Most people will admit that having children, and creating a family, are among life’s most precious experiences. This sentiment is so pervasive that it’s often taken for granted that every woman who wants a child can birth a child. As women make great strides in their professional lives, their biologic ability to become pregnant, maintain a pregnancy, and deliver a healthy baby seems to be undervalued and often takes a back-seat. While great arguments can be made about the virtues of delayed motherhood, the fact remains that biologically a woman’s childbearing years are limited. Since there’s no way to know just how much time she has left, by waiting, she jeopardizes her chance to become a mother.
Fortunately, the message has been received as young women today seem to understand in a way that many women did not just 10 years ago. If they want to deliver their own children, they cannot wait “until the time is perfect and everything is right.” So now more than ever women are opting to have children as single women or in non-traditional relationships. They are seeking artificial means of getting pregnant (utilizing sperm banks) because they are unwilling to forego motherhood for lack of a husband. However, many women continue to delay motherhood and when asked “don’t you want children?” their thoughtful response is “One day, and if I can’t have my own, I’ll just adopt.”
“I’ll just adopt.” The way many women quickly say this makes it seem that they believe that adoption is both “easy” and a “back-up” plan. Neither which are quite true.
First, let’s consider adoption as a back-up plan. Bringing a child into your home, and into your life, to raise as your own should be Plan A. Always. Plans can change (and do all the time). But as you go down the road to adoption….that adoption, that child, that experience, should be the current Plan A. Adopting ‘simply’ because you couldn’t have your own children (as a Plan B) is a set up for heartache and suffering for everyone involved. It is important to make adoption your Plan A “before” deciding to adopt.
Finally, let’s consider the idea that “adoption is easy.”
For starters, birthing your own child is typically far “easier” than enduring the adoption process. The adoption process is long, invasive, expensive and not guaranteed to yield a baby.
In America, domestic adoptions are difficult. Terminating parental rights is a long, tedious and emotional process that can take many years. In the meantime, children are often bounced around and emotionally damaged by a broken foster care system or incompetent extended family members. It’s not uncommon to foster a child for years and when the child becomes eligible for adoption, the foster parent(s) are not allowed to adopt them (for various reasons).
Private agencies often rely on a birth mother choosing the prospective adoptive family for her unborn child after they (the adoptive family) audition for the baby via photos and stories. This young woman may (but probably does not) have a history of making sound decisions and identifying opportunity. So we are relying on her opinion of a family based on superficial (and artificially constructed) information in a notebook to decide who the best parents would be for her child?
Then there’s the (very commonly expected) open adoption situation where ties are never fully severed with the birthmother (or her life circumstances). This arrangement can undermine the adoptive parent’s role and invalidate the legitimacy of the entire adoptive family.
Applying for the opportunity to be “considered” to parent another person’s child is an arduous task. The required homestudy is uncomfortably invasive and any past deviations from the straight and narrow will be highlighted. Many things happen over a life-time and the vast majority are forgotten after a time. During the vetting process of adoption, be prepared for your entire life (and the life of your co-parent/spouse) to be examined and judged.
Any arrests (even a sit-in on a college campus is fair game)? Credit check, asset check, medical evaluation and job history are all considered. Marriage history is questioned. Even your religious affiliation will be examined. Age is a big consideration. People are under the impression that any one, at any age, can easily adopt a child. This is simply not true. Couples over 40 hit some resistance, and over 50 are almost excluded from being able to adopt a young child at all.
As for international adoption additional factors are considered. Issues such as your weight and blood pressure may be examined. If you don’t fit neatly into certain health criteria you can forget adopting from some countries. There is also the case of sexual orientation. If you are not a married heterosexual couple you may not be allowed to adopt. Other countries require you to be a certain religion, ethnicity or have genetic ties to the country that you can prove. Additionally, the timeline from initiation to finalization of the adoption process can exceed FOUR years!
Adoption is expensive. While foster to adopt county systems tend to be the most affordable (but the children arguably facing the most life obstacles) there are tremendous costs that accompany agency adoption and international adoption. Russian adoptions require two separate trips to Russia and adoption fees that hover at $40-50K! Children of color tend to be more “affordable” (this thought process is disturbing but deserves a separate essay to discuss) at $20-30K.
Finally, with any adopted child, the process is just beginning when the last document is finally signed. These children are all “special needs” for a period of time (sometimes a life-time). They have suffered a tremendous loss and that loss should be recognized and nurtured. They should be allowed to grieve if necessary. It takes time and energy to attach to them and for them to trust and bond with you. This process is nearly non-existent when you gestate and deliver your own child.
There are many nuances and divergent paths in creating a family. Adoption is certainly a great option. But it bears repeating that adoption is not easy. It is complicated, difficult and expensive. Even in the best situations it is not always possible to adopt. Someone has to decide you are “good enough” to be a mother. And the criteria used to determine “good enough” are very poor measures (weight, age, childhood history, etc) of parental quality.
Thinking that adoption is a very “easy” Plan B to creating a family is misguided. The women who say “I’ll just adopt”demonstrate that they truly don't understand the complexities of the adoption process. The children who are seeking a family deserve to have parents who view them as “Plan A” and not as a “fall back” Plan B option because they chose to wait too long to have their own biological children.