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is adoption second choice

In Adoption, Last Isn’t Less Than

I had long struggled with the idea of adoption as a second choice — pregnancy being the default setting and thus, first choice. After all, I had ended up in exactly the right place. I wouldn’t want my family to be any different than who we are. But how to explain this to my children, who are likely to ask questions in the coming years?

One day I came across Melissa at Stirrup Queens, who addresses the term “second” as a chronological term rather than an ordinal term.

is adoption second choice

Was Roger my first choice as a husband? Well, considering I kissed a few frogs before I even met him, Roger wasn’t chronologically my first choice. I wonder how my life would be now if I’d ended up with Alan, the boy who helped me collect worms one day when we were 8. Or Dave, the disk jockey turned radio-mogul, or Bill-the-farmer or Carl-the-slacker or Ian-the-commitment-phobe.

Roger was definitely my best choice. But I meandered to get to him. The meandering is what made me worthy of him and appreciative of him.

It’s oddly coincidental. Tessa developed her first crush this week during Vacation Bible School. She is smitten with a boy double her age, a 6th grader named Cory. She dressed for him, had me braid her hair for him, talked incessantly about him, and dreamed of him. She claims she’ll marry him.

Not very likely. Cory may be her first, but what matters is the last. That’s the keeper.

Just like Tessa, and just like Reed. My meandering to them is what makes me worthy of them. The process of our family forming was absolutely the best choice, even if we started out not knowing that.

Image: Idea go /

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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16 Responses

  1. when you say things like this, you make me fall in love with you all over again, luz.

  2. This is a great perspective on adoption following infertility…. I mean, from someone who has no idea what that struggle must feel like. It helps me GET what you mean, what you likely feel, and what you wrap your brain around as you deal with it all. Thanks for such a brilliant word picture – crystal clear 🙂

  3. I LOVE this analogy! It fits perfectly how I view my family’s history, too.

  4. The very idea of this is too horrifying to even contemplate how could you ever verbalize such a thing on line in writing where the people you adopted will surely see it and one day realize you think your better than their own parents because you were last? First or Birth or Natural Mother and Father just mean Ex Mother and father huh? You stepped in and did a much better job than they could have so last means best. what a very arrogant and entitled view of their family. Last means best. Family and the family that adopted different not better or worse, just not the mother and father and not the kids of the people who adopted different, not worse just different.

    1. It’s fascinating to me that this post struck you in a way I hadn’t foreseen, Marilynn. Talking about adoption is so fraught because we all come with different experiences and viewpoints.

      I can see why the post, read through your lens, would affect you in this way, that you heard supremacy over birth parents. My intention through my actual words was to mull over the idea that even even though adoption was my second/last choice in chronology, my children were not a second/last choice in importance.

      1. im really grateful for your reply. I did not think you would engage in an exchange on the topic. Your post on prefixing the title of mother explains why you dont like the prefixes birth bio or natural. Neither do i. A woman with offspring is a mother and nothing about the title of mother implies that she raised her offspring. You say you use the term first mother because it means you are the last mother and here you say in adoption last means best. So you are not only talking about the people you adopred being your last best better choice than having offspring with your spouse, you are also talking about you being the second or last best and better choice for raising another woman”s offspring. You stated very clearly you prefer the term first mother because then it follows logically [except that it doesn’t] that you must be better because you are the one who presently has custody of her young. Now there is some obvious ugly truth to that. Ill grant you that your statement is not without merit. Ive always disliked any prefix on parental title for someone who meets the definition of a parent which is someone with offspring. Birth bio natural and first all mean the same thing – Ex. Like first wife obviously means ex wife former wife the one with a failed marriage who did not get to keep her spouse. The current wife goes just by wife and one can draw the conclusion that she is successful where the first or ex wife failed. its fair to prefix someones former spouse as former, first, ex, previous because the contract that caused the relationship to exist disolved its really not true to say the same thing about someones parents. After all what caused them to be parents to begin with is the same thing causing them to be parents now. The state did not cause their parenthood and it cant take it away. The state can take away their authority, the state can falsify documents but in the end the truth is they are the only parents of their own offspring but they are not raising them. That does imply someone else was thought better or best at raising their son or daughter for them. Its very sad but thats the truth. So the adoptive prefix does the same thing. Saying someone is an adoptive parent tells the story that the adoptive parent is thought to be better best at caring for another persons young. It says they may not be the first choice but they are the best choice and does it without trying to say thT their parents are ex parents first parents or non parents. At least it would be candid. And if adoption was the second last best choice why not make it clear instead of always trying to omit it or conceal it and say its nobodys business?
        Secrecy in adoption was bad. People started telling adopted people that they are adopted so they can feel theyve besn honest. But then they turn around and teach them to be dishonest about it by telling people its nobodys business they are adopted dont say adoptive mom or adopted child. People teach that some ople dont need to know the truth and that adoption is their story to keep private. They teach that its ok to let false adsumptions go uncorrected. This duplicitous behavior this juxtopsition of telling the truth to the adopted person while simultaneously training them to lie is nowhere more evident than in the fact they are told the truth in words but wont write the truth down on their identifying dicuments. If the adopted person whose told the truth wont go along with concealing the truth willingly then they will go along by force with documentation which prevents them from telling anyone the truth and having it taken seriously. There are no official documents saying that their mother is a first birth bio or natural mother nor any official identifying documents that say you are their last or adoptive mother.

        The open hearted thing you could do is go to court now before they turn 18 while you have authority and reinstate their original birth certificates. It wont undo your adoption and then they will be frree to call you whatever they want by choice not force. Peace

        1. You make some erroneous implications and assumptions. Each time you use the word “imply,” you make your own connections between two things, which may or may not match actual implications. You assume I don’t have my children’s OBCs. You assume that my state won’t let them get their own OBCs. Your comment has more than a few logical stretches and factual inaccuracies.

          1. I used the word imply just once [actually twice]. I could have said transfer of authority from the parent to the person adopting demonstrates the state belief that the second choice was its best choice for authority over the minor in question. I think that assertion is well supported whether i use the word imply or indicate or demonstrate or establishes. I question the idea that the last choice will always remain the best choice. The circumstances that caused the adoption to occur my resolve in full or in part which would mean last is no longer best. The problem is adoption is a permant response to obstacles that are generally only temporary. Adoption shoyld only last as long as the reason for it exists. I made no assumptions about the ability of the people you adopted to access or see or have a copy of their obc. I Was saying that their original should be reinstated for their use and identification. I was saying that the names of people who adopt should never be entered on a birth record to begin with. I was saying that telling the truth to an adopted person in words about whose offspring they are is hollow and meaningless unless your willing to have that same truth written down on their identifying documents. Telling the tryth in words is a hollow meaningless gesture if one wont also admit to that truth on paper. Their official birth certificate names you as the mother who is mother in a medical context thats false so why bother telling them the truth if you would misrepresent the truth to others thats all.

  5. I suppose when it comes to marriage last is best but far too often for infertile couples adoption is a second choice when their plan A is no longer an option.

  6. Marilynn, you missed the point of the post. My children, as my last chronological choice, are also my best choice. The post has nothing to do with how I rate my importance to them, or my value in relation to their first parents.

    Lorene, you also missed the point of this post. Sometimes we use “second choice” to mean a value judgment (such as not as good as “first choice”), and sometimes we use it to show chronology. In this case, it was chronology.

    Thank you both for giving this so much thought.

    1. I didn’t miss the point. I was writing from the perspective of an adoptee who was literally a 2nd choice , a plan B because my adopters plan A was to have their own baby. I grew up feeling like a booby prize whenever they looked at me with disappointment which was often. Adoption hurt me. The best choice I ever made was finding my first and only parents.

      1. “whenever they looked at me with disappointment” — THAT is the point and perspective of this post, how to reframe for the adoptive parent the process of adopting a baby amid concepts like first, second, and last. I’m sorry you were treated as second best. No child ever should be.

        I’m glad you found your first parents.

        We’ve beaten this horse to its death, so I’m closing comments.

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