It’s such a simple little four letter word. And yet it’s a word that can make a conversation come to a screeching halt. A word that can invoke feelings of inferiority and shame in its recipient. It’s the conversational equivalent of a drive-by shooting.
We have all experienced a drive-by justing, and most of us have been hurt by it because the word ‘just’ is irritating and belittling to anyone facing any kind of problem… “Just try harder,” “Just change your perspective,” “Just get over it,” “Just ignore it,” “Just get over him – he’s just not that into you”.
“Well I guess you could just adopt”…
Seemingly harmless phrases implying that adoption is the clear and easy solution for a couple struggling with conceiving naturally can be very hurtful. In fact, I would say that the phrase “Well I guess you could just adopt” fits nicely into the same pile of garbage comments as, “Oh weird, I got pregnant my first try”, or “Maybe you should have started a family earlier”. These comments are entirely unhelpful for someone who is struggling.
This is especially true when it comes to adoption.
Adoption is not an easy answer for a multitude of reasons. In my experience, getting pregnant, even with fertility struggles, has been easier than trying to adopt. Here’s why:
- Adoption is not the solution for everyone
I suffer from unexplained secondary infertility. I have a beautiful four year old daughter who really wants a little brother or sister. As it is becoming more obvious to me that a biological sibling may not be an option, adoption is becoming more of a reality. Luckily for me, I have always been open to and seriously interested in adoption. Even at a young age, I always pictured myself adopting, so I made sure to discuss it with my future spouse before getting married to ensure that we were on the same page. However, not everyone feels this way. Not everyone will feel comfortable with raising and having a non-biological child in their home. If that’s the case, that is their personal decision and they should never feel badly that adoption isn’t going to be part of their story. People need to respect and understand that adoption is not a perfect fit or solution for every family.
- Adoption is a long process
For many couples, domestic adoption (adopting within your own country) is a very long process that requires serious patience. If you think 9 months is a long time to have a bun in the oven, try waiting 7-10 years for your bundle of joy. The system is completely broken, there are not enough workers to arrange for home placements, and finding the perfect match for kids and parents is not easy. It is obvious to me that the front-lines people are not the problem – they are not the ones slowing down the system. It is terribly sad that our governments do not put more funding into taking care of children. When will countries realize that humans, rather than oil and infrastructure, are their biggest asset and investment? If people in power could just have more forward-thinking, they would realize that if we don’t put the money into taking care of our children, we will inevitably pay for it later. No child should have to spend most of their developmental years in and out of foster care.
- Adoption means many unknowns
It is scary to think that the child you bring into your family may have a completely unknown medical history, could come from terrible situations of sexual and physical abuse, and may suffer from a multitude of mental health issues as a result of their prior history. Not every adult is equipped and trained to deal with children that have serious issues. It may be an upward battle raising this child. It will be a lifetime commitment of advocating for that child in the mainstream education system, fighting to get them included in social situations, potentially fighting against systemic issues like racism, and attending endless meetings, specialist appointments, and psychological assessments. My hope is that when I am retired and have more time and wisdom I will be able to take some of these tougher cases into my home and provide them with all the love, care, and attention that they need. As a working mom who is already at her wits’ end, it’s hard to think that I could ever provide adequate care for some of the serious special needs that adopted kids may have. If you are a person who is uncomfortable with unknowns, and unable to fight tooth and nail to advocate for the rights of your child, then adoption may not be the right choice for you.
- Private adoption is a whole other ball-game
The jargon, legalities, communication, financial obligation, and paperwork are endless. Reading through requirements, legal information, and waivers is exhausting and confusing. It is completely overwhelming and difficult. You can hit wall after wall in this process. In the end, I know that all of the energy and time spent on these forms and appointments will be worth it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. In the past, I ignorantly wondered why people would go through IVF rather than adopting when there are so many hurting kids around the globe in need of homes. I now see why IVF is a very viable option. IVF, although a VERY difficult process to go through, is a fraction of the cost of adoption, doesn’t require multiple trips overseas, and gives you the opportunity to have a baby from their date of birth.
- Private adoption is expensive
If you decide to use a private agency to bring the waitlist down from ten years to two, you are going to need anywhere between $50,000 – $100,000 to pull it off. Yes, you read that right. We live in a world where selflessly saving a life means that you will need to take a huge financial plunge and spend countless years paying it off. Move over, student loans! You have been replaced by a debilitating debt that only exists for those with big hearts or broken ovaries. On top of all of these fees, you will pay the extra costs involved for multiple visits to the country that you are adopting from, and your stay could last anywhere from two weeks to three months. So, not only do you need to have copious amounts of money, you need to have a job that allows you to take off a lot of time. It is now becoming clear to me why people like Angelina Jolie can adopt multiple times and why the 20/30/40-somethings of the working middle-class simply cannot.
- Adoption requirements are lengthy and difficult
When we decided to start a family, no one came into my home to inspect it for cleanliness and safety, asked me questions about my income and debt, wanted information on my ethnic background, or probed me on my values and religion. All of those things were considered private information that did not reduce my chances of having a child. This is not the case in adoption. Can you believe that multiple countries require that your Body Mass Index be under 32 to be eligible to adopt? I can understand wanting healthy parents, but I didn’t realize that somewhat squishy parents were worse than no parents at all. Apparently many of us out there are only one more chili-cheese dog away from being unworthy care-givers. It is a very good thing that these agencies ensure that children are going to good homes; we wouldn’t want it any other way, but it is hard to have someone go through your life with a fine-toothed comb. When I first looked into adoption shortly after marriage, my husband and I didn’t even come close to meeting the requirements. We were too young, hadn’t been married long enough, and definitely didn’t have the funds. We are healthy, educated, good people, but that isn’t enough to bring an adopted child into your home.
- Adoptions don’t always work out
If you are thinking that the process is as quick and simple as Sandra Bullock’s experience in The Blind Side, you are wrong. Because adopting can take so long, personal circumstances may change. For example, if I happen to get pregnant while in the process of private adoption, my file will be put on hold. I could effectively be $20, 000 or more into the process and be put on hold or stopped completely. It feels pretty risky. Some countries have been known to all of a sudden shut their borders, inevitably leaving couples in the lurch. There are people out there who have paid hefty medical bills for the birth mother and eagerly anticipated the birth of their adopted child, only to have the birth mother change her mind and keep the baby. While she absolutely has the right to do this, it can be terribly heart-breaking for the adoptive parents to find out that they won’t be taking that bundle of joy home from the hospital.
So, the next time someone says, “you can just adopt”, feel free to kindly remind them that it is much harder than one would ever guess. It is arguably one of the hardest tasks you will face in your lifetime. Regardless of how hard the process will be, raising a child is completely worth the time, money, and tears. Some of the most difficult things in life truly are the most rewarding.
No ifs, ands, or justs about it.
Cheryl Crocker is an English teacher at a private Christian high school. She is married to a very busy husband, has a rambunctious ‘fournado’ and a disobedient (yet loyal) golden retriever. All this combined creates a perfect, chaotic life.