I had dinner the other night with a close friend who revealed to me that she had been feeling guilty since the adoption of my daughter ten years ago, having made naïve assumptions about why we adopted. She was surprised when I announced the adoption of our third child, seven years after the birth of our second child, and she assumed we adopted because I didn’t want to ruin my figure after getting back into shape. I was shocked and totally taken back by her comment. I wasn’t offended by her assumption, just amazed that it was so far from the truth.
We weren’t close friends ten years ago—just fellow directors serving our terms on a non-profit board. Her assumption didn’t keep her from eventually becoming my friend or from embracing my daughter. She reads my blog routinely now and has come to understand how “ChildDrenched” I was before adopting and what that truly meant to me and my family. Now that we are good friends and she knows the whole story behind our adoption, she decided to release that guilt and let me know how she had once viewed our adoption.
Coping with our infertility issues was excruciatingly painful, even after having two children, but we chose to keep it to ourselves, rather than facing constant questions about “our status” from concerned friends and family. We also didn’t want our two boys immersed in the emotional roller coaster each month during the medical treatments and eventually, the adoption process. It was very difficult for us in so many ways and when we succeeded, the adoption came as a surprise to even our closest friends and family.
My friend’s comments got me thinking about how many infertile couples may be facing insensitive thoughts or comments from their community who may not realize the pain they are suffering. All too often people assume that childless couples are just selfish or too focused on their careers to have children, because they haven’t gone public with their very personal struggle with infertility or their extensive wait for an adopted child.
Some couples searching for the right doctor or infertility method openly ask their friends for referrals. Some couples pursuing adoption, network with friends, business associates and even new acquaintances to extend their outreach to women who are looking for adoptive couples. But for those who aren’t so open about their private struggles, sensitivity and compassion from those around them is critical.
Most of us would cringe if we observed parents enduring a callous comment about their adopted children. I remember the pain when one of my own extended family members made a thoughtless comment about my daughter after we adopted her. Even more unsettling are adopted children who face scrutiny from kids at school or during extracurricular activities. This needs to stop. Awareness of how hurtful these malicious comments can be is vital to the well-being of all children, adopted or not.
Regardless of the reason people choose to adopt, whether they are single, married or any other status, it’s important for others to make the effort to think positively about adoption and the families it creates. Some parents need to adopt to fulfill their parenting dream. Some children need those adoptive parents to live happily and grow up to fulfill their dreams. It’s all good. Building tolerance and support for all children and their parents will hopefully reduce bullying in schools and encourage others to consider adoption as one of the solutions to infertility.
I thanked my friend for her honesty. It opened my eyes to the tough issues that hundreds of people face every day, some more difficult than others. Illnesses, disabilities, and differences among us must be treated with respect and compassion. We can’t all be optimistic all the time, but thinking about others in a positive light usually reflects back on us in a positive way.