Care and Feeding

I’ve Always Wanted to Adopt. It Turns Out My Husband Doesn’t.

I’m surprised to find myself grieving over this lost opportunity.

A white woman sitting down, holding a Black child in her lap, their foreheads touching.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by anirav/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I have two children. I had easy pregnancies and deliveries, and our kids are happy, healthy, and the loves of my life. When I was younger, I was never sure I even wanted children at all but always assumed that if I chose to have any, I would adopt. I’m realizing now that the idea of adoption has never really gone away. For many reasons, I feel almost morally obligated to adopt another child rather than have another one myself.

My husband has shot me down many times. He would be OK having another biological child but says adoption isn’t for him. I’m surprised to find myself grieving now over this lost opportunity. It doesn’t help that I do almost all of the child care myself; now I am feeling bitter because although I will likely take on most of the caring for this future child, he gets to decide how that child gets here in the first place. Sometimes just thinking about it makes me teary. How can I help myself get over this?

—Ready, Willing, Able

Dear RWA,

You’ve been planning to adopt for many years and now it seems that won’t be happening—it’s OK to mourn the death of a long-held dream, and you shouldn’t feel bad about feeling down.

What is stickier here is the feelings of bitterness. You say you resent that the person who is doing the least amount of parenting work has what feels like the most important vote when it comes to deciding how a new child enters this family. However, I wonder if there is some bitterness over the fact that you are doing so much of the child rearing on your own in the first place. If so, this is not an ideal time to bring a new baby into your home under any circumstances, because you should first deal with the challenges you’re having with the two you already have.

Also—and I probably don’t have to tell you this, but—the last person who should adopt a child is someone who had to have his arm twisted to adopt a child. His stance may seem selfish (especially considering that you have put your body on the line to bear his children twice and may even do so a third time), but adoption is not for everyone—otherwise, it wouldn’t be so hard to do (not saying that every barrier is appropriate, but it is a serious process for a reason). Children waiting to be adopted deserve parents who are enthusiastic, capable, and committed to meeting the unique challenges that come with this sort of parenthood. Your husband is not that person.

Did you talk to him seriously, before marriage, about your desire to adopt? Before having your first two kids? If this was something that he initially feigned interest in, then that’s shameful on his part. If he said he’d consider it, did so, and found that it isn’t for him, then again, I’d encourage you to think less about your personal disappointment or what you think this says about him, and instead, how fortunate you are that he is offering a clear “no” before he brought a child into your home and failed to do right by her.

It sounds like the two of you should consider speaking to a professional about how to best move forward with a third child, if at all. It also may be helpful for you to have some solo time with a therapist or counselor to grapple with your own feelings of loss here. Wishing you all the best, and strongly urging you not to get pregnant again until you are feeling as optimistic and content as possible when it comes to the balance of duties in your home.