Got Lupus? New rules in China, you do not qualify to raise a child
February 22, 2007
It's an ongoing conversation that never gets resolved. We talk about it on the way to the grocery store, in the front hall as we pull off our snowy boots, around the entrails of dinner when one of our daughters demands another sister or else late at night after the kids are in bed.
"I sort of want to," the conversation goes.
"But two kids are enough. Right?"
"But we have so much to give. Let's do it again."
"But we'll be outnumbered. The kids will take over."
"Maybe. But ... "
Around we go. Should we or shouldn't we adopt a third child from China?
Our fanciful conversations must end.
The list of people who can no longer adopt from China is long. Most media stories have focused on the fact that they will exclude obese people (a body mass index or BMI over 40), people with severe facial deformities, those who have taken anti-depressants within two years, people over 50, those who are not married or have been twice-divorced, or are poor.
One irate mom called it the "single-fat-depressed-law" because, as a single mom who is obese and took anti-depressants, she is disqualified from adopting again. "No kid has ever been harmed by second-hand fat," she quipped to an interviewer.
And then there is the fine print, where they list the conditions that will soon prohibit people from adopting from China: AIDS, epilepsy, cancer, deafness, defective limbs (those who use leg braces or a wheelchair need not apply). And then, in black and white, two words that disqualify me: Lupus erythematosus. The new Chinese rules say people with the disease can't adopt because the condition might shorten life expectancy.[/u]
That's my disease, right there, the thing I've had for my entire adult life. The incredibly crafty, often wicked illness has dogged me since I was a teenager and I can do nothing to change it. And now, in the eyes of the Chinese government, the condition makes me unfit to parent.
My kids see me take medication every day and sometimes I lie on the couch when I should be playing. But lupus to them is a mystery, a word with no obvious symptoms because, truth is -- for no explicable reason -- many symptoms evaporated after I became a mother. It was as if happiness repaired my immune system.
Maybe it will shorten my life, maybe not. Maybe I'll get hit by a car tomorrow. I hope not.
But when I read those upcoming restrictions, I cried for me and I cried for would-be mothers just like me who can't risk a pregnancy but would be great mothers, and I cried for friends who have epilepsy and cancer and depression, all common ailments among the breeding population. I can't imagine how my friends with biological kids would feel if they were told they weren't fit to procreate.
Back when we were first forming our family, we never considered adopting a baby from Canada. I imagined a teen mother sitting in a lawyer's office flipping through a binder of would-be adoptive parents. She'd come to our profile. On the surface, my husband and I would seem great: Educated, athletic, interesting jobs, travelled, healthy looking. But I was certain that as soon as she read about my chronic health condition, she'd have turned the page. I knew I would never have been selected.
We looked to China in large part because we thought we would be great parents of a child from another race and culture. We also knew the Chinese were more accepting. There were so many babies in the orphanages that they didn't bother to be choosy. Confident my health wouldn't get in the way of being a great parent, off we went.
Recently, I sat around a kitchen table with adoptive mother friends discussing the new restrictions. One mother, who works in the adoption field and has processed hundreds of Chinese adoptions, shrugged. "Don't you think these kids have the right to the best parents that can be found for them?"
I was struck speechless and have held that remark in my heart.
Do my girls deserve perfection? Does the fact I'm apparently imperfect make me an inadequate parent? I mentioned to my older and very wise daughter the other day that people with lupus will no longer be allowed to adopt healthy babies. First, she asked if she would be sent back. Then after we had a long conversation about why such a rule might be put in place, she wondered what would happen to all the babies robbed of the chance to have a mom like me.
China imposed these restrictions for complex reasons. The Hague Convention states that orphaned or abandoned children should remain in their birth countries if possible. Also, China seeks to reduce the number of couples taxing their adoption system. The demand swelled in the past few years after China signed adoption agreements with new countries, particularly in Europe. At the same time, China says there are fewer babies. Some say there are fewer babies because of the increase in sex-selective abortion. Others say that China will try to encourage more domestic adoption.
These new rules also represent the different cultural values between China and the West. For example, single moms aren't common in China, while they head more than half-a-million homes in Canada. The Chinese also have said these new rules show they care about their children and want them to have the best prospects in life.
But none of this means that there aren't thousands of babies who need families. The fate of these children haunts me.
Of course it's possible to fudge the forms and hide one's medical history, and yet, there is that nagging question: Should healthy babies be reserved for healthy parents?
It's a challenging question in so many ways and truly paradoxical for some. If parents want to adopt the healthiest babies, shouldn't the babies be entitled to the healthiest parents? Why do the would-be adopters get to choose, and not the babies?
Many parents, myself included, chose to adopt from China because the process was streamlined and dependable. In Canada, you might wait years to adopt a baby. In China, you could count on it within 18 months. Would-be parents also turned to China because there was a good chance the baby would be healthy.
I rationalized my desire for a healthy baby by deciding I'd suffered enough, and I deserved an easier path.
The Chinese belief that the "best" couples get the "best" babies makes us angry, but it must give us pause.
Categorizing people by disability is always repugnant, but that's what would-be adoptive parents have been doing all along by overlooking special-needs children in favour of the healthiest babies. Biological parents don't get to choose the baby that comes out of the mother's womb. Yet, adoptive parents have fought hard for the healthiest babies, sometimes refusing adoptions because their baby came with defects.
But if the "defective" among us know it's patently unfair to be excluded from adopting, surely we must acknowledge the unfairness in excluding those we don't view as perfect from our own families.
Once we open to the possibility that our baby doesn't have to be perfect, our door opens instead of closes. There are thousands upon thousands of children waiting for families around the world, including in Canada, who have been left on the sidelines because someone judged them disabled, or frail, or challenging or simply the runt of the litter. In Canada, a very small fraction of adoptive parents adopt a special-needs child.
Countless children in China and many other parts of the world are never adopted because they have cleft palates or cerebral palsy or heart defects. Under the new Chinese restrictions, many of the so-called substandard parents will be treated more leniently if they seek to adopt special-needs children. We could have adopted them in the past, too, but most of us looked away.
Perhaps this will change when we realize that if our challenges don't make us lesser, the same must apply to orphans and abandoned children the world over and in our own backyard.
China has every right to impose restrictions, and every day I am thankful for their generosity. But I can't tell you how depressing it is to be excluded because of a disease that doesn't begin to define who I am. I'm a great mother, and frankly, my illness has enriched the person and parent I am. But a kid is a kid is a kid. I'm ashamed that once upon a time I didn't see this. Everyone deserves a family -- the apparently imperfect among us should know this better than anyone.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2007, 10:06:12 am by ♥Admin♥ »
I look normal, as I have an "Invisible Illness". You can not catch it, you can not see it. It's called Lupus.My body is attacking itself on the inside.www.LupusMCTD.com
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