Adopting: Select-a-Child Makes Me Feel Weird

I think one of the strangest things for me about adoption is this ability to choose a child. You can decide what you want and go find a child that fits your criteria. If you’re adopting older children they often have descriptions of what the child enjoys. So if you want a female Asian 4-year-old who enjoys the outdoors, you can probably find that. You can even flip through pages of pictures and pick out the cutest kid.


I understand that the point is to help these kids find families. But it still creeps me out. It reminds me of designer-child genetics and just feels wrong. When we had our first child naturally I was very accepting that whatever we get, we get. I had no choice in the matter. Boy or girl, skinny or fat, blond or black or brown or red hair, brainy or athletic or both or whatever–none of that mattered and I didn’t care. That baby was our child, and we would love her no matter what. Even when it came down to genetic diseases or whatever might be wrong, she was still our child and we would love her no matter what.

So suddenly having the option to pick what we want is bizarre for me. And I’m resisting it.

I don’t want to pick boy or girl. I have no preference, and I actually feel weird having a preference. I felt the same way when we had Lexi. It’s as if had I wanted a boy and the baby was a girl there would be some kind of resentment or something. So I was completely open–whatever we get, we get. That’s the way it is.

And I still feel that way, even though we have the option of choosing. It gets especially weird when you get into very real issues. Some of the older children still have no family because they’ve been labeled ‘special needs’. And that can mean anything from being born premature to missing a leg.

Initially I had the mindset that we should be open to whatever child we can get, even one of these ‘special needs’ kids. Though I’ve since realized that means you’ll get an extreme special needs case by default. Simply being open to those special needs kids puts you at the head of the line and means you will get one of those kids–it’s not simply a ‘what you get’ matter of chance like with natural birth.

Which means it’s a very real (and difficult) decision. Do we want a child with a disability? Do we want a child with a birth defect? Do we want a child who has been abused and will have lingering emotional trauma? It breaks my heart to even ask those questions. You shouldn’t have to ask those questions, but unfortunately we do.

And so we end up having to decide to what degree we’ll consider these special cases. It’s less a question of what we want, and more a question of what we can handle. I don’t think I’m prepared to handle a kid with down syndrome. I wish I had the strength in me to choose that–but I don’t think I do. And it makes me sick, because if Lexi had down syndrome, I’d have to find the strength.

So we’ll probably end up going through the list of special needs cases with a social worker and wrestling with those questions, figuring out what we’re prepared for.

It’s all very odd to me and I can tell I have a lot to learn. It saddens me that there are kids out there with these needs and some people won’t take them because they want a ‘perfect’ child. But at the same time there’s a reason for that. Not everyone can handle it and if someone can’t handle it that doesn’t make a good home for a child. But who’s to say what you can handle? You never know until it’s forced upon you.

And that’s the difficult thing with adoption. It’s parenting by choice, as opposed to by chance. And that range of choice can be overwhelming and heartbreaking.

(Disclaimer: I’m kind of rambling here, sorry about that. I feel like I’m doing a poor job explaining what I’m feeling, so please don’t take offense at anything I’m saying. I’m just working through my thoughts and feelings and trying to make sense of them. Just ask if you want me to clarify something, and I’ll do my best.)

4 thoughts on “Adopting: Select-a-Child Makes Me Feel Weird”

  1. Consider reading this book. This family adopted several children, some with special needs. Their story is remarkable and powerful. (Actually, I can loan you my copy if you’d like).

  2. I find it hard to believe that you wouldn’t be able to say “next child available” regardless of sex, that you would actually have to choose one or the other, like you were shopping or something.

    One way to “narrow” things down, though, might be to make some intentional decisions about how you want to make the most impact through your adoption. For example, choosing to adopt an American child would help a child right here at home and help raise awareness about the needs and opportunities of American kids in the adoption system. In a similar way, you might decide to focus your efforts on adopting an AIDS orphan from Africa. Again, this would help a child in that desperate situation and also raise awareness about the plight of those children.

    Adoption is ultimately about giving a loving home to a child, but don’t underestimate (or discount, if you will) the power of adoption as a political act. Your adoption could bring faith and courage to other parents, as well.

  3. Bravo to you guys. What a huge decision though. I always thought it seemed like picking out a dog from the humane society’s Web site.

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