Not long ago I came across a conversation among friends. The topic was adoption and more specifically how spouses can be at opposing sides. As I listened, I could easily relate to how conflicted some people felt. On one hand, there is no limit to love; no maximum capacity to the human heart. But, on the other hand, love is only one part of a much bigger equation. Time, sacrifice, rearranging a life that may already be settled in comfortably – all of these things, and more, have to be taken into consideration.
It was only a few years ago that my husband and I had the same series of conversations.
He said yes. I said no.
My husband had his heart set on three children. When we married I already had a son by a previous marriage. By the time Dan and I had our second son, my firstborn was twelve and I was thirty-four. Not only did the age gap remove any chance of my children playing together and giving me a bit of respite, but my second child was also very difficult. It was an unhappy pregnancy due to my age and medical issues and, from the day we brought him home, our new son was anything but a textbook baby. Up until this point I’d actually considered having a third child. I wanted a girl badly and (foolishly) assumed all of my children would be as easy and even tempered as my first. When I realized our youngest was going to be a long term challenge I gave up the notion of having more kids. Close the factory, I was done. I discussed it with my husband and he agreed that things had been difficult, more so than typical, and he’d be fine if I avoided another pregnancy.
I remember we were driving in the car and I’d informed him that I was making an appointment to have a tubal ligation. I believe I even used the words, “If I got pregnant again I’d sit on the floor and cry.” He nodded and paused only a few moments before saying, “That’s fine. We can always adopt.”
It took a few seconds for his words to register.
“I’m sorry…what? No. I distinctly remember telling you only minutes ago that I didn’t want another child.”
“A baby. You said pregnant. I’m talking about a toddler or even elementary school age.”
“How would that be different? A third child is a third child.”
“No diapers. No potty training. You know…”
I sat back and thought about it, running all the different scenarios through my head. I wanted to hear my husband out because I knew the desire came from his heart. But, I didn’t want to make a life changing decision based on guilt either. As much as I listed the pros in my head, the cons continued to kick me. Hard. Our youngest was two at the time and though he was sweet, smart, funny and loving, he also had severe sleep issues and impulse control problems that made me want to hide in a closet more often than not. There was a chance we could adopt a child that would develop the same, or equally difficult, issues. Was I ‘mom’ enough to handle it? I was confident in how I handled current stresses, but that was different than guessing about how I’d handle compounded chaos.
I had to be honest with myself as well. I was tired of being tired. My days were consumed with either dealing with our toddler’s outbursts or trying to learn how to stop them. I was committed to helping him learn and grow, but I was also vehemently opposed to the chance of having to do it all over again. I yearned to get back to that place where days were peaceful and nights were restful. I counted the months until he’d start kindergarten so I could just sit in an empty house and breathe. My emotions weren’t pretty, they reeked of selfishness – but they were honest.
I knew there was only one answer I could give my husband.
“No. I don’t want to adopt. I’m done.”
At first, he was unhappy about my refusal. I’m sure he thought I was just being selfish as well. I couldn’t blame him. On the surface “I want my personal time back” sounds like a callous reason to deny a child a home. Adoption is a wonderful experience, and I have nothing but respect for adoptive parents and the love they share. But, I believe it is a calling for those who truly want it with every fiber of their being. Yes, there are so many children waiting for a forever family. Yes, we could afford it financially. But, if a parent (or potential parent) has the slightest reservation, then it shouldn’t be done. Would I be able to remain selfless and pour myself into creating a new life for a third child? I had the potential, but my doubt about the execution of it could not be ignored. I wasn’t going to gamble when a failure meant the child would be the one to lose. After explaining this further to my husband, he came to not only understand, but also agree.
I went a month later and had my tubes tied. I remember the surgeon saying, “Are you sure? There are other temporary ways you could handle this, and you may regret doing this later.” I told her I would not regret it at all. And, as the words came out of my mouth, I felt a solid certainty that I never experienced when thinking about adoption. I knew I’d made the right choice.
Our sons are sixteen and four now. When I see a large family, it makes me smile. I congratulate my friends on their new babies and mean it. But, I’ve never regretted being honest with myself and facing the fact that I am not a good match for adoption. And that’s okay.