We are a family of three. People usually assume we will want more than one child, and so often ask when we’re going to start our next adoption.
The answer is alternately “we’ll see” or “we’re not”.
It’s a very personal decision, whether to have kids at all, let alone if and when you will have more. And it is one that people should not take lightly. Generally speaking, most families plan the number of kids they want, and how far apart to space them for purposes of ages, or ease, or expense.
Some don’t, obviously. I sometimes see, in families growing through birth or through adoption, a “collection” mentality. Like puppies or handbags or computer upgrades, there’s an obsession with obtaining the next one. As soon as one arrives, the rush is on to get pregnant again or get the paperwork for the next one underway. And the next one, and the next one, and the next… until there is a mob of kids around, and barely the time for parents to actually parent their children. You’ve all seen these families, especially the famous ones. You know the obsession.
Fortunately, the majority of families don’t work this way. Large families or small, generally the decision is a well-thought-out one.
But, on the flip side of the coin, people also don’t expect you to willingly stop at one child. And in a lot of respects, I think people are taken aback and think you are kind of weird when you tell them you may only have one child.
For us, it’s something we waffle on periodically. I think we had, early on, thought we would have a number of children. But circumstances being what they were, biological children were not going to be an option. And so, adoption became the way we grew our family.
Adoption is wonderful, and something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I can remember for most of my life thinking I did not want to have biological kids but knowing that I wanted to adopt. So our adoption of Stinkerbelle was a dream come true in many, many ways. But, being as challenging and as expensive as adoption is, doing it again would require some careful consideration on our part.
The bottom line is that we cannot afford to do it again without carrying some serious debt. Some families are okay with that, and good on them. We are not sure we are. There are ways to offset the debt, tried and true in the adoption community, such as loans and fundraising and the support of churches and whatnot. None of those are suitable for us.
Some families will research various programs and agencies and find one that is less expensive or has better timelines or whatever, to help make the expense more bearable. And some families are simply drawn to different countries for various personal reasons. This is also not an option for us. Ethiopia is the only country we want to consider. Beyond the fact that it is part of us now, and part of Stinkerbelle’s heritage, it is also the only country we ever considered when we first started out. And it is the only country that I ever wanted to adopt from, since I began thinking of adoption as a teenager. Ethiopia has been a part of my consciousness almost my whole life. Now, maybe with research and time and reflection, that could change — there are many great possibilities. But right now, it doesn’t feel right for us.
Beyond the debt — let’s say we decided we could afford to do it — there are a lot of logistics involved. Not least is the fact that there is only one agency that we would consider, even if there were many options available to us, and they are not taking new clients at this time.
Then there’s the whole issue of paperwork. We know what to expect having done it before, and have a good social worker to guide us, but still — anyone can tell you, the paperwork is stressful and is a real pain in the ass.
And then there’s the wait. Some will tell you that once you get your child, the pain and anguish of the waiting just fades away. I am here to tell you that it doesn’t at all — at least, not for all of us. I remember it like it was yesterday, and believe me, our wait was a walk in the park compared to the experiences of many families. You have to really steel yourself against the stress and hurt and shifting expectations and pain in an adoption wait. Maybe we would be better at it this time, I don’t know.
But aside from all the practicalities, there’s a very personal thing to consider. There are days when I feel that we need to ensure that Stinkerbelle has a sibling, that she needs someone to grow up with and be with when we are gone. But many days, I am not sold on the idea.
There are days, like today, when I am tired and lacking patience and feel like I need a break, and I just don’t know if I want to do it again. There are days when I miss the tiny baby part of having a child. There are days when I love the cuddles and the snuggling and the hilarity and the firsts of having a child. But there are just as many days when I am tired and struggling to get housework done and missing a little down time. Is it all worth it? Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean it is easy.
And then there’s the whole issue of lightning striking twice in the same place. One of the big things we discuss, when we discuss possibly adopting again, is the fact that we got so unbelieveably lucky with Stinkerbelle. She is a joy to parent, a pleasant, easygoing, funny kid. I read about other parents’ experiences and I talk to other parents and I realize just how lucky we are.
But I also realize that, perhaps, I am not cut out to parent a more challenging child. Could I have the patience to parent a difficult child who has more anger or more sadness or presents more serious parenting challenges to me? In many ways, because Stinkerbelle has been so easy, I still feel very much like a rookie parent. I don’t see myself with the patience or the energy or the parenting skills that some parents of more challenging kids have, and I wonder if I would fail miserably for all involved if I were thrust into that situation.
There’s no way to know, obviously, without trying it. But I don’t know if I am prepared to take that chance.
Being a parent, and raising children, and doing it decently well, is a heck of a commitment. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of energy and a lot of time and a lot of money. Whether it is through adoption or birth, it requires a lot of thought beforehand in order to do a good job at it.
And I know that we will continue to waffle and discuss and look at all the various issues and considerations. Some days we’ll say we might want to do it again and other days we will say we won’t. And we may never decide, and maybe that will be the decision made FOR us.