Ever since we adopted our kids, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about adoption: people who wanted to adopt, or who knew people who wanted to adopt; or, occasionally, people who had adopted.
When we were thinking of adopting, I went out of my way to find people who had adopted. And I, the world’s greatest phono-phobe, called up two separate people, complete strangers to me (though linked by a couple of degrees of separation), and asked them personal, intimate, and almost nosy questions about adoption.
So, for all those who want to know about adoption, for those who want to know whether it’s ok to ask me about adoption, for those who are wondering whether they want to adopt, and for anyone who knows anyone who… well, you know…
Here’s my take on adoption. Questions and comments welcome.
Adoption was not an easy decision to make. For me, personally, it wasn’t something I had always wanted to do. It was something that was forced upon me by our inability to conceive naturally. This is a messy issue, there are a lot of strong, horrible emotions mixed up in it. And yet, opting out of the whole aided conception business, and eventually, after some months, deciding to adopt, was one of the best – no, probably THE best – decisions I’ve ever made.
Adoption itself is not easy. It’s a weird way to have a family. Instead of doctors, you meet social workers; instead of hospitals, you do the rounds of orphanage and court room. You have to convince people that you’re worthy of being parents; you even have to get people who know you well to write a letter saying why they think you’d make great parents. This is weird, believe me. Flattering, no doubt, when you read the letters, but weird.
There are other differences. With pregnancy, you know roughly when your baby will come, with adoption you only know when she’s already home. Even in pregnancy, there’s the fear of somehow losing the baby; but in adoption there’s no real expectation of even getting the baby till she’s suddenly home with you and it’s done. We hadn’t had the courage to buy anything other than a couple of frocks and a couple of night-suits each for the twins – what if it didn’t work out? We didn’t even buy the diapers until after our first visit to the hospital. So talk about being unprepared.
We each had our fears and concerns, not just about the decision to adopt, but even after the kids came home. Would they be absolutely normal, emotionally, psychologically, physically. Would they be completely healthy? Of course, any parent has these worries, but ours were based on ignorance. We didn’t know what our girls had been through, medically or emotionally. What were those strange scars and bites on her body? Chicken pox? Syphillis? Scabies? Why were they so short and thin? Were they malnourished? Would they grow normally? Would their intellectual development be normal?
Before we adopted, I’d read on a number of websites about parents saying that adoption didn’t make any difference to how they felt about their kids; that they loved them just as much as they loved (or could have loved) their biological offspring. Well, I don’t have any way to say whether or not I could have loved biological offspring more. I feel that I love my kids in as balanced and normal a way as I possibly could. The fact of their being adopted doesn’t make any difference to how I feel about them. I do wish, sometimes, that I had given birth to them; I even think that if I had, they might have resembled Amit and me more, which would have been nice; but I don’t wish that I’d had any children other than these. To me, they are mine.
I know that there are still many difficulties for us on the road ahead. Soon, we’ll have to start explaining to them about adoption – current wisdom says, the earlier you tell them, the better, and that makes sense to me. Then will follow a lifetime of questioning. Questioning where they come from, who they really are, what their biological parents are like, why they wound up with us, what life would have been like… And, certainly, at some point they will question our love for them. It is only natural. We will have to face all this and more in the years and decades that follow. We might have got their birth certificates, but our adoption journey is far from being ended; it has only just begun.
And then there are the other people. The people who are outright mean, or who – often unintentionally – say insensitive things. So far, people have only been able to get through to us, but as the girls grow up and start understanding more, they are going to be at the receiving end too.
And yet, despite the complications, despite the worries, despite the differences, despite the irritatingly lingering regrets over infertility, despite everything… deciding to adopt is the best decision we ever made. I can understand people not being sure about making this momentous decision; I can understand the many, many reasons not to adopt (though I can’t say I empathise with all of them); I can understand people eventually deciding that they simply can’t go ahead with it. It’s not an easy decision for anyone. But, for me, for us, it was absolutely the right decision, it was the decision that brought our girls home to us.