For birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptees, adoption is almost never first choice. The choice of most birthparents would obviously be to avoid an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy. The first choice of most adoptive parents would be to achieve parenthood through the more traditional route, rather than to become parents after a long journey of scrutiny, paperwork, financial expense, etc. Certainly for a baby, the most ideal situation would be to be raised by biological parents who are able to adequately meet the multiple needs of a child. I’m sure that even children adopted into wonderful families full of love would have rather been born to biological parents capable of raising them, rather than living with the identify issues and grief/loss that are universal to adoptees. For adoptees, I suspect that adoption is both second choice and second best, even in the best of circumstances. For parents who are called to adoption, however, I’m not so sure.
I married relatively late in life, shortly before my 35th birthday (and shortly before my husband’s 40th birthday). We started trying to conceive immediately, and in 5+ years of marriage have only succeeded twice. Staying pregnant has been even more elusive. My first pregnancy ended very early, and my second ended toward the end of the first trimester. We started pursuing adoption after my first miscarriage, and had just completed our homestudy paperwork when I found out that I was pregnant, later to learn that I was expecting identical twins. We were overjoyed, of course, but there was a part of me that was disappointed that our adoption plans were being placed on hold. As a baptized Christian, adoption is an important part of my identity, and I’ve always found it to be just as miraculous as biological parenthood.
When I discussed this with the few friends and relatives that we announced our pregnancy to, I was met with comments such as “this baby (the one I was carrying) is really yours”, and “this baby comes from you and Jerry”, implying that adoption would definitely be second best. These responses troubled me, because I knew right from the beginning that my pregnancy was high risk and that my chances of carrying to term were not good (the prognosis became even more grim when we discovered that I was carrying a particularly risky type of identical twins). It bothered me to think that should I lose this pregnancy and end up adopting, people might feel that my motherhood was second best.
Fast forward 2+ years. Not surprisingly, my twin pregnancy did end in miscarriage. We were devastated, and to this day I occasionally cry when I think of the babies that I lost. Four months after the miscarriage, we adopted a beautiful newborn baby boy who is well worth every pang of pain I experienced (and still occasionally experience) related to my journey of infertility/miscarriage. I couldn’t possibly love him more if I had conceived and given birth to him.
Those who are not called to adoption are probably skeptical of this and think that I only feel that way because I don’t have the experience of biological parenthood to compare to. But I’ve spoken to enough people who have experienced parenthood via biology as well as adoption to know that for those called to adoption, the love that adoptive mothers feel for their children is just as strong as the love that mothers have for their biological children. For me, adoption was my second choice, but definitely not second best. It doesn’t get much more miraculous than that.
[Previously published 2009]
(© 2011 Claire Boeck)