Adventures in making and raising our test-tube babies

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Adopting a New Perspective

Adoption is a toughie. But I thought I'd explore it a little, for all of our sakes.

There are two big issues with adoption: 1) deciding it's the way you will have a kid, and 2) procuring said human.

1. Making the Decision

To an infertile couple, hearing the words, "you could always adopt" makes them cringe and cry. So why is the suggestion always made? And why does it elicit such a response? Here is what I think.

I think that when loved ones hear that a couple is having a hard time conceiving, they feel bad that the couple can't have kids. They want the couple to have kids. They think logically that if the kids aren't showing up in the couple's uterus, the couple could get existing kids from somewhere. It makes total sense. God knows there are a lot of children who need parents (or better parents, but that's another story). Voila. Insta-family, sadness eradicated.

The adoption argument makes even more sense when one considers the people we know who were adopted into their current families. I know a couple amazing little girls who have been adopted recently, and several adult women who were adopted long ago. I'd be so glad and grateful to count all of them among my family members. I mean, if my loved ones could adopt a baby who would turn out as wonderfully as H.S.P. or L.B.S., oh my God, I'd lash them to my car and drive them to the adoption agency myself.

But here's why the adoption suggestion is hard for infertile couples to hear. Most individual members of our species are programmed to think that their DNA is best, and to look for a partner whose DNA would be best. That makes for stronger and more successful (read: alive to procreate) progeny. It's the epitome of natural. I do know some people who have always liked the idea of adoption, but most of us just assume our children will be genetic combinations of ourselves and our spouses. It's hardwired in. To look to adoption feels like admitting that we are defective humans who cannot procreate. Most infertile couples treat adoption as a last resort. I have heard that the first question they hear at the adoption agency is not, "Why do you want adopt?" but, "Have you grieved your lack of biological children yet?"

All this makes for the following scenario:

Helpful person: "Have you looked into adoption?" (Thinking, "I want you to be able to get what you want, a child, as soon as possible, and with less heartache than you're currently enduring.")

Infertile couple: "No, we're not quite ready for that yet." (Thinking, "Woe is us. Is it obvious how defective we are? Why have our loved ones already given up on our dream to have our own children, when we're still trying?")

It's just a misunderstanding. But it's so laden with emotions, what can you do? Besides explore both sides in a blog, I mean.

2) Procuring a Human Child

I'll start with the caveat that we really haven't looked into adoption formally at all. But I've picked up a few things in the milieu, which I'll share now.

First, until recently, international adoptions were all the rage. They were easy and everybody was doing it. China, in particular, was a country where lots of little girls needed new homes, because of China's historical population-control policies that favored families with one boy child only. Someone told me that adopting a Chinese child would present fewer problems for the adopted child later, because she could more easily grasp -- and take less personally -- the reason her biological parents gave her up for adoption.

Besides China, I know lots of babies were adopted into the United States from Kazakhstan and Guatemala, among other countries.

But in the last couple of years, this wave of international adoptions has crested and crashed. For political reasons, China has adopted policies that make the process far more bureaucratic and slower. One couple I know has been waiting for years for a Chinese baby. I hear the average wait is now three to five years from the time the adoptive parents are approved and the paperwork is done. Three to five years? The whole time being nervous that it might not ever happen, that some bureaucratic thing will come up, that the country will close itself off with your money trapped inside? That's actually what has happened to my friends. They can't start over with another agency in another country because they've already paid an exhorbitant sum to the agency working inside China.

As for domestic adoption, it's not automatic. It's a lot harder than people assume. I think that international adoption caught on years ago because it was so difficult to adopt babies in the United States. There were long, long waiting lists. The more "newborn" young and the more Arian you wanted your new baby to be and to look, the more years you waited. For people looking for babies these days, you almost never hear about standard domestic adoption. I think it's regarded as next to impossible.

So an alternative has developed. The current trend for U.S. adoptions is called "open adoption." Instead of hanging out on a waiting list somewhere, waiting for an anonymous baby, a couple finds and gets to know a pregnant woman who wants them to adopt her child. The couple and the birth mother develop a relationship as the pregnancy goes on (and I believe that some states vigorously regulate the money and other benefits the couple can bestow on the women during that time so nobody gets scammed). The birth mother retains her parental rights after the baby is born, so for a certain period of time she has the chance to back out if she decides she wants to keep her baby after all. You can imagine how devastating that could be to the would-be adoptive parents. If she decides to go through with the plan, the baby goes to live with the adoptive couple, and the birth mother stays in touch like a family friend. The child grows up knowing the adoptive parents and the birth mother both. This is supposed to be easier on the child and the mother giving up her baby. But you see that it doesn't make for a normal nuclear family for the adopting parents. Far from it. They have to adopt both a child AND a baby mama.

Another impediment to adoption is the cost. I've heard that it averages $35,000 to adopt a child from another country. The money filters to agencies on both sides, plus government entities, etc. I don't know, but I believe that domestic adoption is just as expensive, maybe sans travel expenses. Some IVF clinics offer money-back guarantees that give you a portion of your money back if you never get pregnant yourself, so that you can begin to afford adoption. But through IVF or adoption, getting a baby any way other than the "old fashioned way" is just ridiculously expensive. Well, and rightfully so. To make or to acquire a person? Come on!

And that is about all I know about adoption these days. Maybe we'll be looking into it later, but right now, we're not ready for it.


DAVs said...

As always, well said. We've heard plenty of suggestions to adopt. We're not fundamentally opposed to adoption, but like you said, gee we'd like the chance to have our own genetic kids. Sometimes, when someone says something like "but there are so many kids out there who need good homes, so you should adopt" and I'm feeling snappy, I'll say "then why don't you?" I already suffer from extreme guilt of how much money/time/effort/emotions we're pouring into the genetic child quest, so I don't need someone else pointing out about these needy kids. At any rate, it's super complicated and I'm glad you blogged about it. Incidentally, Guatemala and Vietnam's programs have been halted due to too much corruption. My good friend is waiting on her baby boy from Guatemala, and he's over one year old now. Guess what? Probably going to be at least another six months. Sheer agony.
This was long and rambling, sorry!

Carin said...

You've painted a very accurate picture of the adoption paths -- its not impossible, but much more complicated that "there's so many kids who need good homes . . . why don't you . . . ." We get that comment a lot too. Congrats to "davs" who says what I tend to think!

Laughing4Heir said...

My cousin in Texas pointed me to your blog. I'm she did.

I think you're pretty much spot on about adoption. I always told myself that if we had trouble, we'd adopt. But you underestimate how hard that biological tug is.

My current adoption concern is that I don't know I could love an adopted child as much as I could love a child I created. If I knew the child before-hand, like my friends' kids, I definitely could, but a stranger-baby? And would that be fair to that child? It doesn't seem so.

Anonymous said...

Thank God you have not adopted. Since your DNA is so genetically superior, it is best that you sit childless. Children would suffer being adopted by people like you and others who feel the same way.

I have adopted by choice and would not grow my family any other way. There are many of us who realize that DNA does not define a family.


DAVs said...

Wow, even though it's not my blog I felt compelled to re-comment after reading Laura's comment. It really cut to my core. The funny thing is,waaaaay before we started trying to have a child we always said we'd "have one and adopt one." That was just how we felt. So we're still trying to "have one" on our own. I don't think it means we think our own DNA is superior by any means ...we just want to have a child together. I don't think that's so wrong. Plus, when we thought about it, we always said we'd adopt second, because if we had adopted the first and then had a biological child second, we'd never want the adopted child to feel they weren't "enough." Anyway...I hope I didn't offend Laura. I think I will make a great mother to any child, whether that child is genetically mine or not.

James said...

Laura --

I think you have grossly missinterpreted Kay's (my wife's)posting.

I completely agree that adoption is a great way to grow a family (as does Kay, per her posting). But for almost everyone there is a pretty strong biological drive to procreate. If there was not, then I would not be typing -- and no one would be reading -- this because none of us would be here. That drive is what Kay was talking about, and is what has taken us down the IVF route. Simple as that.


Heidi said...

Adoption is a beautiful (however expensive and complicated) thing, and so is making babies (however expensive and complicated). Speaking from personal experience on both counts, I can say with conviction that both are more than worthwhile endeavors. Everyone needs to recognize what a very personal decision this is. Regardless of how parents choose to grow their families, it's a wonderful thing. For those who choose to do so, it truly should be so much easier than it is (no matter which route they decide take)...

Anonymous said...

Wow, Laura! Made any snap judgments lately?!? I don't think you read carefully.I don't think she was saying that one way is better than the other or that anything is wrong with adoption. It's a personal choice that is very complicated.

I don't know you, but if I were to make a snap judgment based on your comment here, I'd say that you have never struggled with a major decision in your life and you are very lucky for that. So please feel blessed in your ability to make life altering decisions with little effort or struggle. Good luck to you.

Also, it's not nice to wish childlessness on anyone no matter what they say in their personal blog- hopefully karma will not bite you in the butt for that.


bzh said...

As an adopted child... and the mother of a biological child... I live on both sides of this issue. I love my parents, with whom I don't share DNA. I love my daughter, with whom I do.
And so what?
The only thing matters in this whole conversation is what's right for you.
Laura, it's YOUR children I worry about. Your intolerance of those who long for biological children is no better than that of the bullies on the schoolyard who used to tell me that my parents weren't "real" parents and that my "real" parents had thrown me away.
How dare you say such hurtful things? What kind of parent can you be?
Kay, I send white light to you every day, in hopes that you and James will have your child in the way that is right for you.