Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mei Magazine Addresses Infertility

In a helpful confluence of topics, the summer issue of Mei Magazine addressed adoption and infertility in their usual "Amanda's Place" column. The Amanda of "Amanda's Place" is Dr. Amanda L. Baden, transracial adoptee and psychologist.

I'm just going to put the briefest excerpt and encourage everyone to subscribe to Mei Magazine!

Dear Amanda,

I wonder sometimes if my mom wishes she could have been pregnant instead of adopting. . . . It isn't a secret that she and my dad tried to have children before going to China. . . .

It's kind of like I was my mom's "second choice" at how to have a child. . . .

Lily, aka: "First Runner Up"

Dear Lily.

Your question is challenging and insightful. As I thought about how I wanted to answer it, I realized that I couldn't just reassure you that your parents, or any other adopted child's parents, definitely chose to adopt as their "first choice. . . . ." I would even guess that lots of kids, like you, have realized that adoption may sometimes be seen as "second best" to having a child by birth and that can feel pretty lousy.

* * *

Feeling like you might be second choice can be pretty tough for lots of reasons, but looking at it as you described might not tell the whole story. . . . [E]ven if your mom wanted to have a baby by birth, that doesn't automatically mean she did not also want to adopt. That is, for women, wanting to give birth and wanting to be mom however that happens can both be strong desires.

* * *

While adoption may not have been many adoptive parents' first choice, I think you'd have a hard time finding any adoptive parents who would want to give up that adopted child for the chance to have a child by birth. Once you become a family, that bond is as strong as any other.

One of the best things about Mei Magazine, in my opinion, is that they don't sugar-coat the hard parts of adoption while still presenting a fun and upbeat magazine for children adopted from China. Subscribe to read the rest of Lily's question and Amanda's answer!


Anonymous said...

The very mention of first-choice, second-choice bothers me to no end.

Not sugar-coating but not very illuminating either. The use of the word "choice" is so loaded, as though everything outside adoption to do with reproduction and making families is chosen. But that is not how it works. You may have an unplanned pregnancy (unchosen); you may become a step-parent, prepared or unprepared for this delicate role (unchosen); you may pursue fertility treatments and then abandon them out of frustration (not chosen) or reconsider and reject them and choose adoption (chosen); you may make adoption your first choice, as many single a-parents have done (chosen). I went to Children's Aid before I looked into China. Does that mean my daughter's a second choice? No. Some of this stuff could have been brought up for Lily to make her feel less alone and to assure her that families are made in many different ways. The notion that all bio-children are chosen is a myth.

No one really knows what went on inside Lily's mother's mind, another thing that seems to be missing here. When Lily feels like it (not now, I suspect), she should ask. Maybe she should have a talk with the old man too. How come the guys are usually excused from the hotseat?

This brings me to my final point. People who regard adoption as second-choice in ANY way, shape, or form, have no business adopting.

malinda said...


I get what you're saying; but the indisputable fact is that the vast majority of adoptive parents would not have adopted if they had biological children. And it is indisputable fact that some adoptees feel that their parents would not have adopted them if not for infertility. While some bio-children might not be "chosen," that tends not to apply in families that adopt after infertility -- they went sometimes to incredible lengths to procreate, and only adopted after that failed.

Given those facts, how do we parent our adopted children so that they don't feel that adoption was a last resort, that they are a last resort? Telling them that some bio children were no more a first choice than they were doesn't seem to cut it for me.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't it cut it for you? And as a matter of interest, why would you be affected by this issue?

What I was trying to get at is that these stories don't have to apply to the adoptee's family. The important thing is that they apply in some meaningful way to lots of other people. As "advice" that is probably where I would wander-- into the territory of shared experiences. Fundamentally, we don't chose much. Biolgical children don't choose their parents. The depth and breadth of lack of choice in family-making is actually astonishing and happens every day. As for the parents' true feelings--if they are indeed rejecting (and I consider second-best rejecting)-- that may be a conversation for later, when adults can talk to adults.

The fact that parents would not have adopted if they could have had their own bio-children also does not IMHO mean that adopted children are second choice. To articulate this as an effect or a norm is missing a lot. What happens when someone puts the possibility of something away? Yes, for some it means that the possibility endures and everything else is second best. For others it means something quite different; second choice is not second--it is brand new because the other option has been permanently laid to rest. To me, that is really the only story worth telling to kids, what you went back to Square 1.

What signals from parents encourage the adoptee to ask if they are the second choice? And if we have to encourage children in the belief that this is normal and good so as not to sugarcoat their adoption or the diminish the entitlement of their a-parents to these feelings, what are we really saying about adoption? If we are saying that these feelings are inevitable, god help us all.

malinda said...

I guess the reason the "bio kids aren't always a choice" answer doesn't cut it with me is that it just doesn't apply in the families most adopted kids are in.

I also think adopted kids are getting messages about second best from folks other than their parents. I think of a child I know who told a non-adopted child she was adopted, and the non-adopted child hugged her and said, "I'm sorry." What's up with that?!

Media that modifies child with "adopted" whether relevant or not, every person who says, "I want to adopt -- but AFTER I have 'one of my own,'" each incident where people look over my head searching for the parent who matches my child -- all of these things send the message that adoption is inferior to biology. And that affects every adoptive parent, regardless of fertility.

Add on, though, the fact that -- as a child might see it -- the adoptive parents were so enamored of biology that they spent thousands of dollars and endured invasive procedures, and you have a recipe for "I was a second choice."

I guess what I'm hoping for is an answer that acknowledges the child's feelings, takes responsibility for the choices the parent made, and convincingly explains that those choices had nothing to do with the worth of the child or the child's adoption.

That last part is a doozy, though!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't hany around a lot of normal married couples raising adopted children, so their experiences probably pass me by. I also live in a community where I don't stick out because everybody sticks out, but whatever.

I agree that society often pushes back with what is "normative" in some communities (and young children are often a font of adoption ignorance). But this seems to me an altogether different issue from whether or not Lily's parents actually feel that she is second-choice and the responsibility, in my view, for a-parents to lay the bio-option to rest before even seeking adoption.

Societal ignorance of different family types and the issue above. Two issues, I think.

mama d said...

On a side note, and asked honestly: How representative is /Mei Magazine/ of children adopted from China? None of my three fit the standard Mei photo of dark-haired, dark-eyed girl. Would there be an opportunity for any of my kids (brown-eyed boy, blonde girl & boy) to see themselves in the magazine's coverage?

Melissa said...

"Given those facts, how do we parent our adopted children so that they don't feel that adoption was a last resort, that they are a last resort?"

Malinda, we will parent them the same way we do every time life isn't perfect. In our family, we've learned that everyone makes choices, sometimes regrettable ones, and then they move on. Is my husband a "second choice" or a "last resort" just because I was married to someone else before? No. That chapter of my life was a disaster, then it was over, and I moved on. Would I have married him if my first marriage had been successful? No. Does that somehow diminish his role in my life? No. Do you see the analogy? Why apply these labels to the process of adding children to a family when we certainly don't apply them to the process of adding a spouse to the mix?! I know the analogy isn't perfect, BTW, because the whole genetic thing isn't in the mix, but otherwise it fits pretty well and reflects my feelings about this issue.

Anonymous said...

I'm disturbed by what I see as a trend of fixating on inflammatory language (second choice, second best, last resort) when this does not, in fact, usually mirror the feelings of the people involved. What is "second" is actually transformative--I think that's what Melissa was getting at so well. I'm also trying to figure out the motives of someone who would suggest to children that after all is said and done, the *hard facts* of adoption say you are second choice. . .as though this is a core truth everyone must face. As I articulated so ineffectively in another thread, this focus is misplaced because it is overgeneralized (definitely doesn't apply to preferential adopters) and doesn't honour the process responsible a-parents go through.

malinda said...

osolomama wrote: "I'm disturbed by what I see as a trend of fixating on inflammatory language (second choice, second best, last resort) when this does not, in fact, usually mirror the feelings of the people involved."

I think what I keep reacting to in this discussion by APs is thathte feeling of second best DOES IN FACT "mirror the feelings of the people involved" if by "people involved" in adoption you mean ADOPTEES!!!!!

It is really easy to say dismissively that APs don't see it as a second choice. But we've heard from actual really involved adoptees to say they feel that way!

And Melissa, guess what? Many second spouses feel like they were a second choice!!!!!

It may be irrational, it may be silly, it may be mistaken to feel that way, but we KNOW that they do!

So what do you plan to say to your child when she says to you, "I know you wanted to grow a baby in your tummy. I feel like you just adopted me because you couldn't. I feel like A LAST RESORT."

I HOPE you don't say -- "You're not, stop feeling that way!"

Anonymous said...

GMWAS, I never wanted any baby in "my tummy". (Just an aside)

Let me go back to something. When "Lori" lashed out on the other forum, saying first mothers shouldn't consider their children any "prize," because what parents really want is their own kids, she was obviously making a huge dig at first mothers. That was her intent. These remarks were then repackaged to establish the "truth" that adopted children are second-best to their a-parents. This is not the same thing as individual people talking about their personal experiences. It is the universalizing of the experience and attributing feelings to someone else that I object to. Of the adoptees I know personally, this is also not the language they would use. They'd say plenty of other things, but not that particular thing. Anyone who wants to say they're all enslaved to the adoption myth should come and meet them.

I'm trying to think of conversations like this with my daughter. My daughter is fascinated by the fact that I was engaged to be married once, and came to adoption later. For her, it means that the old lady wised up and got on the adoption track when she could have been sitting there wasting her time with hubby and some biological children.

Melissa said...

Malinda, I give up. I thought you wanted those of us who are actually walking in those shoes to share how we were tackling the situation. In your continued battering of my responses, all I'm seeing is a rejection of what my family is trying, so I'll bow out gracefully.

malinda said...


I'm sorry that you found my ONE response to something you said to be my "continued battering of [your] responses!" I very much appreciate your responses, and yes, I do want to hear from adoptive parents who are addressing the issue with their children. That doesn't mean I'll always agree with how adoptive parents are addressing the issue with their children!

I think this is a very difficult and nuanced issue. I don't know what the right answers are, but I think the more we talk about it, the more likely we are to see the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of approaches.

Maybe this is the peril of being a lawyer -- we are trained to think that from adversarial testing will come truth. I have found the discussion to be very productive, even if no consensus was reached.

I'm very sorry that my responses have made you decide to bow out of the discussion. Your input has been invaluable, and will be missed.

Anonymous said...

I just love my daughter so much. She is the only child I have ever had, my only experience with parenthood, her unique, raucous, beautiful self. Whatever she ends up feeling about being adopted, that will never change.

Today on the ChinaBirthParent search list we had a great discussion about the Guizhou Province case. It's such a sober reminder of what a can of worms this is. We actually got into the discussion of returning children, rare for an a-parent list. And the thing that comes out in such discussions is that this love should lead you to do the right thing. Really, in the end, that's all you have. I think I'm done with this topic too for now.

Lisa said...

mama d - if your children aren't Chinese, you'd probably have a better chance on Adoptive Families Magazine.

mama d said...

@ Lisa: That's the point, my kids are Chinese and I'm wondering if Mei Magazine will contain images and stories for them ... or just for brown-haired girls.

malinda said...

mama d: Most of the Mei Magazine images are dark-haired/dark-eyed girls. But the editor is really receptive to suggestions, and there are profile pages of different kids. I bet if you contacted her with an idea for a "not everyone from China looks the same" story, they'd love it!

mama d said...

Thank you, Malinda!

Lisa said...

mama d - Sorry, I should have not "assumed" your children weren't Chinese. Blonde kids in China are so rare! :) I agree with Malinda, I'd send them a letter! :)