I am a heterosexual woman, recently in my mid-thirties, with a long-term partner, biological daughter and no fertility issues. I want to adopt our second child. Some people would rather I not.
When I tell people that I want to adopt, they look at me wide-eyed and ask why I would go through the expense and bureaucracy when I could just have more biological children. I want to adopt, I tell them. I want to be a parent to a child who needs parents. Having a child either way is a process that may be fraught with obstacles and expenses. I don't see one as being better than the other.
Inquiring minds continue by asking, "Why would you risk having an adopted child that is not as [insert your 'wonderful' word here] as your biological daughter?" I respond by saying that I see it as an opportunity to parent an adopted child who will be as special as our biological daughter. Our children will be different, adopted or not. They will not be the same, nor would we want them to be. Nobody is better because of blood.
And if anyone asks if I'm adopting because I think it is fashionable like Angelina or Madonna, my response would be: "Are you a moron?"
Now, I have been able to answer all of these questions without taking the connotations, incredulous glares and judgmental tones personally. But then, I got this question: "Why would you want to steal a baby from a family that can't have children?" I was floored. This ridiculous question did not come from a curious acquaintance, friend or relative. It came from a prominent private adoption practitioner, who was referred to us by a couple that had successfully adopted. This woman couldn't understand why we were "doing what we were doing when we didn't have to." Why would you want to hurt other families who can't have children on their own, she'd said.
To my surprise, I calmly countered. "Isn't it up to the birth mother to pick the family that they think could offer the best home to their child? If the birth mother thinks our family is better than a family profile with fertility issues, isn't that fair?"
The private practitioner told me she would still take our money and accept our profile. Something didn't feel right. I asked her point blank, given how strongly she was opposed to us adopting, if she'd really be showing our profile to birth mothers or present us fairly to the birth mothers. No, you are right, I wouldn't, she sighed. And that was it. Ultimately, she would not accept our application.
I called every private adoption practitioner in the city to ask if my fertility was an issue. Had our adoption social worker not tipped me off that private adoption practitioners frowned upon families without fertility issues, I would never in a million years had thought to call and check. My social worker had been at a conference the week before and was informed that this was a common consensus amongst private practitioners. After my calls, I had to accept that fact.
It had never crossed my mind that we were in competition against infertile families. For me, it had simply been the question of whether we could provide a home for a child who, for whatever reason, was unable to be with their birth families. What kept me up at night was the question of how we could be the best parents to help a child build the best possible life and give them all of the opportunities they desire. These were the same thoughts that cross my mind about my biological daughter.
After the shock of the accusation of being a baby thief, I became angry. I added a new pillar to our family plan: adoption was our Plan A. We weren't adopting because we were unable to have children. No child in our home would ever be considered Plan B. At the time, I thought that I was simply strengthening the rationale of our family plan. Now I know that I was reacting to the fact that I was competing with infertile families.
While I have taken myself out of the race, I have not overlooked the reality of the situation that remains blatantly unfair. The injustice is the fault of the practitioners, not the families in the system. It is discrimination, pure and simple. In being advocates of infertile families at the expense of other prospective parents, they are doing a disservice to birth mothers by not presenting profiles of all prospective families, fertile or not.
I believe that the private Canadian adoption system has lost sight of what is paramount to the process: the needs of the children who need forever families. There has been a clear shift away from this goal towards fulfilling the desires of parents who are unable to conceive.
What does this mean for my story? Through this process, I have realized that I have become frustrated, insulted, offended, angry and disillusioned. But, more importantly, I have learned that I am dedicated to my adopted child and the process of bringing him/her home to us. Our adoption story will not begin with the day he/she enters our home but years before, even before we had our birth daughter, when I decided that our family belonged to him. Will this make us a better family for an adopted child than a family with fertility issues? Who knows? What I do know is that it doesn't make us worse.
By Amana Manori