Older Adoptive Parents

I read an adoptee’s story this morning. It reminded me of my adoptee mom’s experience as well. The woman wrote, “My mother did not teach my too cook or sew or quilt or any of the things she did so well. ‘Its easier to do it myself.’ When i got married at 16 to escape I had virtually no life skills.”

My mom was pregnant with me at 16. Thankfully, my dad married her (he had just started at university). He had to teach her how to cook and clean house. He was also adopted but his adoptive parents were humble and hardworking with a small business making draperies. I assume they expected him to help around the house as well.

She writes, “I was adopted by older parents- 39 and 41. By the time I joined their family who they were was pretty ingrained and they never really adjusted to having a small child or a teen.” When I had my second family with my second husband, I was 47 and 50 when my sons were born. I have seen people our age who seem much older to me than my husband and I. I guess we are both just young at heart. Certainly, for my own self, at 67 this May, some physical decline is setting in. However, we adjust. I remember thinking when I turned 60, that my youngest son will only be 20, when I turn 70. It was a sobering thought. When we told my parents we wanted to have children, my dad honestly said “I question your sanity.” Like his other saying, “You have to eat a little dirt.” it has stayed with me.

We stayed with my dad’s adoptive parents many weekends (to give our parents a break from us or simply because my grandparents really wanted to have us – though I suspect as much to save our souls by taking us to their Church of Christ on Sunday). They loved to fish and so often took us fishing with them. Mostly we just played outdoors. At home, we were outdoors a lot too. I am grateful for that actually because it instilled a love for nature in me.

The woman writes, she got her first car at 15. I believe I was 16. My parents gave me a car so I could take over the transportation services for myself and my middle sister who was 13 months younger than I am.

The woman writes, “I was the perfect child. Smart, self reliant, great grades, active in church.” I smile. I, at least, pretended to be a “good girl.” I did make good grades and I didn’t depend on my parents very much. They were a bit weirdly detached. I blame it on their adoptions.

The woman asks the rhetorical question, “Would I have been better of with my first family? Probably not.” In coming to terms with both of my parents adoptions and learning about my original grandparents, I realize I would not even exist had this not happened. My mom would have grown up in poverty in her early years, though he father eventually owned his own little grocery story, so things might have improved. I learned from the daughter of my mom’s genetic half-sibling that her mom remembered going to bed hungry and seeing the chickens under the floorboards of their shack.

I have a great deal of compassion for the woman’s who’s story I read today. Her adoptive father was a violent, functional alcoholic and other men with associated access to her sexually abused her as a child. One was a family member, another a family friend, one was part of her church, another her babysitter’s husband. All these assaults occurred between the ages of 6-16. She writes, “I told the very first time, nothing happened and I never told again. I didn’t see the point.”

She ends her piece with this – “Abortion should be legal. I am making my life now and I am happy with my husband and my ‘made’ family but at 60, I should not still be trying to over come my early life.”

Hedging Parenthood Bets

I don’t know anything about this publication but it fits my mood coming into today’s essay.

Read where one woman wrote – “We spent the last 1.5 yrs going thru the foster care process to be told during the home study that we are not eligible since we are still trying to conceive thru IVF. Either way, we still want to foster and adopt and really don’t want to wait much longer. We are 43/44 yrs old and have also been trying IVF for close to 5 yrs. Does anyone know a group that would allow us to foster or adopt while we continue IVF?”

I can honestly relate.  I conceived my oldest son at 46 thanks to IVF and another son at 49.  I won’t say it was the perfect way to have children but they would not be who they are or exist otherwise.  I love them dearly and so, can’t regret the effort behind having them.  While I had to give up passing on my own genetics to conceive them (I had actually already been there, done that, with my daughter, so it was perhaps easier for me to accept, than it is for some people), I do believe the route we took was far better than adoption.  I’ve had lots of opportunity to observe adoptees (both of my own parents) and birth mothers who gave up babies to adoption (both of my sisters).

The comments coming back to the woman above (the comments by others are not in response to my own situation) were not kind.

One wrote – what it sounds like to me is time is running out for us so we want to collect as many as possible to fill our desires before it’s not possible anymore! Also problematic because I’ve heard many adoptees talk about how they were raised by older parents and the huge generational gap caused even further issues. Older people expect old fashioned things, they don’t fit to be parenting in these times, let alone parenting traumatized children.

Well, we are older parents.  However, what I find comparing my two lives (parent at 19 and then in my late 40s) is that we are more willing to give up our own desires to meet our children’s desires where they express themselves.  There is a lot of wisdom and sometimes patience and often an intolerance for what doesn’t seem needed but we are there 24/7 for our boys.  I would not call my sons traumatized the way adopted children always are.  They do know the full truth of their origins.

I do remember my own OMG moment related to age – when I turned 60, my youngest was 10. I thought when I turn 70, he’ll only be 20. That startled me, though at 50 giving birth to him did not.  And one other thought about older parents – I know a lot of parents who died when their children were young. These parents were not old. Truth is we are all born to die, we are not guaranteed a particular length of life. Life is what it is and no two lives are the same. Also many of us live distantly from our offspring. I don’t always see my grown daughter or grandchildren even once a year. Money just isn’t there, though the visits when I am lucky enough to have one, are always precious.

One woman assessed the story above this way – #1 they are likely trying to find a child to ease their pain from infertility and replace the child they can’t have, #2 they are likely hopeful adoptive parents and will sabotage reunification from the git go which is part of any foster care effort and #3 they are likely only accepting 0-3 year olds.

Another noted –  It’s really sad that you cannot conceive, but please don’t traumatize an entire family of people with a lot less privilege than you have in order to satisfy your fantasy of a perfect life. If you want kids so much, divorce your partner, and marry a single parent with a child.

On that note, when my husband wanted to have children and I discovered how low my own odds of successfully conceiving were, I was privately sobbing, you need to marry a younger woman, but that was not what he wanted to do.

And finally, I do agree with this point of view – nobody should be trying to adopt or foster and do fertility treatments. Foster kids and adoptees aren’t backup plans. Also, nobody should try to do domestic adoption and foster to adopt. This is why therapy should be a requirement.  There’s no reason to continue IVF if you want to adopt. I’ve seen couples do IVF literally weeks after adopting. They shouldn’t adopt.

 

How Old Is Too Old

How old is too old to adopt an infant ?  This is going to be a tough one for me to have a balanced perspective on.  I came across a plea by an older retired couple for any woman to give up her infant so they could adopt the child as they now have the money and time to devote to the child.

After 10 years of marriage, my husband surprised the heck out of me by saying he decided that he actually did want to become a father.  When we married, he was glad I had been there, done that, and no pressure on him.  I have a grown daughter I birthed at the age of 19 who has made me a grandmother twice.  It is true that I do believe that men who are ready to be devoted fathers are actually better fathers.

My own father, when I told him we were going to try to conceive at our age, told me he questioned my sanity.  That has come back to me repeatedly.  I was 47 when my oldest son was born and 50 when the younger boy came along.  At the age of 60, when he was 10 years old, it really hit me that when he turns 20, I will already be 70.  Oh my.

Adoption is a special circumstance that imposes stricter considerations than assisted reproductive medicine but when I wanted to conceive that second child I was put through a battery of tests to determine if it was actually a good idea to let me.  I passed and the rest is as they say “history”.

Truth is that none of us have a guaranteed length of life.  We are all born to die and not all children’s natural parents live to see them grown.  I know this personally since both of my natural grandmothers lost their own mothers at a young age.  My mom’s mother when she was 11 years old and my dad’s mother at 3 months.

So, I have to believe given my own circumstances and family history that there are more important considerations than longevity.  Financial resources are an important one.  Can the parent provide a safety net for the child if the parent doesn’t live to see the child mature ?  Is the parent responsible enough to make arrangements in a will or trust for their child when it is not yet a mature person.  We have done both.

With the 2008 financial collapse, our business took a significant hit that we have yet to recover from.  Thankfully, we continue to get some business and manage to stay afloat.  Given that our sons are now 19 and almost 16, we do have that hope that we can live a while longer to see the youngest reach the age of 21, at least.

In my own philosophical belief system, children choose their parents before birth with a full knowledge of likely outcomes, though I also believe there is free will that affects trajectories and outcomes.  So I do believe my sons knew what their unique genetic/biological make-up would be and that we would be parents that were old enough to be grandparents.

I don’t regret having children at such an advanced age.  Becoming parents has deepened our life experience as a couple.  Our sons are a joy to share life with.  I don’t think I can be objective about whether older, retired couples should adopt infants.