Is adoption an option for you? Why not?

We haven’t spoken much about adoption here. Perhaps it’s irrelevant in cases where one partner doesn’t want to have children for whatever reason. A baby is a baby, a child is a child, and they don’t want one. But for couples who don’t have children because of infertility or a health problem, adoption would seem to be an option. I’m betting many of us have been asked: “Why don’t you adopt?”

Fred and I considered it before he decided he didn’t want to do kids with me at all. His older two children from his first marriage were both adopted. Fred and his first wife thought they could not conceive. Then, surprise, when she was 38 and he was 40, she got pregnant, and Michael was born. After which Fred got a vasectomy.

The older two children were adopted as infants from government agencies in the 1960s. Fred and Annette were give only the most basic information: nationality and health, no names or background. An effort was made in those days to match parents to children in terms of looks and ethnicity. Overall, it worked pretty well. When Michael came along in the ‘70s, his siblings were jealous. He looked just like his dad, and they felt that he got all the goodies. Of course by then their parents were older and financially better off.

When we got together, the older kids were in their teens and Michael was turning 7. We looked into adopting the way Fred and Annette had done before. We discovered that Fred, in his late 40s, was too old. Although we had friends who were adopting from other countries or by private agencies, we didn’t pursue it any further.

Fred wasn’t anxious to start over with a new baby. But for me, it was something else. I wanted children who were biologically connected to me and my family through all the generations. I wanted them to share my ethnicity and my physical characteristics combined with Fred’s. I wanted people to look at us and see the connection. I wanted a child who was part of me. If I couldn’t have that, well, never mind. I didn’t want just any babies; I wanted my babies.

Selfish? Perhaps. I know there are children who need parents, and I’m glad there are people willing to take them into their homes. Right now my niece is going through the process to become a foster mother. She’s single, 29, and braver than I will ever be.

Adoption is not easy or inexpensive. Couples who have spent years trying to get pregnant may already be drained of hope and cash. Prospective parents have to jump through a lot of hoops to be approved. Adoptions fall through, sometimes several times before parents get to bring home a child. Adopted children always have that other family out there somewhere, and they come with a big set of unknowns about their physical and mental background that may surface later. They’re yours but not quite.

And yet, it can be wonderful. I have seen beautiful adoptive families in which biology doesn’t make a bit of difference. But it would for me.

What about you? Have you thought about adoption? Would you do it? Why or why not? Does it matter if they’re not biologically yours?

Additional reading:

This post from loribeth, who blogs at The Road Less Traveled, got me thinking about adoption:  March 15, 2015: “The A word: Why we didn’t adopt”

General information about adoption: National Adoption Center (promotes adoption from foster)

Adoption Fact Sheet offers lots of good into. Adopting from China costs $20,000 or more!

Statistics about abortion: https://www.americanadoptions.com/pregnant/adoption_stats

“What Does It Take to Adopt a Child in Britain?” Stories of three adoptive families in the UK

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Childless and Keeping My Secret

So, we’re at this restaurant, sitting outside, a big happy group of writers attending a workshop at the University of Arizona. Each of us submitted a prize-winning essay to get here. All day, we have been discussing the craft of writing and the writing life. We feel like equals despite varying ages and the fact that we come from all over the U.S. But now, the workshop on break, cocktails in hand, I realize that everyone is talking about their children. They’re talking schools, toddlers vs. teens, funny and frustrating things their kids do. They’re showing pictures on their phones. Suddenly I don’t fit in.

Seated in the corner, I smile and nod as if I too left a house full of kids at home. I do not want to confess that I am different, so I eat my salmon and cornbread and pretend I’m not. I also don’t admit that I do not struggle to find time to write. I struggle to fill the bottomless well of time I have at home when it’s just me and the dog. They know my husband died because that’s what my essay is about. Bad enough that I’m a widow and I’m one of the oldest people here. I am not going to tell them I don’t have children.

After dinner, I volunteer to walk the two miles back to the campus with the young, fast-walking group. I struggle to keep up, but I’ll be damned if I say it. I can do this. I can fit in.

Are you ever embarrassed because you don’t have kids? Do you ever pretend you do? It’s easy when you’re among relative strangers. Everyone assumes people of a certain age are parents until you tell them otherwise.

I’m not proud of being childless. I feel like I messed up. Truly. I didn’t make motherhood happen. No matter how successful I might be otherwise, there’s this moment when a colleague asks, “How old are your kids (or grandkids) and I have to admit that I never had any. I’m not one of the childless-by-choice people who boast about not having children, who say, “I never wanted any, and I’m happy with my life.” With the implied if you don’t approve, that’s your problem.

To be honest, most people don’t react much when I tell them. They go back to their own conversations, and I go back to smiling and nodding. I can share a little bit in the conversation. I helped raise my stepchildren, I do have a niece and nephew, and hey, I was a kid once. But it’s not the same.

As I was getting on the plane to come home to Oregon, I overheard a conversation in which two strangers discovered they were both going to Portland to welcome new grandchildren. Sigh.

Do you ever feel like you need to hide the fact that you don’t have children? When does this happen? Have you ever pretended to be a mom or dad and gotten caught? Please share in the comments. Let me know I’m not alone.

*************

In spite of a few awkward moments, I had a wonderful trip to Tucson. The weather was perfect, the workshop was wonderful, and I got to spend time with my husband’s cousin Adrienne and her husband John, delightful people I look forward to seeing again soon. They gave me a room, a car, and food and let me bask in the sun after months of Oregon rain. For more about my Arizona adventure, visit my Unleashed in Oregon blog.

Thank you to Lisa Manterfield for enriching the blog last week with your great post about aging without children. Let’s all support Lisa by following her Life Without Baby blog and buying her book. I’ll be posting a review soon and adding it to our resource list.

 

 

Christmas cards without kid pictures

Need a smile? Read “I’m Single and Childless and You Don’t Want My Christmas Card” by Blondie Tales. I’m thinking you all can identify with this piece about how Blondie can’t compete with all the child-centric holidays cards her friends and family send out.

I sure can identify with Blondie. I almost didn’t send out Christmas cards this year. I usually send about 50 and get back about 20. Those are filled with exactly what Blondie describes, vacation photos, kid photos and newsletters full of the achievements of offspring I don’t even know. But still, I do want to touch base with the folks with whom my only contact is Christmas cards, so I did it.

What should we childless people put in our cards? Last year, I included a giant photo of my dog and noted that I was still writing, still singing, still enjoying life with Annie. If I’d had any major vacations or career achievements that they could relate to, I would have included them, but I didn’t. I mean, I think my blogs are important, but half my family would say “what’s a blog?” and the other half would wonder why I bother. Ditto for my other publications, my music activities and about 300 dog walks a year. I lost 20 pounds and haven’t gained them back, but that doesn’t seem appropriate to share. I didn’t go to Europe, didn’t get rich, didn’t get married, didn’t acquire any children. So anyway. On the cards where I felt chatty, I noted that surviving another year with no bad news is an achievement to be grateful for. Merry Christmas. Love, Sue.

It’s one of those challenging things about the holidays. You almost want to do something impressive just so you can put it in your Christmas card and gloat because your year was more fabulous than theirs.

My friend Carol, who never had children but has a lot of pets, sends out an entertaining newsletter every year from “The Irving Menagerie” in which each pet tells some of the family’s news for the year. I love reading that one.

If we are going to do holiday greetings, we need to find a way to make it fun for us as well as for the people who will receive them. No “woe is me” allowed. I’m thinking next year I might include a humorous poem, something they’ll want to keep. Or maybe another dog picture. Maybe a humorous poem and a dog picture.

How about you? Do you send out Christmas cards? Do you feel pressure to compete with the newsletters and photos? It might be a generational thing. Am I wrong in feeling that younger people are not messing with cards anymore? At least not the paper kind you mail? Especially with postage up to 49 cents each? Do you send online greetings instead?

This is my last post before Christmas. Did it come up fast or what? So here is my greeting to you.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! IF CHRISTMAS IS NOT YOUR THING, MAY YOU FIND COMFORT AND MEANING IN WHATEVER YOU CELEBRATE. MAY THE NEW YEAR BE FILLED WITH BLESSINGS. EACH ONE OF YOU IS A BLESSING TO ME.

Hugs,

Sue

How do you answer those nosy questions about babies?

A Facebook rant by Emily Bingham  about people who ask her when she’s going to have a baby went viral last month. She wants all those who keep asking to know, “It’s none of your business.” Read all about it here.

We’ve all heard the questions. The second you get married, people want to know when you’re going to have a baby. If you’re pushing 30, they start warning that you’re running out of time. Your parents rag on you about giving them grandchildren. Well-meaning friends who have children urge you to get busy and start making babies so you can raise them together. These days, even if you’re single, people may encourage you to adopt or get pregnant with a donor.

But Bingham is right. It’s none of their freaking business.

The questions don’t stop after you reach menopause. People assume that you, like most folks, have children. They want to know how many, how old, where do they live, are you a grandparent yet, etc. Yes, I’m sorry, but it never stops.

The worst time for these questions is when you’re still trying to figure it all out. As Bingham writes, you may be struggling with infertility, having marital problems, or aren’t sure whether you both want children. Just asking the question may trigger a wave of grief or anger.

And how do you answer? Have you ever said, “That’s none of your business?” Or do you dodge around the question. “Well, we aren’t quite ready yet.” Do you blame your partner? “I want kids, but Joe says he doesn’t.” Do you make a joke, maybe saying, “We’ve decided dogs are easier.”

In my fertile days, I used the “not ready” answer for a long time. Sometimes I implied that I had health problems. Sometimes I blamed my lousy husband for not wanting kids. Now that it’s a done deal, I have better answers. With my churchy friends, I can say, “God had other plans for me.” With others, I answer honestly, then change the subject. “Nope. No kids. So, you have four, huh?”

Some people claim their pets as children. Some say they’re too busy to have kids. Some say they don’t have room in their lives for both their work and children. And of course there’s the “childfree” crowd who proudly state that they never wanted children.

But how many of us say, “You know, that’s kind of private. Let’s talk about something else.” Or, “That’s none of your damned business.”

What do you say when people start getting nosy? One of the people I interviewed for my book, when asked why she didn’t have children, answered, “Because I’ve seen yours.” Let’s build a list of good comebacks in the comments.

If They Don’t Want Kids, Do You Have to Break Up?

That’s the question that arises in the majority of comments here at Childless by Marriage.  So many people, mostly anonymous, write that their partner says he (or she) does not want to have children. In some cases, they both agreed on not having kids in the beginning, but now the writer has changed her mind and is frustrated because her partner has not. In other cases, the partner has just announced that he isn’t interested in having kids. Not now, not ever, he doesn’t want to discuss it.

The heartbroken writer says: Now we have to break up. They may have been together for five, ten or twenty years, but it’s over because their partner does not want to be a parent.

Yesterday, Anonymous wrote: My girlfriend of 8 years has just told me she does not want children. she won’t even discuss it. I’m gutted and know I can’t stay with her. It is incredibly painful. She loves children and is great with them. Instead of even giving a reason, she just says she is ‘at peace’ with her decision.

But is it over? Should you really throw away a relationship that is good in every other way over this issue? God knows it’s a huge issue. The Catholic Church considers it grounds for annulment, declaring the marriage was never valid. Having children or not changes the whole course of your life, and if you have always wanted to be a mother or father, shouldn’t you pursue that?

Maybe. But how do you know whether you will find someone else in time to procreate or that you will ever love another person as much as the partner you have now? You don’t. So hold on. Don’t be too quick to jump ship or to broadcast to the world that your partner is a rat. Take a breath. Talk about it. I know, they don’t always want to talk. Give them a little time. Find a way to approach the subject without accusations and threats. Maybe say, “I love you so much and I want to understand . . .” Maybe you could each write a letter explaining your feelings. Maybe you could try counseling. Maybe there’s a good reason or an obstacle that you can help them get over. Or not. Just don’t give up too quickly. If you really love someone, you have to accept them as they are. If up until now, this person was The One, maybe he still is.

If the relationship is new and you really haven’t established any strong ties, then adios. Tell them it’s a deal-breaker and move on. But if you have given everything to this relationship, maybe it’s meant to be.

What do you think about this? Have you ever broken up over children? Are you thinking about it? What would you advise if it was your brother or your best friend? Please comment.