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Adoption Blog: Man Up!

Thinking Back and Looking Ahead

Thinking back to myself as a young boy looking ahead at his future, I am reminded how differently my family life has turned out. Back then -- growing up in the late 1970s and early 80s, living in a mostly white, midwestern town, watching reruns of The Donna Reed Show and Leave it to Beaver -- I figured I would finish school, find a girl to marry, buy a little house with a white picket fence, and have a couple of kids who looked like me. This was the middle-class American dream, and at the time it never occurred to me that life might turn out any other way. 
But it did. Life is funny like that. 
I found the girl, we got married and eventually bought a house -- sans picket fence -- and settled into a comfortable little life for ourselves. We weren't in a hurry to have children -- we were young and had plenty of years ahead of us -- so we decided that we wouldn't actively plan for our family; we would let nature run its course, and we knew eventually we would be blessed with children. But two years quickly turned to 12 and still we were childless. A trip to the doctor and a few tests revealed that nature was not on our side, and we had to choose a new path to follow: IVF, adoption, or simply living childless? We had been living childless long enough to know that wasn't what we wanted, and after weighing the risk-to-reward ratio for IVF, we quickly dismissed that as an option, too. We decided that international adoption was the route we would take to becoming a family, a decision that has proven itself to be the right choice for us, again and again. 
While this was a very exciting time in our lives, it was tempered somewhat by the realization that I would never have a child that looked like me. It's hard for me to quantify that feeling -- it wasn't a deal-breaker, or we might have tried IVF. It's sort of an abstract, melancholy, what if kind of emotion that is laden with a tinge of guilt for just having the thought. Though I still occasionally wonder what our biological children might have looked like, any lingering disappointment has long since faded into the back of my mind. Manu is my son, and while he might not look like me, I can begin to see my influence manifested in his personality -- and I think that is more important than passing on physical traits. 
Soon after we adopted Manu from India, we began to envision the future of our family, and what that might look like. To be honest, we simply assumed that we would adopt again from India, and probably from the same children's home. Being an adoptee in a hyper-visible family, we wanted to give Manu, and our future child, a common bond that they could share and find some comfort in as they grow up together. We also love the culture of India, so it seemed the obvious choice.
A year or so ago, due to frustrations with the Indian adoption authorities and the increasing difficulty in placing special-needs children, Manu's children's home stopped facilitating adoptions. We were very discouraged by this news, as we have fond memories of our time there, and wanted desperately to return for our next adoption. We took some comfort in the belief that we would at least be able to adopt again from India, and possibly the same region where Manu was born. As is typical, the bureaucracy never fails to disappoint, and India has stopped accepting new dossiers while it overhauls its entire adoption system. This should be a good thing in the long run for facilitating timelier, more transparent adoptions, but in the meantime, our agency has shuttered its India program, and others are forecasting a three to four year wait for any child. This has been a real blow to our plans, as we simply do not have the time to wait, and the idea of not being able to adopt from India again bothers me more than not being able to have a biological child. 
Life is funny like that. 
So again we've had a choice to make: remain a one-child family or choose a different country? Of course we're choosing a different country! Since we don't want to isolate Manu or to make him feel that he stands out any more than he already does, if we cannot adopt a child who looks like him, it is very important that he or she doesn't look like us, and was not born in the U.S. Maybe this matters, and maybe it doesn't, but it rings true to our sensibilities as parents. Through adoption, we can make choices as to how our family is formed, and while it wouldn't have mattered to us before, this time we need to take Manu's interests into consideration. If we can't give him an Indian sibling, at least he'll have a brother or sister whose journey will resemble his. So, I've changed from wanting a child who looks like me to insisting on one who doesn't; that is the great irony of our situation. 
We will proceed by becoming a multi, multi-cultural family. Just as with Manu, we will love our next child unconditionally, and when it's all said and done, none of this will have mattered.

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You wonderfully worded how I too feel as an adoptive parent.  It’s amazing to me how happy I am with the way my family looks even though it’s nothing like I pictured it years ago. 
I look forward to hearing more about your new adoption journey!

By Danielle Pennel on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm.

Well written. I especially like your sentence, “Manu is my son, and while he may not look like me, I can begin to see my influence manifested in his personality - and I think that is more important than passing on physical traits.”

Thank you for reminding us of that.

By 12Greyhound on Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm.

Thanks guys for the nice comments!

By Jeff on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 8:23 am.

Hello Jeff,

I appreciate your sentiments regarding adopting a child from the same country/home as your first.  I felt the same way after adopting my daughter from China, then finding my chances of another child from China unlikely when single parent applications were limited.  Consequently I adopted my son from the Marshall Islands, and then another daughter from India.  While our multicultural family may look strange to others, it is just right for us!

By clkerper on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm.

Great post, Jeff.

By heathermac on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 7:47 pm.

We too have an adopted child.  Get this…..we (you and I) are cousins!  We need to meet.  Our sons will have something in common that we don’t!

By Teddi on Monday, May 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm.

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