Thursday, January 13, 2011

Raising "other people's children"

Interesting post from the Infertility Therapist:
As clients move forward through [infertility] grief and consider their alternatives, they often express the same fear--that they will be unable to have a fully satisfying parenting experience because they will be raising "other people's children."

This is a complicated issue because when you adopt, or use donor eggs or sperm to create your family, in a very basic, concrete sense you actually are raising "other people's children". In fact, there are an additional one or two "parents" swirling around in the mix. This causes us to reconsider how we define what makes a "parent", and what is necessary for the parental connection to occur.

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To this discussion I would like to add, however, two points that I have not seen mentioned with frequency--the psychological constructs or images the parents develop about their child's genetic origins. The first concept I would like to discuss is how the expectations we develop based on genetic relatedness and family resemblance can affect our parenting experience. From a psychological perspective, when one parents a genetically related child, there is at least the possibility of explaining things about that child from a genetic viewpoint. That Junior has his father's eyes, his mother's laugh, and his Uncle Charlie's love of striped socks, may or may not in reality be true--but these are the hypotheses we create, seemingly reflexively. When parenting a genetically unrelated child, all bets are off, especially if little is known about the genetic parents, as in the case of international adoption, or using anonymous egg and sperm donation. If my adopted daughter, about whose biological parents I know nothing, misbehaves, is it something I did? Is it her genetically-endowed temperament? Is it a mismatch of her environment, which includes me, plus genetics? This difference adds another layer of complexity to the parenting situation.

Although this thought process may seem worrisome to prospective parents, I think in reality it is often found to be beneficial, because it allows you to view the child with an open mind, without as many preconceived notions.


Von said...

Not of course beneficial to an adoptee.We need to know who we are realted to, who we look like, act like and where out characteristics come form.It helps our sense of identity, which is why adoptees who know nothing of their relatives often struggle with who they are.

Chinazhoumom said...

I think one of the sad things is completing medical forms - when you have to put - "unknown" - it just hurts -so I can imagine how they feel!

@von -Nature vs Nuture...

Campbell said...

If my non adopted son "misbehaves", I too wonder if it's something I did. I wonder if it's his "genetically-endowed temperament" or if it's a mismatch of his environment, which includes me, plus genetics.

All parents should view their children with an open mind an without preconceived notions. People who are genetically related to their children don't have some magic handle on what they'll be like and why.

Medical forms, on the other hand, are an entirely different story.

Reena said...

I agree with everyone regarding completing medical forms.

I also agree that parents (whether raising children they birthed or adopted) should view their children with an open mind.

I think what Melinda is getting at though-- if there is a known 'talent' in one's family-- that parents may tune it to that sooner--maybe not. And regardless of having that talent-- it may not be something the child wishes to pursue.