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Adoption Blog: The Perfect Blend

The Things People Say When Biological Parents Decide to Adopt

Lately, it's felt difficult to be biological parents in the adoption process, though less painful I'm sure than it is for many prospective adoptive parents. My husband and I have not and, presumably, will not experience the strain of fertility treatments, the loss of options, and what must be the absolute and sometimes inconsolable agony of realizing that a couple's own pregnancy will not be the route to parenthood. Because of our two girls, we have a messy, beautiful, fulfilling life. We count our blessings daily, but we're lonely in our own way. 

It was our first group session at our adoption agency, Spence-Chapin, that we realized we were the only ones. Because I am one of those people who feels compelled to fill silence and make eye contact, I offered to get us started with group introductions. "Hi, I'm Meghan," I began, plastering a hideous impersonation of a warm smile onto my face. "And this is my husband, Jeremiah. We have two daughters, Josi and Lilah—both biological." Oh my gosh, I thought, did I just, without a thought, draw a line in the sand and separate us from the rest of these hopeful parents? As the torch passed around the room, and our story continued to stick out like a sore, lucky thumb in my mind, I exhaled when another couple described their own biological daughter, only to inhale sharply when they spoke of subsequent fertility problems.

Okay, so we were the only ones there who were hoping to adopt as a first choice, but not one of the other couples in attendance treated us with anything but acceptance that night or for the rest of our interactions during the homestudy process. It turns out that the people we thought had the most right to resent our spot on the waiting list seemed to respect the process too much to single out any particular path as better or worse than theirs.

No, it's not other pre-adoptive families who have given us pause. It's the pediatrician who recently asked why we don't just get a dog. "You know," he said, "because then you could return him if it didn't work out." It's the family friend who questioned the risk we're taking on behalf of our current children by bringing a new baby into the mix. It's the mother at the girls' school who, as I've alluded to, assumes we're adopting because we want a son and we're tired of giving birth to girls. I don't remember similarly personal and judgmental barbs when I was pregnant—so I can only assume that it's not the addition of another baby, per se, but an adopted baby upon which these comments are based.

So, as we wait for our new Korean baby to make us a blended family of five, we focus on the positive and address the negative. We remind ourselves that questions aren't condemnations and that, while it isn't our job to educate, we have happily chosen a path that surprises others. We spend winter nights dreaming of a tiny person with almond eyes, unlike mine, and dark hair, unlike Jeremiah's. A child who won't look like our first two but who will fill our messy, beautiful, fulfilling lives up to the brim nonetheless. And we try to be patient as another year closes, always mindful of those who have endured so much more than we.

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Hi Meghan,

I think the people who are inclined to make tacky, thoughtless comments would find a way regardless of your situation, because the comments reflect who they are, not who you are. Nevertheless, it can feel awkward at times to be a “different” kind of adoptive parent. Many times I find women (even strangers!) who conceived via infertility treatment want to tell me their stories of struggle because they assume I walked that path and then “had” to adopt. We chose to form our family through adoption and so I haven’t experienced the fertility treatment struggle, but I just try to listen when people want to tell me these things because they just need to tell someone.

By Sharon Van Epps on Tuesday, January 04, 2011 at 7:23 am.

Thanks, Sharon.  What you’re saying feels totally right to me.  I really appreciate your perspective.

By Meghan on Tuesday, January 04, 2011 at 2:58 pm.

I completely agree with Sharon!  Adoption was our first choice as well, and although people don’t generally ask if we had fertility problems, they almost always speak of friends they know that had fertility issues, as if I can relate.  It’s a little sad to me that people assume adoption is a second choice, not a first one.  In fact, that’s part of why we chose to adopt before even trying to conceive naturally—so our child would know that he was wanted and loved from the get-go… and this path was our choice and not one that was thrust upon us.  I think we’re definitely in the minority, but how nice to find others in similar situations. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and your are definitely not alone!

By bearsmama on Friday, January 07, 2011 at 4:48 pm.

We are also parents who chose adoption - we are fertile as far as we know, and yes, we have gotten strange looks for our choice. My two children are from Korea.

I do hope, that as you wait, you think of the birth mother in Korea, who due to financial or social reasons, will be forced to be separated from her baby.  Happy and complete for you, lonesome and sad for her.

By ttstevens on Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:06 pm.

Interesting - and reassuring - that I scrolled down to make a comment about those of us who chose adoption to make a family and HAPPILY read about three others who did the same. My husband and I had no interest, for a variety of reasons, to “biologically conceive” as we decided adoption was the natural option for us. I am still constantly amazed by the assumptions made by others for our decision. It is unfortunate that we still live in a world of stereotypes and generalizations. Maybe we will all raise children who will break this mould.

By LizLee on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 4:02 am.

I think it’s great when people choose, for whatever personal reason, to adopt rather than have a natural birth, but why should others be expected to understand our motives? Adoption is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t “natural” so to expect others, especially mere acquaintances, to assume otherwise is probably expecting too much.

By Jeff on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm.

Well Jeff, I guess I would never approach a single mother with a child that “looks like her” and ask, “It must be so hard, why did you keep her?” So as a “conspicuous family” I simply expect the same respect. Everyone has a story, everyone has motives for every action, so I think we should try to foster a culture of understanding and acceptance rather than questioning and defense.
And adoption is “natural”, it may not be biological or usual, but there isn’t anything “unnatural” about it.

By LizLee on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 4:26 am.

My apologies Liz, no offense was intended. If someone has been purposefully hurtful to you based on the fact that you have adopted, then I agree wholeheartedly. My post above was more dealing with the expectations of the average person. Adoption isn’t “natural” IMO in the sense that, it isn’t biological, or instinctual, or even very common in the great scheme of things, and therefore not high on the priority list for most people on which to educate themselves. To me it seems a perfectly logical assumption that someone adopts because they cannot conceive.

I make assumptions on dozens, or hundreds of things a day based on what I see and hear, and out of ignorance, I’m sure some of those assumptions are wrong. I may be misinformed, but I hope I’m not being insensitive; I can’t know everything about everything.

By Jeff on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm.

No need to apologize Jeff, I too was merely restating my argument - which still remains that from my perspective as a College educator and a human being that making assumptions about others is not in fact a good way to make it through life -empathy, compassion and judiciousness will navigate us all through life more fluidly. I hope to raise a son who will embody these traits and that others will as well, even the average person.

By LizLee on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 8:34 pm.

Very good then. I would only add that, worrying too much about what the average person thinks on any given topic is fruitless and can lead to a lot of needless frustration.

By Jeff on Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 9:31 pm.
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