wanting vs. saving
This blog/debate through the New York Times, “Celebrity Adoptions and the Real World,” is a smart collection of opinions on the gray area in the ethics of international adoption. The comments section has some valuable insights, too.
I don’t want to belabor the theme of adoption in my life, but it is an issue that isn’t resolved. When faced with infertility, it took a long time to accept inside myself that I wasn’t comfortable yet with adoption. I am comfortable with caring for children who aren’t mine, clearly, and I am comfortable with the idea of being the only present mother to a child who isn’t mine by blood — in many ways my life would be easier if I were the only mother for Rosie. But I’m not comfortable with taking a single child out of its environment when maybe the solution is even more selfless than getting someone to love: maybe the solution involves giving money or time to build better schools, acquire vaccinations and cleaner water for a community of people so in need that they surrender their children to survive.
Because I’m not sure why we want children. I have made too many decisions in my life based on saving someone, and I don’t feel comfortable picking a child that I want to save, satisfying some craving for martyrdom in myself that I know I can overuse. I don’t want a child because I want someone to love me, because a love of a child to a parent is complicated, probably more complicated than the love of a parent to a child. When we’d gone through all the shots and surgeries, Rosie said, Your baby better be really thankful you did all this, to which I said, It won’t. Children, aside from Rosie, aren’t known for understanding the sacrifices we make to be parents.
Maybe the reason I want children is because of a wanting to learn, to go through the sacrament of motherhood, to feel what it feels like to use my body and my emotions the way that I am biologically intended to. And also because I think I wouldn’t mess a child up too badly, that maybe, with the mixture of Steve’s forgiveness and strength and my good qualities, we will create someone who can take care of this planet better than we have.
Or maybe we won’t. Too many organically-raised children grow up to drink diet coke. Maybe I want children in order to experience that sort of surrender, that a child of my blood could be less like me than a child I adopt. To learn from them — because I think it is true that we are given by however means the children (and pets) that are meant to teach us.
Faced with infertility, I took the path that was unpoetic but that felt like it could satisfy the most inside of us right now. I am still not completely comfortable with my choice. I don’t know later on in life what path we will feel we should then take. Maybe then it will be the right time inside of us to adopt. We said when we chose IVF that it didn’t exclude adoption later on down the road, but at the very least we would donate money equal to the cost of the procedure to help children born into poverty. Why? To assuage my guilt that I made this choice? To ensure through some voodoo that the children born out of me will be healthy and kind? Because, faced with a dilemma, I chose a path that only the privileged could take? One that I can’t talk about with my Catholic no-stem-cell-research neighbors? One that doesn’t make people coo or tsk or look at me more kindly?
These decisions are complicated. I would love to see a blog/debate like the one I linked to where it asked the question not “Is adoption the way Madonna does it ethically sound?” but “Is it ethically sound to choose IVF instead of adoption?” I can’t help but think that hearts would then sway toward Madonna.
But I realize that these moral debates are at play for all of us each day. Our tax money goes towards the war and no one is marching anymore. Children are dying in Darfur and some of us spend our money on plastic toys for our own children without ever seeing the discrepancy. Farmers are underpaid and yet a lot of us choose to buy the bunch of bananas filled with the pesticides and sweat and tears of migrant workers instead of spending a few extra cents on organic fruit. Why does Madonna want a child from Malawi? Why didn’t I buy the organic banana? What is it that I purely want and what is it that I want to save?