"My So-Called Friends"

When one woman decided to adopt internationally, she was shocked at her friends' reactions.

My Friends' Insensitive Comments About Adoption

The other day, I mentioned to a coworker that my husband and I were looking into international adoption. You’d have thought I said we were thinking of becoming terrorists. “What do you mean, you’re going to adopt from Russia? What about all the kids in Milwaukee who need good homes?” she demanded indignantly.

I am, despite being a lawyer, an essentially polite person. I formulate nasty responses in my head but utter mild demurrals. What I said was: “Well, we really like Russian culture, and the conditions over there in the orphanages are really horrible. We think it’s a good alternative, although we haven’t decided for sure yet.” What I wanted to say: “Who are you, someone capable of producing three kids, who has never known the heartbreak of infertility, to judge? I just want a child who looks like me and fits into my family. Is that a crime?”

I am not unsympathetic to the plight of kids with special needs who move from one foster home to another. I know they need good homes and parents to love them. But is a child in a Russian orphanage any less worthy of a good home and loving parents, just because he or she had the misfortune to be born there instead of here?

Apparently so.

Everybody, everywhere, not just at work, has opinions on international adoption—few of them favorable. In the past six months, I’ve heard hateful and irrational opinions from people I used to think of as intelligent, rational adults. I’ve been accused of racism. I’ve been accused of favoring “communists” over “red-blooded Americans.” I’ve even been accused of trying to “buy” a child.

Through it all, I’ve never heard anyone ask a pregnant woman why she chose to give birth rather than to adopt a special-needs minority child. I’ve never heard a father of six condemned for his “selfishness” in choosing to have so many children, rather than “give a home to a deserving Milwaukee kid.”

And while we are on the subject, why do people whose insurance companies pay thousands of dollars for them to give birth think that this doesn’t constitute “buying a child,” but that paying adoption expenses somehow does?

“If I couldn’t have kids, I would take a special-needs child,” said one acquaintance, a sanctimonious mother of six biological children.

“Oh,” I say sweetly, “just because you can have biological children doesn’t mean you can’t adopt, too. And, as you’ve said, these are children who really need good homes so badly. Why don’t you open up your heart and give one a good home?”

She stares at me with an expression that says, loud and clear, “I know you’re not playing with a full set of ovaries or a full deck of cards.” She speaks slowly and loudly, lest I miss her meaning: “I have children of my own. I don’t need to adopt.”

“Oh,” I say, my tone only slightly less sweet. “I get it now—only defective people should adopt defective children. The truth is,” I tell this woman, “neither my husband nor I are equipped to raise a child with special needs.”

I freely concede that this is selfish. I wish that I could be altruistic and have enough of everything—patience, confidence, skill—to give a child with special needs a special home. I wish that I were big enough not to care that the child wouldn’t look like my husband or me. I wish it weren’t so important to me that the child who joins my family be as perfect and bright and healthy as he or she possibly can be.

But like everyone who has chosen to have only biological children, instead of adopting a special-needs child, I do care and it does matter. In that way, I am like every parent who has ever given birth to a child. The only difference is that I am willing to tell the truth.

Adoption Agencies

Agape Adoptions
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U.S. Newborn, International
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U.S. Newborn

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