Eeny meeny miney moe

by Beth Shepherd
( July 15th, 2010 )

A couple weeks ago, I was telling an acquaintance about the infant boy with cleft lip who Big Papa and I visited last fall and talking about our decision not to pursue adopting him when we discovered that he also had significant cognitive challenges.  After I finished my story she said to me “Well, at least you had a choice.”

Eeny meenyI didn’t sleep well that night. The whole “you had a choice” thing really stuck in my craw and I’ve been wrestling with it ever since. Yes, Big Papa and I had the luxury, if you will, to say “yay” or “nay” about whether or not we would parent this kid. Not that it was an easy decision; it was heart wrenching and I still grieve about it.

As an “older” (45+ in both our cases) recently married couple, our choices had their limits. Since we are adopting internationally we are able to specify whether we want a boy or girl and an age range for the child we would adopt (obviously with a domestic infant adoption, you get what you get). We are also able to check off a list of medical conditions that we are “ok” with: cleft, clubfoot, rickets, and so on.

Here’s where we do not have a choice:

Country: Most countries set upper age limits and marriage requirements. China was out because you couldn’t apply until you’d been married two years, but you couldn’t be over fifty. By the time we’d have been married two years, I’d be fifty. India stipulates that the age of the husband and wife, combined, cannot be greater than 90. Haiti requires ten years of marriage. On and on it goes. Our “short list” of countries was very short.

Birth mother’s health: Big Papa and I cannot influence whether the birthmother drinks, smokes or eats well during her pregnancy.

Kid’s genetics and family background:  We can’t choose our kid’s biological parents…how smart they are, what their unique abilities are or their propensity for chronic disease.

Orphanage care: While the orphanages in Armenia are good in comparison to most and the care excellent, it is still an orphanage. Most children in orphanage care are delayed in development one month for every three months spent there. We have no control over how the child we’ll adopt is cared for from the time of his birth until we bring him home.

Picking our kid:  Adoption is not like shopping at the supermarket.  We are not able to weigh the merits of ‘Kid A’ against ‘Kid B.’ We are allowed one referral at a time. Of course, in some countries, prospective adoptive parents aren’t even allowed to say no to a referral, at least not if they want to bring home a kid at all.  Someone else half the world away (in some cases whom you’ve never met) will choose our child for us and send us his information.

When we become parents: I will not have the nine-months-and-we’re-parents window. I am not able to say to my husband, “Hey, wanna make a baby-NOW.” We started this process three years ago (with our home study). That’s one loooong pregnancy!

Miney moeIt’s true that folks who birth their kids experience a whole truckload of unpredictable outcomes too. Down Syndrome, Autism, birth defects, difficult pregnancies, challenging births, miscarriage, stillbirths and—just like adoptive parents—infertility. The road from coupledom to parenthood isn’t always smooth.

That said most adoptive parents come to the table with limited options, having experienced infertility or another significant reason which made biological pregnancy impossible. Choice in adoption is something of an oxymoron because many decisions are made for you. And sometimes, much of the time, control is completely out of your hands.

From our partners
After 7 great years on Wanderlust and Lipstick, Pampers and Paklava has moved to her own website. Please come visit at See you there!
On July 16th, 2010 at 4:28 pm, Rose said:

Oh Beth, I feel for you and your long wait for parenthood and not having the options of the younger people or the residents in Armenia with first option.
2 years ago, my husband and I became foster parents and we love it. There are many children available on the fost to adopt through counties throughout the USA.
You did what you had to do by turning down the referral it would not have been good for you and the child. Here is the information for your state. Hope it helps.

On July 16th, 2010 at 4:44 pm, Beverly said:

Adoption in Washington State.

On July 17th, 2010 at 4:04 am, Theresa said:

Hi Beth,

I agree that those of us adopting have very few choices to make in the process. As a result, I quickly got comfortable with the idea that it is ok to make certain choices such as gender during my adoption process.

With regard to the special needs boy you considered adopting, I completely respect your decision not to adopt him – if you did not feel you could parent him, it was the right choice for the both you and the child. In fact, I made a similar decision early in my adoption process. However, you may want to consider whether or not you want to write broadly about you experience.

I am sure a loving family did adopt this child. And given how small the Armenia program and your agency are, making too many details available publicly may one day lead his adoptive family, and utlimately this child, to your writings. The internet makes it all too easy! If I put myself in their shoes, I don’t think I would want to know those details about my child. Or if I was the child, I wouldn’t want to know that another family chose not to adopt me.

I’m sure others will view this differently, since your experience is your story as well as this child’s, and you should be able to write about it. However, I guess I’m just thinking through the possible implications if the child were to ever see your writings and how that would make him feel. I think I would put my story on the back burner for the sake of the child.

On July 17th, 2010 at 7:58 am, pamperspakhlava said:

Hi Theresa,

Thanks for your views. I’ve thought about this when I’ve written about him/this, which is why there is no mention of a name or any other “identifier” save his cleft condition…and there are certainly other kids who were/are/will be there will this condition. It would only be a broad guess for anyone to see if “their” kid was “this” kid. Plus the decision not to move forward with him is more about us than him…our ability to parent and what we feel is within our means to do and do well.

On July 17th, 2010 at 9:12 pm, Beverly said:

Beth, it is your blog and you should speak from the heart as you please. The community is very small, however the Armenian parents don’t tend to communicate with others outside their community about such things and would not be concerned with you posting any information.

On July 18th, 2010 at 8:43 am, Theresa said:


Please know that I didn’t mean in any way to voice disapproval of your blog! Of course your adoption process is your story and you should feel free to share what you please. That’s why we live in the U.S.A.!

I was merely (in the spirit of sharing views and after thinking aobut your friends reaction to your posts) expressing what I might consider doing in the same situation. I apologize if that isn’t the intention of the “comments” section of the blog!

I personally have very much enjoyed reading your blog and appreciate your candor about your adoption experience. Even though we are on the same journey of adopting from Armenia, many elements of our stories are different (of course many are the same, too) which I have found very interesting to contemplate.

Best of luck to you,

On July 18th, 2010 at 11:12 am, pamperspakhlava said:

No offense taken, Theresa. There will be common and disparate threads in all of our stories…that’s what makes the journey so interesting. I certainly don’t write expecting everyone to agree with me all the time!

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