Regardless of whether you are thinking about a first child or a fifth, there is no right or wrong answer – only what is right for you.
We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but does the village have a say on the decision to have a child? Or the best process? The choice to have a child, whether biologically or via adoption, is a very personal one, and one that demands a high level of consideration regardless of the family, or village, which may be involved in the child’s life.
In decades past, the expectation was that a couple would marry and have children. The only question was “when” it would happen. Fast forward to the 2000s and infertility is on the rise, as are choices to have children later in life or to not have children at all. Choices are the name of the game and while choice is good, it can also be difficult.
One reason for choosing adoption is the inability to achieve a successful pregnancy and birth. Why, then, would a couple who had already experienced a successful pregnancy and birth choose to adopt? For this family, it was the awareness of what they had to offer to a Chinese child in an orphanage.
“In China, it is illegal to put children up for adoption,” noted Patty Marler, biological mom of three and adoptive mom of one. “So Qiu was abandoned by the gate of a hospital… Let’s just say that Qiu lived in an orphanage and life would have been very different from living with a family who loves her immensely.”
For Marler and her husband, it was a recognition that adopting Qiu aligned with their religious and philosophical values.
“We saw the abundance that we have in Canada,” she said. “And God opened our hearts to adopting Qiu. We had never talked about adopting before, but after one radio talk show, I brought up the subject [to my husband].”
While Marler and her husband discussed adoption and the pros and cons it held for their family, they chose to not involve their three biological children until the decision was made to adopt Qiu.
“[We] didn’t consult [with them] when we had biological kids,” commented Marler. “Not consulting [with them when it comes to] adopted kids . . . a bit blunt, [but] we feel that parental decisions are made by parents, not kids.”
Other families may choose adoption or fostering, even though they are fertile, because they want more children, but don’t want to experience pregnancy. This may be due to a fear of health risks, past failed pregnancies, aging or a number of other reasons. Aging would-be parents may be concerned about the age gap or their physical ability to parent a child. In these cases, adopting an older child presents a possible solution.
For some families, the road towards adoption may take a turn and lead to an acceptance that remaining childless is the right choice. Nieces and nephews are often “enough” for some couples when they take an active role as aunt and uncle. This can extend into the informal aunt and uncle role with the child of close friends where a bond is formed early in the relationship.
Other couples may feel that not having children gives them the flexibility to do more together and focus on their relationship, hobbies and other interests. While this doesn’t take the place of a child, some individuals find that the proverbial village that would have helped in raising their child is part of what provides them with fulfillment in absence of a child.
Parental-type bonds may also form later in life from unexpected circumstances. A North Vancouver woman and her husband “unofficially adopted” a 27-year-old man, who considers them his Canadian parents and is officially in their will. They met when their “son” was looking for a place to stay and became a boarder in their home. The bonds formed have been a source of joy for everyone.
If having a child is of the utmost importance, but the necessary details aren’t falling in to place, think about what you want from the relationship with a child. Whether filling the gap while waiting for an adoption, or understanding your personal needs for the long run, knowing what you want will help you find other ways to fill that void.
The world is filled with complex and emotional choices around adoption. Know what your motivations are as an individual and as a couple and communicate your expectations, as well as your boundaries, with those around you. There is no right or wrong – only the choices that are right for you and your family.
Proudly adopted, Ronda Payne joyfully lives in Maple Ridge, B.C. in yet another renovation-project home with her husband and their pets. She is a regular contributor to a variety of publications, and also has three (or more!) books on the go.