As I sat down to gather my thoughts for this article before I began writing, I imagined those of you who would click on this article title wondering if this was actually a “thing” in the adoption community. Surely, this doesn’t happen enough to have a full article written about it, right?
It does! The majority of adoptive parents I’ve talked with have received an offer from a family member or friend who weren’t just offering their body for surrogacy; they were offering to actually have a baby for the couple they’ve witnessed struggling through the heartache of infertility. It’s a well-intended, gracious, empathetic, and seemingly selfless offer that stems from the hearts of people who have a hard time seeing those they love trudging through the swamps of negative pregnancy tests, failed IVF treatments, and disrupted adoption plans.
I had no clue that so many of my adoptive mom friends had been approached with offers so similar to the one a coworker extended to me as we waited to be placed with our first child. With tears in her eyes, she explained that she had experienced really joyful pregnancies and truly believed she could have a child for us if all of our other roads hit dead ends. Her sweet, caring, empathetic soul just couldn’t sit by and watch us experience one more heartache. My heart swelled as I hugged and thanked her for caring about us so much. I didn’t have solid beliefs about why it wasn’t appropriate to accept her offer, but I knew in my heart it didn’t feel right.
Most people who offer to have a child for someone else do it with the purest, kindest, and most selfless intentions, but they aren’t drilling down to the core of the offer before extending it.
I’ve spent the past six years forming my opinions on why a person should never, ever accept an offer from someone to create a child for the sole purpose of being adopted. I believe it all boils down to two core reasons.
First: Adoption should only occur because children need families, not because families desire children.
A child’s wants and needs usurp an adult’s wants and needs. Every time. The belief that adoption is a clean start for a child is a misguided myth, and each and every adoptee carries a story of their beginnings with them for a lifetime. Adults have to someday answer for their choices, so can you imagine telling a child she was born because you desperately wanted a child? There is no exception to the rule that adoptions should never occur simply to satisfy the desires of desperate adults. I’m an adoptive mom and I’ve been there. I remember watching movies and breaking down into uncontrollable sobs because someone gave birth or experienced a multitude of other parenting highlights. I remember excusing myself to go to the restroom during Girls’ Night when my friends would talk about how fantastic it was (or how trying it was, depending on the night) to be a mom. I will never, ever forget that feeling of desperation and how it compromised my common sense. The desperation is intoxicating, but children were not born to be our Band-Aids so our wounds of infertility could be covered up. My children, just by being themselves, are an ointment that makes infertility feel an enormous amount better, but it will never be their responsibility to make me feel whole. Can you imagine the burden children would carry on their shoulders after finding out they were created simply to fill a void in your life? Why should their happiness be sacrificed simply to assure your happiness? If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent it’s that the adult is always the one who should sacrifice; adoptees have already sacrificed enough without their consent.
Second: Kindhearted and empathetic intentions do not equate to selflessness when it comes to a child’s life experiences.
On an outing with my kids recently, a stranger thanked me for adopting because she thought it was selfless of me to parent children who weren’t biologically mine. I explained to her that there was nothing selfless about it; I wanted to be a mom desperately and I was the lucky one in this equation. I sat in the parking lot and typed up a Facebook post about it, which was shared by a friend. Her aunt responded to her share by saying, in summation, that people are rude not to accept well-meaning compliments.
As I wrote back and forth with her, she stuck to her belief that we’re all too sensitive and there’s no foul as long as someone’s comments are rooted in kindness and empathy. I disagree. I believe gentle education is important because there was harm when she thanked me. My 5-year-old was there and he immediately asked why that stranger thanked me for being his mom.
When you drill down, it really is strange because we’d never thank a biological mom for loving and parenting her child. To him (and to me, frankly), there is zero difference, and it’s bizarre to be thanked for something that is clearly my privilege. Why should he be left to feel unwanted or like someone should be thanked for loving him? It’s inappropriate, even if her intentions were good. I believe this is similar to the people who offer to have children for infertile couples; the intent is kindhearted and empathetic, but the reality of the situation is that a child will be born simply to fill a void in an adult’s life. Growing a child to experience loss, simply so an adult does not, is the definition of selfish.
It all comes down to the child who’s created in these circumstances. Most people who offer to have a child for someone else do it with the purest, kindest, and most selfless intentions, but they aren’t drilling down to the core of the offer before extending it. They are seeing their adult friend in pain and they want to remedy that pain, but they don’t see that a child is being sacrificed in the process.
In adoption, the adults are the ones who need to voluntarily sacrifice, because adoptees are already forced to involuntarily sacrifice just by being placed. There are ups and downs, bonuses and pitfalls, that come along with every adoption situation, but the fact is that adoptees have choices made for them that they have no say in. This should only occur by adults who have their very best interest in mind, not by adults who have their own best interests—or the interests of other adults—in mind. In adoption, adoptees must always come first.
So, how do you respond when a family member or friend offers to have a baby for you? You thank them graciously for caring about you so much, but you let them know that you don’t believe a child should be born simply to fill the void in your life. Adoption should occur because children need families, not because families desire children. As hard as it is to push your desperation down below the surface, bury it with education and keep learning about the feelings of adoptees who will spend a lifetime trying to acclimate and assimilate as they attempt to make the most of the hand they’ve been dealt.