Should adopting parents be allowed to specify a gender preference?
Share Your Story, July/August 2003
Parents Should Have the Choice
For us, stating a gender preference gave us back a small sense of the control that was lost as we endured years of infertility. After grieving the losses of our pregnancies, it was healing to build a new dream for a family, and to fulfill it with children who matched our mental images.
Robin Hutson Baltimore, Maryland
We initially wished for a girl, thinking we would have only one child. But we were delighted and are forever grateful that Aidan, a boy, came to us through adoption. He has been the joy of our lives. Now, in the process of our second adoption, we have stated we would like a girl. I realize that if I had been able to conceive, we would not have had this option. But this is just one of the many, many benefits of adoption!
Sharon Rausch, Maine
The opportunity to specify the gender is particularly important for single adoptive parents. There may be concern about providing a role model if the gender of the child is different from that of the parent. As a single mom-to-be, I’m learning how little (if any) control I have within this process. My ability to request a particular gender gives back a bit of that.
Laura Finkel Plymouth, Massachusetts
After all the stresses that most adoptive parents have gone through—infertility and the adoption process itself—if they are more confident in their skills to parent a particular gender, then they should have the option to choose that gender. Infertility treatment is a process in which everything is done TO the person/couple. It’s nice to allow the adopting family some sort of control.
Tammy and Jim Colorado
We have a two-year-old boy and we decided against adopting a one-year-old girl, when presented with the opportunity. It's not that we don't love girls, and we may change our minds in the future, but we are a household of men and we'd prefer raising boys. When one of my four sisters was having a baby about 2 years ago, I remarked that I'd love if she had a baby boy. My mom's tongue-in-cheek response, "What in the world would we do with a boy in a household of 5 women?," was nevertheless wonderfully eye-opening. Sometimes the environment can lay the groundwork for what fits regarding the family structure. Adoptive parents have the availability of choice to supplement what nature doesn't provide to them. We should embrace that.
Yes, you should be able to select gender, just as you selected your agency, country, health conditions of the child, age at time of referral, etc. Our agency discouraged us from doing so and put up every obstacle they could. (In hindsight we should have selected an agency that shared our philosophy.) We persisted, and now we have 2 children of the gender we always wanted and have never regretted our decision.
Even as a child, I swore I'd be the mother of at least one boy and one girl. My third son was delivered two months premature, and after my doctor told me I would likely deliver even earlier in future pregnancies, my husband and I decided not to try again. We adopted a baby girl, specifying that we wanted a girl, and I love every pink, lacey outfit, and every minute of braiding or twisting her hair! (she is African American). I have found that raising a girl is such a different experience than raising my boys and I'm VERY happy I was able to choose a girl.
Choosing Not to Choose
My husband and I chose not to specify a gender preference when we adopted through the foster care system, even though I initially thought we might. We liked the element of surprise that parents who give birth get to experience. We decided we didn’t want to miss out on that.
Elyse Chapman, California
When we set out to adopt, we specified only that we hoped for a healthy infant. Gender, race, nationality: none of that mattered. For us, becoming parents—whether through biology or adoption—required a huge leap of faith. To keep the process as organic as possible, we needed to believe the child we were meant to have would find his or her way to us.
When we adopted the first time, it was not important. We were matched with our child’s birthmom when she was almost eight months pregnant, and we had to wait until the baby was born to find out. Walking into the delivery room and finding out that we had a daughter was one of the most exciting moments of our lives. We are considering specifying a boy for our next adoption, because we think it would be nice to a have a girl and a boy. But we wonder if we will miss the anticipation of not knowing.
Tony and Jill West Lincoln, Nebraska
It was often with a twinge of guilt that we would set some limit—on health issues, say, or birthparent contact. But gender and race were our completely open areas. When our adoption agency called us in to discuss a possible placement, we waited on pins and needles. Two days later, our three-month-old Caucasian daughter was placed in our arms. One year and one day later, our beautiful biracial daughter was born. For us, not specifying gender was a way of experiencing wonderful surprises and blessings!
I remember when my husband and I were asked if we wanted to choose a boy or a girl. For us the answer was easy. We felt that, if we had been able to get pregnant, we would not have been able to choose. The choice was God's to make. I knew we would love our baby regardless of gender. When our Birthmother called to tell us the sex of the baby she was very nervous about how we would respond-she was afraid that we wanted a girl since we already had a son. We quickly reassured her that a boy would make us very happy and, as it turned out, we chose the same name for our son as she had! Our sons are 4-1/2 yrs. and 5-1/2 months old and we feel truly blessed having them in our lives!
It Depends on the Situation
When my husband and I adopted our first child in Russia, our agency representative joked that checking "either" on our forms meant that we would get a boy. That was fine; we really didn’t have a preference. When we started the process for our second child, again in Russia, we had to choose. So we specified "girl," but I didn’t really like having the choice. Now, due to the current world situation, we have changed to a domestic adoption and are back to "either" again—and we are much more comfortable with it. Whatever is meant to be will be. Sometimes too many choices make it harder.
Carrie Ostrea, Ventura County, California
My husband had two sons and one daughter from his first marriage. For this reason, we hoped for a baby girl. It is an individual decision. As adoptive parents, we aren’t necessarily saying that we would refuse a child based on gender. But if we are able to state a preference, then we will.
Beth Karle Jamison, Pennsylvania
Just as every adoption is different, there is no definitive answer to the question of specifying gender. We specified gender (girl) for several reasons and, in my family's case, I think it was appropriate. The first was obvious: I had two boys already and felt knee-deep in testosterone (including the hubby and several pets!). But the more important deciding factor was more along the lines of which gender would integrate better into our family. Another boy sure would have been fun . . . but would an adopted boy feel "different" because his brothers were biological? Would he feel the need to compete for our attention more in order to gain our love? These were just two of many questions we asked ourselves. A girl, on the other hand, would already be "different" because she was female, and we felt she would not have to compete as much for attention from the whole family.
I think adoptive families should specify the gender of the child they wish to adopt only if they feel very strongly about it. In our case, we specified "girl" for two reasons. The first is: my husband is 51 years old and he felt he would not have the stamina to start raising a boy at his age. He had a very idealized relationship with his own father, who spent a lot of time with him playing baseball, coaching his teams, etc. He felt that, if he could not give that to his son, he would rather not have one. The second reason relates to the first. Since we're both over 40 we don't think it would be wise for us to have more than one child. And if we're going to have only one, we might as well have the child we really want.
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