Do a Google search on ‘adoption guilt’ and you’ll find a lot of stories by birth mothers who feel guilty about choosing an adoption place for their children. This is not the guilt that I am feeling.
There are so many interconnected layers of emotions running through our adoption story, I often don’t know where to start untangling them. Then I wonder if it is even worth untangling them at all. The first, and least understood by others, is the guilt of infertility. You ask yourself, “How could we not perform this most basic of human functions?” “Did we wait too long to try?” “Should we have tried harder, or should we have pursued more or different options?” “What lifestyle choices did I make that brought me here?” Because I’ve always planned to adopt, this ‘adoption guilt’ took me totally by surprise. We have a biological son, and every time some stranger asks when we will be giving him a sibling, this infertility guilt rears its head.
Our son is both the recipient and the source of much of my guilt. Would I feel as guilty about pursuing adoption if we did not already have a biological child? I would certainly not feel as much guilt as I do when speaking with other waiting parents who have no children. In some way, I feel as if I am taking away some of their chances of finding their child, because I have already been gifted with a biological child. When we speak of adoption in terms that imply that there are ‘limited resources,’ then I must infer that my participating in the wait is lowering someone else’s chances of adopting a child. Thankfully, Adopt4Life is an incredibly supportive community, and no one has ever said anything to make this guilt into a reality.
The other collection of ‘limited resources’ is within our own family. Between questions of time, attention and money, our adoption journey has certainly already had an impact on our young son. Whether it is missing the Santa Claus parade so that mommy and daddy can attend the Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE) or passing up great vacation options because what extra money we have is going towards agency fees, the impact of adoption is already being felt. Am I being selfish in wanting a second child so much that the first must ‘suffer’? Is missing the Santa Claus parade really ‘suffering’? In the deepest part of the night, these questions swirl and twist with no answers in sight.
The guilt that lingers the most, however, is the one which most adoptive parents can likely relate to the guilt of the blessed. We are blessed to have stable lives, we are blessed to be established in our careers and our relationships, we are blessed to be financially secure. In order for us to be blessed with a child, other people’s lives must fall apart. I do not wish these difficult decisions on anyone and yet, at the same time, I kind of do. I often think that this must be some of what an organ transfer patient must feel like while waiting for someone else to die so that they may live.
As we are only at the beginning of our journey, all of these questions and many more will likely continue to swirl and twist. If we do adopt through The Children’s Aid Society (CAS), are we making our son’s life more difficult by bringing a sibling with challenges into our home? How am I going to feel if he, in any way, feels neglected because of a sibling’s greater needs? Will a child through adoption feel like an outsider when others notice how much our biological son looks like his father? As a parent, I have come to realize that guilt is an ever-present passenger on our journey. As a prospective adoptive parent, I have come to accept new forms of guilt and regrets. Such is the journey our life is taking and adoption is an exciting part of that journey.
Despite the challenges these feelings of guilt bring, we still feel that pursuing adoption is worthwhile.