Although it may seem hard to believe, I actually have a friend who has congenital heart disease and is also an adoptive mother. We met online in the adoption circuit while we were still waiting to find our babies. Once we met in person, we saw each others’ sternotomy scars (a long vertical line down the front of our chests) and realized we had more in common than our yearning to be adoptive parents.
Over lunch the other day, we spoke about her daughter and Rosemarie. We talked about the food they eat and their napping schedules and soon the conversation turned to the big question that has been taking a stroll in my brain for a while: Do I want more children?
Before I actually had Rosie, I always thought I’d adopt at least two children. My plan was to wait a year or so after the arrival of the first baby and then contact my lawyer, start the certification process, and so on and so forth. Now that I have her, however, my thoughts on the matter have changed. And yet they’ve stayed the same. In other words, I no longer know the answer to that question. And there are several factors I need to consider when making this decision.
Family of Four…or More
I have three sisters. I always considered myself lucky in this regard. Sibling relationships are like no other. My sisters and I have the same foundation. We came from the same place and share the same memories. We woke up in the same house each day; we played Barbies together and the Sweet Valley High board game. Soon, we borrowed each others’ make up and clothes. We cleaned the kitchen together each night singing “Leader of the Pack” and
“Reproduction” from Grease 2. Eventually, we stood next to each other on the altar as we each got married and then baptized each others’ children. Today, we are best friends.
How can I deny my daughter of such a relationship? How can I simply decide that she will not experience this in her lifetime?
I know there are plenty of only children who have perfectly happy and wonderful lives, but I also know how great it is to have a sibling. I wouldn’t choose to not have siblings, so how can I choose that for Rosemarie?
Is One a Lonelier Number for Adoptees?
Rosemarie is not biologically linked to anyone in my family. While I hope with all my heart that it doesn’t, I do not know if this will be an emotional issue for her. And I wonder for adopted children, if having an adopted sibling makes this fact easier to accept? Is it helpful for adoptees to have a sibling who is also not biologically linked to their parents? To have someone else with whom they can share this? Does it make a difference?
Will it bother Rosemarie that her cousins (her peers) each share a blood line with her mother or father while she does not?
Please understand, it makes zero difference to me and I can say that without a shred of doubt. But current adoption research asserts that being a successful adoptive parents means recognizing that your children were adopted and paying attention to the thoughts, doubts, and worries they may have related to their adoption. Thus, I need to consider the fact that she was adopted in this decision as well.
Family of Three…Forever
If I were being entirely selfish, I would not need to adopt another child. Rosemarie has made us happier than we ever imagined and I can absolutely envision living the rest of my life with a little and lovely family of three. But there are more important reasons why I think it may be wise to keep our family as is.
I Do Not Keep Going and Going
As I’ve discussed in a previous post, my condition affects my stamina. Taking care of a baby is tiring for anyone. There is a lot of lifting, walking, chasing, and pushing (strollers, not children). For me, it is not entirely overwhelming to do these activities with one child. But I imagine myself lifting two babies into their car seats inside my truck, changing double the amount of diapers per day, cleaning up after two little mess-makers instead of one, and to be perfectly honest, it seems like a daunting task. I really don’t know if I will have the energy to take care of two, at least not as well as I’d like to. I certainly don’t want to adopt another child and then realize my children are not getting the care and attention they deserve because of my low stamina.
Of course, I could wait until Rosie is out of diapers and can climb into her car seat herself, but I still want to have energy for her. I don’t want to be too tired to play catch with her or push her on a swing. I want to have the energy to do silly dances to her favorite songs and teach her how to bake cookies. I want to watch her in the school play without having my eyes close in the darkness.
I know I am not the only woman who needs to consider her stamina when deciding how many children she will have. I know it is the same for my friend as well as other moms with heart disease, congenital or not. I imagine it is a concern for women with other health conditions that are not cardiac in nature. I imagine these women ask themselves the same questions as I.
They say it’s quality not quantity and doesn’t that sort of apply here? Isn’t it better to be an energetic, attentive mother to one child than a tired and drained mother to two?
A Dozen Cousins
Even if Rosie does not have a sister or brother, she has plenty of cousins with whom she will grow up. In addition to my nieces and nephews who are all over nine years old, she has five cousins around her age. My sister’s girls are 3 and 1; the younger one and Rosemarie will be in the same grade in school. My brother-in-law has three-year-old twin girls and a son who will turn one this January.
So, it is not as if Rosemarie is the only child in the family. Her holidays, birthdays, and even some vacations are spent with her cousins. Since my sister and I are together at least two or three times a week, she also does every-day activities with her cousins. Together, they eat meals, take baths, play games, and even go grocery shopping. Sometimes, they even wear matching outfits as sisters do.
If I do not have more children, I will always make a conscious effort to ensure that she continues to spend a good amount of time with her cousins in the future.
Clearly, I haven’t made a final decision yet in this matter. Anthony and I have discussed it many times and we are still pondering the answer. There are moments when Rosemarie walks over to me smiling, her two tiny white teething peeking up from her bottom lip, and I know I could never need anything to be more content than I am right now. At other times, I will catch her playing by herself, concentrating deeply on the slinky we won her at the boardwalk, and I suddenly feel guilty at the thought of not giving her a daily playmate with whom she can share her childhood.
Someday, I know this decision will be made. Perhaps we will make it on our own or maybe life will make it for us. I suppose I am lucky that I am able to contemplate the decision and that my daughter has made us so happy that we’re just not sure if we want anything to change.
What about you? Are you a young mother with a health condition? How did you decide?
Are you an adoptee? Do you have siblings? Do you think you’d be any happier/less happy if you did?