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Adoption Blog: Man Up!

Getting Pregnant Might Ruin Everything!

I've found that most people do the best they can to be supportive throughout the adoption process. But if you haven't personally experienced the emotional stress of infertility or the extreme highs and lows of the adoption process itself, it can be hard to relate. Worse, some people do not understand how their well-intentioned, but often ill-phrased, words can have unintended meanings for the people they're trying to support.

Case in point? Anyone who has been involved in the adoption community for any time at all has surely heard the expression, "Now that you're adopting, you'll get pregnant!" from well-meaning friends and family members or even mere acquaintances. When I hear a phrase like that, I usually try to give the speaker the benefit of the doubt and let it roll off my back, assuming they aim to reassure me, as an adoptive parent, that there is still a chance to have a biological child. Often it is quipped humorously, as an icebreaker of sorts, to start up a conversation. Sometimes, though, it can't help but seem that some people are suggesting you've made a bad decision—you've settled for the "second best" parenting option—and as a result, you'll have to suffer Mother Nature's consequences.

I admit that, though in recent years I have become an advocate for adoption and its related causes, it wasn't always how I envisioned my family coming together. Growing up in central Kentucky, watching reruns of Donna Reed and Leave It to Beaver on television, instilled in me an image of what my future family would be filled with—white children, with features that resemble mine. It's in our nature to want to replicate ourselves. Historically, this is how humans have gone along: passing genes, as well as the idea that families should look alike, from generation to generation.

I never had anything against adoption but, to put my own once-ignorant ideas on display, to me international adoption was something that rich people pursued to feel better about themselves. From my own vantage point, their children were mere trophies. Not having known any adoptive families personally (domestic or international), popular media accounts of celebrity adoptions—grandstanding spectacles from people who seemed to prefer publicity over parenthood—shaped my point of view.

But the world, and my point of view in it, has changed in the last 40 years—my son Manu's generation and those after his are likely to see the institution of family much differently than the kind idealized in the 1950s TV show reruns I grew up with. I have a hard time reconciling those old ideas in my current state of mind, but I'm trying to be honest about where I was coming from.

Like some people, my wife and I chose adoption out of necessity. Even though the adoption community goes to great lengths to portray adoption as every bit as viable as natural childbirth (and it is), it isn't natural, instinctual, or really very common in the great scheme of family-making. So it's not surprising to me that it's not often a first choice when starting a new family, and that the casual observer might not understand the impact that their uninformed words can have on the sensitive ears of the prospective adoptive parent.

My wife and I had discussed adoption from the early days of our marriage, but it was always in the context of a second or third child—I still wanted my "own" baby first. Although that's kind of hard to admit now and might sound blasphemous and insensitive to many adoption advocates, I don't think it's wrong to feel that way, nor do I think that those early feelings in any way detract from the love I have for my son today.

Any lingering regrets about our infertility vanished forever the day we learned of a little boy in India named Manu. The moment I saw those first pictures, I knew he was my son. Although I did struggle with some anxiety over the adoption process and (thankfully unrealized) fears about bonding issues, I never doubted that I could love him as much as I could a biological child. Almost instantly my desire for a biological child was extinguished, as I quickly realized that I would indeed have my own baby.

A couple of years have now passed since we brought Manu home from India. In that time our family bond has grown very strong. Although we are a visible adoptive family, I am no longer conscious of the differences between us and tend to forget them entirely. Sometimes I'm taken aback when someone points out our racial differences, but not because I'm offended; rather, when I look at Manu, I only see his boyish smile.

Enough time has passed now that the prospect of expanding our family further is on our minds. An aspect of family-building that we now have to consider—one that wasn't a factor the first time we welcomed a child to our family—is what effect any new addition will have on Manu. Working through that issue has made me more assured than ever that a biological child, through natural means or via IVF, would not fit into our current family vision. I no longer desire a child that looks like me, nor do I want to put Manu into a position where he might feel like he was competing with our "real" child or alienate him by adopting a child that looks more like us than him. The rewards of belonging to a multicultural adoptive family far exceed any expectations I once had for a more traditional family, and it has little to do with race. Being a transracial adoptive family makes us unique, but finding each other half a world away—that makes us special.

I have wondered from time to time how we might react and manage if indeed, like the saying goes, some form of cosmic karma gifted us with a biological child. I can assure you we would be happy and grateful, but to be honest I might feel just a little let down. International adoption has given me a new family and a new perspective. I'm enjoying the journey and can't wait for the next chapter to unfold.

So now when someone says to me, "You're adopting? Now you'll get pregnant!" I look them in the eye and say confidently, "Gosh, I hope not. That might ruin everything!"


[Editor's Note: We've heard the phrase "Adopting? Now you'll get pregnant!" so much, we created a tongue-in-cheek group dedicated to it.]

Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle


Jeff, I so admire your honesty in this gorgeous post.  My knee-jerk reaction is that “natural” sounds off, but the way you’ve explained it here seems as if “unnatural” is certainly not it’s opposite, at least in tenor.  It’s more like you’re setting “natural” and “special” in oppositional relief, which feels very right to me.

By Meghan on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 3:34 am.

Thanks Meghan, for putting it more succinctly than I did grin

By Jeff on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm.

Jeff you bring up so many points so well in this post. Like you, I’ve heard the same comments from well meaning friends or strangers. Like you, I fell in love with international adoption en route—for reasons most people will never understand—and am thrilled when others discover the joys of this path to parenthood. Unlike you (unless you get pregnant smile), I have a child through adoption and through childbirth, and I guess from my current perspective—it doesn’t matter. I love my child who looks like a mini-me and the one who looks nothing like me and I love the way each child came into my life and how it made our family the way it is. I also know you’re joking with the idea of a biological baby ruining everything. It’s a fun way to answer such a statement, while letting the person know adoption is not second best. Thanks for a great read.

By Stacy Clark on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm.

Good post, Jeff. I enjoy the fact that now that my kids (and I) are a little older, nobody makes the “now you’ll get pregnant” comments anymore…although that did actually happen to my aunt and uncle. They’d been matched with a baby but hadn’t taken custody yet when they realized they had a baby on the way. They didn’t go forward with the adoption, but went on to have four birth sons.

By Sharon Van Epps on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm.

I don’t hate a lot of things but I HATE THAT PHRASE!

We struggled for 3 years with just the normal infertility issues and going to extremes with clomid, temperature, ovulation kits etc.
We then decided that after 36 failed months that adoption would be best for us. We adopted our first in 2005, I heard that phrase so often I wanted to cut my ears off. We adopted our 2nd 7 months later and heard it more frequently, we adopted our 3rd 15 months later and people were practically screaming the phrase at us while secretly I wanted to make voodoo dolls of each of them and hide them in my closet and each time I heard that phrase poke them with pins!
We welcomed our 4th through adoption Fall of 2008 and people were falling over themselves to tell us how in trouble we were going to be in now we will get pregnant.
After 3 years I just shook my head.
We had an interrupted adoption Winter of 2009 and found out we were then expecting.
5 years after our first adoption we finally did it and people were falling over us to tell us, “I told you so”
I don’t think that after 5 years it can be counted…
And it really ticks me off!

By Wubyoumama on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 8:12 pm.

What a beautiful post. You summarized my feelings exactly. Thank you for sharing!

By Eva on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm.

Love it!  I couldn’t agree with you more!

Our son DOES look like us… or so people tell us!  I’m sure it sounds crazy but being told that he looks like us is not helpful and doesn’t make me feel happy.  Our son looks like HIMSELF- and I’m so very proud of him, his birthparents, and our adoption!

By junofoxtrot on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 12:10 am.

This blog totally makes sense to me!  I know that a bio-kid would not fit into my picture of what my family is.  We are a transracial family - not one which shares physical traits.  Plus, my husband and I joke that we shouldn’t have a bio-kid because there is no way our genetics could create anything as cute as any of our current kids.

Thanks for this!

By Danielle Pennel on Monday, January 24, 2011 at 8:52 pm.

Ha! Danielle, Leslie and I have joked about the same thing!

Thanks for the positive comments everyone, I was a little nervous about how this one might be received.

By Jeff on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 2:30 am.

I so relate to this!! My husband and I had been hoping to have children for 8 years when we brought our daughter home (open, domestic adoption). That was 2 years ago. Each time anyone tells me that I’ll probably get pregnant now, I cringe because, just as you and Danielle commented, it would mess up everything and there’s no way a bio child would be as adorable as my daughter. I love her exactly the way she is - without my DNA. smile

By charity on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm.
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