With many decisions in life, comes the “why” questions. It is natural for people to want to understand your thinking and logic behind a decision you have made, whether big or little. I am sure I do the same thing.
Person: I am looking for another job.
Me: Oh yeah? Why is that?
Person: I am just ready for a change.
Me: Awesome! I hope you find a position that is the perfect fit for you!
Does it really matter why this person is looking for a new place of employment? Shouldn’t I trust that they know the best decision for their life and situation? Shouldn’t I assume that they know what will make them happy?
Andrew and I have received many “why” questions associated with our decision to adopt our first child. We respect people’s curiosity and the fact that family and friends are looking out for our best interest. At the same time, some questions can be taken as condescending, rude, and/or out of line. Maybe it’s not the question, but how it is asked. I am sure that some of you reading this have experienced the same thing.
Andrew and I discussed this matter last night and he inspired me to write this post. Not that it matters what others think of our choice, but we feel it is important for everyone to understand where we are coming from.
Here are a few questions we have heard and our answers to them:
This question is understandable. Our family and friends most likely expected a “We Are Pregnant” announcement rather than “We Are Adopting”. This being our first child, some are confused why we wouldn’t keep trying or turn to fertility assistance. The decision to adopt our first child is not us telling the world that we are not going to continue to try for a biological child. If it happens, it happens. We are ready to start a family and the amount of children in this world that don’t have a loving family to belong to is astronomical. We are so happy to be able to provide a stable, happy home for Oliver.
Personally, I have always wanted to adopt at least one child. This is something I shared with Andrew from the beginning of our relationship and he has been on board with it. Did he expect to adopt our first child? Probably not. I didn’t either, actually. I never thought it would be so difficult for me to become pregnant. It has been three years now since I took away the goalkeeper (fun little term Andrew’s brother uses for birth control). Gotta give credit where credit is due. 😉
Life doesn’t always work out the way you imagine it, and that’s ok. You improvise. Adopting Oliver is not taking anything away from us. It is providing us with the family that we desire and will be adding so much joy and happiness to our life. This is what we want and this is why we have chosen adoption.
There are children all over the world stuck in foster care and orphanages. It is hard for some people to understand why we would look outside of California and the United States to adopt a child. The truth is, we did not start this process with the vision of an international adoption. We had no idea what to expect when we started our research. Originally, we would search “California adoption” and “United States adoption” thinking that local would be easier and cheaper.
There were a few factors that we soon learned about with local adoptions:
- With many adoptions, you take a risk that the biological parent(s) will fight for and/or receive custody again. This can lead to legal battles.
- Many children in the foster care system are part of a sibling group. According to http://www.promises2kids.org, in San Diego alone 3,112 children are in foster care. Of that number, 2,849 of them have one or more siblings.
- The majority of the children in the California foster care system are six years of age or older. According to http://www.kidsdata.org, there were 62,097 children in the California foster care system in 2014. 80% of those children are three years of age or older.
Regarding #1, the process of adopting a child, in itself, is scary, exhausting, and stressful. Add in the fact that the biological parent(s) may be able to obtain custody of their child again. The child that you have taken into your home, grown to love and adore, made a part of your family…that child could now be taken away from you if all parental rights were not dissolved in the beginning. Of course you have a choice in the matter of what child you want to adopt, so you may choose a child that has no parents in the picture. This is our choice. Oliver was abandoned at a hospital in China at the age of five months. No note, no birth certificate, and no luck in tracking down his parent(s). Now head down the list…
On #2, this is a very sad fact. Entire sibling groups are taken away from their parents due to neglect, abuse, and other awful mistreatment that I can’t fathom. In the end, some of these siblings groups are separated and adopted to different families. Again, since we do not have children of our own at this time, we do not wish to adopt more than one child. Plus, we would not want to separate the sibling groups, for there are people out there that are open to adopting them together. We are friends with a woman who adopted a sibling group of three…her first and only children. She has a heart the size of the universe and we are lucky to know her! Again, you have a choice in this matter. You can decide that you only want to adopt ONE child. There are plenty of only children in the local foster care systems.
This brings us to #3. Andrew and I decided in the beginning that we did not want to adopt a child that was older than three years old. The only reason we decided this is because this will be our first child. We would like to experience as many milestones as we can with our first child. Plus, much of the first couple years of their life will not be remembered. This will be helpful for their growing and healing from what they have endured in the first part of their little lives. When we finally pick up Oliver in China, he will be a few months shy of three years old. With his diagnosis of Down syndrome, he will be slightly behind the curve of children without Ds but we know he is perfectly capable of all things! Another thing we noticed with children under the age of three in the local foster care systems, is they have disabilities that are beyond our scope of expertise and would be very difficult to manage. I hope that doesn’t make us sound selfish or inconsiderate, but we do have to look out for the best interest of our marriage and family.
After searching many adoption websites, domestic and international, I stumbled upon Oliver’s picture. I thought he had the sweetest, most kissable face! I read his story, watched the video the agency posted online, and fell in love with him. This is not the way that Andrew or I planned the process to go. Andrew felt blind-sided by my affection that I instantly felt for Oliver. He didn’t even get to help in searching for our first child, I just presented his profile to him. I don’t know how other adoptive family’s found their children, whether it was online, in a book, or having the agency match them with a child using the criteria they were searching for in a child…but I am hoping our story is not unique.
My gut feeling is that both individuals, in the couple unit, are not on the same page the entire time through the adoption process. It’s a growing and learning experience for both parties. I realized that I was unfair to just pick Oliver and tell Andrew that I was “in love” with him. That puts a lot of pressure on him to accept my choice and go along with it to make me happy. Andrew also realized that sometimes life has a different plan for you and it might actually be better than what you originally thought. Ultimately, this choice was made together and we couldn’t be happier about it!
The question of the year.
Look, we get it. Why would anyone CHOOSE to have a child with special needs? Why would you not CHOOSE a child that is “normal”? Why would you CHOOSE a child that may have heart problems, hearing problems, vision problems, difficulty speaking and/or walking, difficulty learning, and may have to live with you for the rest of your life? Why, why, why, blah, blah, blah….
The bottom line is Oliver did not CHOOSE to be abandoned, he did not CHOOSE to live in an orphanage, and he did not CHOOSE to have Down syndrome. Oliver deserves a family, a home, and, most importantly, a chance! A chance to prove to every naysayer that he is just as much worth it as a child that I may or may not become pregnant with someday. If I found out that I was pregnant with a child that would have Down syndrome, I would NOT abort it. No way! Down syndrome is not a death sentence, it does not mean that the individual will have additional medical issues, it does not mean that they will never live outside of their parent’s household, and it definitely does not mean that they deserve any less opportunities than the person next to them with the “normal” number of chromosomes.
When I was in elementary school, I would help out in the special education classroom every week. I would work with the kids on their projects, walk them to the bus at the end of the day, and play with them at recess. I remember a kid named Art. He was in a wheelchair, he was non-verbal, and he would spin “wheelies” in his motorized chair to make the kids laugh and cheer. Art was loved by many! I remember another kid named Eugene. He was also non-verbal, he could to walk, but he couldn’t control his saliva very well. He wore a handkerchief around his neck every day, usually a different color than the day before. When he would start to drool, we would say sweetly to him, “Eugene, wipe your mouth”. And he did. He always had a smile on his face and his stature was so petite. My favorite part was walking him to the bus after school. I would hold his hand and we would walk together to the front of the school. I would watch him get on the bus, with his little, smiling face, and I would wave goodbye and smile back. My heart has always been with individuals with special needs.
Andrew is a high school teacher and coach. He teaches Social Studies to general education students and does not have much experience with special education. However, he likes to come with me to Special Olympics, where I coach baseball and soccer (soon volleyball). This man has a HUGE heart! He is trying very hard to learn more about Down syndrome and what is associated with the diagnosis. Both of us have done our research, talked to parents of children with Down syndrome, and have discussed with each other our fears and worries.
This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we know it comes with extra work, but not without extra rewards! Ollie is our son, our choice. He will bring so much more to our life than we can even comprehend. Ask any parent of a child with Down syndrome. They will tell you all about it. 🙂
So before you come to us and ask us “Why?”, please ask yourself “Why not?”