Parenting guilt and adoption

This may be a long one.
At The Karianna Spectrum, she writes of her concerns about those adoptive parents who qualify their child as "adopted" when talking about his/her limitations. For me, this unearths a line of thought that has rattled around my brain many times. It has to do with parental guilt and responsibility.
I don't even know where to start with this one really. I guess I'll start with reprising the end of my comment on Karianna. There are no guarantees when you bring a child into your family. Whether born to you or brought to you, there are no guarantees. You can plan all you want, get tests, take tests, do your research, do your homework, take your vitamins, and clean your house; but that doesn't guarantee that you will end up with the perfect, healthy, loving, intelligent, and beautiful baby of your dreams. Fortunately, most of the time you get enough of a dose of each of the forementioned ingredients that it is enough - even plenty - or more than you ever dreamed. But sometimes things go wrong, the unexpected happens, a genetic or environmental time bomb goes off, or the other shoe drops, or there are complications. Maybe, as a prospective or new parent, you know that the chance is there, but you still hope for a miracle and the best possible outcome. So whether one gave birth or adopted, there is some pain, grief, and feelings of loss when your child is diagnosed with an official pathology or developmental snafu.
My children are mine and have been mine since the day they first became mine. One was mine to nurture and protect with my body for about 39 weeks before he was born and became mine to protect with my arms, my body, my life, and maybe part of my soul. Two of my children were mine from the day I met them in a hotel conference room in a far away country and signed papers, gave my thumbprint, swore an oath, and had a "happy family" picture taken. (My husband was there, too and they became his in the same way.) From the day they became mine (or ours), I was legally, emotionally, morally, financially, and relationally bound to them.

When they were diagnosed with their various "conditions" at various times, I don't remember feeling fundamentally different about my bio son's limitations than I did about my other two childrens'. But I guess there was one slight difference when my biological child was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening and life-altering condition (severe food allergies with anaphylactic risk) from when my son who was adopted was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and ADHD:
I confess, there wasn't really that much guilt in either case. I have observed that parents often seem to feel guilt when their children are born with serious conditions or develop conditions that may have a genetic link. I suppose some parents of children with autism feel guilt when they believe they could have protected their child from some environment that caused the autism - as impractical and improbable as that seems to me. But I only felt a small amount of guilt and self-doubt about my son's allergies. He was diagnosed unusually young (at age 1 year) and his symptoms were atypically severe. I only learned after the fact that I might could have avoided certain top allergenic foods while breastfeeding and lessened the chance of allergies or, at least, severe allergies. But I didn't know that ahead of time and I didn't feel guilty about what I could have known but didn't. When my baby was suffering with severe hives, soaring temperature, difficulty swallowing, or eczema, I did feel bad that I had not known to take some precautions and that I didn't know what to do for him at first. But I just didn't beat myself up about something I didn't foresee.
With Orangeboy there was no guilt about possible responsibility. I didn't have any genetic influence on him and I didn't have any influence over his first three and half years of life. I knew he would be visually impaired before we met him. I knew he would likely have some institutional delays and maybe some attachment issues. I didn't know his development would be so very delayed and that his socialization would be almost non-existent. I didn't know he would require expensive, daily "brain enhancers" (little white pills) and other therapy. I didn't feel unlucky or cheated either. I believed that you get what you get and do what you can. He was my child and I would have to do the best I could for him. It was my responsibility as a parent. With kids there are no guarantees and about the only guarantee with parenting is that it won't all be easy.

I did also learn something after the fact in the case of my "adopted" children. There are some people who think that parents who adopt children from other countries with "problems" should feel guilty that they didn't adopt children in this country. Afterall, we here in the U.S. have lots of kids with "problems".
Well, I guess I don't feel guilty about that either.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10/3/09

    I think no matter our particular situation, there will be those who wish to inflict guilt on us in the hopes of lifting themselves up. Thank you for mentioning my post here - and for giving your own thoughts on the topic.


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