Some more on adopting vs. not adopting

As I’ve mentioned before, I love getting comments.  I particularly love getting thoughtful, articulate, pleasantly worded comments.  And I really love getting comments that thoughtfully, articulately, and pleasantly disagree with me, because then I have something interesting to think about. 

So, as you can imagine, I was exceedingly pleased to get Brooklynmama’s comments.  And, to update this (I started this post last Sunday and saved it part way through) I was also exceedingly pleased to get Jo’s and Susan’s comments.  I feel I ought to acknowledge them, and I’m finding this discussion highly interesting, but whether I can add anything remotely profound and significant to what has already been said is another matter.

I completely agree that society in general and individuals in particular have a bias against adoption.  I do also think that a personal preference for enlarging your family through birth rather than adoption isn’t necessarily anything to do with bias or prejudice.  But B’mama raised the question of where preference stops and prejudice begins.  I really don’t have any answer to that, probably because there just isn’t one.  When someone’s feelings on the subject go beyond "I’d rather give birth than adopt, if I can" and turn into "Even if I can’t, I’d rather remain childless than adopt", is that necessarily prejudice?  Does it depend on the reasons why they’re saying it?  Somehow, nuances get lost in hypothetical situations.

I do still think (to go back to B’mama’s original post) that a belief that you, personally, could not love an adopted child does not necessarily equate to a belief that other families couldn’t love an adopted child.  One belief is about your own personal capacities, the other is about other people’s capacities.  So, I agree that "I couldn’t love an adopted child" might very well be a prejudiced statement, but I still don’t think it necessarily equates to "And I don’t believe you really love yours."

B’mama asked why someone wouldn’t believe they could love an adopted child.  I think Susan pinpointed the answer nicely – because people worry, in general terms, that they won’t love their children.  I’m going to try to expound on this, but I’m not sure I can do it without potentially offending anyone, so please bear with me until I’ve finished explaining myself and then feel free to administer a swift kick if you feel I need it. 

As much as you may love children in the abstract, the kind of fierce individual personal love that you need to carry you through all those years of day-to-day care is a different matter, and it’s one of those things like romantic love or sexual desire – you just can’t really know what it’s going to feel like until it happens.  How does someone know – really know – in advance that they’ll be capable of that kind of love?  Now, of course, this is true however you go about bringing a child into your family, but (and this is where I know I’m treading on a potential minefield, and I do hope this comes out expressing what I want it to) at least with giving birth you have the fallback of biology.  As someone who chose to give birth rather than adopt, I know that I found it very reassuring to feel that when my baby arrived in my life, a rush of hormones fine-tuned over millions of years of evolution to optimise the bonding process would arrive simultaneously.  I didn’t have to worry about whether I had the kind of character necessary to come up with that kind of love, because I knew my glands would do it if I didn’t.  Logically, I believe that I’d love an adopted child (and I have no doubt at all that there are people who do), but emotionally, I felt better for knowing there was that backup.  This wasn’t really a major reason why I chose to give birth rather than adopt, but I can’t hand-on-heart say that it wasn’t in there somewhere.  I would say that’s self-doubt rather than prejudice.  But am I wrong there?

Anyway – the baby is due to wake up any minute, so here’s where I want to widen this discussion out a bit, and also call for some more audience participation.  At the end of my last post, I talked about hearing people on the subject of how they made a particular life choice.  That’s what I want to do here.  I know Brooklynmama’s already held a similar discussion on her blog a while back, and I found that fascinating reading, but that was specifically for adoptive parents and I’d like to hear from anyone on this topic. 

What led you to make the decisions you made about children?  How did you make the decision to give birth or to adopt, to adopt from one country rather than another, or, for that matter, to have children at all?

I’ll write my own answer in a subsequent post when I get time (I really do have to go get the baby if I want to have any hope of him sleeping at a halfway decent hour tonight, and since we’re away this weekend, I don’t know quite when I’ll get back to this – but I will.)  Meanwhile, if anyone feels like sharing (in the comments section here or on their own blogs), I would be really interested to read what you have to say.  And keep any other comments coming as well – I love this discussion.  Trackback rocks.



Filed under Deep Thought

6 responses to “Some more on adopting vs. not adopting

  1. How do trackbacks work? I’m still fuzzy on that score.
    I’ll think more about the specifics you pose here, but for starters, I hope it’s not rude to point to an older post of mine on the general topic why adopt. I”m not sure I’d write it the same way today, and I certainly want to think more about some of the prejudice issues you’re raising here. But it’s a good discussion, and I’ll be back. But for now, bedtime calls.

  2. Joy

    Well I had parenthood thrust upon me as I got pregnant while using contraception (the most life-changing event my chronic travel sickness has ever resulted in LOL).
    However, at the age of 34 and having been in a 7 year relationship with the father there was no question of us terminating and so we now have our amazing bundle of fun that is our 8 month old daughter.
    I have to say that nothing quite prepared me for the all-encompassing love that I feel for her but I think the difference for me is that, whilst I wanted children, I hadn’t made that next step into WANTING children.
    I think that if you take part in the step that we missed (planning a pregnancy!) you can start to have feelings for the not-yet-conceived-child at that point and therefore, if you find you cannot conceive, and you head for the adoption route you still have that build up of love for a child, biological or not.
    It’s also true that, while you can have unplanned pregnancies, you can’t have unplanned adoptions. Any moron can get pregnant but a large percentage of those morons wouldn’t make it through the adoption process.
    I see absolutely no difference between the two situations, one way or another you bring a child into your lives to create a family.
    I want three children, I always have, but given my age and a few health issues I may only manage two (if I’m lucky enough to get pregnant again). I have seriously considered adoption of a third at some future date and I don’t doubt that I would love that child exactly the same as I love the child I physically gave birth to.
    I have experience of adoption with friends and family and I can safely say that I don’t see any difference in the way the children are loved. Genetics can play such silly games that you can’t judge by looks (speaking as one of two brown-eyed parents of a blue-eyed baby!) so unless you are told the child is adopted there’s no real way of knowing.
    I also had an aunt who remained childless because she couldn’t carry a pregnancy but would not even consider adoption. She and her husband would have been wonderful parents (they were like second parents to myself and my brother) but the idea of bringing up a child that was not her biological offspring was abhorrent to her.
    It takes all sorts to make this world of ours go round and we all have amazingly different feelings on every subject under the sun but the fact that, as a whole, the human race works, I think is due to those opposing opinions.
    A child is a child and love is the important part – they all need it and as long as they get it, who cares where it comes from?

  3. jen

    Frankly, we adopted because I couldn’t get pregnant (hahaha! oh, that’s funny now…) and we decided it was more important to us to have children then to make them, if you see what I mean. If I had gotten pregnant easily and with little fuss within a year or two of trying, then we might not have ever considered adoption. So for us, yes, it was a second choice. A different, no-less-important choice, but it wasn’t our first thought when it came to building our family.
    So I find myself kind of in between Brooklyn Mama’s (whom I loooove) and your take on this. If someone says to me that they could never adopt, for whatever reasons, I try to take it at face value and not judge. I also might mention that this isn’t a particularly sensitive thing to say to me, with my daughter who happens to be adopted and whom I cannot imagine my life without. But I freely acknowledge that it’s not for everyone. But when I read a discussion about adoption like the one that started this whole brouhaha, I feel like, maybe it should bother me when people say that they only considered adoption in their “darkest days,” but it doesn’t. In a forum like that, people can say whatever they want, pretty much. And if that’s how they feel about adoption, that’s their perogative. I might feel strongly that they are wrong, and that many people who think they could never adopt might surprise themselves if they opened themselves up to the possibility. But I’m not the adoption flag-waver going around convincing people how wonderful it is, that’s not my job. It is wonderful, for us. But it’s also really really hard. And very different than having getting pregnant and having children that way. So if others don’t think it would be wonderful for them, ok. It doesn’t invalidate my family in any way to have them feel that way.
    This is getting long, but to me it’s like people who decide to have children vs. those who decide not to. I might think they would make wonderful parents, but my opinion isn’t the important one. And if were to say, well, sometimes when I’m really depressed and lonely I think about having children, but no — that doesn’t invalidate those of us who decided to have children, right? It doesn’t mean the childless person thinks no one should have kids (well, unless you’ve gone to some of those more strident websites, but that’s not what I’m talking about). To me, that’s how I try to look at people struggling with infertility and the decision to keep on trying to get pregnant rather than shift focus to adoption. Everyone has to make the choices that are right for their families. And I think in this sort of forum, where so many of us have struggled with the hard choices, we should talk about it as much and as openly as possible. And sorry to hijack your comments!

  4. Jo

    “So, I agree that “I couldn’t love an adopted child” might very well be a prejudiced statement, but I still don’t think it necessarily equates to “And I don’t believe you really love yours.” ”
    But it equates to “Adoption is different and not in a good way”. I’m not going to fight someone over that opinion(although check back once I have my daughter home), they feel how they feel, but to me it has a negative bias.
    “How does someone know – really know – in advance that they’ll be capable of that kind of love? ”
    I’m not a romantic and I believe you just decide. You decide that you’ll take the rough/difficult with the smooth/easy. Then you do it. Sentiment and even real love won’t get you through.
    Good discussion! I haven’t really addressed your bigger debate here, just dropped in some thoughts. Now I’m going to read the other comments!

  5. Jo

    Me again : ) You’ve got me remembering stuff and I’m going to post about it on Magpie because I don’t want to use up your blogspace.

  6. Just a thought for you on the priming of the birthing hormones: my son is unequivocally the product of my genes and my husband’s, but I didn’t get priming at all, since I had an emergent C-section around 6 weeks earlier than I would have gone into labor. In that respect it’s something like having adopted; I went down to the NICU to be presented with a baby after a delivery I hadn’t taken an active part in and without any particular hormonal priming (I hadn’t started leaking colostrum yet either.)
    IMHO, bonding is oversold. We’re not sheep; we’re primates, and we can do it later than instantly. Maybe I say that because I didn’t feel any kind of rush of instant love. 🙂

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