There are many ways to create a family. There is the traditional path that looks something like boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl have children. It is a beautiful path to parenthood and one that no one really questions. There may be questions around timing but not questions related to the path of creating your family. Straying from the traditional path can happen for lots of reasons-simple desire to do things differently, sexual orientation, gender identity, health issues, age, or relationship status. When you don’t fit the traditional path, everyone has an opinion, a question, and a belief of what the “right path” should be.
For me, the questions came the minute I decided I wanted to have a child. As a lesbian trying to conceive, I was asked: “Why do you want to carry a baby? Was my wife was also going to carry a child? Why don’t you adopt?” I was told I should use an anonymous donor, a known donor, use my wife’s egg, and also offered frozen embryos of a friend who had embryos frozen yet was done birthing children.
When the path of trying to conceive ended in miscarriage and years of negative pregnancy tests we chose to pursue adoption. The questions began again: “Why did you choose domestic infant adoption when there are so many needy kids in foster care who need a home? Why not go overseas? It is less complex in the long term. Why not try IVF or have your wife conceive?” While all the questions were not meant to harm, the lack of information and frequency of the questions can be tiresome.
IVF was closed or greatly delayed due to us having a known donor. Many countries in international adoption were closed to me due to being a lesbian and is NOT a “less complex path.” I can write an essay on the reasons I chose the path I did but the reason for my choice can be simplified to one sentence, “This is the path that felt right for my wife and me.” This does not make it the “right path” for everyone.
When it comes to adoption there are many ways to create your family and what is “right” depends on the values, personalities, and desires of those who are adopting. One of my favorite things as an adoption caseworker is talking with people around their desire to adopt and the path they are choosing to create their family. It is in these conversations I learn so much about who they are as people, what matters to them, and what speaks to their hearts. While their paths may be different, what remains the same is a deep desire to be a parent and the willingness to open themselves up to parent a child in need of a loving family.
While there is not a right path, there are differences in the paths and thinking about these differences can help discern what path is right for you. Each type of adoption could be its own blog entry, but here is an overview of the different types of adoption:
- Domestic Infant Adoption: This path is chosen for those families who want to adopt an infant. It typically involves being matched with a birth family in the last trimester of pregnancy or soon after a baby is born. Things to consider when choosing this path include: openness to contact with the birth family, openness to parent a child of a different race or with special needs, openness to prenatal substance exposure and/or limited prenatal care, openness to birthparent medical information that is limited or unknown, and how much legal risk are you open to. Understanding your own comfort level is important in finding the right match. The most successful matches often emerge when birth families and adoptive families have similar desires in relation to the above-mentioned scenarios.
- International Adoption: The reasons for choosing International adoption are varied. Some feel a call to adopt internationally to give a child a family who would otherwise grow up in an orphanage, others have said they feel a draw to the country/culture, and others simply have a desire to embrace a multicultural family. The things to consider in International adoption include your willingness to embrace another culture and actively integrate that culture into your life as well as openness to an older child or one with special needs. Children in international adoption have “come from a hard place” and often have a history of trauma. This trauma can include physical and sexual abuse, neglect, loss of caregivers and families of origin, loss of country of origin, and institutionalized care. As a parent, are you open to looking at your own attachment style due to the unique needs of bringing an older child into the home who will require a trauma-informed style of parenting and increased attachment needs?
- Foster Care Adoption: This is not a path to adoption the MCH facilitates as it goes through social services. When people ask me about foster care adoption, the things I think people need to know include: an awareness that all children in foster care have experienced some hardship in their life and as an adoptive parent, you must be willing and able to support your child in healing from those hardships. Similar to international adoption, an openness to exploring your attachment style and willingness to use trauma-informed parenting strategies will be important in supporting your child’s healing and attachment. If you are seeking a younger child you are likely to have an extended period of legal risk while reunification efforts are made and if you are open to an older child then many children are eligible and ready for a forever home.
- Embryo Adoption: Embryo adoption is when a couple who has frozen embryos choose to offer those embryos to an infertile couple to try and conceive a child. This path is open to small portion of those interested in adopting. One has to go through medical screening to determine ability to sustain a pregnancy as well as the agencies facilitating embryo adoptions at this time only work with heterosexual couples. This path offers adoptive families the chance to experience pregnancy, control prenatal environment, and give birth. Things to consider include: levels of communication openness with the donor family, donor’s medical history, sharing your adoption journey with family and friends, and especially the child who may want contact with biological siblings in the future. There are no post-adoption or finalization requirements as you are giving birth to your adopted child.
While there is so much more to each path, I hope you see that all paths are beautiful. I encourage you to listen to your heart to discern the path that is right for you. Whatever path you choose will be amazing.
Written by Tara McAvoy, adoption caseworker for the George J. & Mary S. Mitchell Adoption Unit