This is a common response to anyone considering assisted reproduction technology (ART). “You could just adopt.” I used to believe it myself, and sort of badgered myself into only thinking about adoption as an option for having children - even though it wasn't really what I wanted.
It's not that I'd love an adopted child any less. My instinctive wish to kidnap random cute children I'm interacting with has convinced me that I'd love an adopted child just as much as a biological child.
But adoption isn't the easiest option.
Firstly, healthy white babies have the biggest demand, but are only a small percentage of the adoptable children out there. They are usually adopted out via private adoption, which costs money and requires a birth mother to pick your profile over others. The sheer emotional insecurity of hoping some woman I've never met decides I'm worthy of having her child, over all the more conventional NT heterosexual couples who are also looking, sounds pretty unpleasant to me.
I'd have an easier chance with a non-white baby, and I am open to that option. But many white would-be adoptive parents aren't. Some, I'm sure, are racist. But many more are probably turned off by the extra challenges of raising a child of a different race. Worrying about your son's interactions with police. Trying to give your child a cultural background you don't have. Dealing with judgment from people who think white people are stealing their babies. (Many Native people keenly remember the ‘snatch’ generation, when Native children were removed from their homes in large numbers for frivolous reasons. Nowadays, most adoptable Native children were removed for much better reasons, but the hurt still lingers.) Even just being an obviously adoptive family, getting stares whenever you're out in public, is enough to worry some people. (As a single mom, I don't have to worry about it as much because people will just assume the child takes after his or her father. Plus, I'd probably stand out anyway.)
And then there's disabilities. You can often adopt young babies with disabilities, and personally I'd be open to anything that doesn't cause a high mortality rate or severe behavioral issues (Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome, for example). But I'm also not entirely certain I'll be able to live independently. I will most likely outlive my parents - my child will be even more likely to. If I have a child that needs perpetual care, the logistics will get pretty tricky. Whereas if my child can live independently, if worst comes to worst, they wouldn't be the first child to wind up looking after a disabled parent in adulthood.
Plus, I'd like an autistic child. In particular, my ideal child would be twice exceptional (gifted & autistic) and high functioning. Given my genetics, there's a pretty high chance of my biological child having that profile - especially if I pick an autistic or 2e sperm donor. But 2e HFA kids aren't generally identified at birth, so my chances of adopting a baby like that are extremely low.
Which brings me to older adoption. There are a lot of children 12 months and older who are adoptable, and few parents looking to adopt. This is especially true if you use the cheapest means of adoption - foster-to-adopt - where you foster a child while getting first dibs for adopting them.
The problem is, my parents did older adoption, after becoming kinship foster carers, and you can see from my sidebar how that turned out. They have many horror stories, both about my cousins themselves and how the system responded to their needs as foster and adoptive parents. Granted, most adoptable older kids aren't severely abusive teenagers, and I'm planning to refuse to adopt over a certain age, but even a child adopted at 18 months can have severe attachment issues. And I have very little trust in the foster care system, and a general dislike for bureaucracy.
And that brings me to my biggest reservation about adoption - the home study. I know why home studies are important, and in principle, I support them. But I don't think they have the right standards set. Really, given how many children need adoptive homes and don't get them, any home that would be an improvement on continued foster care should be approved - and that's a low bar to set. Basically, if they wouldn't pull a biological child out of that home, that's the standard they should set. But they don't. They want a good home, not just a good-enough home.
Plus, I'm autistic and not independent. I've already had people tell me that my disability should preclude me becoming a parent, and they were more accepting than most. I've heard other people make claims that an autistic parent is inherently incapable of sensitively parenting a non-autistic child. I've heard people debate whether autism should be considered a reason to give custody to the NT parent in the case of a divorce. I've even heard people blaming autism for violence. If all I knew of autism was the bad press it got, I wouldn't give a child to an autistic person any more than I'd give a child to a psychopath or a pedophile. And I have no guarantee that my social worker will understand that those claims aren't accurate. I know I'd be a good parent - but will they?
ART doesn't pose those concerns for me. I've heard it described as a ‘Wild West’, without enough regulation, and while this is understandably considered a bad thing by many people, as an anxious hopeful parent, that's very appealing to me. And I'm sure to many others, too.
So that's why I don't just adopt.