Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Just Adopt"

When friends, relatives, and acquaintances are dispensing their usually unasked-for advice, the question "Why don't you just adopt?" often arises. What I find surprising is that they always precede the word "adopt" with the word "just". Just adopt - as if it were so easy. We've looked into it and there is clearly no "just" about it. We have the paperwork and we do realize we may have very little choice if we ever want to add to our family. That doesn't make the option any more attractive, though.

So in answer to the question "Why don't you just adopt?", here are some of the reasons why we haven't gone down that road, at least as of yet:

  • It takes a long time. On average, a domestic adoption would take two years, not including the months-long process of getting approved as potential adoptive parents. After three years of pure hell, I am unenthusiastic about the prospect of adding on another 2+ years. The very thought is overwhelming. We'd be looking at a 7+ year gap in our family. By then, I'm not sure I'd be functioning well enough to start all over with a new baby.
  • It's not a sure thing. Many people see adoption as a sure thing. Your just submit some paperwork, wait awhile, then go pick up your new baby! This is hardly the case. In fact, adoptions fall through about 15% of the time, according to the adoption agency we've talked to. When it happens it is devastating because it almost always happens at the last minute - the woman who's chosen you to adopt her child goes to the hospital, has the baby, and changes her mind after seeing it, which of course she has every right to do. With our luck we'd be certain to land in the 15%!
  • I'd want to do it twice so the adopted kid doesn't feel like the odd one out as the only non-biological member of the family AND with no siblings close in age. So double the time, stress, and expense to complete our family.
  • The expense. Domestic would be perhaps $10,000. And yes, we know about the tax credit but we'd still have to come up with all the money upfront, which is why we still don't dare to buy a house after 8 years of renting.  Foreign adoption would be $25,000 or more. It would also be far more complicated, stressful, and time-consuming. So forget that.
  • The invasive process. Just when I thought I'd been violated in every possible way, I looked into adoption and found out ... there are LOTS more ways to be violated! Sign me up!! Fingerprinting, background checks, and parenting classes even if you've already been a parent for years. You have to be interrogated about your marriage, finances, parenting, and past traumas (yikes!). And even if you do end up with an adopted child, it doesn't end there. Next come the "supervisory visits" - your parenting must be inspected and approved before the adoption is final when the child is six months old. Of course I understand the need for all of this and support it - we don't want pedophiles and neglectful drug-addicts adopting children - but I'm just not sure I can take so much more when I already have so little privacy or dignity left after all the medical tests, infertility treatment, counseling, and surgeries. The thought of some stranger coming into my home to assess my worthiness to adopt when I'm in the midst of depression and chronic pain is just too much.
  • I don't think I could go to the hospital and take some other woman's baby away, even if it is best for all involved. I've gone home with empty arms too may times myself to be able to do that to someone else and be happy afterward.
  • I want MY baby. Holding my dead babies only makes me want this more. I thought more deaths would make me want to give up. I thought it would make adoption more attractive. Not so.
  • Most domestic adoptions these days are "open" adoptions, meaning there is communication between the birth and adoptive parents. I think this can be a great thing, but I already have my own crazy family to deal with and don't feel like I can take on any additional drama.
  • I'm afraid it would be harder to bond with the child, because it really wouldn't be mine legally until it was six months old. Of course, biologically it wouldn't be mine and that would be very hard because I do have biological children and know the instantaneous bond I felt with them from the moment I knew I was pregnant. It would not be the same - I know it would happen, but over time rather than instantly.  Also, breastfeeding would not be an option, which may seem petty, but breastfeeding also kept my endometriosis pain at bay while my babies were young.  Feeling well makes it a lot easier to care for a new baby, and if we adopted I'd have to take care of a demanding new baby while dealing with all that pain. It's a scary prospect.
  • We would have to market ourselves via the internet to potential birth mothers and wait to be chosen by one of them. I feel pretty nearly destroyed at this point and just don't have the stomach to put together a sickeningly sweet website portraying my perfect little family and the perfect life we could offer an adopted child. 

  • And now the deciding factor: I'll inevitably be spending a lot of time in the stirrups, since endometriosis treatment generally involves drugging the body into pseudo-pregnancy (the Pill) or pseudo-menopause (Lupron).  Not to mention the likelihood of more surgery to clean up the endo or even actual surgical menopause.  All of this can lead to continued chronic pain, depression, hot flashes, early osteoporosis and heart disease...the list goes on and on.   If doctors are going to be seeing so much of me, I might as well try for a pregnancy instead of the misery listed above.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. So maybe now you can appreciate the dilemma. Do we adopt and put ourselves through all of the above and more, in addition to what we've already been through? Could we really survive all that with our sanity and marriage intact? Or... do we just forget the whole idea of having a bigger family and just end on a nightmare, hoping that someday we'll emerge from hell with our sanity and marriage intact? All I know is that the answer, if it ever finally comes, will not begin with the word "just".

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