March into My Heart

Today’s Drip: Is There Such a Thing as the “Perfect” Family?

I recently summoned up the courage to read my mother’s autobiography she wrote the year she died, 18 years ago. It took me that long to realize I would never be strong enough to read it without the raw emotions bubbling up to the surface again.  Sure enough, I cried when I read it having not heard “her voice” for so long.  After finishing it, I wished she had written more about how she felt to be leaving the family she loved and what she hoped for her grandchildren’s future.  One extremely interesting sentence she wrote was how happy she was to have had the “all-American” family of happy parents with one boy and one girl.  I never knew she felt that way when she was alive and yet, it must have resonated with me unconsciously.

I always wanted a family that looked like the one I grew up in—two parents, a son and a daughter.  When my mother died, my second son was only two months old and everything seemed shattered.  I no longer had that perfect relationship with my mother and my expectation of having a daughter wasn’t met.  I was completely in love and overjoyed with both of my boys and yet, my “perfect” family was different than what I had always wanted. I was missing the “girl” part of the equation.  I have always wondered if I would have needed a daughter as much if my mother hadn’t died so young.

I also wonder if every mother suffers from perfection issues when it comes to their family.  Do we develop a picture of the “perfect” family for ourselves at a young age and then strive for it when we are old enough?

After I adopted my beautiful daughter, many friends and acquaintances with two sons approached me for advice about adoption, since they too wished for a girl.  I referred to this group of women as the “all boys club” in a previous post.  Why do so many women need their own daughter?  Do we feel that we want to replace ourselves in the world or do we just crave that female relationship within our own family that friends just cannot successfully replace?

We all know the couples who have three or even four sons.  When we were growing up, my brother’s best friend had five brothers and no sisters. I never really thought about his mother when I was young, but I surely thought about her when my second son was born.  The number of sports uniforms and the amount of laundry alone were staggering thoughts.  Now that my boys are both young adults, they make my life so much easier and bring me joy every day, as they always have.  Even though I was very blessed with my family of four, I never felt complete until after I adopted my daughter ten years ago.

Everyone has different needs and dreams.  Many women are completely fulfilled with only sons or only daughters.  I know many mothers who have only girls in their family.  I often wonder if they feel a deep need for a son?  Many women need both.

For some, like me, adoption is the answer.  Other couples look to science for family balancing.  There are a number of approaches including centrifugal sperm spinning and laser-based MicroSort which separates X and Y sperm (with varying degrees of a success) to control the gender of a baby. Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) where doctors can examine embryos for genetic disorders and gender before implanting them into a woman’s womb is another technique.  But as the Newsweek article from February 1, 2004 titled “Science: Brave New Babies” points out, “The ability to create baby Jack or baby Jill opens a high-tech can of worms. While the advances have received kudos from grateful families, they also raise loaded ethical questions. Even fertility specialists are divided over whether choosing a male or female embryo is acceptable. What’s next on the slippery slope of modern reproductive medicine?”  That article was published close to a decade ago and science has only gotten better since then, and the moral discussion has grown along with it.

Life is short and living without your dreams completely fulfilled is challenging.  There are no right answers, just lots of questions and options to consider.  The one thing I am sure of now is that there is no “perfect” all-American family for everyone.  We are all different and thankfully, America boasts and supports all types of families.  That’s what makes life more interesting for all of us.

Today’s Drip: Misplaced Assumptions and Comments Can be Harmful

I had dinner the other night with a close friend who revealed to me that she had been feeling guilty since the adoption of my daughter ten years ago, having made naïve assumptions about why we adopted.  She was surprised when I announced the adoption of our third child, seven years after the birth of our second child, and she assumed we adopted because I didn’t want to ruin my figure after getting back into shape.  I was shocked and totally taken back by her comment.  I wasn’t offended by her assumption, just amazed that it was so far from the truth.

We weren’t close friends ten years ago—just fellow directors serving our terms on a non-profit board.  Her assumption didn’t keep her from eventually becoming my friend or from embracing my daughter. She reads my blog routinely now and has come to understand how “ChildDrenched” I was before adopting and what that truly meant to me and my family.  Now that we are good friends and she knows the whole story behind our adoption, she decided to release that guilt and let me know how she had once viewed our adoption.

Coping with our infertility issues was excruciatingly painful, even after having two children, but we chose to keep it to ourselves, rather than facing constant questions about “our status” from concerned friends and family.  We also didn’t want our two boys immersed in the emotional roller coaster each month during the medical treatments and eventually, the adoption process.  It was very difficult for us in so many ways and when we succeeded, the adoption came as a surprise to even our closest friends and family.

My friend’s comments got me thinking about how many infertile couples may be facing insensitive thoughts or comments from their community who may not realize the pain they are suffering.  All too often people assume that childless couples are just selfish or too focused on their careers to have children, because they haven’t gone public with their very personal struggle with infertility or their extensive wait for an adopted child.

Some couples searching for the right doctor or infertility method openly ask their friends for referrals.  Some couples pursuing adoption, network with friends, business associates and even new acquaintances to extend their outreach to women who are looking for adoptive couples.  But for those who aren’t so open about their private struggles, sensitivity and compassion from those around them is critical.

Most of us would cringe if we observed parents enduring a callous comment about their adopted children. I remember the pain when one of my own extended family members made a thoughtless comment about my daughter after we adopted her.  Even more unsettling are adopted children who face scrutiny from kids at school or during extracurricular activities.  This needs to stop.  Awareness of how hurtful these malicious comments can be is vital to the well-being of all children, adopted or not.

Regardless of the reason people choose to adopt, whether they are single, married or any other status, it’s important for others to make the effort to think positively about adoption and the families it creates.  Some parents need to adopt to fulfill their parenting dream.  Some children need those adoptive parents to live happily and grow up to fulfill their dreams.   It’s all good.  Building tolerance and support for all children and their parents will hopefully reduce bullying in schools and encourage others to consider adoption as one of the solutions to infertility.

I thanked my friend for her honesty.  It opened my eyes to the tough issues that hundreds of people face every day, some more difficult than others.  Illnesses, disabilities, and differences among us must be treated with respect and compassion.  We can’t all be optimistic all the time, but thinking about others in a positive light usually reflects back on us in a positive way.