Years ago I belonged to a monthly book club made up of women in our 30s. One friend was desperately trying to have a child. I could relate. I had been there.
My husband and I had tried for three years to conceive. It was awful. I remember the helplessness of knowing there was no credit gained from the trying. Every time my period started, I had to go way back to the end of the mommy line to wait another four weeks, while passing other women with their little broods and ready-to-pop bellies. What made them so fertile? Why were they so deserving?
Go directly to childlessness. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
Eventually, we were saved from that heartbreaking cycle of “trying” by our decision to adopt. A doctor enthusiastically offered promises about pricey IVF treatments, but I’d had enough of medical disappointments. We knew adoption could be expensive and heart-wrenching, too, but I hoped that the harder I worked, the closer motherhood would be. This time, my efforts would pay off.
And so they did. My husband and I adopted twice. We became Dad and Mom. And just like any new parent who gets swept up in preaching the wonders of parenthood, I wanted everyone to join me.
“Don’t worry,” I beamed to my friend, “there’s always adoption! Just think of it. So many children out there needing parents and us wanting children – what perfect harmony! Isn’t it wonderful that we have options? There’s always hope!”
And as I presented my astonishingly simple case that parenthood was within her grasp, my friend looked at me stiffly, unsmiling, and said … nothing.
Without a word explaining why adoption was apparently out of the question, she and her husband spent thousands of dollars on an IVF procedure and suffered through the hormonal torture of it.
When that didn’t work, I prompted a bit more weakly. “Adoption might be a solution?” She acted as if she hadn’t heard me.
It bothered me. Were my children not quite as valued? Was my family somehow not as real? Did my failure to push my children out of my body make them any less mine? Any less loved? I don’t think so.
After the absolute agony of her second failed IVF months later, my friend had to save up for quite a while to pay for a third. And there I was, month after month, facing her across the table, talking about my adorable little girls and their exploits, hoping she would see that adoption was the perfect answer, a no-brainer.
But she never mentioned adoption. I never knew why she would not or could not adopt. And after a third failed IVF, she never had a child.
In the end, I’m not sure which feeling was stronger – my overwhelming sympathy for her because she would not be a mom, or a very intense hurt that she rejected parenthood by adoption.
What a horrible shame.
My husband and I adopted two girls from China. They came to us without histories, a little malnourished and desperately needing love and family. We’ve done our best to give them everything they need. They’ve given us more than we could have asked for.
I suppose people reject adoption because they’re afraid they won’t bond, or that the child will have “issues,” or that it might be awkward to have a child who doesn’t look like them. I argue that if people had a clear understanding how hard ALL parenting is, biological or not, the human race would have died out long ago!
Are there sometimes problems? Sure. There can be moments of sadness or embarrassment, like when they wonder about what might have been, strangers ask hurtful questions or when doctors ask our girls about their “family medical histories,” and we have to respond, “We don’t know.”
But nothing insurmountable has come up in the decade and a half since our daughters came along. And think about it. Not every family can say that. Having biological children doesn’t indemnify a family against heartache, crisis or emotional distress.
But adoption does create a family.
So my husband and I have enjoyed our family made possible by adoption. We’ve had 14 years of birthday parties, tears, dance classes, poopy diapers, allowance, fish funerals, arguments about who made a mess in the kitchen, scary fevers, hysterical laughter, roller derby, joining soccer, library cards, hugs, quitting soccer, formula, “What, you’re a vegan now?!” and every other experience that means you have earned those cards on Mother’s and Father’s days.
Our girls, who faced dire circumstances early on, are now safe and loved and have great futures ahead of them.
And we owe it all to one beautifully ingenious human creation …