Although I don’t remember the conversation, I knew from a very young age that I was adopted. I guess that it was also part of that conversation where I was told that the reason my parents decided to adopt was because they could not have a baby naturally. It’s not all that surprising because the large majority of infant adoptions that take place are due to couples experiencing fertility issues. Those couples who have sought infertility services are 10 times more likely to have adopted children than those who have not. But adopting after infertility does come with its own unique issues for both the adoptive parents as well as the adoptee.
If you are an adoptive parent, the words that are used as you tell us our story are important. If you adopted due to infertility, tell us. Be honest. Don’t tell us “we always wanted to adopt” or “God called us to adopt” when it was only after the inability to conceive that you came to decide on adoption. Using religion as a reason for adoption can actually cause adoptees issues later as they may blame God or the church for their situation. Thankfully my parents never used those lines with me. Adoptees are also commonly told about how they were “chosen” and that was no different for me. As a child, that honestly made me feel great, like I was some special jewel among all the other babies they saw and so they picked me! But typically, the whole as-seen-on-TV adoption story where a couple walks into an orphanage and actually picks out a baby is not actually the way it all works, but that was certainly the fantasy I had created in my mind when I was young. When I grew up, I came to know about my actual story and learned that most domestic infant adoptions happen more like my own: There are parents who are waiting to adopt and they are matched with an expectant mom planning adoption for their baby or are matched with a baby at the time of relinquishment. In reality, my adoptive mom and dad had chosen to be parents, but “I” wasn’t chosen, I was just available.
“Adopting is not a cure for infertility and an adopted child is not and should never be expected to be a replacement for the biological child that you never had.”
Recognizing that we aren’t chosen also goes along with recognizing that we weren’t the first choice. And that’s ok, because our adoptive parents were our second choice, also. In an ideal world, couples would choose to have children biologically and babies would choose to stay with their biological family, but for whatever reason neither of those could happen. But second choice doesn’t have to equal second best! We all want to be loved and feel like we belong whether or not we were the first choice. My adoptive parents never made me feel anything other than the best thing in their lives and I was surrounded by an amazing extended family as well. As much as I adore them and am happy to be a part of their family, it’s still not the family I was supposed to be raised in.
It is very important though for hopeful adoptive parents to grieve their infertility and the loss of not having their own biological children and they should not adopt until their desire to conceive biologically will not interfere with their ability to parent an adopted child. Adopting is not a cure for infertility and an adopted child is not and should never be expected to be a replacement for the biological child that you never had. This is a burden that no child should have to bear as we can never live up to the idealistic fantasy baby/child that never existed. This also brings up the nature vs nurture argument of what makes us who we are. Babies are not blank slates. We are already born with our DNA implanted inside of us, so you should be prepared to accept us as we are with our own unique interests, traits, and personalities that may be similar to yours or completely different.
Finally, please always remember, that what may be one the happiest days for you becoming a new parent is also the day that we lost our first family. While we may be thankful for a family to love us, we still may be sad that we needed to be adopted in the first place. Being adopted is complicated and our feelings of happiness and grief can coexist simultaneously. When I am asked if I would change things if I could, I say that I would change everything and nothing all at the same time.