I do not consider myself to be "anti-adoption" and actually dislike that label. I do, however, consider the separation of a child from his or her biological family, and especially from the mother, to be a traumatic event that should never be taken lightly. I do understand that there are situations in which the biological parents are unable or unwilling to care for the child for various reasons, and I certainly never intended to imply that children should remain in unsafe conditions. I myself consider adoption to be a valid option in some circumstances, but I am also aware that it is an extreme measure, one that not only separates the child from the original family but alters his or her very identity. I believe that the adoption industry is very much in need of reform. I would like for there to be fewer adoptions. I believe that ethical adoption must be about finding parents for children who really need them, not about finding babies for people who want to be parents.
My previous post was not intended to be construed as advice to any individual about the choices he or she should make about family. That is a personal matter. I was, however, trying to make several points:
- I would like to see more general acceptance within our culture of the childfree lifestyle, whether that lifestyle is chosen intentionally or arrived at because of infertility.
- I would like to see an end to the glib assumption that couples dealing with infertility can "just adopt," as if it were as simple solution without a negative side.
- I would like to see more couples discuss the possibility of infertility early on in their relationship, before trying to conceive, and for that discussion to cover the full range of responses, including choosing childfree. (I do understand that all will not reach the same conclusion as the couple I mentioned in the post, but I would like to see more at least having the conversation.)
- There is currently a supply-and-demand imbalance within the domestic infant adoption establishment; this does need to be addressed somehow. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I wanted to start the discussion.
To those who would argue that I have no right to comment on infertility because I myself did not experience it, please consider this: Like many adoptees of the baby-scoop era, I grew up knowing that I was in my particular family because of infertility. My parents chose adoption because they could not conceive a child in the usual way. Infertility, in addition to other cultural forces (shame around unwed pregnancy, etc.), shaped my life from the very beginning. I recommend Rickie Solinger's book Wake Up Little Susie, which examines the cultural and economic forces that determined the course of my life and that of many others. It's a resource that I found to be highly informative, but also, I will admit, difficult to read. When I read the phrase "marketable white babies" in that book, I know it refers to me and I feel a little sick to my stomach. Underneath all of the "adoption is a beautiful option" rhetoric lies this stark reality. My adoption occurred in the context of a set of cultural beliefs, and today's adoptions also occur within a cultural context. I am calling on us to examine that context. My earlier post focused on one part of it that I believe needs to be questioned -- the insidious cultural belief that people, and especially women, who do not have children are somehow lacking or "less than," and the resulting implication that they must rectify that "lack" by any means possible.
If you are someone who remains convinced that adoption is part of your path, it is not my place to tell you that you should not explore that possibility. I do encourage you to consider adopting from foster care because that is an area in which there is currently a need: there are more than 100,000 youth waiting for permanent families in the U.S. foster care system, and, tragically, tens of thousands of children of "age out" of the system each year without finding permanency. If, however, you remain convinced that infant adoption is the only path for you, please do make efforts to seek out an agency that does not engage in coercion of expectant mothers. For more on that subject, I recommend Shannon LC Cate's post 10 Red Flags that Your Adoption Agency Might be Coercive.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net