Adoption is a remarkable thing. It’s a frequent plot device in novels and films. Stories of adoption and reunions make popular reality TV shows. So, it’s not surprising that people have a lot of questions about adopting.
I quite enjoy talking about it, I suppose. Adoption is a huge part of my life and in my constant attempts to do better by my boys, I read, write and talk about adoption a lot.
I like talking about the process – from all sides – and how that’s changed over the years. I like talking – in the abstract, I try to keep some privacy for my family – about trauma and contact with birth family.
The question that often stumps me, however, is the title of this post: Should you adopt?
It’s not like asking me if I recommend a make of car. For what it’s worth, my husband and I both drive Kias, and we think they’re great.
The thing is most people want the same thing from a car: reliability, ease of use, comfort for passengers. Most people drive cars in pretty much the same way. We’re all using the same roads and car parks.
I don’t think that’s the same for adoption. Not everyone does family the same way.
All parents are different, and all children are different. There are many ways of making a family, and it’s impossible to really recommend any one over another.
When it comes to it, adoption doesn’t have many things to recommend it.
It’s hugely unreliable. When you enter the process (whether you’re coming in as an adopter or an adoptee) there are no guarantees about what you’re going to get.
Adoption is phenomenally hard to use. It’s complicated, time-consuming, stressful for all parties. And, though people are working on it, the support package is very hit and miss at the moment.
Adoption is uncomfortable. It’s an imperfect solution to a tragedy. Adoption only happens when a family has fallen apart. It’s rooted in pain. It raises questions about identity and family. It’s awkward to live with and to talk about.
There are many, many downsides to adoption.
And the upside is unique to each family, and each person in that family. For me, the upside is having Middly and Eldest in my life. Those incredible boys call me mum, give me hugs, let me share in the remarkable journey of their growing up. It’s absolutely worth it. It’s worth every single struggle, every cost and every tear. There is absolutely no doubt about that for me.
But, the boys’ ‘upside’ is completely different. I get them, and I think I did well. They get me. Only they can say if that’s worth it. And, I don’t think that they can make such a pronouncement until they’re much older (and no longer dependant on me, because that’s got to colour such a question)!
By adopting the boys, I have joined myself to a new family, who have been through a lot. I have made a lot of wonderful friends (there’s a lovely network of adopters on twitter, who are incredible people, strong, determined and overflowing with love).
I am a kinder person because of my experience of adoption. It has taught me patience, gentleness, and forced me to exercise ever greater self-control. I have seen another aspect of the world, and that has made me wiser, even as it has made me cry. I have learned to see small victories and to celebrate small gains.
So, should you adopt?
Adoption is a tricky thing, with more pain than joy. Nobody should go into it expecting a happy ending. At it’s best, adoption solves a problem and adds more love to the world. But, I don’t know if you are going to manage that. I don’t even know if I’m going to manage that, and I know myself pretty well.
I cannot recommend adoption to anyone, I think it has to be a personal decision and I think you need a high level of commitment that wouldn’t be affected by my recommendation anyway. But, I do think it’s important to say that adopting is a huge privilege. Being part of this world of remarkable children has changed my life, and it has changed me, all for the better.