When Miriam and I were getting to know each other in that bloggy way – exploring each other’s sites and comparing the similarities and differences in our journeys, she suggested that I write about how hubby and I chose adoption and international adoption to be specific.
I think her request was brave. I know some people who have ALWAYS known that they wanted to adopt. It has nothing to do, for them, with any lack of fertility but with a dedication to help the children of the world. I’d love to say that I was that altruistic. I’d love to BE that altruistic. But the truth is that we only turned our thoughts towards adoption once our attempts to procreate had failed. Which doesn’t mean that we’ll love an adopted child any less than we would a biological one. But for a number of reasons – not the least is being the last of my line on my father’s side – it was very important to me that we at least TRY to genetically carry on our family lines.
Although I remember my frantic visit to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test after my first unprotected sexual experience (not sure why I was stupid enough to let that happen but the irony of that fear is certainly not lost on me!), by the time I reached my mid-20’s I think I KNEW that I wouldn’t get pregnant. And whether it was some genetic knowledge or a self-fulfilling prophecy, it turned out to be correct.
And with that knowledge, I had a plan. I was going to use a sperm donor if I was single and not yet a mother at 38 (coincidentally that is the age when my mother died. I’m not sure if I chose it for that reason or because I thought that would give me time to get pregnant before I turned 40 – because of COURSE it was going to work the first time. I never considered otherwise).
As it turned out, I wasn’t single at 38. But neither was I a mother, although numerous doctors had already said that they didn’t know why. But for a slew of reasons, we weren’t ready to dive into the wonderful world of IF treatments. And when we did, we met with a litany of chemical pregnancies, an early miscarriage, and a number of pointless cycles.
By the time we stopped trying this past January, I was 43. And adoption was already on the table as a concept. Unlike many couples I know, that ones who did copious amounts of research before deciding whether to pursue domestic (open? closed?) or international (what country?) we fell into our decision easily.
I think I spent all of two days looking into domestic foster-to-adoption. But two days is a lot if all you’re hearing are horror stories of children being returned to biological parents who are ill-equipped to care for them.
Domestic adoption probably got a week’s worth of attention (I have to say here though that when I research something, that something is WELL researched). The current vogue is to adopt openly. And I admit that there is a part of me that appreciates that in concept – the child is loved not only by their adoptive family but by their birth family who is active in their lives and of course, a child can never have too much love. And I applaud the decision that birth parents make when they decide that they must sacrifice their child to give them the best life possible.
But hubby and I both agree (him a little harsher than me) that giving up a child doesn’t mean getting all of the benefits with none of the work. Hubby and I will, more than likely, only have one child. We have (thankfully similar) pretty strict ideas on childrearing which mostly involve letting children BE children and not having to grow up too soon, etc. I think we’ll be stellar and very, very, fun parents who each have unique and different things to bring to our roles. We won’t be having a biological child but I still want a child who is, as much as any child can be, “ours.” Is that selfish? Perhaps. But I also truly believe that it’s less confusing for the child.
It might surprise you to know that I would actively support my one-day child’s search for their birth parents. But it won’t happen when that child is four or five. It will need to be their choice and something that they want to and are ready to undertake.
All of which made international adoption the clear choice for us. And as often happen for us, we fell easily into the choice of adoption for Bulgaria. When I began looking through the countries (as the designated family researcher), the Eastern Bloc countries were looking grim – expensive and demanding of a lot of in-country time - Guatemala and Ethiopia were mired allegations of children sold by their families or outright stolen from them. We were too old for other countries we looked at and my Jewishness was a strike in others.
Bulgaria jumped off the page at us for a few reasons. First off all, we’ve been there. Hubby is from the UK and I lived there with him for 4 years after we were married. Our first real vacation was to Bulgaria – someplace I never even thought of visiting. And we had a great time. The children who are put up for adoption there are typically Roma (more derogatorily referred to as Gypsy) with dark hair and eyes mirroring our own. For better or worse, the country’s adoption system which had come almost to a halt under an administration that preferred to see children living in orphanages than adopted to loving families oversees was being completely overhauled. The pricing is in the mid-range for international adoption and the in-country requirements are completely reasonable.
Was it the right choice? As I write this, we’re waiting for various bit and pieces of government approval so that we can submit our dossier and get on the waiting list. Adoptions are certainly moving faster than they were through last year under the old administration (in 2008 there were only 5 adoptions from the US as opposed to 298 in 2001) but there have been no referrals of “healthy” kids that anyone is aware of (that being said, what is considered unhealthy isn’t always as big an issue for those of us in countries with access to quality healthcare as it is for those in other countries).
Certainly only time will tell. At least all of those two week waits taught me some amount of patience. I’d like to say that we sweated this decision – that we poured over articles and called references and such. But while I’m ever-grateful to the internet and all of the information, and the few people on a listserv that I DID reach out to, we made this decision because in the end it just felt right. And I almost like to think that it found us and much as we found it.