Regardless of Why

Coming on the heels of yesterday’s blog, I encountered this article in The Guardian – My brother has two new children – and it’s making me sad. When you want to be a parent and can’t, this is a loss to be mourned, says Philippa Perry.

A woman writes – My partner is older than me and has a grown-up son. He is not keen to have more children, so I feel I’ve missed the boat. I also feel a lot of guilt and shame in my response (to my siblings having children). It is causing problems within my family because my older brother has stopped communicating with me. I’m unsure how to relate to these new children and also to my brother now. It’s constantly nagging on my mind. I feel like a terrible person and very alone.

Ms Perry replies – Reading between the lines, I wonder if there isn’t a whole lot of loss here to process. We think about mourning when we lose someone close to us: when we lose a parent or a friend everyone around us expects us to be sad or angry or confused, in denial or simply deadened for a while – wherever the journey of mourning takes us – and even if it is a hard journey, we know that unless we allow ourselves to mourn, we won’t recover our equilibrium. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has usefully charted this complex journey, and her thinking is instructive. Above all, we learn from her that the only way beyond loss is through it. When you want to be a parent and, for whatever reason, you can’t be, this is a loss and like all losses needs to be mourned.

This point is made frequently in my all things adoption group. The need to mourn infertility, rather than papering over it with adopted children.

The advice columnist goes on to note – It’s much harder, isn’t it, when the loss we experience is situational rather than personal? Often nobody notices or names it, and there is no expectation that we may have work to do. Instead of finding loving support for the process of grieving, we can lock ourselves in a silent, agonizing world in which we feel increasingly isolated.

Whether it is choice or circumstance that has led to you not having a child, you’re clearly sensing that as a loss, and I wonder whether now that those who are close to you seem to be abounding in new children, it is easier to cut off, or feel jealous, or over-rationalise, rather than having your feelings. Gaps are tough – and they’re real, at least to us. Reality is often disappointing.

You do not say why your brother isn’t speaking to you. Echoes of some long-distant childhood rivalry playing out, maybe? Or has something happened to create awkwardness. You’ll know – but I’m wondering what part you not engaging with your sadness and loss may be contributing to this awkwardness? After all, when the task of processing loss doesn’t happen in us, we find other ways of dealing with our feelings: projecting disappointment and envy on to others, rather than owning it ourselves. This makes us unhappy and creates avoidable friction with others. And, no, I don’t think you are a terrible person – just a person in pain with nowhere to place it.

Then there’s what you describe as your own loving relationship. You don’t say how long you’ve been together, nor whether there was a chance to consider having a child, but what is now encroaching is this sense of a gap. What, I wonder, would happen if you were to name it – not in terms of any “right” to have had a child, nor in terms of “blame” that the two of you aren’t having one, but simply in terms of the sense of loss and sadness it is creating in you? It’s not that he has to fix it by having a child with you, but not speaking about it may stop you keeping your relationship as “loving” as it can be. If you are not being heard and understood by him it may deny you the support you need to move forward – speaking simply about it may open up whole new ways of being fulfilled together. We might feel that if we own the disappointment and name the gaps, our feelings will become more intense and unmanageable, but more often the opposite is true. To talk about your loss will begin to process those feelings and will be, I think, the first steps to healing all of this. I don’t want you to carry that “chasm of sadness” on your own. But even in the most loving of partnerships we cannot be everything we need for each other and if your partner is more of a problem-solver – no one wants to hear the “well-you-should…” in response to their pain – you may try for extra listening and understanding from a therapist.

When you can own, then contain, your sadness I am hoping you will be able to relate to these new nephews and nieces in your life, not as reminders of what you are missing out on, but as new people to have rewarding, lifelong relationships with.

Anti-Natalism

I have seen adoptees state that they wish they had been aborted. I had not heard of Anti-Natalism but apparently it is a thing. Back when I was concerned about over-population, I could have understood this concept better. With the pandemic, it appears the planet is going to experience a huge die off before it is all over.

So I discovered this concept today when someone in my all things adoption group posted – How do you all deal with anti natalism? How would you prefer people not adopted to deal with that discussion when it does come up? One of the number one things these people seem to say is adopt, even if you can have kids, because there’s too many people and it’s horrible if you procreate while others don’t have a home. This has been frequently debunked as a myth. Poverty is the number one cause of children being separated from their original parents. In the case of both of my parents, that was certainly the issue – not whether their mothers would have rather kept and raised them.

Back in 2019, The Guardian had an article (I wish I’d never been born: the rise of the anti-natalists) about this with subtitle – Adherents view life not as a gift and a miracle, but a harm and an imposition. And their notion that having children may be a bad idea seems to be gaining mainstream popularity.

The basic tenet of anti-natalism is simple but, for most of us, profoundly counterintuitive: that life, even under the best of circumstances, is not a gift or a miracle, but rather a harm and an imposition. According to this logic, the question of whether to have a child is not just a personal choice but an ethical one – and the correct answer is always no.

In my all things adoption group, the first comment was – infant adoption is a for-profit industry and feeds into producing babies as a commodity, so also contributes to over population. Adopting or (even better) providing guardianship for teens with a Termination of Parental Rights background who are currently in in foster care would be much more ethical.

In another’s perspective – They’re applying an argument that makes sense for animals to humans, because they don’t see the difference. With pets, if more people adopt from shelters, then that saves lives, and puts puppy mills out of business. (In the Missouri Ozarks where I live – puppy mills are a hot issue.) And someone else quickly noted –  even in the dog world, this isn’t true. It’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d agree.

Another explained – I’m an adoptee and childfree by choice. It’s astounding how many people throw adoption round as a solution to infertility. There needs to be so much more education done around why this is wrong and support given to people to make their own choices…eg not everyone has to want or have children.

Another one found the argument confusing –  how do anti-natalism and adoption go hand in hand with the argument that you shouldn’t pro create. You should take someone else’s baby instead ? How does that solve the problem ? How is that any more ethical ?

Someone else explained – Anti Natalists are against people giving birth or choosing to make a baby in general. This does come across sometimes as not wanting children at all, but it doesn’t always go hand in hand. It reaches into adoption because it doesn’t automatically mean they dislike children or don’t want them, but rather that they tend to think it’s unethical to create life in a distressful world/ the earth is dying/there’s too many kids without parents/ why create something that will suffer/overpopulation/ other reasons I can’t remember at the moment, so they adopt rather than creating their own, if they do want to become parents.

Here’s the truth – adoption isn’t the answer for anti-natalism. Adoption is trauma regardless the intent. So if they’re about being ethical, I think they should do a little little more research on adoption trauma before they push that agenda.

Another noted – Usually people who are childfree by choice are very pro-abortion.  The foundation of the philosophy is that humans already born take precedence over the unborn or not yet conceived. That there is a finite amount of space/resources and we are close to exceeding or have already, thus births/continuous growth should be avoided.

The bottom line was – If you think it’s horrible to procreate, then don’t. But don’t traumatize children and families, so you can still fulfill YOUR dream of a family. If you really strongly believe it’s awful to have biological kids, no one is forcing you. But don’t look for a way out – that’s just as selfish, if not more so.

What Would You Expect Me To Do?

Overheard somewhere in America – “What are people supposed to do who can’t have kids biologically? Suffer and never adopt a baby?”

Uh, yes, that is not a reason to adopt. They should go to therapy and learn to manage their grief. Then, they will not be suffering anymore.

Your infertility isn’t an excuse to cause another human trauma and grief. You should find a way to pour your desire into kids without taking them away from their parents.

Adopt a dog or other pet if you want to love and take care of something.

DWI – Deal With It.

Figure out who you are without kids. Plenty of people don’t procreate. Find other things to enjoy. Travel. Etc. 

Understand that a baby, yours or someone else’s, isn’t the solution to your problems.

This societal narrative that people have to have kids to be fulfilled needs to change. There are infinite ways one can find fulfillment!

Wanting a child is a natural desire. But taking a child away from the biological mother and brushing away its name and environment is trauma. Adoption is not an option.

The beginning and end of you as a person doesn’t come down to your reproductive organs. 

Society as a whole needs to unpack the stigma around not having children. For EVERYONE, including fertile people who simply don’t want to procreate, including people who wanted kids but couldn’t have them. We shouldn’t attach so much grief to not having children. You don’t have kids? Find another purpose. Find other passions.

There are the parents who say you’re selfish for not giving them grandchildren. The random strangers in public saying you make such a cute couple. 

Literally – no one has ever died because they didn’t have a child. If your happiness is dependent on another person or on that baby you wish you could have, that’s a major problem. No one else can truly bring you happiness, you have to find that within your own self. Your self worth is not determined by others. If you think it is, that’s not mentally or emotionally healthy.

This really comes down to the mythical elevation of the 2 parent nuclear family with children as the only acceptable family structure and the breakdown of the village/extended family connections. We need to make room for everyone at the table, special friends, aunties, uncles, cousins. The next deeper question is, if I am not part of a family unit with children, what is my place in society? Do I get to be part of a family? That’s real inclusiveness.

Parenting is not a right.

Why So Fragile ?

I belong to an all things adoption Facebook group. So birth mothers, adoptive mothers and adoptees are all member and there is also the former foster young and issues of foster care which are tangent to adoption if one understands how the system works or fails to, all too often.

Yesterday, I learned that the majority of members are actually adoptive parents. Many have spoken out how considering the thoughts and feelings of adoptees has changed their perspective on what they have involved themselves in. No one is saying that anyone should undo what has already been done. The group only encourages doing it better.

Some adoptive parents are so fragile that hearing the truth will actually drive them right out of this group. Sometimes the group is accused of being hateful and cruel but adoptees carry wounds, many times wounds so deep and unconscious within them, they don’t know they are there. Others have worked long and hard, sometimes through therapy to open up those places that were hurt and if not heal, at least begin to understand them.

Truth is adoption is a bad practice and many adoptive parents adopted children believing they were doing a good deed in the world. It hurts to hear that maybe you were wrong about that, or that you lack some really important knowledge about the impacts of adoption that only an adoptee can provide to you as the one who experienced it.

At the root of many adoptions is an infertile couple. In the most enlightened situations, the couple embarks upon a journey to find peace with the reality. The couple will seek some way other than raising children to find fulfillment in their lives. Infertility is a health issue and it should be discussed openly, to remove the stigma. Everyone does not need to have children. The world has plenty of people to support already. One could look at it as doing their part to create a balance in global population.

If as a society, we can teach the public that couples don’t need adoption to “fix” their infertility, then maybe society can put a real effort behind supporting families so that they can stay together.  A random discussion about infertility almost always leads to advice that includes alternative methods of creating a family – like adoption, surrogacy, etc – many of which harm other people. We can’t change a narrative when people are being continuously convinced to seek alternative methods to have kids. The alternatives discussed are never about remaining childless.

Being infertile is not a death sentence. In some instances, the message becomes panic stricken, desperate – which encourages the listener to say, “well, just adopt”. That fuels the “must have a child to parent” flurry. Hearing an enlightened couple share their journey of infertility with a composed and educated message can begin the process of stopping the “I HAVE TO HAVE A BABY” narrative.

The couple needs to “process” their reality – the harsh reality – to gain the emotional balance needed to meet the next phase of their life’s journey with compassion and self love. Generally, we are not called upon to be the social educator of the world. Our real job is to care for our self, so we are the best self for whatever life will bring next for us.

You Can Just Adopt

The world already has enough people.  More and more, deciding to remain childless is an option people are choosing deliberately.  My husband and I don’t even know whether our sons will ever marry and/or have any children.  There will never be pressure from us in that regard.

The decision to have children occurs within a pronatalist social context.  When I was a senior in high school in 1972, I knew I was going to continue getting advanced education, work full time, get married and have children.  No wonder I failed.  Some women may excel at the SuperWoman effort but I did not.  I never got a degree, I ended up divorced and financially unable to provide for my child.  But I have had to work at some kind of revenue producing effort all of my life.

Why do those that cannot have their own children think that domestic infant adoption is another way to build their family?  I suppose because it has been promoted as a good thing and socially acceptable for decades now – at least as far back as the 1930s.

Our culture views parenting as an essential part of achieving fulfillment, happiness, and meaning in life, and as a marker of successful adulthood.  When my husband told me that he wanted to be a father afterall (after 10 years of being grateful I had been there and done that and no pressure on him), I was a bit shocked and it was not an easy path for us.  I am still grateful medical science had a way to make it possible, even if it involved some non-traditional sacrifice on my part.  Having children did deepen and expand upon our relationship as a couple, making us a family.  As we are aging without any other family nearby, we are grateful our children may be there for us.

Remaining childless by choice (AKA childfree) is still an outlying path, a move that raises questions and is met with prejudice and even moral outrage. This is particularly true for women, whose gender identity and social value have long been tied to fertility and motherhood. Thus, women who decide to not have children are commonly viewed unfavorably.

Though I now see the problems and emotional fallout of adopting children, I also do recognize that a mature person can love any child genuinely.  It is not necessarily a selfish motive or ego stoking decision.  Children are easy to love for most well balanced and emotionally healthy persons.  Sadly, there are people who are not that and should not have children.  Personally, I respect any mature person who knows themselves well enough to know they shouldn’t take on the responsibility of raising a child.  There should be no negative perceptions from anyone else towards those who make such a choice.