Please stop telling me my adopted kids should be my 'second choice'

Jul 1, 2016 at 6:20 p.m. ET
Image: Umaydesigns/Getty Images

One day, someone will tell my child that they were my second choice. They might not use those words — they might not even be speaking directly to my child — but they’ll say something, somehow, that suggests it. They’ll be wrong.

My fiancé and I realized we had serious long-term potential fairly early. A few months into dating, we got to talking about kids, not in a “what will we name them?” way, but more in an abstract, figuring-out-each-other’s-stances way. That conversation led to a heartening discovery: We were both deeply interested in adopting.

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We each had slightly different reasons: I was vaguely afraid of pregnancy, and similarly nervous about passing on a few mild genetic issues. He felt like the world had enough people, and he didn’t personally want to add to that. We shared our largest motivation in common: There were kids who needed families, and we both wanted, so badly, to be that for someone.

The conversation came up a few more times before we got engaged, and by the time we were planning a wedding we both knew for certain that one day we’d adopt. Once we got engaged, it seemed more normal to talk to friends or family about it, and I discovered something I’d never expected:

People are weird about adoption.

No one’s been exactly negative about it. My mom expressed a vague disappointment that she wouldn’t get to see our “pretty babies,” but she was clearly saying it in jest and was obviously completely on board. A friend made a similar joke, and noted that family resemblance was one of her driving motivations for even wanting kids. An older family member said it far plainer: “Why would they adopt if they can have their own?”

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I don’t mind these reactions themselves or the people who made them, but the ideas behind them worry me. Adoption is pegged as a second choice, something people only turn to when they discover they’re infertile or when they don’t have a partner with whom they can reproduce.

This isn’t to speak ill of people who adopt for those reasons — they’re perfectly good reasons, after all — but the cultural undertone that adopted children are a consolation prize makes me ache.

You can see this online, too. Nearly every article talking about the adoption experience mentions this in some way or another. There’s the story of a mom whose first social worker — who was pregnant at the time herself — discouraged the would-be adoptive mom from creating a nursery. When the author asked if the worker had a nursery set up in her own home, she responded in the affirmative, stating it was because her baby was a “sure thing.”

Then there's the oft-seen “adoption is not the same as having a child of your own,” which pops up in internet comment sections. A similar sentiment tops Show Hope’s piece about misguided things people say to adoptive parents: “Do you have any children of your own?”

I know what all of these comments intend to mean, but I also hear what they’re saying: Adoption’s a fallback. If you can have biological children, you should. They’re better. More real. More yours.

That’s nonsense.

I want to adopt because one day, a person will be in a situation they weren’t ready for. For whatever reason, they’ll decide to have the baby anyway. That child will need a family. It will need parents who want it more than anything in the world, and the chips will fall in a way that lands that baby in my arms.

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That child, just like every adopted child, will not be a next-best thing. They will be the love of my and my fiancé’s lives. I’m not a mother yet, but I can already see one of the biggest, most important jobs I’ll have once I am. One day, someone will tell my child that they were my second choice. If I’ve done my job right, my child will know better.

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