Are All Adoptive Parents Desperate?

I’ve been chewing over the idea of this post for a week or so.

Over on my favorite adoption board, I posted something a week ago about the potential situations we might consider. For instance, we said that we will consider a baby expected to be born with a cleft lip or pallet. We will not consider a baby with Spina Bifida. The list goes on and on regarding what we will and will not consider.

The word of the day is “consider.” This doesn’t mean that we will automatically accept such a situation… It only means that we are open to being shown or possibly looking at an adoption situation in which the baby has this or that trait/issue/problem/illness/exposure.

When we first filled out our form for the agency, we really boxed ourselves in. The most we would budge on anything was with a “maybe consider,” and our director called me concerned. She said given what we were open to considering {and being shown}, there was not a single birthmother at their agency that we could even be shown to. After visiting with her about what exactly each “issue,” illness, problem or exposure could mean for us and our baby, Travis and I sat down and prayerfully went over each item on the list to be considered.

We discussed it at great length, read through the March of Dimes and American Pediatric Association websites, and then made some adjustments. “Yes,” we will consider a situation in which the baby has been exposed to cigarette smoke. “Yes,” we will consider a situation in which the birthmother received limited prenatal care. “Yes,” we will consider a situation in which the baby is born prematurely, but it depends on how premature and what the doctors have to say. Everything we said “yes” to is still open for discussion and consideration.

So what were we unwilling to budge on? Alcohol, openness, and drugs.

From the beginning, we said that we would “consider” a situation in which a birth mother admitted to some mild drug use, but we also said that it would depend upon the frequency of use, the type of drug in question, and what our pediatrician had to say.  We didn’t budge from our decision to not consider a drug addicted mother or baby, and we didn’t budge on our unwillingness to consider a birthmother who admits to frequent alcohol use.

We were willing to open ourselves up to the possibilities of letters and pictures exchanged “for as long as all parties involved are comfortable with the arrangement,” using the agency as a liaison so there is no direct contact. I don’t think our agency director was trying to talk us into a greater span of openness, but she did spend some time describing to us what a “typical” open scenario through their agency looks like. We stuck to our guns.

Another issue we refused to budge on was the level of fetal alcohol exposure. Alcohol exposure is by far more dangerous than drug exposure in unborn babies. It’s so unpredictable in the delicate system of a fetus, and sometimes a baby can be born looking perfectly normal and still suffer the horrible effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. We weren’t willing to go down that road.

Since we stuck so closely to our guns on the issues that mattered most to us in possible adoption scenarios, I was proud of us! We opened ourselves up to be shown to a wider array of birthmoms while staying true to what concerns us most. We felt good about our decisions and didn’t feel for one second like we allowed ourselves to be open to something we could never handle or accept.

That all sounds great Kat…so why are you writing about this?

Because when I shared all of this with fellow potential adoptive parents and adoptive parents, I was bombarded with comments from them insisting that my {clearly palpable?} level of “desperateness” was driving my decisions and that I would regret making any compromises.

But I don’t feel desperate!

I feel like we opened ourselves up to having our profile shown to a wider array of birthmothers, all within situations that we feel comfortable considering. I also feel very strongly that God has guided our steps through every inch of this process, and by guarding our hearts and minds and prayerfully considering every potential match that comes our way, we are going to be fine. In short, I trust that God has our back, because we’ve allowed him to be our guide through this process.

When I insisted to these ladies that we really aren’t desperate, I felt as if I was being poo-pooed away, disregarded for my level of immaturity and naivete.  There seemed a common, unspoken theme: The fact alone that you are adopting makes you desperate for a child.

I instantly felt defensive. I have a precious toddler who  is just barely leaving the “baby” stage himself! Knowing that we didn’t want our kids anymore than 4 years apart in age, we began this process NOW, {11 months} before Little is even three! The idea that we’ll be selected anytime soon has not even realistically entered my mind…We only became an active family five days ago.

Perhaps if we had been a waiting family for a year and then made these changes in what we’ll consider, one could caution us against making decisions out of desperateness, but this early in the game? When our guards are up at their highest and our skepticism is fresh? When the waiting has only just begun, and my mind can’t even yet comprehend the idea that the call could come “any day now”? Really??

We aren’t desperate.

We just aren’t.

We have experienced pregnancy and birth. Smelled that “new baby” smell. Stayed up all night with feedings, diaper leaks, and still-in-the-womb-schedules. In fact, those experiences weren’t that long ago! 29 months ago, we were bringing a brand spanking new baby home from the hospital. We were learning how to use my rented hospital grade pump, and giving baths in the tiny bathroom sink.

We aren’t desperate.

So, that led me to wonder, if they were so quick to jump to the conclusion that any compromise at all on our “what you might consider” questionnaire is a sign of sheer desperateness, what frame of mind were they in when they entered their adoption journey?

The common message I received was, “I’ve been there and done that, and accepted a situation that changed my family and my life forever all because I was desperate to be a parent. Don’t do what I did…You’re being foolish to consider these situations that were once extremely important to you. Stick to your guns in ways I did not.”

But I would wager to believe that a majority of those parents had experienced the pain of infertility, failed IVF and IUI treatments, miscarriages, crushed dreams and failed hopes.

I tried over and over {and over} to say But we aren’t desperate! We’re just trying to be a little more flexible to increase our chances of even being shown! But it didn’t matter. They had me pegged. Young. Naive. Undereducated on the ramifications of drug or alcohol exposure in the womb. Uneducated on the compromises we WILL make {inevitably} when a potential match comes our way that sounds risky, unhealthy, dangerous, or out of our realm of comfort. And clearly living with denial of my level of desperateness as an adoptive parent.

Why do all adoptive parents have to be burned up, washed out, broken hearted, desperate empty people who are willing to fall for anything or accept any situation that comes their way?? I certainly don’t feel like that! I know they were feeling sad for poor foolish me, willing to make core compromises just to have another baby, but really, I feel sorry for the things they went through. I’m sorry that there’s the assumption that all adoptive parents are so desperate and jaded that they can’t even trust their own judgment when a possible match comes along. I’m sorry that more adoptive parents aren’t as careful or contemplative when they choose their agencies, and they end up spending more money than they should, or get talked into a level of openness or substance exposure that they truly aren’t comfortable with. And I’m sorry that the adoption system is what it is, and that adoptive parents have to be so guarded.

However, not all of us are naive. Not all of us are willing to accept anything. People come to adoption from many different roads, and not all of those roads are littered with heartbreak, sadness, or loss. I believe fully that our baby is out there somewhere. I believe that God will speak to our hearts when the situation is presented to us that will lead us to our baby. And in the meantime, I pray for patience, perseverance, and discernment to be able to recognize the voice of God when He speaks.

I trust us. I trust our clear-headedness, our decisiveness, our trust in the Lord, and I trust the Lord to guide us.

Yes, the wait will gradually get harder. But I’d rather set up our limits now, and decide what we’re open to right now before we get to that point of desperateness that everyone says we’ll reach. I believe in our ability to stay true to our values.

We do have a sweet little one here at home as a constant reminder of what we can and cannot take on. We cannot take on a situation that knowingly diminishes the quality of life for our family or for Little. Period. I trust that our desire to protect his little world far outweighs our desire for a hasty match. And I trust that those priorities will never change.




Filed under Adoption Questions, Faith and Adoption

8 responses to “Are All Adoptive Parents Desperate?

  1. Isn’t it amazing how people will project their own feelings onto other people? When you decided not to become pregnant again, did you have other people insist to you that you would change your mind? I’m still pregnant with baby #2, and I already have people insisting that I will have another. Some say that I will “want my boy” and others talk about “giving [them] more grandchildren.”

    I think this kind of attitude goes hand-in-hand with what you experienced with the adoption board: people are projecting their own attitudes on adoption (or birth or numbers of children or whatever) onto you. It’s incredibly condescending and patronizing and I’m sorry you had to deal with it.

    I think the best way to handle these kinds of people, instead of defending yourself and trying to tell them that their assumptions about you are wrong, is to say, “Well, that’s an interesting idea,” and move on.

    • You’re so right. And for what it’s worth, defending myself didn’t work. I gathered that I was being pitied for the future world of hurt they were certain I was setting myself up for. Being pitied for something that has never happened, by the way, sucks!

      Yes re the pregnancy decision! Yes yes yes! I would say to nurses, doctors, family, friends, anyone who would listen, “I’m never doing this again.” They would laugh, roll their eyes, share their own {non-related} anecdote and then say, “Yes you will. You’ll forget.” Well, Travis never has. He would never ever agree to another pregnancy. It was too much of a strain on our marriage, and there’s just no way we can endure that again. And, like the adoption situation, it didn’t matter how much I defended myself and said over and over that we were truly never going to have another biological baby, they continued to shake their heads knowingly and smile with this, “Yeah, you’ll see” look.

      One person in particular who continued to push the idea of getting pregnant again at full force despite the risk to my life and Buggy’s was absolutely shocked when I told her that Travis had a vasectomy. This friend was so convinced that we would end up having another baby after all that she even said, “Well, I bet the moment you start to adopt, you’ll get pregnant!” That’s when I told her about his vasectomy, and her mouth literally fell open. Lol. She stuttered and said, “So you’re serious about this!?”

      I think you’re right…Next time instead of wasting my breath and feeling so foolish, I’ll just say, “Well, I’ll consider that. Thanks.” And then drop it.

  2. I don’t think you’re desperate. Trust me, you’re.not.desperate.

    I was willing to consider a lot, ut then again I don’t feel I was desperate either…ha ha ha however, due to my line of work and my “contacts and various resources I’m familiar with and touch base with” I was willing to consider a bit more than you are….everyone has their reasons for knowing what to consider and what not to consider.

    My weakness (and it’s purely mine) and the fact that I don’t get too vocal on threads that have to do with preferences is that because of my interaction with the students I have for speech….because I know a lot of their backgrounds and know them personally and love them all like crazy…. sometimes I have the tendency to get “personally hurt” or “take it personally” if people say they aren’t willing to consider xyz…..but I recognize that it’s just my personal feelings and every couple/individual knows their limitations. 🙂

    • I totally get that Dannie. You have a perspective in all of this that others don’t have. One that I certainly don’t have. It’s hard to not hear “I won’t accept deafness” and take it personally because you KNOW a kid who happens to be hearing impaired who you love like crazy. {FWIW, that’s just an example. We are open to hearing impairments 🙂 }

      I appreciate that you don’t see me as desperate. It was mostly people who I don’t know that commented along that vein. Newbies or people who cling mostly to the foster/adopt thread. I felt defensive, because there are others on there, like you, who do know me and get where I’m coming from…And it’s not a place of desperateness.

  3. Kerri

    You’ve provided a great reason why people need to shut up and keep there opinions on how to grow a family or not grow a family to themselves. I would add that couples who’ve struggled are not all desperate either….they may just have different levels of comfort or ability.

  4. You know, I’ve been thinking about this post since you wrote it. I really think you’re in one of those darned if you do, darned if you don’t situations. If you are very open to different situations, someone is going to label you as “desperate.” If you are not open to a specific situation, someone is going to come along and say, “But there are babies out there with FAS, who need to be adopted? Why do you hate the babeeez!!!11!” Either way, someone is going to find something to criticize. It’s the curse of parenthood. You just can’t win.

    I think that your grace and courage through this entire situation is such an example for us all to follow, adoptive parents or not. I’m so glad you decided to write about your experience.

  5. Pingback: One Month Waiting Check In | Love Makes A Family

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