Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Adoption Is Not Just for the Infertile

A recent blog entry at the "On Parenting" blog (The Washington Post)  was about adoption. As another person who commented on the blog noted, the blogger and the commenters seemed unduly focused on adoption as something for infertile couples.

I hope it's not too obvious to say that it is not only infertile couples who adopt. Adoption doesn't have to be a last resort. We are in the midst of an adoption. We chose to adopt because we love children and because there are many children in the world in need of loving homes. We've had no fertility problems. (We, of course, have one biological child, also known as "the Bünj'" and by many other names.)

To be sure, adoption isn't for everyone. There are many factors in deciding whether adoption is appropriate for someone. As we've learned in the educational component of our adoption process, one must be aware that "being adopted" is  a real psychological difference or challenge for a child and a person to cope with as she grows up and throughout her life. Parents must feel they are emotionally equipped to be able to support their child with that issue.

That having been said what, good, healthy biological parent whose child happened to have a physical or psychological challenge wouldn't try to move mountains to help and support him and cope with it.

When you adopt, you don't always know what sort of child to expect; you may know little of her family history. But with a biological child you still don't know who he will be until you have him and raise him. You may know a lot or a little about your family and genetic heritage. But as to what combination helps make your daughter or son who s/he is, that's a gamble no matter what — even without the potential of not-genetic problems or tragic life events. Yet every day people choose to take the risk and have children they plan to love and raise no matter what.

I am the first, however, to acknowledge that (as I said) not everyone has the personality to adopt — and moreover to adopt someone of another ethnicity, to adopt an older child, to adopt someone with special needs, etc.

One of the most difficult parts of applying for our adoption was indicating — in the abstract — what sort of child we were requesting. (In our situation, the China Center for Adoption Affairs [or CCAA] will match us with a child, but they will do so based upon our application and request.) It seems like a sin to say we want to adopt but only within these parameters. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake for parents (and adoption agencies) not to be honest enough to recognize that, given their own backgrounds, there are some situations certain people shouldn't volunteer to get into. We had to admit there are certain levels of special needs children that we don't feel strong enough to be able to give the best care. Yet, strangely, if any such child were chosen for us or born to us, we would care for that child the best we possibly could. It is a near paradox, and I find it disturbing. Yet that is how is happens.

When we talked to our social worker, together we kind of explained it this way: When a couple decides to have a biological child, they hope for the healthiest of healthy, strong, smart, emotionally adaptable children. Even if the child born to them is far from that hope, good parents will raise her and love her just the same. But when you are adopting among children already born and known, how can you hope for the "best", but be willing to love the "neediest"? Choice is involved. It seems to me that it takes a uniquely strong and sacrificing person to say, "I want to adopt the child with the greatest needs." Or even (to be hypothetical), "Choose a child for us randomly." And yet anything less than the former option seems callous.

It comes back to what a person feels capable of taking on. Life may present me with any number of risks I don't choose in advance. There are many risks I feel I am wise not to take, if I have the choice. If I become stranded on a high mountain, I guess I'll do my best. Otherwise, though, I'm not going to take up mountain climbing; I don't have the temperament or coordination for it.

That's just with my life. It seems even more unwise to take risks with other people's lives, like adopting "over your head."

Despite the challenges of adoption, I truly believe the world would be a better place if even more parents who felt they were up to those challenges would adopt regardless of their ability to conceive. There are so many children in our country and all over the world who need parents and homes.


Anonymous said...

I don't feel its my special responsibility to adopt just because I am struggling with infertility. I still am trying for a biological child. This is my preference. I am truly sorry if it offends anyone.

mewmewmew said...

I am the first, however, to acknowledge that (as I said) not everyone has the personality to adopt — and moreover to adopt someone of another ethnicity, to adopt an older child, to adopt someone with special needs, etc.

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