Tuesday, April 18, 2006

When and if to adopt

So as I mentioned before, adoption has been an option that I always thought I would pursue if the time came. Honestly, I thought I'd be married by my early 30s and wouldn't even have to weigh the matter. But here I am... .

It breaks my heart when I see children. I know they're a lot of work; it's not all giggles and smiles. But I want children. I want to be a mother. As afraid as I am of being a terrible, mean, and strict mother, I am desperate for the day to come. Life just seems like it will be complete when I have children to love and nurture.

When I am sad about being single, everyone tries to comfort me saying, "don't worry, you have plenty of time."

I hate that. I know they mean well, but it's not true. I don't have time. Being 40 and raising an infant is not what nature intended. How fair is it to a child to be already worrying about the financial stability and well-being of aging parents when they've barely finished college? I don't want to be one of those women who goes through months and months of injections and pain to do in vitro fertilization. IT'S NOT NATURAL. (I understand those who may have a legitimate medical condition that requires treatment, but if you just put off having a child because you wanted to enjoy your life or to spend some time on your career, you don't have my sympathy.)

But what happens when I'm 39 and childless?

There are two sets of questions to ask myself:

1) Can you be a single parent? Do you understand the responsibilities involved?

- Can I afford a child? Yes, I think I do okay. It won't be the dream house with the picket fence. I may have to give up living where I am now for a more affordable city or state, but it's possible.

- What happens when you get sick? No, my parents don't live nearby. I'd be on my own. This could be difficult without supportive friends.

- Will I be able to juggle my job? I understand that I may have to sacrifice my career and take a lesser job to ensure that I am able to be where I need to be when I need.

- Is it fair to the child to have only one parent? Maybe it's not ideal but I also think that being Chinese I can help them with their identity and appreciate their hertiage. I have a lot to give, and why not give that to a child who's been abandoned by her parents.

- Will I be lonely? Who wants to a date a single woman with a small child? Will I have time to date? Will having a child make up for not having a partner/husband? I don't know the answer. I know I need companionship. It may seem like I can be content alone, but in reality I need people. I need my friends around me for support, for laughter, for the tough times.

2) Should I have a child by birth or adopt?

- Being pregnant demands a great physical toll on the body. I feel that I'm healthy enough for it, but I have to admit that bearing the burden alone is scary. What if something happens and I'm alone at home? I'd also be lacking a lot of emotional support. Day to day tasks would become more difficult to manage, but I suppose I could hire a maid.

- Having a genetic connection to the child would be of great practical benefit. After all, I'd have a better idea of my baby's medical history. As an adult they might have a better idea of what health risks they need to be aware of.

- Having a child as a single women brings up another important question - who will the father be? Do you find a friend who is willing to donate or do you go to a sperm bank? Frankly, I'd prefer it be someone I know, however, that could get complicated if the friend has a wife. Surely, she would be very uncomfortable with the situation. It's also difficult to separate emotions from expected roles of responsibility. With an anonymous donor, I wouldn't have to worry about future custody suit (or you take care of it through legal contracts before conceiving but boy doesn't that take the joy out of the whole thing). But anonymous sperm also means you won't have medical history. I think it's better to know, even if there's a chance it's not all good.

- Adoption is another challenge in and of itself. The Chinese government has put in place stricter policies since 2001 about who can qualify. The one thing that works against me is that roughly only 5% of adoptions are allowed to be by single women. (If you're a single man, you are totally out of luck.) Understandably, they prefer the bulk of adoptions be by responsible, stable, married couples. One website I looked at already advised that single women cannot submit applications because requests exceed available children through 2007. From the time I want to take custody of my child, I need to plan up to two years back because that's how long the process could take. Should I decide to start an adoption application sometime next year, I probably would not complete the process until 2009.

- The costs of adoption are quite high. When I toured China a couple years ago, I happen to run into a group that had just come to meet their children. When I read up more on what they had gone through, I surmised they spent some $20,000 during the process and probably were carrying several thousand dollars on their person to pay the final government fees when they exited through Guangdong. This costs is likely just fees alone and doesn't not account for travel, training, etc.

- The concern my mother would have is what kind of history the child has. These orphanages vary widely. There's no way to know what kind of emotional trauma the children may harbor. You have no idea of their medical history and what may lie ahead. But if you love the child, it shouldn't matter right? But I have to admit, if I were a single parent, certainly I'd prefer a healthy child as it would be very challenging to deal with additional disabilities. I'm no angel, no saint. I want a "normal" child. I don't even have that guarantee if I were to give birth to my own, but somehow I guess one likes to believe that having some control in the matter improves the odds.

3) By when do I need to make this decision?

- I still feel like deciding it's time to adopt means I have given up on finding a man to marry. I know that's not necessarily true because I've seen people with children successfully remarry or get married. I simply recognize that the odds would not be in my favor. But then, getting older, the odds aren't great. Perhaps I'm being too pessimistic. I just feel like when I make this decision, I have to weigh whether having a child or having a companion is more important to feel fulfilled in my life.

So how do I make this decision? Will there be a day when suddenly everything becomes clear as to what is the best thing to do?

It's a scary thought to raise a child alone. But the thought of missing out on the joys (and challenges) of being a parent scare me more. I've been through a lot in my life, and I'd like to believe that I can suffer through and survive the worst. Without having looked at all the details yet, I am willing to make the sacrifices required for those fleeting moments of happiness. I still have some time to think through all this... time will tell.

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