Posted by: katedaphne | November 13, 2007

Adoption is not a cure for infertility

OK, I’ve been meaning to get back to this topic. I keep getting distracted by less important things. Like what? Oh, work. Those people over there keep asking me to DO stuff. And that darn paper. It comes out every single day. Never a break. Sheesh.  And LinkedIn.com. Just discovered it. Not really into the FaceBook, MySpace thing but LinkedIn I can delude myself is a little more grown up. I admit, I get a kick connecting to people I haven’t seen or thought of in a while.

So yeah. But back to the topic at hand. Why not just adopt? I included a short bit on this with my newspaper article. It started out a lot longer, but the editors thought it needed to be shorter. So here I am going to wax poetic on the subject. Or at the very least, wax off.

People have asked me, “Why don’t you just adopt?” There’s no easy answer. There are entire books written on the subject. But here are a few of my thoughts, in no particular order.

–It’s not that easy. It takes a long time, is as expensive or more expensive than fertility treatments. It is NOT a sure thing. Adoptions can and do fall through. Ever hear of Baby Sam? Foreign adoptions put you at the mercy of governments which may or may not have your best interest in mind. The wait can be years, you don’t get an infant, you don’t necessarily know how the infant is being cared for. You can travel across the world only to discover the rules have changed or that you are going to be charged several thousand more dollars than you have.

If you go with domestic adoption, don’t let anyone fool you. It is buying a baby. It is the big unspoken truth. Adoptive parents are only supposed to pay a birth mother for “living” and “medical” expenses. But the truth is that prospective parents may be chosen simply because they offer more money. 

None of these facts are deal breakers, and I am well aware that many adoptions work out perfectly every year. I’m just saying — it’s not EASY!

–Many children available for adoption have serious mental, emotional or physical disabilities. Honestly, I am not sure I ever had what it takes to care for a child like that, and after these years of IF, I am sure I don’t now. It takes a special kind of heart to do that, and those who do have my admiration and respect. But I don’t want to save the world. I’m not looking to be a hero or solve the world’s problems one person at a time. I just want a family of my own, like my parents had before me, and their parents, and their parents’ parents. And besides, I’m sure I could mess up a kid enough all on my own. I don’t dare take one that’s got a head start on me. JOKING. But you know what I mean — everyone blames their problems on their parents and their upbringing. I just don’t know if I could be the kind of person a child with so many extra problems would need. I know — having a biological child does not insulate you from the possibility of having a special-needs child. And if that’s the hand the universe deals me, I will carry on to the best of my ability, with all the grace I can muster. But that is different from signing up for that knowing ahead of time. That would be making a promise to the neediest of children, a promise I don’t know if I could keep.

–Why don’t fertile people adopt? Why should my medical condition force a question on me that regular healthy people never face? Whenever anyone asks me why I don’t “just adopt” these days I just look them in the face and say, “Why don’t you?”

–Adoption won’t cure me. I have things medically wrong with me. Why do I have to justify going to a doctor? People treat all kinds of medical ailments, most of which are not life-threatening. No one ever asks an arthroscopic patient why he’s getting a knee replacement. No one says, “Well, maybe you are just not meant to walk or play tennis or take out the trash.” No one tells cancer patients that maybe it is God’s will that they die.

–It’s not that my genes are so great or so sacred. It’s just that they’re mine. I love knowing I have my father’s eyes, my mother’s figure. I have flat feet like my dad and bumpy heels like my mom. My siblings share a different combination of the same raw materials, so though we don’t look exactly alike, anyone can see we are all connected. Even when we don’t understand each other, we look at each other and know we belong together. We’re a tribe.

My maternal grandmother passed away this summer. She was my last living grandparent. I accompanied my mom to the newspaper to take her photograph to the obituary desk. Since I work there and am friends with the obit writer, she took a few extra minutes to chat with us. She looked at the photo and told my mom that she looked just like her mother. It was a comfort to my mom to hear that, and to know that though her mother was gone, she would live on. My mom would see her every time she looked in the mirror. I can see how that might be a doble-edged sword, that you might want to forget. But ultimately, it is the greatest comfort.

This happened right after my last IVF failure. It made me so sad to think that no one will ever look at my picture and say something like that. When I’m gone, who will miss me? Who will look at a picture of me and see their own eyes, cheekbones, smile? Perhaps there is some ego in this. But I don’t mean to be egotistical. I just want to matter to someone the way my own mom matters to me.

I know that none of this is required in the recipe for happy family life. It’s just that, I want it. Is that so wrong? I’m not ready to just give it up. The people who say “genes don’t matter,” well — maybe not to them. But they matter to me. I treasure the connections I have with my family and far from wanting to cut them — I want to continue them. To tell me to “just adopt” in essence trivializes my entire family experience. And to me, it is just not trivial.

–Plus, it’s not only my genes I’d like to see reflected in a new person. It’s my husband’s. To me, he’s the best, most wonderful person on the planet. Why wouldn’t I like the world to have just one more like him?

The desire to have a child biologically related to me and my husband is not entirely the same as our desire to have a family. Giving birth to our baby provides a physical connection, to the past and to the future. I am one link in a chain that reaches far behind me and that, I hope, will stretch far ahead.

We recently went through our first adoption “false alarm.” We hadn’t planned to adopt yet, but then, no one had ever called offering us a baby before either. In that moment, I knew an adopted child could easily fit into our home, creating a family where once there was none. We said yes, but in the end it didn’t work out.

My mother-in-law called one evening from her home in Kansas. Through a complicated chain of events, she knew of a baby born here in Florida to a mother who wouldn’t or couldn’t keep him. He’d been born that day. I was ready to get in the car that moment — it was 10:00 at night — and go get my baby. I knew I could and would love him.

It turned out that there were a hundred complications, and it would never have worked. But it taught me something. My reluctance to adopt doesn’t have to do with my ability to love. In a way, I do love that baby. I think of him often and hope he is well. He was born addicted to oxycodone, so the first months of his life have not been easy or pleasant. But I hope he is making it, and that there is someone strong and loving there to help him. He’ll never know I exist in this world, but I won’t forget him.

So, adopting is not out of the question. Someday, I may. One thing IF has taught me is never to say never. I’ve crossed a thousand lines already that I never even dreamed I would be drawing. But if I do adopt, it will be a thoughtful, considered decision.

I will never “just adopt.”

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