I couldn’t tell you the exact moment I decided that, if I have a child, adoption will be my first choice. At 31, I’m not sure if I ever do want kids, but for as long as I can remember, adoption has always been option no. 1. While I’ve never passed judgment on anyone for wanting a biological child, I’ve just never had that urge myself (even though I do think I’d make a cute pregnant lady).
I grew up with several adopted family members, so for me, adoption has always been entirely normal. But as I’ve gotten older and the topic of having children has become (annoyingly) more frequent, I’ve started to realize just how odd and even taboo some consider my choice.
While writing this article, I came across many things that made me roll my eyes, shake my head and, if I’m being honest, feel a little bit hurt. “It sounds a little smug when people say ‘adoption is our first choice,’” wrote one user in an online forum. “It feels to me like they are boasting. [It] sort of makes it seem like you are adopting to ‘save’ a child or do a good deed.”
To that, I say: On any given day, there are more than 400,000 children in the U.S. who are stuck in a very broken foster care system, and an estimated 15 million kids worldwide who have lost both of their parents. So what if I want to “save” one of these children by bringing them into a good home? I guess that makes me a terrible person.
There are more than 400,000 children in the U.S. who are stuck in a very broken foster care system, and an estimated 15 million kids worldwide who have lost both of their parents.
I also came across numerous comments claiming that those who opt for adoption first are “ungrateful” and “insensitive” — that there are many people who want biological children and can’t, so adoption should be reserved for those who “need” it. This really got under my skin.
Why should adoption be reserved for one set of people when there are already far too many kids waiting for loving homes? If more people accepted adoption as a first choice, there would be far fewer of these children.
Second, this notion implies that those who struggle to conceive are somehow more deserving of children than those who don't. I do believe there are people in this world who are more fit to be parents than others, but none of these reasons have anything to do with fertility. So long as you are loving, responsible, committed and have the resources to appropriately care for a child, you’re no less deserving than anyone else.
Lastly and most importantly, the belief that adoption should only be a second choice for those who can’t conceive implies that adoption is second best and, therefore, that adopted children are second best. No child, biological or not, should ever be viewed as second.
I can’t speak for everyone who chooses adoption first, but I’d like to think they’d agree with me. Beyond that, we each have our own personal reasons for making that decision. Here are three of mine.
Because I’m grateful for my adopted and multicultural family.
I grew up with two cousins adopted from India, one my age and one four years older. We lived in the same town and spent tons of time together. My father was essentially their father; they were essentially my sisters.
My stepsister is also adopted. She came into my life when I was 6 and she was 12. Since then, I've rarely thought about the fact that she'd adopted. She’s my sister and that’s that. When I have remembered that she and my cousins are adopted, I simply feel appreciation; I’m thankful that other members of my family were able to provide them the kind of lives that they so desperately deserved, and I’m thankful that we get to be blessed by their addition to our family.
Because I’m “selfish” — and that’s OK.
Morning sickness, swollen feet, giving up wine and sushi for nine damn months — I know there are women who welcome all the changes of pregnancy, but oh my God, it sounds awful to me. If you want to call me selfish for that, go right ahead. But if I believe doing what you need for you only makes you better for yourself and for those you love. I will likely be a happier, more pleasant person to be around if I’m waiting to adopt than waiting to push a bowling ball out of my uterus.
And being “selfish” by not giving birth doesn’t mean I’ll be any less able to provide a loving, supportive home than if I had children biologically. As my friend Amber, 37, explains: “As a survivor of child abuse who works with children in the foster care system, I know there isn’t some magic selfishness switch that gets flipped when you have kids. I know a lot of people without children who are incredible selfless and loving toward their friends, family and even strangers.” The same goes for those who adopt.
Because I believe a family is something you make, not something you’re given.
There’s some sort of crazy belief out there that there’s no way you could love another person’s biological child as you could “your own.” As far as I’m concerned, this is nearly the same as saying a man can’t possibly love his child as much as a woman because he didn’t physically carry that child.
There are so many factors that influence a bond, but love is love. And love can’t just be explained as simply as DNA. We all have those we love dearly who we’re not related to by blood. In fact, of my own four siblings, it's my stepsister who I have the closest connection with.
What’s more, I believe that family is not something you’re given, it’s something you make. As much as we’d all like to believe it, love is not unconditional — and being biologically related is certainly no guarantee of it. You have to work for love whether or not you share genes.
At the end of the day, there are many ways to have children. What works for one person may not work for another, and we all have the right to decide what's best for ourselves. For me, that’s almost certainly adoption. But my choice is no better or worse than anyone else’s. The goal is still the same: to raise a happy, healthy child in a loving home as your own.