QUESTION: My husband and I have been happily married for six years. We’ve been trying for four years to have a baby without success. Without going into great detail, we’ve tried everything and now we want to adopt. We’ve looked into every avenue of adoption there is, and we’re ready to go ahead with the process, but many of our family members and friends are trying to discourage us. They say things like, “You never know what you’re getting,” and, “What if a genetic problem shows up?”
We are still going ahead with our plans and would like to know what we can say to these people to perhaps gain their support. Whenever we get together, there is a lot of tension because of their opinions.
~ Wannabe Parents
Dear Wannabe Parents,
Let me dive right in. First, none of your family members have experienced what you have in your quest to become parents. The roller coaster of hopefulness and disappointment is something that only the infertile couple knows. It seems quite selfish to me that your family members would become naysayers about the only path to parenthood that you have left. They should be supporting you! Instead, they’re frightening you.
Second, as any ob/gyn can tell you, pregnant couples ultimately “never know what they’re going to get.” This is an irresponsible argument. Would you cease to care for a natural born child if he had a genetic problem? Would you discard a daughter for some unforeseen problem? Of course not. Likewise with the precious baby you adopt.
Parents nurture and love their children, problems or not, adopted or not. Every child deserves a family. By showing love, you will receive love in return. Why not step up to offer an orphaned child a place to belong and a family to love? Why deprive a child of the fantastic future you two will provide? Your child will always know he was wanted.
Third, the Bible says: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families.” Adoption is something God does. He adopts his children, too! Do we have problems? Do we ever! But God sees past our issues and calls us his own anyway. It is not your family’s support you have to gain. You are bravely taking a step toward parenting. You are choosing to love an innocent child and give him or her a home. What could be more gracious, more compassionate, more noble?
Perhaps the question isn’t how will you gain your family’s support but rather, why haven’t they chosen to adopt yet?
Light on the Corner Church, Montrose
Dear Wannabe Parents,
The very nature of humans is to butt in where we do not belong. This is your choice – not your families,’ not your friends.’ It is a personal and intimate decision between you and your husband.
In circumstances such as this, I believe in having a couple of pat answers that you can repeat each time a remark is made. Make these pat responses short and to the point – and keep repeating them.
The redundancy or your retorts will eventually bore people or give them the hint that they are being intrusive. Examples of such replies can be, “This is a private decision that we as a couple have made and we are not asking for opinions,” and “Well, one never knows what they are getting or if there will be a genetic problem with a biological child either. So we are sticking to our decision.”
Just use the same answers over and over again. Ultimately, people will get tired of asking and learn to respect your privacy – and choice.
Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian
Licensed Psychotherapist, Montrose
QUESTION: Twenty years ago, I moved 35 miles away from a city where I had lived for 35 years. I made many friends and we did things together once or twice a week. I still have friends from that city and we infrequently have phone conversations when I call them. My problem is I’m the one who stays in touch. I’m the one who suggests getting together. My friends are always happy to hear from me and when I call we always end up making plans for lunch or dinner and I’m the one who drives to see them.
Sometimes I think I should just let these friendships go or just wait and see if they’re going to call me. My greatest fear is that, because we’re older, I just may get a call from one of their adult children saying there’s going to be a funeral.
Am I being selfish or should I just continue staying in touch with my friends?
~ Friendships Matter
Dear Friendships Matter,
Your question is whether you are being selfish, that is to let the friendships go because you are the one who spends all the energy keeping in touch, or should you continue keeping in touch with your friends because you value the relationships.
I have noticed in my own life I have both kinds of friends, including some with whom I take most of the responsibility to keep up with our relationship. I spend the time scheduling a time for visiting with them. I even have family members with whom I have to initiate conversations, correspondence, visits, etc. And I must confess I do get whiney about that sometimes!
However, I do also have relationships in which the other person takes much of the responsibility of caring for the details of our getting together. I belong to several professional groups which have coordinators to whom I am very grateful for making sure we meet and stay in touch.
So, I have a good balance between the two most of the time. And I allow myself to let certain relationships become a priority and others to change in their meaning to my life. This comes with some grief; as a pastor I am often deeply involved with people through very intense moments of their lives. I may counsel a person through the loss of a loved one, for example, and when I am assigned a new church, I go through a bereavement process because I am no longer involved with that family in the same way. I give thanks for what we have gone through together, but know that I need to let go and allow for the relationship to be transformed by our new circumstances of being apart.
If I am invited back to a church I have previously served, I delight in seeing them again and love to catch up with what has happened in their lives. I do not consider this selfish, only a natural part of what it means to change communities and relationships. I think, in fact, it is selfish to hold on to those relationships especially if another pastor is now leading that church.
However, I am also finding new relationships to begin and nurture in my new church. And I enter into new friendships with the community leaders and members of the church. Over time, I become involved with this new community. I miss the people from the previous community, but they are always a part of my heart.
On the other hand, there are still some relationships I have in my life – clergy, family – that go with me wherever I may go, and I often find these people have their circumstances change over time and I often have to do the work of maintaining the contact. But it is because they are important anchors in all the changes life brings. I treasure their friendship, and these long-term relationships are helpful because they have supported me through many changes, crises, and joys in my life. And I have noticed that our relationships ebb and flow – sometimes they initiate the contact, other times I do, sometimes we go a while without being in contact and rejoice when we do.
Let me close with this image that I often use with those who are working on developing a solid relationship with another person, whether it be a husband and wife, two friends, a mentor or student. Relationships are like a bank account; there are times you deposit into the account your love, your effort, the best of who you are. And then there are times when you need to withdraw from the account, rely on the other to give to you support and love. Either way, what makes a healthy relationship is to do both, to invest and receive, to support and love, to give and receive.
Blessings as you discern the way forward in all your relationships.
Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall
Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church
Dear Friendships Matter,
Having friends who do things together is important for both psychological and spiritual health. But truly satisfying friendships are those in which both parties take responsibility for the relationship. So I certainly understand your frustration with always having to be the one who keeps in touch with friends from your previous home, makes plans to get together, and always travels to see them. It seems as though they are letting you do all the work to keep these relationships alive.
As I see it, there are several possibilities for you. If you find these friendships meaningful, you could continue to make the phone calls and the trips for the joy they bring to you and your friends. Or you could simply keep in touch via phone and cut down on your travel. But I am not sure why your old friends cannot travel to see you. Are they unable to make the trip or have they chosen not to? Have you asked them? Maybe they would be willing to share the travel with you.
However, another question I have is why, after 20 years in your present home, you don’t seem to have formed similar friendships with people there? Maybe if you got involved in groups in your community you would find some new friends. There are senior centers with lots of interesting activities in most communities, and religious congregations are good places to meet people who share beliefs and values. You would not need to drop your old friends. You would simply connect to additional friends closer to home.
My hope for you is that you will find a way to connect with people in fulfilling ways for you and for them. I will certainly be keeping you in my thoughts and my prayers.
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills