The other day my three-year old son said to me, "Remember, Mommy? When I was in your belly in Korea?" Uh-oh. He seems to have missed one of the key points in his adoption story. Both my children were born in South Korea. It appears I need to find another way to explain to him how he was born and how be came to be our much loved son!
As a woman who struggled to have a family, I cringe inside every time someone flippantly says, "You can just adopt." People seem to think that having biological children and adoption are "interchangeable" paths to becoming parents.
With my whole heart I believe that men and woman should pursue whatever means available to them to achieve their goal of becoming a loving family. What I challenge is the commonly held belief that parenting biological children is exactly the same as parenting adopted children.
Of course all children need love, basic necessities, discipline, affection, and safety. Both groups of children also have the same chances of growing up to be happy, functioning adults (some people wrongly assume all adoptees are dysfunctional). I could go on and on about how many aspects of raising adopted children is exactly the same as raising biological children (it is a struggle to get them to eat vegetables, brush their teeth, use a tissue...you get the point!). But I believe that families created through adoption have extra "layers" and dynamics that must be recognized.
If you are going to enter the wonderful, and life changing, world of adoption, you must be prepared in ways you never expected. It is impossible to name all the subtle ways that parenting adopted children is different, but here are a few:
- Get ready for tough questions and tough conversations. Unlike children who know for certain where they came from, children who were adopted have additional questions about identity, race, and the circumstances of their birth.
- Be prepared to love, and sometimes defend, your child's birth parents. Those around you, and maybe even yourself if you are being honest, may question the choices they made or how they lived their lives. You need to be able to admire and love them for giving you the greatest gift of your life.
- Be prepared to accept a culture or socio-economic status or religion or race or..or...or...the list goes on. Most likely your child's beginnings are not the same as yours. Embrace the differences and learn about them.
- Be prepared for the public. We are a transracial family, so people know right away how our family was formed. The curious stares, the nosy questions, the genuinely interested questions, the naive questions of other children, the ridiculous questions (Are they real brother and sister?).
- Be prepared for many unknowns. Having children is a total leap of faith, regardless of how they arrived. With my son and daughter I have little information on their prenatal lives, infancy, and medical histories. When we joyfully became their parents, we accepted all that came before them and all that is to come in the future.
http://www.resolve.org/infertility101. To learn more about the background of National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW): http://www.resolve.org/takecharge.