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Revising the notion of 'family'

MagazineJanuary 2004 (Vol. 14 Issue 10)Revising the notion of 'family'

Although Christmas is virtually synonymous with the patter of tiny feet, for the 10 per cent of couples who just cannot produce a baby, it is perhaps the starkest reminder of a deep hole in their lives

Although Christmas is virtually synonymous with the patter of tiny feet, for the 10 per cent of couples who just cannot produce a baby, it is perhaps the starkest reminder of a deep hole in their lives.

During the entire arduous process undertaken by infertile couples to produce a family, adoption is rarely discussed as an option. Indeed, adoption doesn't get a very good press. Most publicity is centred on the 'reunion' between birth parent and adoptive child. What never gets covered are the vast majority of cases in which an extraordinary bond is created between an adoptive child and the adoptive parents.

My own family is a patchwork affair. Our eldest child is biological. My youngest child is Russian, adopted by us at the age of four months. At one point when travelling under various passports from three different countries, going through customs was a nightmare scenario for those in the queue behind us.

I came late to motherhood. Thanks to Foresight, my first child came quickly and effortlessly. By the time I tried for my second, I was well into my forties. After two traumatic miscarriages, I figured this door must be shutting for a reason - that my family perhaps needed to be assembled in another way.

We applied to an American adoption agency, gathered together the multitude of legal papers required, underwent all the necessary interviews and, one day, received a videotape of a tiny hiccupping baby and the call to book our flight to Moscow.

Anya, who is now nearly seven, is an extraordinary child. She is beautiful, smart as a whip, and incredibly talented in dance and gymnastics - an ironic nod to her genetic heritage.

We are often asked if we know much about where she came from - as though we'd purchased a pedigree dog. We have some information (which I am saving for her, if she feels she needs it), but not much. Adopting her was a complete exercise in faith, one of the most purely redemptive things I've ever done.

Recently, during one of our bedtime discussions about her exotic roots, Anya said, 'But I didn't come out of your tummy!'

'But Daddy didn't come out of my tummy, and he's part of our family,' I told her. 'And Ollie (our soon to arrive dog) didn't come out of my tummy, and he's also going to be part of our family.'

Something important fell into place. 'This entire family is adopted!,' she exclaimed, and settled down to sleep.

The point is that, these days, with divorce, remarriage and single parenthood so prevalent, families are often a grab-bag of people who decide to come together to support each other, in all circumstances. That decision does not require a genetic component. Families are made, not born.

With my own two children, I no longer believe in genetics. My biological daughter is wonderfully, uniquely herself. Her many talents in no way resemble mine. She has her own beauty, her own abilities, her own personality. In her case and that of Anya, I was just a vessel to the requirements of life and, ultimately, had to surrender to the process. Something higher - more intelligent than mere DNA -was at work here to send exactly the right two children our way.

If you opt for adoption, there may be something even more extraordinary than making a life. It is the prospect of giving someone a life.

As they say, the life you save may be your own.

Lynne McTaggart


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