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.