Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ties that Bind

Dear friends: The following is a message from my lovely daddy-to-be husband.  I'm proud to share this snippet from his soul. ~ Amanda

One of these days, when you’re not even trying anymore, Amanda is going to get pregnant out of nowhere. I guarantee, it will happen.”

I have, in all honesty, lost track of the number of times I have heard some variant of the above sentence in the three and a half years that my wife and I have been attempting to become parents. It has been used during both our struggles with infertility as well as our adventure into the world of adoption. It is such a frequent go-to for people with whom I discuss our parental endeavors that I’ve developed automatic reactions to this that are as natural as comments about the weather. Smile. Nod. “Yeah, who knows? It just might.”

I do not hold any negative feelings toward the people who utter this statement. They are being conversational, friendly, optimistic, maybe they think I haven’t at all considered this as a possibility. Another reason they may mention this – and Amanda and I have confronted and embraced this as a mere cold reality – our situation is not the norm and not comfortable for a lot of people to talk about openly. Infertile couples are far outnumbered by fertile couples. The nuclear family is still by far the majority in this country. And though you may know someone who was adopted, it is not incredibly common and not something you would imagine anyone would consider unless they had no other choice.

The funny thing is I come from a family where this exact scenario has happened. My parents adopted my brother after struggling with infertility and being certain they could not conceive, and I was born three years later as something of a “miracle baby.” Obviously, it is a sincere possibility, however a very unlikely one in our case.

Amanda has explained, much better than I ever could, about her condition and why it makes the chances of pregnancy extremely remote at best. She has also explained about our ventures into the arena of fertility treatments, which included two aggressive rounds of hormone injections, near-daily doctor visits, and precisely scheduled fertilization. One resulted in a pregnancy, but sadly one very short-lived that did not prove viable. The other resulted in nothing at all, only continued pain, lost money, and dashed dreams.

The point being, if such closely monitored (and expensive) treatments ultimately yielded no success, what chance would we possibly have on our own with nothing but educated guesses and a lot of hope on our side? Frankly, though this statement means well, in the end it is a stock response to a problem that can be (and often is) more complex, and much more painful, to the people you are saying it to.

However, I understand the point of casual conversation about matters like this. Not all of the people asking really want to know the gritty details of our reproductive issues, and equally I do not want to divulge that information to just anybody. There is a more inherent issue at hand, though, with this kind of response, one that rather has applied since we decided on the adoption route. It is also one that, the farther we’ve traveled along this route, has seriously felt insulting as we’ve become more aware.

The issue is with the general, widely accepted notion that a household made up of biological relatives is the truly correct and preferable form of family. Adoption, as mentioned before, is therefore the backup plan, the second choice, essentially what you settle for.

I’m sure some might accuse me of being oversensitive with that response, or that I’m picking a fight where there is none. Please trust me that that is not the case, but please also see my side of it. Imagine that you are telling someone about the amount of anticipation you are experiencing about an upcoming major change in your life, in fact the most important thing that will ever happen to you. You are choosing to accept a child into your heart and home, to love them with no condition of blood relation but simply out of pure love … and then you are told that it’s okay because someday, you’ll experience the “real thing.”

My aim here is not to reprimand or to try to incite any sympathy, but rather to plea that you take an honest look at your own preconceptions about what makes a real family. If you truly feel that a blood-related family can more legitimately be considered a family than one formed by adoption or other means, please try to take a moment to really analyze why you feel that way. Try, in fact, to consider what truly makes a family and makes the members of that family happy.

A commitment to one another, experiencing joy in each other’s company, creating lasting memories, being there through the great times and the awful: those are the things that come to mind when I think of a harmonious family. While blood can connect a family, it is not an essential tie, and in fact the lack of that specific necessity can both strengthen and deepen the bond that brings you together. For instance, my brother is my brother in every way but through genetics, he is my lifelong friend, my confidante, and I love him more than I could ever express.

Adoption is saying that I am not obligated to you because I’m biologically connected to you. I chose to bring you and keep you in my life and to love you unconditionally.

The more we have learned about adoption and the more we have considered it, the more we have fallen in love with it as the method of creating our family. Even into a very progressive age, there is a certain stigma associated with adoption, sometimes still as being a taboo subject but more often now as simply being unorthodox. We have embraced this fact, realizing we may have to repeatedly explain to total strangers why our child does not look like us, knowing our family may very well stand out. Though we know a tough road is ahead, we also realize it is one that is distinctly us.

I am used to feeling against-the-grain of what is considered normal. I’ve accepted that I often represent opinions either not accepted or unpopular with the majority, and I feel not only prepared but excited to co-parent a family that may be viewed differently than others. I feel that I am joining an elite group, one where you could have no idea how special it could possibly be unless you experienced it for yourself.

So no, my friends, my sympathetic ears and supporters who do truly care, respectfully we are not eagerly awaiting that day when we realize in shock that we will have a child biologically. Honestly, though we were excited for it as a potentiality, that ship has sailed for us. We are 100% committed to the adoption process. After we adopt our first child, we will adopt a second one. We have no interest in trying to conceive anymore, though we would accept it and make it work if it happened incidentally.

We are a family that is choosing adoption, not tolerating it out of lack of choices. After all, there are other options out there for us that we have not and will not ever explore. There is IVF, there is surrogacy, but a blood connection is not what we need to create a family.

The love we have to give, the support we know we can provide, the knowledge we know we can pass on … and the baby we will adopt, who will be our son or our daughter … are the only ties we need to make our family tree.