Not a consolation prize

I recently was following a discussion where adoption was referred to (by someone not in the adoption community) as a “consolation prize” or a plan B.  And even in adoption circles, I have sometimes sensed a feeling that there is some pride for some adoptive parents in declaring that adoption was always their first choice.  

But I want to say that even if it wasn’t a first choice, it most certainly isn’t a “plan B” or a consolation prize.  And that is probably why “just adopt” is one of the most infuriating things people hear when they are dealing with infertility.  I won’t even go into my rant about “just adopt” here – that can be saved for another post some other day. 

It isn’t that adoption is a lesser choice – it is that adoption is a different choice.   Although adoption may be a good choice for some, it may not be for others.  Going through infertility and miscarriage and losing our baby boys, we already have dealt with myraid losses.  And if that isn’t enough, at some point pregnancy was no longer an option either and we had to decide if we wanted to parent, or if our heart’s desire was about experiencing pregnancy or a genetic connection.  For me, I am at peace with not being pregnant again (although I still find myself automatically thinking about cycling and catch myself), and I am more than okay with not passing along my genes, but I am absolutely NOT IN ANY WAY at peace with not parenting, or not being someone’s “mommy”. I am a mother to twin angels, but I long to be someone’s “mommy”. 

Someone wrote a blog post recently that resonated with me.  It  was about how adoption isn’t a consolation prize – not second best even though it might not have been a first choice or the first thing we tried in our family building.   I know this analogy/story has been used about special needs children – but I think you can substitute adoption, or surrogacy, it applies just as well.  It is about when the path to get what you want isn’t what you originally planned.   It doesn’t mean the new path is bad or wrong – just different, and there is no shame in mourning the loss of what you had originally planned.  

So, although it is a loose connection, this story made me feel a bit better about still mourning the losses while trying to look for future joys.   

Welcome to Holland

When you are going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, Michelangelo’s David, a gondola ride in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there has been a change in the flightplan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It is just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills; Holland has tulips; Holland even has Rembrandts.

Everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

The pain of that will never ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely, things about Holland.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley.

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5 Responses to Not a consolation prize

  1. MyTwoLines says:

    I have been told about this story but never actually read the words. It’s true–adoption is ending up being such an exciting option for us, different, but not less. I entered cautiously but once I was able to embrace it I have not looked back, and that is truly a wonderful feeling. So happy for you you are approved and on the waiting list!

    • Sue says:

      Thanks, and I hope that you have an amazing trip and that things move along more quickly than you now anticipate them. I do so understand that feeling of every time you get close to parenthood something else comes along to slow the process or change the path. I am amazed at your resilience and positive attitude. I can’t wait to hear about your trip and court date.

  2. Joanie says:

    Once again, I cannot say enough about how eloquently and sensitively you put your thoughts down on “paper”. Even the “Welcome to Holland” story, while not written by you, was placed in just the right spot in just the right blog entry. I cannot wait to read the book(s) that you will inevitably write, filled with the stories you first shared with your child(ren)…about how, like your writing, your mommy-love fell on just the right children at just the right time (Ain’t that right, Trace and Quinn?).

  3. Jennifer Rowan says:

    Sue, I have read Welcome to Holland a million times in the context of special ed. and parents coping with children being born with disabilities, learning to give up the dream of ‘normal’ and embark on the less familiar journey their child is taking them. It is no less moving and brilliant every time, and I love to see it in a new context… Holland is beautiful and I hope beyond hope that you arrive there soon…. -Jen

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