“Why don’t you just adopt?”
We’ve all heard this response to our telling people we can’t have children/don’t want children/are childfree. I don’t believe these people intend to be callous and cruel, but so often, that’s how this answer feels to me.
After nearly three years of working through the adoption system, my friends Elise and Chris and their daughter Emma* opened their arms to welcome baby Jane into their family. Oh, how we all celebrated! The long-awaited arrival of this precious child was the answer to so many prayers.
A few weeks later, I received the devastating news that the birth mother had also signed over parental rights to a different adoption agency. After a furious and frantic battle in court, due to what was described as a “rare loophole,” Jane was pulled from Elise’s arms and given to another family.
I wept with Elise as she poured out the details between sobs, and I failed to make sense of it, to see a silver lining or life lesson…oh, screw it, it was all just horrifying. After all the miscarriages, all the hoping and preparing and planning, my dear friends—who are good and deserving people—had their hearts broken once again in an unimaginably cruel fashion.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t my first ride on the heartbreak tracks of the adoption-option train. Another family I knew had to relinquish their son at the six-month mark when his birth mother changed her mind and decided to keep her baby for herself. (I didn’t begrudge her this, yet I so ached for my friends.) And yet another couple, through a private adoptions setup, paid all the living and medical expenses for the birth mother, only to learn at the end that she had scammed several families, taken all their money, then left the baby in limbo with child services.
I can also tell you stories about friends who have been successful in their adoption efforts, but none of their experiences came easily either. Multiple disappointments, years of waiting, tens of thousands of dollars. The harsh realities of adoption are rarely mentioned alongside the airbrushed photos of celebrities and their pretty babies in tabloids, and I think leaving out those details does us all a disservice.
Yes, there are children around the world who need homes, and adults longing to be parents, and I wish I could wave my magic wand and bring them all together to be loving families. But “just” adopt? Omg, people, just stop.
*Not their real names, of course.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is mostly at peace with her childfree status.