Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Adoption (pt 2)

Shortly after we were matched with our daughter, I wrote a bit about our decision to adopt.  With Caroline home for a few months, I would like to revisit this topic.

I begin with this: thanks be to God!  A day hardly goes by that I don't look at my daughter (oh, magical words!) and ponder what a miracle it is that she's in our lives. 
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
The decision to adopt was not an especially easy one as there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty about it, uncertainty that tended rather to increase than decrease as we went forward.  How long would it take?  What physical and emotional handicaps might the child have?  Could we cope with them?  Were we even doing the right thing by taking a child away from her home country / culture?  Were we too old?  And, of course, could I be a good father?

Had I known then what I know now - the joy of being Caroline's father - these questions would have been of but little moment.  I still worry about some things, but they are wrapped up in my desires for her to have a happy life.  This is, I think, perfectly normal for any parent: we want so much for our children.

Herewith my reflections:

--- WHY?  Adoption is not for the unmotivated.  There are tremendous costs in money, time, and emotional stress.  Adopting a child is not simply a matter of dropping by the agency, plonking down a pile of cash, picking a child off the shelf, and signing a receipt.  So, why do it?

We wanted a child. It's that simple.  That's why we did it.  It is fundamentally a selfish choice that parent(s) make to have children, either biological or adopted.  We had some thoughts that life with us would be better for the child than life in an orphanage or even foster care, but we did not have any self-righteous belief that adoption was a rescue mission or that the child would somehow be "lucky": we do not hesitate to tell people that WE are the lucky ones.  I think that most parents feel that way about their children.

It remains to be seen what Caroline thinks about all of this when she's older.

--- THE PROCESS.  My wife and I often muse that having a child is so easy (perhaps TOO easy) for other people: a few minutes in bed or the backseat of a car and VOILA!  somebody is on the path to parenthood.  For the adoptive parent, it's a bit more involved.  I can't speak about domestic adoption, though it seems to me that it has its own set of issues.  For us, there were questions of meeting (or not) the requirements established by various countries, selecting a program, getting approvals from multiple governments, paying lots of money, waiting... and dealing with the emotional issues of rejecting children made implicit by the "medical issues checklist" that we filled out early on.  And, oh yeah: there's a visit to another country at the end.

Again, this is NOT a process for the unmotivated.

It is, however, very much worth it.

--- AFTER.  We worried about post-adoption trauma.  We worried about attachment.  We worried about health issues.  I'm happy to say that the majority of our fears have been groundless.  We've been very lucky as we know other people who DID have these sorts of problems.  If / when we adopt again, we know that we may have to deal with them. 

Again, this is NOT a process for the unmotivated.

One thing that I worried about that - so far - we haven't had to deal with is unthinking, impertinent or even insulting questions about our daughter.  Part of this is due to the fact that Caroline is so cute and engaging that nobody stops to question where she's from or why she's here (OK, we've had one little boy who wanted to know if she was from Mexico.  MEXICO, forsooth!).  But also I think that international / transracial adoption has become so common - it seems that everybody we meet knows somebody who's done it - that people simply accept it without much question* in a way that they didn't even a few years ago.  I hope that this continues.

Caroline is still a little girl.  I don't know if she's noticed yet that we don't look like her.  Her questions about origin and race and culture and birth parents are still in the future.  We continue to read and ponder so as to prepare ourselves for them, to prepare ourselves to help her answer such questions as she might have.  "AFTER" has no end.

Again and always, this is not a process for the unmotivated.

But it has been so, so, so worth it.

My favorite (so far!) photo of our daughter


(*) How American families are formed and what is considered to be "normal" has changed quite a lot in my lifetime.  As a boy, I certainly knew about divorce, but it was at that time relatively uncommon, at least in the conservative part of the South where I grew up.  Children had "single parents" because a parent had died and occasionally due to divorce or PERHAPS because the mother had been highly (ahem) unwise in her choices.  Certainly this was what was portrayed on television.  Now, witness the program "Modern Family", which features a traditional nuclear family, divorced / remarried parents with step- and half-siblings, and a gay couple with a transracially adopted child.


  1. This process is definitely not for the unmotivated... it takes forever! A couple more days will be 15 months so far for us. And no end in sight unless our girl says no right now. I'll admit to being a bit jealous of families who got pregnant after we started our adoption and have already had their baby or are about to. It's so much faster to go the biological route. I'm so encouraged by how happy your family is, especially when I see that you are even open to the possibility of adopting again! Praise God! :) :)

    1. The wait is so hard. I would be beside myself if, like you, I had actually talked to our girl and was still waiting, hoping for "yes" but dreading "no" and wondering what I could do to tip the scales.

      As for biological families... My wife and I sometimes exchange wry looks about that. We don't at all begrudge people who have children (though we might be a little jealous; we're only human!). However, we know of children in foster care because the birth parents not only don't give a snap for them but then KEEP HAVING MORE. It's one of the great injustices in life that there are people who would and want to be excellent parents and children who desperately need a loving family, but various obstacles keep them apart.