #7: Biological children pass on my genes, giving me a sense
of future contribution, of significance, of a stake in immortality.
Your life as you know it ends with you, no matter your beliefs. We're all
going to die. It's not a hypothetical. And there's no guarantee a biological
child will perpetuate your genes beyond herself. Let's try something - can
you identify the names of your great, great grandparents on both sides?
That's only three generations from you, and yet most people cannot recall
What is passed on, however a family is created, are the important ideas, life
philosophies, cultural teachings, and values. That, my friends, is where the
real power lies.
Adoption isn't second best. But don't trust me, try it for yourself. It's
certainly not the path of least resistance, but it bears significant fruit. Flip
the script on what you thought would happen, making space for what could