What’s Wrong With Adoption in Australia?

I’m so overwhelmed by everyone’s feedback following my last post. It’s astounding to me that so many of you are actually making the time to read my ranty rants amongst your busy lives. It’s just so touching – I can’t really describe how supported it makes me feel. Thank you.

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As promised I am sticking to the topic of adoption this week as it is National Adoption Awareness Week here in Australia.

It would seem that I am quite a slow learner because I bothered to read the comments left on yesterday’s Herald Sun article featuring Deborra-Lee Furness. There is just so much negativity around adoption! I mean I definitely think an honest dialogue about adoption is absolutely necessary, but it just has to be constructive – adoption is not blanket “good” or blanket “bad”. Just as there are some biological families that don’t get it right, there are adoptive parents that don’t either, but this doesn’t make the whole concept wrong or evil.

The reality is that adoption always involves suffering. For an adoption to occur, there has to have been some form of breakage or separation first. This is, of course, not an ideal situation at all, but as we know we don’t live in an ideal world. Adoption, in my humble opinion, can be a beautiful pathway towards restoring what was lost, like healing a wound though the scar may remain. It’s for this reason I believe it should be embraced and celebrated.

To be honest I’ve re-written parts of this post so many times now, trying to balance directing my thoughts at the (very vocal) anti-adoption lobby, and just sharing my own honest feelings and experience. It’s hard because the whole topic is so complex; what goes for local adoption may not be relevant to intercountry and so on. But at the end of the day I think to most people it’s pretty obvious – every child deserves to grow up in a family.

In fact a rule of thumb is that for every three months a child resides in an orphanage, they lose one month of development. It is well documented that institutionalisation is detrimental to the physical, social, and psychological well-being of children. I am planning to talk more about my time in orphanages and my passion for family reunification and community-based solutions to orphan care later, but the bottom line is that we should be ensuring that children grow up within families. Adoption is one way to make this happen.

Except… The Australian government doesn’t seem too keen on this. Last year there was less than 150 inter-country adoptions for the whole of Australia, despite thousands of hopeful couples. This is not because there are no orphans in the world, but rather because we have an outdated and clunky system designed to discourage adoption at every turn, even local adoption.

Believe it or not, but you can’t be on both local and inter-country adoption lists at once, even though the process is likely to take years. And, in Victoria at least, you can’t do any reproductive treatments while waiting to adopt. All in all it makes for a very frustrating and heartbreaking situation where both children and potential parents miss out. There just has to be change soon.

Thank you Deborra-Lee and Hugh for your advocacy work 🙂

As Deborra-Lee says in the article: “The system is broken here. There are children who need families and we need a system that works.” It’s my hope that by sharing my personal journey, a greater awareness of the need for reform is gained.

x

Reality Hits You Hard

Well after the last heavy post I thought it might be good to backtrack a bit and share a little snippet of our story. If you can’t be bothered reading you could just watch the clip from ‘Up’ which basically tells the first half of our story in heart-wrenchingly beautiful detail.

Mr. Lady Breaks (who coincidentally doesn’t exactly like being referred to as “Mr. Lady Breaks” because apparently it a) “sounds like he’s a lady-man”; and b) “sounds like he breaks ladies”) started dating me back in 1999. I was 14 and he had just turned 15. I’m not going to bore you with too many soppy recollections of high-school romance, but to say it felt like the most normal and natural thing in the world.

So we dated and dreamed about our future. There was going to be retro cars, murals on the walls, and two studios (one for music and the other for art, obviously). We would own a weatherboard cottage and a café and together we would change the world. We picked out songs for our wedding and names for our children. We couldn’t wait for our adult life to begin.

At my 16th Birthday in 2001

At my 16th Birthday in 2001

Needless to say, most of these things didn’t happen (well, my first car was a 1967 HR Holden but we – ironically – sold it to buy a “family car” when we started trying). We did get married, but finance and reality limited life and dreams – as it seems to do to everyone.

Man, I loved that car

Man, I loved that car

What was never expected though was infertility. We were young, really young, and healthy. In fact the doctors refused to even test us at first. Then, after eighteen months of trying, we were referred to reproductive specialists who told us that there would be a very long ladder of options available to us before we would need to consider something as serious as IVF. They were wrong. After the results came back it was clear that IVF would be our only option to ever conceive.

I realise at this point of the story it might be handy to say what the problem actually is, but I’m choosing not to. It’s not that it’s a closely guarded secret at all; it’s just that it doesn’t really matter. The thing about struggling with infertility as a couple is that you struggle as a couple. Infertility is a shared disease – if one person is diagnosed, both are diagnosed. Yes, one may be technically fully able to procreate, but, as we know, it takes two to tango. Also, there is a big, burdensome load of blame and inadequacy that comes with being The Infertile One (read: the reason behind all the pain and sadness), which I’m sure I will discuss some other day. So suffice it to say that “we are infertile.”

Anyway, I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of deciding to do IVF today either, as it was quite a huge decision that took over us a year, but just know for now that we tried and failed. Of course it’s something that we could keep trying but for that damn ‘finance and reality’ thing again.

The thing I really wanted to share today was how brutally unfair the whole thing felt/ feels. Having grown up in a broken home, I really longed for that stable family unit. Part of the reason I loved Mr. Lady Breaks so much was that I knew he would make a great dad, and I doubted he would ever walk out on his children. I could give my children something I never had, and I could finally experience the much-lauded nuclear family thing. But, of course, life had other plans.

Mr. Lady Breaks (the name is sticking, so get over it) and my story isn’t over, but we just have no idea the direction it will go. We have come to so many closed doors and dead-ends after almost eight years of fighting and struggling that we hardly know how to dream anymore.

But the story isn’t over, and we have to keep dreaming. We need to fill our own Adventure Book (‘Up’ reference) and I love the fact that you are now along for the ride. Thank you.

x

You Just Didn’t Get What You Want

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‘You know, a lot of us don’t get what we want – you just have to deal with it.’

Oh, the amount of times I have heard those words! As if starting a family with someone you love equates to missing a promotion, or settling for a cheapo white car instead of the steel grey four-wheel drive you imagined. As if desiring a baby is some switch that I can choose to turn on or off, rather than an internal pull I have no control over.

I wish it could be neatly placed inside the box of all the things I’ve wanted but never gotten. I really would like to live a happy and fulfilling life even if I’m never a mum. And I am trying to. But what people who say this to me don’t understand is how the struggle and failure to conceive or adopt has permeated through every aspect of me.

What I mean is that even though having a baby isn’t actually my whole world, it has affected my whole world. It’s like my barren emptiness is mirrored back to me everywhere I go, and with every person I meet. No one does this to me purposefully, I just simply can’t avoid Huggies commercials, pregnancy photos, or standard introductory questions, which makes it rather hard to “just deal with”.

Infertility has riled against my identity as a woman – my femininity, my sexuality. Many women talk about the strength and beauty of their bodies because of what they are capable of, they’ve grown and stretched, created, nurtured and protected.

It places boundaries on friendships, it puts stumbling blocks in conversations. It confronts you at work, in parks, on the train, in the rain (sorry, I couldn’t resist a Dr. Suess moment!)

But seriously not having children slowly excludes you from a world you desperately long to be a part of. Your views are discounted, you are not invited to parties, you can no longer attend coffee catch-ups, and people feel awkward talking about their children in front of you.

In fact people are so fearful of saying something offensive that they stop talking to you at all. And can I blame them? Even now I am having a tanty about how something people say to me gets on my nerves. It’s bloody hard to walk this journey with me, so some just give up.

But giving up just makes me feel diseased, and like my imperfection can’t fit in your perfect world.

Thankfully, there have been some who have pushed through the awkwardness, and welcomed me into their hectic, messy, loud, bright lives, and I’m so thankful to them (love, love, love them).

It definitely takes effort on my part as well. The deal is mutual respect and a whole lot of honesty. I will hear you vent about your kids, I will hear you coo over your kids, I will fit in with naptimes. I just want you to be real – don’t feel like you have to pretend you live on a cloud of gratefulness just because you procreated. But also don’t expect me to “just get over it” when I see what I’m missing out on.

Just walk with me.

X

P.S – I just showed this to Mr Lady Breaks and he said I should end it with “Bah Humbug!” I really don’t mean to come across like a Negative Nancy – I’m just trying to tell it how it is. I am extraordinarily grateful to everyone who, despite never being personally affected by these things, is genuinely seeking to learn more about how it feels. That is pretty darn amazing, and I feel incredibly honoured that you are allowing me to share my deepest thoughts and pain with you. You are making my life brighter and “walking with me” every day, thank you!!!

Puppy Love

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Firstly, apologies if you don’t like dogs. Secondly, why wouldn’t you like dogs?!

My Bandit came to me on Mother’s Day 2008, two years into my infertility journey.

Mother’s Day is generally a fairly difficult day for me – not only am I confronted with what I so obviously lack, but I am also reminded of what a ‘reward’, ‘blessing’, ‘inheritance’, ‘gift’ and so on children are. And of course they are, there’s no denying it, but it always makes me think that I haven’t worked, prayed, or fought hard enough to deserve such a great reward. And then I think of all the jerks who abuse their kids and the logic gets all screwed up again.

Bandit

So anyway in May 2008 I received my first and only Mother’s Day present. Mr Lady Breaks pulled a lot of strings to find me the dog of my dreams – a French Bulldog – for a (somewhat) affordable price. Bandit basically lived on my lap for the first few months, whether I was at driving, working, or watching lectures at uni, which was exactly what I needed. Of course then he grew too big and slobbery for lecture theatres, but he’s never grown out of wanting to be constantly by my side, drooling all over me.

Bandit came and helped heal a gaping and growing hole. No, he’s not a baby, and never will be, but he is a loyal, kind and loving distraction. He is an endless pit of love, slobber, farts and strange yodelling noises who keeps me company every day. He is naughty, loud, allergic and a little OCD, but he is also something to love and care for, and he is a lot of fun.

x

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