Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to choose the second child

Adoption is weird like that - you get to choose. You even get to choose how much about the child you want to choose - open your parameters wide or keep them narrow and specific. If adoption were easy, we could all have families that matched our personal images of ideal.

But it's not. Before we can ask, "What child do I want?" we have to ask, "What children are available?" Options are getting tighter as the years go by. You have to choose options you can afford, you can handle emotionally, and that have risks acceptable to you. And when you get to the end of the labyrinthine process, you find you're not in a labyrinth anymore - you're in a family. The paperchase evaporates and suddenly you are the parents of a child.

We were childless when we started the adoption process. We came in with the notion that most adoptive families were like us - turning to adoption because the birth children simply hadn't come. We were introduced to fertility options (which weren't for us, but we appreciate the opportunity being there) and we were warned about fertility grief (which I didn't get too badly, thankfully). Our local adoption organization, ACONE, holds classes for prospective first-time parents. But our impressions were dashed when we signed up for China Special Needs and discovered that nearly all the other families had children already.

(I find the term "bio children" amusingly distasteful, but that's a complaint for another day. And I'm not offended by it or anything.)

So then we were unusual - first-time parents with no parenting experience in a group of people who were adding to their already significantly-sized families. Those other people worked their adoption parameters around the stats of their existing children. Three boys? Sign up for a girl! Is birth order important? Then adopt a child younger than two.

We were more like, "Uh... um... we just want to be parents. Whatever's good."

We did form some preferences, and added those preferences to our paperwork, although we may as well not have because then we adopted a child who was perfect for us but who didn't match the preferences. So I hope you'll forgive me if I rewrite history a bit to say we were wide open to whatever. In a way, it was true. We told the agent, "We want such-and-such a child with such-and-such, this, and/or that." And she said, "How about him? He's nothing like you described but his special need is pretty good." And we said, "Okay!"

Now we're out of the adoption system and into parenting. The topic of adoption comes up in conversation, but we're not living the maze of paperwork and tough decisions anymore.


...I'm sorta-kinda thinking a great deal every day about our next child. I'm already starting to peruse the options and make the decisions all over again. The plan is to wait a bit before jumping into a second adoption - for one, we need some time to recover financially. And for two, AwesomeCloud is still pretty new and pretty young.

However, this time we'll have something we lacked last time - previous children.

We get to make our decisions based on the fact that we have a 2-year-old Chinese-American son with a special need repairable with surgery. (Almost done with that repair job, too.)

Ooh. So, how should we choose?

China Special Needs is still available. That's our first priority. We would love it if our children shared a heritage, so we don't end up with heritages all over the place and have to struggle to keep up. We have second gen Italian, third gen Irish, and Chinese, and all else in our sense of culture is pretty standard American. If China remains an adoption option, we won't have to scramble to form a new list of options to choose from - we'll go with the same as last time.

AwesomeCloud is a boy, so maybe the next child should be a girl. I really like a sister/brother pair, because that's how I grew up. I have a little sister, but my brother and I were very close in age and in friendship. So one of each gender is my ideal. (When you get to the third child, randomness becomes appealing again.) However, boys are more available than girls. So if availability becomes a top priority, we may adopt another boy. And that's great.

Age? I'm into maintaining birth order. We want a child who is younger than AwesomeCloud. Right now that would be a problem, because AwesomeCloud is very young. Waiting awhile should open the age range up sufficiently.

Special need... well, to be honest, I've have quite enough of surgery. Boston Children's Hospital is a lovely place, but the outpatient visits are infinitely easier than the inpatient stays. I may change my mind about that later, but I may not. We'll see.

Some special needs will stay off our list - hearing disabilities, contagious diseases such as Hep B, and mental retardation. Now we may subtract conditions that require a lot of surgery from our list as well. We just think we're not the ideal family for some needs, and other needs are challenges we could rise to, but are afraid to try. That's okay. I won't feel guilty because our collective comfort zone doesn't have room for every special need. Besides, there are still a lot of options left on the list. We'll find someone who would thrive here, without straining ourselves past our own limits in the process.

It's possible that in a year or two this post will be completely irrelevant, and I'll have to write a new one with all new parameters. It's possible that China may close its international adoption access completely. Maybe we'll wait longer than we plan, or maybe we'll wake up a month from now and decide it's time to sign up. We can change our minds if we want. And maybe we'll look back and laugh about how our parameters evolved over time.

With adoption, there are no accidents, but there can certainly be surprises. Our first kid was a surprise. Maybe the second kid will be, too. Maybe we'll submit our carefully scripted list, get matched with an altogether different child all over again, throw the list out and live happily ever after with our 'choice'.


  1. Really a lovely post. So nice to hear about how the process was to you. I'm surprised to hear that boys are more available... I think it was the other way around in China!!


  2. The gender thing in China is complicated. Yes, it's true that more girls are put up for adoption than boys. Okay, actually it's not super-complicated; it is influenced by social trends, traditions, and circumstances on both sides of adoption, but everything in the world is like that. However, we Westerners oversimplify the situation. We've turned the greater frequency of Chinese girls into an exaggerated mythos. That mythos is based on information that is ten years out of date and wasn't even accurate then.

    Boys are more available than girls because Western adopters want girls at a much greater rate than China can put girls up for adoption. The special needs program is more or less gender balanced, and now that the non special needs program is essentially shut down, many of the families waiting for girls have switched to the SN list. So now both programs are dealing with a huge glut of families who 1) believe in the all-girls mythos, and 2) still demand a girl when they learn otherwise.