Why don’t you just adopt?

Oh… the question that everyone in the infertility community* is just waiting to be asked…

Why don’t you just adopt?

 

(*The club nobody wants to join but somehow we all manage to be members!)

Let’s think about this for a second. I’ve discussed my own experience of having been adopted in various places on this blog – a summary of which can be found here – and in a bit more detail on my mammoth adoption questions post. I have a positive experience of adoption (though not unaware of some of the complexities, particularly of transracial adoption) – and I’m open about having been adopted and often discuss it with people if they’re interested. So I can kind of see why people would think, well, if she can’t have children then why doesn’t she “just adopt”?

I wanted to do a post to explain a bit more about my feelings on the subject because it’s something that people who are infertile (or even not infertile but just haven’t reproduced) are asked all the time, and I think I can bring a particular perspective to this as I am part of the adoption triad, as a person who was adopted.

My feelings on this topic aren’t particularly organised so you’ll have to excuse me a bit if I go all over the place!

Some of my answers to the question:

  1. I was adopted. I think it was a positive thing for me and I’m perfectly happy with it. But what people don’t realise if they weren’t adopted is that if you’re adopted, it’s usually the case that you know no-one in the world to whom you’re biologically related. That to me is the biggy. Yes, I’m fine and happy with having been adopted. I think it was a good thing for me. I love my family. But I still have that yearning to know someone to whom I’m biologically, genetically related – I think that’s even more of a sense of wanting that if you’ve never had it. My partner T was also adopted and we’ve talked about it and I think we are on the same page there… I mean, he probably thinks about it a lot less than I do, but I think we both thought it would be nice to give it a shot. We don’t think it is the be all and end all – although it sometimes feels like that – but it would be our first choice to try and have a baby that is genetically ours.
  2. Adoption is often not the first choice for parents. I think whilst I am very positive about my own adoption experience, and my parents have never made me feel unwanted (anyone who adopts has to go through a lot to become a parent), I think it’s important to recognise that adoption is rarely a first choice. Even though I’m adopted, I understood from an early age that my parents adopted me and sibling #2 because they thought they couldn’t have children. They later miraculously managed to have two bio children, but the fact is they wouldn’t have adopted us if they had had the bios first. That’s just a fact. Now I know that some people do pick adoption as a first choice. That’s cool. But let’s not dismiss the fact that most people who want children start off by wanting children who are genetically theirs, born to them. There are many ways to make a family, and most of them are fabulous, and I think it is great that there are other options for people who can’t have children biologically. But I don’t think there’s any shame in saying We would like to try and have a biological child.
  3. Adoption is not the first choice for children. Adoption is great, yadda yadda, it’s giving a child a chance of a family where they don’t have one – but why don’t they have one? A child who is in that position is up for adoption because they don’t have a caregiver who can look after them. Think about that for a moment. That thing you take for granted – family, parents – an adopted child doesn’t have that. They have suffered loss. They are either an orphan or they have living parents or family who are unable to care for them. In the UK, it’s often the case that they have suffered trauma such as abuse, or their parents are addicts, and they have been removed from a family situation involuntarily – it’s not this kind of altruistic “giving up for a better life” scenario that I came from – these children had mothers and/or fathers who wanted them and who were deemed unsuitable parents. It’s not all bad, but it’s important to recognise that all adopted children have a loss of their first family. This often gets forgotten in the literature which focuses on adoptive parents’ desire to have a child (and often, their loss) and the birth parents’ loss. It’s really not all bad! But in an ideal world we wouldn’t have children who need to be taken from their first families.
  4. If want to know if I’m definitely infertile. (TMI alert: skip to next one if you don’t like it!) I have had many problems over the years including multiple operations, monthly and mid-monthly and throughout-the-monthly awful periods (so debilitating I often have had to take time off from work / work from home because I was losing so much blood), endometriosis, polyps, cysts, blocked fallopian tubes, uterine growths, fibroids and so on. I mean, it’s hilarious to think I ever used birth control. I had 15 years of infertility, one failed marriage, and I’m now in a happy relationship… If a bio baby is definitely not on the agenda then I want to have a hysterectomy. I know this sounds OTT but I really don’t want to go through the pain and horror (think abbattoir!) of monthly periods if I don’t have to. The only reason I keep putting up with it is that I want to try and have a baby. If it’s definitely off then I want it all whipped out.
  5. It’s not easy to adopt in the UK. I know right now that I would probably need to have a less demanding job if I wanted to adopt. I work extremely long hours and I often work away from home. I think this will obviously change if I can have a bio baby but there are [rudimentary] means in place for workplaces to accommodate that – they have to give me time off if I get pregnant, regardless of whether they want to or not. It sounds silly but we would probably not be approved to adopt. (Silly because I’m currently pregnant so no approval required if it happens that way.) I think we would both work too much and we also don’t live in a child friendly apartment. (We are hoping to save up and move out – that’s another story.) I also feel like because most children in the UK who are adopted are older, that they really would need more time to be spent with them settling them in. Right now I’m staying in a job that I don’t love because I want to retain my maternity rights… I’d have to think about a different job if we adopted.
  6. Adopted children have more needs now. I’m probably controversial saying this but when I was a baby and was adopted, I don’t think I had particular needs that were different from any other baby’s needs. (Actually I was a bit ill when I was born so I did have a few extra needs, but I got over them.) In the UK the majority of adoptions come from care and they are older children. In my opinion older children have more needs than babies because they already had a life before you. Friends have adopted older kids and it’s fantastic, but even they have acknowledged that it’s been really hard at first. It’s not that they don’t love them or the child hasn’t become their son or daughter – it’s just that the children need more support the older they are when they’re adopted. I absolutely think it is fantastic to adopt older children because they probably have greater needs… but for me right now I don’t think we could meet those needs without making very big changes (eg one of us staying at home and not working). Financially we can’t afford for one of us not to work so it’s not an option for us right now.
  7. Adoption has changed. As I’ve already mentioned, adoption is different to when we were adopted. I asked my parents and they said it was pretty much a single meeting assessment from the agency head who went on gut feel as to whether they were suitable. (My dad being my dad, asked what the process was. The answer: “If I like you, you get a baby. I like you!”) I don’t think this would cut the mustard nowadays. Adoption in the UK is a lengthy and intrusive process and only a tiny fraction of the children in care are adopted (see my previous post for more stats). There are a lot of requirements that we probably wouldn’t meet, and many adoptions now are open adoptions where the child has ongoing contact with the birth family and meetings and so on. I don’t know how I’d feel about that. (Happy for the child, maybe difficult for adoptive parents to deal with.) I think the point is, you don’t go into adoption in the UK without a great deal of thought, care, emotional investment, financial investment and expectation of a lengthy intrusive process. Quite frankly it’s easier to try and have a baby through IVF – it’s intrusive but not that intrusive! And the NHS pays for treatment in the UK.
  8. I was transracially adopted. This adds a whole new layer of complexity. As I said in point 1, I think it’s natural to want a child who looks a bit like you, and to want to be biologically related to someone. (I keep thinking I would like to know someone who looks a bit like me – a mother or sister. This doesn’t stop me loving my mother or sister. It’s just an experience I’ve never had.) I’m “ethnic” and my partner is white (like most of my family) and I feel like a child of mine would have those questions and experiences that I could add to. I don’t know what ethnicity we’d be matched with if we were to adopt in the UK, because a child of ours would be biracial. I guess they might be able to do some sort of race match but given the UK’s ability to deal with race, I wouldn’t bet on it. (All ethnics are kind of considered the same… People at my work can’t even tell the difference between me and someone from an entirely different country!) I guess I feel that having two parents that look a bit like [our child] would help them deal with those identity questions more easily. From my own experience, the transracial aspect of being adopted was the hardest (experiencing racism and not understanding why) so I feel like I could be more in solidarity with my child if I could point to me and T and say “Well you look a bit like me [ethnic] and a bit like T [white] – can you see that?”

 

So those are my fairly disorganised and rambling views, or justifications why I wouldn’t “just” choose adoption.

Let’s be clear though – I think adoption is a positive resolution to a loss. Adoption can work out great – me, T, my sibling #2 are all “success stories” of people who were adopted and who seem to be living responsible adult lives (ha!) and we still speak with our parents and get on with our siblings. I genuinely love and get on with my parents and siblings. T is super close to his [also adopted] sibling. I know people in my extended network who were adopted who have close, loving relationships with their parents and no obvious ill effects of having had that first loss. So please don’t get the idea that I think adoption is negative.

Right now though, for us, it’s not our choice. And that is okay.

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11 comments

  1. Pingback: Adoption thoughts 2: questions | From zero to zygote
  2. My Perfect Breakdown

    I find everything you said here fascinating. I suspect I might ramble in this comment…
    First, from my limited understanding, I find the current British adoption system fascinating. We seem to have to systems of domestic adoption here – open infant where birth families choose adoptive families and no-one is forced to place their child. Or secondly, foster to adopt where children have been forcibly removed from their birth families, usually not as infants. It sounds like the British system is more similar to the British system, with the exception that birth families seem to have more rights in the British system. Of course, I’m not positive because I don’t know the Canadian foster to adopt system very well and I don’t know the British system very well at all.
    I find it fascinating your experience with being adopted in a transracial family with no connection to your birth family. We intentionally chose international open infant adoption so that our child will know their genetic links. We fully believe the ones who struggle the most with open adoption are the adoptive parents, I think it’s hard for us to navigate the waters of having birth parents in the picture – this is in part why we chose international, it gives us a bit more control over the open relationship. While the adoptive parent ultimately has full control as the legal guardians, the distance does give us a bit more comfort. That said, the other reason we chose open adoption in-spite of our fears is the medical history of the child – we want to know what we are getting into and we want our child to also know their family medical history in the long run.
    We also chose infant because of the fears of how hard it could be to adopt a slightly older child if we chose to go that route through the local foster system or the international adoption system in counties such as Ethiopia or Thailand. I admire those who choose that route, but we knew for us we really wanted
    I’ve talked about it before, the transracial component does make us very nervous. Its the one area where we wont be able to relate to our child at all. We decided we are open to other races but it still makes us nervous. Anyways, I wont dive into that one too deeply right now because we have talked a lot about it before.
    Oh, and one last thought. To anyone who ever says to someone “just adopt” – unless you have walked the path of adoption no-one has the right to make this comment. The adoption process has been one of the hardest things we’ve ever gone through and will cost us more financially then the down payment on our home. It will be worth it in the end, of that I’m sure, but man is it hard work and I 100% understand why people don’t do it. (In fact, last night Mr. MPB and I were pondering what the drop out stat is – people who start the process and withdraw before placement ever happens. We don’t plan to drop out, just curious because it’s hard, it’s frustrating and I can see how someone would just throw their arms up and walk away at any point during the process.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nara

      I think it’s great to ramble! I’m a great rambler (bletherer) myself! 🙂
      Firstly I wouldn’t take me as an authority on British adoption. I haven’t much experience of it – I was briefly a part of it, but that was after being adopted overseas – I was sort of adopted twice. And I know people who have adopted their children through the British system, but I don’t know people who have adopted babies. My understanding is that there are not many babies up for adoption and the majority of children pass through the care system first.

      I don’t think birth families always have rights in the British system – a lot of the time (from what I understand) there is forced removal from families by social services… There is a lot of controversy around that, and I think the media probably gives us a skewed view of how that happens. Channel 4 (one of the main UK terrestrial TV channels) did a series of documentaries on this around a year ago and the most heartrending part (well it was all heartrending) was the mother who didn’t turn up to the contact centre for her final contact with her baby. She couldn’t face it. Or the older children who just kept saying they wanted a “forever family” and had to keep going to these adoption parties and not getting picked. (I think it’s kind of abhorrent that kids get to be “picked” for adoption… You don’t get to pick your birth child so I don’t understand why adoption has to be a beauty parade.)

      I think the “knowing your genetic links/medical history” is an interesting idea really… I have to say that personally out of all the things I have dealt with through being adopted that the one thing that bothers me the least is the medical history thing. Maybe that’s because I’m more the kind of person who doesn’t want to know if I’m at risk of getting cancer or Huntingdon’s disease or something. Maybe also because I’ve never had a serious illness (apart from when I was born). To me that’s just admin stuff. The deeper loss is the loss of cultural/ethnic identity when you’re brought up in a culture that’s foreign to your own. Like I look [ethnic] but I speak, sound, act white. (There are pejorative terms for this!)

      I think on the one hand I believe race is just an appearance surface thing, like having blue eyes, but on the other hand if you’re not white you have a whole lot of attributions that people make, and if you have no link then you have to learn to prepare yourself for that, because your parents can’t help. I’m actually fine with it now… but do I wish I’d had some sort of expat-adoptee community, like a racial identity to call my own? Yes. I really do. I wish I could meet all the other adopted-from-my-birth-country people living in the UK (or just London) and we could have a little club. Actually T had that when he was growing up (events and meetings for people adopted from his agency) and it was part of his growing up and I think that’s quite special.

      I don’t think you should be SCARED of transracial adoption… I just think you should be aware (which you are!) of the kinds of questions and experiences your child is likely to have. Even if this goes against the modern adoptee movement, I still think it is a better solution to be brought up in a foreign-to-your-birth culture than to be in an orphanage or live in poverty or a culture where you are likely to end up in sexual slavery and so on. I’m glad that I’ve had the life I’ve had – it’s different to the one I might have had, but I’m okay with it. I like it (apart from work!).

      Oh and I’m totally with you on the financial thing. I mean, in the UK we are so lucky that the NHS pays for IVF treatment – in my area you get 3 cycles of IVF on the house. That’s NUTS. T and I are always talking about how we can’t believe they pay for it. But then again they’d have to pay more for psychological treatment for depression and so on. And it’s quite a slick process. They push 12 people at a time through at our hospital, and it’s only one hospital of several in London who do NHS IVF. Also we pay a significant proportion of our income towards services like the NHS, so we are paying for it in a way. But we aren’t paying what we would have to pay for adoption, and we aren’t having to make our home suitable for home visits and social services approved, which would also cost money, and I am not having to give up my job. So those are all pretty big financial implications.

      Told you I’d blether! 🙂

      Like

    • Nara

      Ah, thanks! It’s just my experience really. I don’t want people to get the idea that I’m anti adoption because obviously I have done okay out of it. But I think it is so flippant for people to ask that question all the time. As well as being pretty insulting!

      Like

  3. yearningformotherhood

    This is such an insightful post. Thanks for writing it!
    I’m not blessed with your perspective but i had a look at my local adoption website when I had my failed cycle last year, and I couldn’t believe how stringent and rigorous the entire process was. It’s quite off-putting, as, like you, we have such a hectic, child-unfriendly life. Obv when (if, eeek) baby gets here in Dec, alive and well, we will make changes but it would be so much harder to make massive life adjustments *in the hope* that you got approved by your adoption agency. Like you said, financial implications etc.

    Also, we’re a mixed race couple, too. My husband is white, I’m Indian. Apparently though, that is really sought after in the UK as there is a chronic shortage of BME adoptive parents!

    Like

  4. Terrakna - She of Advanced Maternal Age

    People really show their complete ignorance of the subject when they say this. If a parent loses a child, do they then too ask if they ever thought of adoption? That’s how it feels to me. And it’s not like you can just drive down to the corner “Baby Store” and pick out one that catches your fancy. “Ooo! I like this one. It’s got black hair and coos so prettily. What’s the price? Oh, I can one of these for half the price up the road at ‘Orphans R Us’.”

    Like

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