Whole and Half Adoption: My Thoughts

I read all of your comments on my last post with great interest. Thank you, very much, for your insight and compassion into a contentious topic.

I wanted to first clear up what I consider to be poor writing on my part, for which I apologize. I was trying to be all vague and mysterious about where we live and it ended up coming across as just…muddled. Tammy will be listed on our child’s birth certificate as her other parent, and we will be given a temporary custody order until the adoption is processed, some six months after the birth. If we were never planning to go anywhere for the rest of our child’s life, this would be enough, legally, to ensure that both of us would be treated as our daughter’s legal parents. However, because there are many places in the United States that would not automatically assign Tammy parental rights (if not outright ban them), we have to go through with the adoption to protect our family in those states.

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Please note that everything that follows is a collection of my personal opinions, colored by interactions and discussions with friends and family members. I am not adopted myself, so I do not have first hand experience. If I offend anyone with what I say, please know that it is not my intent to do so, and be kind to me in explaining why you feel as you do.

Adoption is not a black and white issue for me. I, personally, do not like it when people (many Catholic and Evangelical groups, for instance) paint it as The Solution to an unwanted pregnancy (as opposed to abortion). I also do not think it is fair to say it’s always a Bad Thing, like my friend, and some in the adoption rights community say it is. It’s like life: complicated, and with trade offs (life is complicated you say? How shocking).

Encouraging biological family members to stay together is much more complicated than just providing free prenatal care, as some “crisis pregnancy centers” imply. (Gentle hint STRONG SUGGESTION: do not EVER go to a crisis pregnancy center. They are con artists.) You cannot have a discussion about adoption without discussing sex education for children and teens, education in general, access to contraception and abortion, the roles of religion and culture, social services to support lower socio-economic status women and children, social stigmas of welfare queens and teen moms, “anchor babies”, the role of biological fathers, cycles of poverty, the foster care industry, the for profit adoption industry, international adoption, parental rights, pregnant women’s rights, the “personhood” movement, and on and on. All of these things are, in my opinion, intrinsically linked. But phew! Who has time to discuss all that? And what legislation could possibly address all these things in a meaningful way?

In a perfect world, there would be no unwanted babies, and there would be no families who wanted babies but couldn’t have them. Obviously, this is not a perfect world (again, it’s truly shocking). I think we should do what we can to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and assist in achieving pregnancy for those that desire it, but we have to acknowledge that there will never be a perfect balance.

So what to do about those babies that, for whatever reason, are being placed for adoption? If a family member is willing to take them, I think they should be given first dibs. If a family member is not readily available, I do not believe they should be coerced into taking in a child they cannot adequately care for.

If no family member is available or appropriate, then I think a child should be placed for adoption to the greater community, in whatever form the birth mother (and father, if applicable) are comfortable with: open, semi-open, closed, etc.

Ideally, a child will have access to a basic medical history of both sides of his or her family (obviously, this is not always possible or practical). I do not think that adoption records should be destroyed, unless the birth mother specifically requests, after a certain period of time, that they be. If an adopted child wants to have contact upon reaching adulthood with their biological family, a court appointed independent third party should be assigned as a liaison to coordinate that contact, i.e. contacting the birth parents and asking their consent to provide the offspring with their name(s) and contact information. If the birth parent(s) do not want to provide contact, then the process stops there.

That may seem harsh to children desperately searching for information about their genetic history. I do not, however, believe that we are entitled, as a human right, to extensive genetic information. I also do not believe that once a child is born, their right to know trump the right to privacy of the person who gestated them.

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As far as my own child goes, we did a lot of thinking, obviously, about the role of biology, nature/nurture, the role of fathers, gambling with genetics, and fate before we settled on our donors. All three of our donors were chosen from a pool of willing to be known (WTBK) men, rather than the totally anonymous men.

We do have basic medical information about the donor, as well as some family medical history. We have a short recording of his voice, and pictures of him as a baby, a child, and an adult. We have the option of signing up with the donor sibling registry (DSR) to find other children created in part by the same donor.

We chose not to go with an anonymous donor because we do feel that genetics and biology are important, but to what degree we do not know. And we don’t know how important our child will view them. As the lovely blogger over at Bionic Mamas says:

“The biggest reason we chose a willing-to-be-known donor is that we wanted to be able to say to the Bean that even before he was a bean, we were thinking of him as his own person, whose thoughts and desires might well be different from our own.”

Isn’t that fabulous? You should go read the whole post. Also follow the blog.

Do I resent the fact that Tammy and I cannot combine our genes to create a child? Yes. Selfishly, deep down in my reptilian heart, I’m damn angry that we cannot have a child that is created out of our deep love for each other. I’m angry that our child will not look like both of us. I’m angry that all of the little quirks that combine to make Tammy the lovable, exasperating, funny, and gloriously wonderful human being she is will not be reflected in our child.

I also resent the fact that some people (again, like my friend in the adoption rights community) will consider the donor our daughter’s father. Parenting is so much more than providing DNA. It’s more than giving birth. And I resent the hell out of the idea that there are some people who will always consider a one time DNA donation a permanent admittance card to the parenting club.

But I cannot afford to go too far down that road my friends, because that way bitterness lies.

And a child is more than the sum of their genetic parts. Genes do absolutely play an important role, but how can that role be quantified against all the daily mundane slog and earth shattering crisis that make up a life lived?

In the end, our child will be her own person. She may turn out different from how she would have if she were raised by a biological mother and a father. But we make millions of conscious and unconscious choices in our lifetime that change who we are and who we could become. There are also things that we have no control over that influence the sum of our parts.

Ultimately, Tammy and I are just one of them, for better or for worse.

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All Clear/Swooning/Eye Roll/Answered Prayers

All Clear
Baby Girl Pirate is just fine. Whatever it was, it is no longer. To say I’m relieved is an understatement, but there are no other words to describe it. We’ll have to go with relieved.

Swoon/Eye Roll
Why has no one ever told me how fun power tools are? Seriously. Fun. My parents loaned us their electric hedge/bush trimmer, as we’ve been trying to maintain our rather formal yard with hand trimmers. When we bought the house we didn’t realize the guy who owned it before us had someone come by a few times a week to take care of the gardening. Upon realizing this fact, we were filled with optimistic anticipation about how good of a job we would do on our own! And how much money we would save! We were sadly, sadly mistaken. Gardening is hard work, y’all. HOWEVER, I have discovered that electric trimmers are a game changer. They slice through bushes like butter. Awesome!

Before I could get out there and start a’trimmin’, Tammy spent the morning shooting me worried looks, and making comments like “just…take it easy out there, babe.” (OK, side note: we went to labor and delivery last weekend because I was having sharp sustained pains in my lower left abdomen. After ruling out all the Scary Bad Things like pre-term labor, organ problems (for me), etc., the doctor decided I had pulled a muscle in my stomach during an over enthusiastic closet re-organization session and sent me home. I tell you this to give context to Tammy’s worries.)

I blithely assured her I would be fine, and raced outside to bring our bedraggled bushes back to their manicured state. Not 15 minutes into my lawn grooming session, Tammy came outside to check on me, still wearing her worried look. It was hot outside (90 damn degrees in October, what the actual fuck is that about) and the trimmer was kind of heavy, so I promised her I would be inside shortly. I kept up my end of the bargain, and trooped inside a few minutes later to find her preparing a huge glass of ice water. She hovered around me while I drank it and asked me no less than five times if I would also like some juice. Or a snack.

Love that woman. She can make me swoon and roll my eyes at her simultaneously, a rare and elusive quality in a person.

wuv u potatoHow I often feel about Tammy.

Answered Prayers
A friend of mine posted something on FB over the weekend that pissed me the hell off:

Yesterday God answered prayers in a way that we couldn’t have even imagined. He is so faithful!! Thank you to our community who was praying for us. Today is going to be a much better day for [name of franchise she and her husband own]. 🙂

FIRST of all, the whole “answered prayer” thing. I’m sorry, but it just makes zero sense to me. Why would god answer YOUR prayers but ignore others? Obviously I’m sensitive about this in the context of pregnancy and babies. Why would god answer one infertile’s prayers and not another? Do you have some direct line? Do you pay for access? Do you have more people praying on your behalf and god somehow tallies prayers to decide which ones to grant? And furthermore, why is it that god is answering prayers about this dumb franchise that you own, but not prayers of, I dunno, people out of jobs entirely, or people with sick spouses/children, or, hell people living in damn war zones, starving to death.

Prayer PositionOk, I figured it out. Prayers are answered when one assumes the correct position.

SECOND of all, what is up with god being faithful to you? Isn’t that supposed to be the other way around? This is not the first time I’ve seen or heard people express that sentiment and I’m still baffled. Are we now the ones to be worshiped? God swears loyalty to us?

FINALLY (although not really finally, I could go on about this all day but I’m sparing you), why is it when good things happen it’s because they’ve been “blessed” by god answering their prayers, and when bad things happen it’s still god, but it’s “all part of his plan” and “we aren’t meant to understand”. Why the fuck not? We can understand when we’re “blessed,” so are we being cursed on the flip side? Is that how I should understand it?

Is there really some magical/divine presence that directs our lives like an air traffic controller? If so, does he/she/it decide how our lives are going to go before we’re born, sometime during our lives based on behavior, or based on past lives behavior? Because if it’s before we’re born, that’s kind of fucked up, no? That someone could be born doomed to live in pain and fear and hunger, and someone else be born with a silver spoon shoved up their ass? (Granted, that does sound rather painful.) I cannot accept the argument that god makes things happen to us based on behavior, because I think we’ve all seen some mighty fucked up things happen to wonderful people, and vice versa. Like pregnancy – some of you out there struggling deserve to be parents way more than so many people I know. And yet your struggle continues.

Why? It makes no sense. But fuck being “blessed,” and fuck “answered prayers.” I call bullshit.

Ramblings

Tammy did not get that job that would have required us to move, after three rounds of interviews. On one hand, I’m incredibly relieved that moving is no longer on the table (for now), especially because my parents are closing on a house in our neighborhood on Friday. On the other hand, I had worked myself around to a place where I could view moving as an adventure and an opportunity for us, and a chance for me to stay at home with the baby in January.

Tammy’s getting more and more excited about having a baby. As she puts it “my excitement is directly proportional to the size of your belly”. Even I can’t deny that I have a distinct bump that can only mean one thing. Random people have been more comfortable coming right out and asking me if I am pregnant, which is oddly discomforting. Saying yes feels almost…embarrassing, like I’ve been caught with my hand in the cookie jar. Or like a teenager caught smoking or something.The flip side to this embarrassment is that I’ve become much more comfortable talking about the work it took for us to get pregnant. I drop IVF and frozen embryos into discussions of pregnancy and siblings like it’s no big deal at all. Look at me, normalizing IF and shit.

Speaking of normalizing, I’ve been working on acting like a normal pregnant lady who’s relatively assured of a baby at the end of this process. Tammy’s been painting the baby room, and we’re planning what furniture to buy. I’ve been researching day care options (OMFG expensive). I’m planning meals to make and freeze for the early days after the baby’s born and I even made my first one: tomato soup from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made the recipe a few times before, but this was my first time making it with fresh tomatoes from my mom’s garden. I did the whole blanch and shock thing to get the skins off easily, which worked like a charm. The fresh tomatoes (as opposed to canned) made the soup taste much more…tomato-y, if you know what I mean. Not a bad thing, just an observation.

I’m planning to make a few more soups (potato, broccoli cheese) and casserole type things (lasagna (don’t have a link to the vegan recipe I use), chicken pot pie (again, don’t have a link but it’s from here, which I highly, highly recommend). Any other suggestions, especially healthy suggestions (note my decidedly unhealthy options above) for freezer meals? Keep in mind that I’m vegetarian and Tammy’s vegan, but I’m pretty good at veganizing recipes (i.e. subbing veggies stock for chicken stock, faux meet for real meet, almond/soy/rice/etc milk for cow’s milk, etc).

I have a few posts rattling around in my brain but the biggest one is about religion and faith*. So, obviously a very light post that is a breeze to write. Another one is my struggle to be sensitive to people trying so hard to get pregnant while celebrating my own pregnancy. So, also quite fun and light. Slightly less heavy is the post on the second parent adoption proceedings that Tammy will go through after the baby is born.

Happy Fall, everybody.

*Working title: “On Why I Burst Into Tears When Discussing God and Death, or Spiritual Malaise”