Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The best way

Hopper went out tonight, so I couldn't watch The Guild. As I often do when Hopper goes out and I'm spending an evening alone (since Boo is in bed,) I went on YouTube and entered "Dan Savage." I found this conversation about adoption, which is excellent if you've got an hour to kill and want to learn about adoption.

Many things they talked about were familiar to me, but what inspired me to write tonight is the notion they mentioned that many people assume adoption is "second best" or "a last resort."

It's not.

Oh, sure, there are many, many people who come to adoption because they have tried every possible treatment for infertility and it didn't work. I'm not denying that.

But if you were to ask around (and you shouldn't--it's none of your business) you'd find a surprising number of people who, like me and Hopper, just wanted to adopt.

We wanted to adopt for many reasons. Personally, I could never understand why anyone would endure infertility treatments. I understand more now, but when I first learned about the idea, I was somewhere between twelve and fourteen and watching a story unfold on a soap opera. A couple was trying everything to conceive, and it made no sense to me. I simply couldn't understand why, with so many children in the world, anyone would go to extremes to get pregnant. I decided then and there that I never would.

And then in college and during my twenties, I started to think about the state of the world, and the number of people on this planet, and I wondered why I should ever want to bring another person into it.  (I'm going to leave my personal feelings about pregnancy out of this, because that's enough for another post, or maybe a book.) I simply don't understand why a biological child would be preferable to any other child--why anyone would think of adoption as "second best."

Of course I'm able to reason out why people would feel that way, but it doesn't resonate with me. To me, what makes a family is love and a shared story. If those things aren't there, then it doesn't matter how many genes you have in common--you're not really family. And if they are there, you're family forever, genes or no genes. I didn't figure out that my Uncle Phil wasn't actually a relative until I was about nine or ten, and then later on, I realized that he's more a relative to me than some of my biological relatives are, which is why my parents told me to call him "Uncle" in the first place.

I guess that's why I have so much faith in my marriage--Hopper and Boo and I are a family, so divorce isn't really an option for us, any more than I could divorce my brother. Yes, there are circumstances under which I'd throw my brother out of my life, but they are few and kind of hard to imagine. So the same goes for Hopper. Whatever happens to challenge our marriage, we'll just have to work it out. Unless he starts beating me up or something, he's stuck with me.

It's also why I don't really understand people who search for their birthparents relentlessly. I understand the basic impulse--to find out more about oneself, one's history, or a medical problem. And I love meeting family members I never knew before. A couple of years ago we were reunited with a branch of the family I had never met before. It turned out I had a cousin who lives about a mile from us who has two internationally adopted children about Boo's age. That was really cool, and I enjoy getting to know that branch of my family. If an adult adoptee finds her birth family and makes a connection like that, great! More people to love is always awesome. But I don't understand the need to search for people who don't want to be found. In my book, people who don't want me around just don't matter. [Update: 4/4/13 I am specifically referring here to birth families who don't want to be found or who reject the biological relative once contacted. I do not mean to suggest that birthmothers relinquish their children because they don't want them around. Placing your child for adoption when you cannot care for him or her is possibly the most loving act a parent can perform, and I would never want to belittle that or make adoptees feel like they were rejected at birth.]

All of this is really opinionated, and I want to make clear that I'm not judging other people's decisions and life choices. I'm just giving my perspective, and talking about what resonates with me and what doesn't. I have empathy for someone who wants to conceive and can't, or wants to make a connection with a birth family and can't, or feels the need to divorce. Putting myself in their shoes, I can understand what they feel and why they make the choices they do. I've had dear friends in all three of these situations and I support the decisions they've made because those are their decisions. But they're not the decisions I would make, and in this post, I'm only trying to talk about me and my feelings.

To me, adoption isn't second best. It's just another way to make a family. There are lots of ways to make families, and they're all good. (Well, you know--the legal ones. I'm not advocating kidnapping or rape or incest or whatever other horrible ways there are that families come to be.) For us, international adoption was the right way. I always tell Boo, "You're the best kid in the world. We know--we checked." And it's true. She's the best kid in the world for us. Our family just wouldn't be the same if we had come together any other way. For us, adoption wasn't second best, it was (and is) just right.

So please don't feel sorry for adoptive families you may know. And if you are an adoptive parent, make sure you express to your child that your family is just right the way it is, no matter what you thought would be the way you'd make your family when you started. Looking back, could you really imagine it any other way? Adoption isn't better or worse, it's just different. And different is cool.

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