Firstly, thank you to all of you who answered my question about how you chose the way you chose to bring children into your family. It was fascinating reading… all of it. I love being privileged with these sorts of glimpses into people’s minds and hearts.
As promised, although belatedly, this is my attempt at answering the same question – in my case, an explanation of why I chose to give birth rather than adopt. Writing it out like this probably makes it look as though I thought it out at the time in considerably more detail than, in fact, I actually did – I knew from the start that it was the right choice for us, and, since it’s the default choice in this society, it wasn’t one I needed to analyse particularly at the time. But there were reasons behind it that I can clarify when I think about it, and this, for what it’s worth, is what they were.
Three main ones, I’d say. The first was laziness. I wasn’t naive enough to assume that getting pregnant actually would be the easy way to do things, but I did recognise that if things went as they were supposed to and as they did, after all, go for the majority of people, then doing things naturally would be a lot easier than adoption. I did spend quite a lot of time thinking about what Plan B would be if I had fertility problems, and, although it was very much a ‘need more information’at that stage, I did feel that adoption sounded considerably more positive than fertility treatment. But getting pregnant the conventional way sounded a darned sight easier than adoption, and I figured I wasn’t going to subject myself to filling out twenty million forms and answering a bunch of questions from strangers about my supposed parenting skills without at least checking out whether having sex might be a feasible alternative option.
The second was curiosity. I have always been completely fascinated by pregnancy and birth. I read extensively on the topics as a child. I knew more about natural childbirth by the age of ten than most people bother learning in their lives. (Yes, I am a total geek and weird with it. Sue me.) I really wanted to find out what these experiences would be like for me.
The trade-off of that one, of course, is that I lost out on the experiences that come with adoption. Unless I make a different decision with subsequent children, I will never know what it feels like to open up a packet and see your daughter’s face for the first time, to travel half-way round the world and toss and turn in a hotel room knowing you will meet your child the next day, to file into a room with a crowd of other imminent parents-to-be and wait with pounding heart for your name to be called and your child to be handed to you, to get to know a child who has had months or years to develop as a person already. And the thought of these experiences fascinates me as well. It’s why I’m so fascinated with adoption blogs – living vicariously.
Still, I’m glad I made the choice I did this time around. Pregnancy and birth weren’t just experiences that happened to me – they were things my body did. I was fascinated to see how my own body went about the reproduction business. I know now that so-called morning sickness manifests itself in me as persistent low-level queasiness rather than the more traditional form, that I not only don’t get cravings but get the exact reverse and develop complete aversions to a variety of foods (fish was the worst, but there were others), that I labour with unexpectedly brisk and efficient contractions, that I don’t feel a let-down sensation when nursing. It’s not that any of this is particularly important or earth-shattering – just that it’s part of me, and I’m glad to know about it and have those memories, those stories.
The third reason was that (warning: we are now entering the realm of irrationality) I somehow felt that giving birth didn’t impose the same standards of obligation on me as adopting would. One of the hard things for potential adoptive parents is the thought of having their lives and supposed parenting abilities scrutinised by strangers who get the right to decide whether or not you’ll make a fit parent, and I found this just as daunting as anyone else does. But I also recognised on some level – although it was not something I would have articulated to myself at the time – that the reason I would find it quite so difficult was because they are the representatives of the future child to whom you will really have to justify your parenting some day. Of course, this is true however that child enters your family. However, if a child owes me his existence, I could feel I was starting off with a few points in the credit column. Not that I’m one of those ghastly clichés who expect permanent gratitude for having Brought You Into This World (though, in case Jamie ever reads this, I shall point out that I wouldn’t actively object to that) – it just made me feel more at ease about the
possibility knowledge that I’d get things wrong plenty of times along the way. As the saying goes; you give your kids life, so if you then kill ’em, all you’ve done is break even.
With an adopted child, I wouldn’t be able to feel that way. I’d be taking a little person who already existed perfectly well without me, thankyouverymuch, and undertaking to give him or her a life that was at least as good as what the alternative might have been. Granted, that might not be so difficult if the alternative was a foster home or an institution, but it was still more of an undertaking than if the alternative was non-existence – and I’d also be forever aware of the possibility that another, superior, set of parents might have taken that child if I hadn’t been there. Stepping into the life of an existing child in this way somehow seemed to me to imply a particular obligation to get it right. Being Good Enough Mum wouldn’t be good enough, so to speak. I would feel obliged to be Superlative Mum, and I felt a little uneasy about that kind of pressure.
In my last post, I mentioned that niggle of doubt about whether I’d love a child without the postpartum hormones doing the job for me, and I wondered whether I should include that as Reason 4 here. But insofar as it even was a reason (and I do want to stress that I’m talking niggle of doubt here, not crisis of confidence – rationally, I believe I would bond with any child I mothered the same way as I did in fact bond with Jamie, through the day-to-day process of taking care of that child and seeing what an amazing little person he or she was), I’d say it was a part of Reason 3 rather than a separate reason. After all, it would be the child who would ultimately be hurt.
We’ll be making the same choice for our second baby, although it’s a little harder to define the reasons why – after all, Reason 3 doesn’t sound that logical to me any more, especially not now I’ve proved I have at least some passable mothering skills, and Reason 2 is, as I pointed out, a double-edged sword. Reason 1 is still true, and may even be more so – I’ve heard that in the UK it can be difficult to get approved for adoption when you have a bio-child. So, logically, it makes more sense to try the DIY option first.
But it goes deeper than that. It’s like choosing to go back to the place where you had your dream holiday before. Yes, the world is full of other places that you might never get a chance to go to – yes, going back to this place means that you could be missing out on a different dream holiday somewhere else. But sometimes you don’t want to seek out a different dream holiday. You want to go back to the place that’s comfortable in its familiarity, redolent with rich memories, yet so wondrous that you know you won’t be bored, that there will be plenty of different details this time around even if it’s the same place. I’m choosing to at least try to have my second child through pregnancy because I’m happy with the choice I made before, and I’d like the chance to make the same choice again.
I say ‘try’, because I do know that that choice is never a given, that I might find that door won’t open for me a second time round. My thoughts on what I would do if it turns out the clock has run out on my fertility would fill another entire post, and this one’s already far too long. The bottom line? I’d opt for adoption rather than fertility treatment. And I know that if that happens, there will be a part of me that will grieve the loss of the chance to be pregnant and give birth and nurse a child again, and a part of me that backs away in terror and says, no, I can’t do all the things involved in adopting a child, I don’t have what it takes… and a part of me that would leap up and down cheering at the thought that I’d have an excuse to adopt, to have that experience as well.