Some families are made up of parents with their biological children, and other families are composed of parents with their adopted children. And then there are families that combine both. Read about how these families blend into one big, happy mix.
Before I became a mother, I was sure I wanted three children. Then I had a daughter, and, astonished by all that was involved in raising her, my husband and I revised that total to two. But with just one more child to go, nature refused to cooperate. We’d conceived Olivia the old-fashioned way, and then the fertility gods went off-duty. Like many people who experience secondary infertility, we had a few options: We could pursue medical intervention, we could remain a one-child family, or we could adopt. We chose to adopt. In 2001, when Olivia was five, the three of us traveled to Vietnam and added Lucy, then 6 months old, to our family. All of a sudden, we felt complete. And perfect.
While it may seem like most families are created either via pregnancy (natural or assisted) or adoption, there are no rules saying you can’t mix and match. Just ask Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Many parents—some as a result of infertility, and some not—choose to combine biological and adopted children, and most, like us, wouldn’t have it any other way. Giving birth is a miraculous experience, and so is adopting a child; to get to do both is to be doubly blessed.
Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York City, and author of Adoption Nation (Basic Books, 2000), believes there is an adoption revolution going on in this country, one that happens to involve many families with biological children. “More and more people who are fertile are choosing to adopt,” he says. “And, in my experience, more infertile people are choosing adoption sooner.”
There are no hard numbers on how many families include both bio and adopted kids, but one study on siblings conducted at the University of Minnesota looked at 408 adoptive families and found that around 30 percent of them also had biological children. A study of Chinese and Russian adoptees at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, found the same percentage of bio-adoptive families among its participants.
Deciding to add a child to your family by any means is a big deal, but becoming a bio-adoptive, or “blended” family brings up some very specific considerations, especially if you’ve had biological children first.
“I wondered if I would love our adopted child unconditionally if there wasn’t the same blood relationship that I had with our biological daughter,” says Pamela Kruger, co-editor of A Love Like No Other: Stories from Adoptive Parents (Riverhead, 2005). Kruger and her husband Dave began considering adoption when they had no luck conceiving a second child. “I’d seen a friend of mine go through fertility treatments, and I wasn’t up for that,” she says. “Being a parent was the goal; I didn’t feel the need to go through pregnancy again. One evening we went out to dinner with four other couples and learned that two of them, who already had biological kids, were in the process of adopting. That’s when we decided to take the plunge.”
Kruger and her husband traveled to Kazakhstan to adopt their daughter Annie in 2001. “When the orphanage director handed her to me, I started to weep. I felt the same overwhelming urge to nurture her, the same awesome sense of responsibility as I did when I gave birth to Emily.”
Sometimes, parents know from the get-go that they want a blended family. Marina Lombardo, of Orlando, Florida (Conceive Magazine’s “Emotionally Speaking” columnist), remembers being taken with the idea as a teenager. “My friend had an older brother who had two biological sons and an adopted daughter,” she says. “I just fell in love with this family and loved the fact that it was mixed. When I got married, I told my husband I wanted both bio and adopted kids.”
Lombardo, whose kids are now in their twenties, had a biological son and then adopted a girl internationally. She is quick to dispel the notion that you automatically feel more physically and emotionally connected to your biological children. “People think my daughter looks just like me,” she says. “She and I also have a lot in common temperamentally, more so than my son and I do. I think biology is really overrated. With any kids—bio or adopted—you can end up with the best or the worst.”