December 2000. Just two months prior I’d miraculously become an adoptive father to my twin daughters. I was working a Phoenix Suns game at America West Arena when a customer in our store overheard me say something about adopting my girls. He struck up a conversation by mentioning he and his wife were considering adoption. I could tell by their questions they’d done their homework.
As is usually the case, the last question is the question we most want to ask. “What if, you know, there’s something in their family medical history that you don’t know about?”
I understand the question. It’s not without merit. Whether biological or adoptive, prospective parents are remiss not to consider how they will respond in the event their child is born with or develops a chronic health issue.
Having personally experienced the entire process; from the idle dreaming of what fatherhood would be like, to the thought of a mini-me running around, to the high price dog and pony show of infertility treatments, to the maze of paperwork that is adoption, it’s a question I can speak to.
When it comes to genetics, we don’t say it, but we think it. We all tend to believe our DNA is somehow superior. That thought is brought front and center when we consider adoption. It’s the belief behind the question, “What if there’s something in their family medical history we don’t know?”
For whatever reason, we believe the odds of a healthy kid are much better if the double helix has our name on it.
The fact is we have no idea how our own biological children will turn out. I had retinoblastoma, a malignant cancer, when I was 18 months old. This particular cancer is hereditary. Yet we’ve never found evidence of it anywhere in our family tree.
The thought our own DNA somehow improves the odds of having a healthier child is, in part, what drives couples toward fertility treatments. That, and the desire to have a child that is “their own”. (More on that in a moment.)
Perhaps I’m not the most objective person on this topic as I’ve never had a burning desire to pass along my genetic code. Then again, perhaps that makes me more objective. Current fertility treatment technology is the science fiction we read a short 50 years ago. Ovulation stimulation drugs (Clomid), in vitro fertilization, and AI (artificial insemination) are but a few options Old Testament Abraham and Sarah would have loved to consider during their 25 year wait for a baby.
As with all technology, it begs the question. Just because we can, does it mean we should?
At some point, does it not become an issue of stewardship? I know couples who have spent close to $100,000 dollars trying to get pregnant. That is their choice to make. Yet I have to wonder, is that a wise use of money when there are thousands of children waiting, dreaming and praying for a forever family?
Every husband and wife have opportunity to make the decision they believe best. Some, if not most, couples desire to have a biological child. That’s natural. Yet when for reasons medical or otherwise the possibility of conception is remote, what should a couple consider?
In the book, “When Empty Arms Become A Heavy Burden“, the authors make a wise and pertinent point:
“At some point you need to ask yourselves the questions. “Do we want to have a baby? Or do we want to be parents?”
Objectively, the infant stage lasts a very short time. In less than 12 months they grow from helpless baby blanket burritos carried around in lock and load car seats into perpetual motion toddlers jamming Legos into your DVD player and yanking lights off the Christmas tree.
There is a difference between wanting a baby and wanting to be parents. The baby stage lasts a few months. Deciding to become a parent is for life. It means accepting the unknown. We can do our very best in every way, yet at the end of the day the queries of “will my child avoid serious health problems?”, “will my kid make wise choices?”, “will my kid be a functioning adult?”, “will my kid experience a traumatic event?”, and “will my kid turn out ok?” all have giant question marks dangling at the end.
Biological or adopted, no parent knows how their kids will turn out. All we can do is our best.
All my parents’ grandchildren are adopted. Now ages 9, 16, 16, 18, and 21, they all came into our family from someplace else.
Isabella, the latest for my sister, had a “gotcha party”. A gathering of family and friends to celebrate the day we “gotcha” as a member of the family. At the end of the afternoon she could be found in her room, looking over her shoulder into the mirror to see “Thompson” on the back of her shirt.
Some reading this may wonder, “But will an adopted child feel like…mine?”
My daughters were born seven and a half weeks early. With birth weights of 3 pounds 9 ounces and 3 pounds 14 ounces they were the tiniest babies I’d ever been around. When my moment came to peek into their incubators for the first time, I was wondering the same thing. Will I feel distant? Will I feel detached?
Annie was sleeping when I pressed my face close to look at her. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes and looked at me.
I was gone. Finished. Over the moon.
Emma’s incubator was across the NICU. I put my hand through the hole to touch her. She grabbed my little finger.
I’ve been wrapped ever since.
For those considering adoption, know this. The child God has for you will be all yours.
Todd A. Thompson – One Eye Out