Sunday, June 21, 2009

How to choose?

While we are probably 85-90% certain that we'll choose to pursue a domestic adoption, it's not yet set in stone. Following her post on domestic vs. international adoptions, Jennifer received some wonderful comments on her blog from folks around the country with words of encouragement and wisdom, including some speaking very highly of international adoptions.

Personally, I'm finding that making that choice is tremendously difficult as I swing back and forth with each new piece of information to plunk itself on our kitchen table. Truthfully, there's a 6-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other feel to it.

We find the international adoption route appealing because of the sense that once the adoption is complete, it's over and done with, leaving little if any chance that someone from our Plus One's birth family would appear in the future. Friends and family members have successfully completed international adoptions and have no regrets. On the other hand, international adoptions leave us with little in the way of health or family information for our Plus One, a fact that I admit does frighten me a bit. Even with the aid of adoption doctors specializing in this area, it strikes me as a nerve-wracking prospect to agree to bring a child into our family on the basis of two sketchy pages of health information, a photo or two, and, if you're lucky, a brief video.

Domestic adoptions seem to offer the opposite -- more health and family background so you have a better idea of what to expect but also some level of contact with the birth mother and possibly the birth father based on how open the adoption is. In our conversation with one adoption center, they described the 50-page application a birth mother needs to fill out to be accepted into their program. That seems pretty overwhelming -- I'd have trouble coming up with 50 pages of health information on me! But that means, from the perspective of prospective adoptive parents, that we'd have much more information to go on, not only when making the choice about accepting a placement but also about the future health and well-being of our Plus One. Our friends K and D, who adopted two wonderful girls domestically, speak very highly of the process and of the fact that they met both of the birth mothers, a sentiment shared by other bloggers and writers.

However, I know that the flip side -- the re-emergence of a birth parent in the future -- can be a tremendously disruptive experience for the child (or young adult) and the adoptive parents. Do I want to risk putting my child through that? Do I want to risk putting Jennifer and me through that? At the same time, I believe that our pasts are so much a part of who we become. Yes, our family history will belong to our child and I hope she revels in it but with an international adoption, we wouldn't be able to share the story of her birth parents should she want to know at some point. An old friend of Jennifer's was adopted from South Korea and spent frustrating and ultimately fruitless years in her 20s trying to find her connections in her birth country.

It's a daunting prospect, like choosing our child's name. It's fraught with challenges and benefits that will profoundly affect the life and future of our family. How does one choose?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris,

As the friend of someone who was torn apart by the lack of information on her birth family (and as someone who has known and counseled many other adoptees to feel this way) I strongly encourage you to have some kind of birth parent contact possibility for the Plus One once she reaches 18. My friend adored her adoptive parents (they were her "real" parents). She her younger brother were both adopted and neither child felt that their family and parents were anything but their "real" family and parents. However my friend desperately needed to know about her birth family. Until she finally found them in her late 30s she was very sad and unquiet. Her birthday was the day "my birth mother gave me away." Now that she know the story of her birth parents and has some contact with them it is as if she is at peace and whole. Her adoptive parents are her parents, but she now knows that other (formerly missing) piece that is her.

I don't share this to scare you, but to encourage you to be confident that your Plus One will be your very own child and adore you and that she will very likely also need that other piece of info on who she is. (In the same vein, I usually recommend waiting until 18 for this contact to be made - it's an emotionally complex experience.)

No matter what I know that you and Jenn will love and help your Plus One on this exciting path called growing up, called life. A path that is complicated whether one is adopted or not!

~G2 from Washington state