One mum's take on why adopting a child prepares one for the social issues to do with DSDs'

Going through the adoption process is the perfect training needed for the skills required for raising a child with a DSD.

  • As adoptive parents we learn to ask ourselves what motivates our decisions. Also, we are trained to ask pertinent questions under very emotional circumstances.
  • We develop thick skin especially regarding well intentioned questions that can sometimes hurt more than help.
  • We acknowledge that the differences we have from our children are things to embrace and respect.
  • We become aware of how our actions are much more powerful than anything anyone says.
  • We realize how having a differing medical history from our child can have a huge impact on how we see the world and treat others.
  • We understand that from years of research on adoption issues that closed adoptions can be destructive because of the secrets we keep. As in adoption, honesty is the quickest path to healthy physical and psychological development.

Of course, the adoption process is a very trying experience. It forces us to look at ourselves honestly and doesn’t allow us to skirt around the painful issues in our li

ves. The battery of questions put to prospective parents ranges from personal finances, to childhood traumas, to parenting techniques and even on to one’s sexual experiences and self esteem. We are asked things like,
  • ‘When your 13 year old tells you that she doesn’t have to listen to you because you aren’t her ‘real’ parents, what will you say?’
  • ‘If your child develops a long term underlying medical condition which requires constant supervision, how will you cope?’ or
  • ‘What services can you turn to if your baby has a psychological problem?’
  • ‘What did your parents do that you will never do to your kids?’
  • ‘How do you plan to teach your child to deal with racism?’

None of these questions are easy ones, but once you have answered these questions to the satisfaction of a social worker, you are armed with skills to answer most difficult questions.

So, if you can successfully go through the adoption process, you are already well on your way to being the ideal parent to a child with a DSD.

That being the case, how can or should we start to prepare for the upcoming adoption of a unique child? There are all kinds of practical things to do beginning with familiarizing oneself with the various DSD conditions from an xx chromosomal baby that has masculinised to an xxy baby (Klinefelter’s Syndrome) to an xy baby that has not (completely) masculinised. There are a lot of possibilities out there, and some of the medical issues surrounding some of them require immediate medical treatment while others are simply children in need of acceptance. This website will familiarise you with some types of DSD and provides links to others. With some idea of the various conditions, we can prepare ourselves to learn about the specialists out there and which ones we need to appeal to at the start.

Another way to prepare is to ask yourself questions already posed to you by the social workers but with even more penetration into your own motivations. For example, ask yourself how you feel when a little ‘girl’ becomes physical and starts hitting other children and if that is the same way you feel when a little ‘boy’ does it. Will you discipline the girl more than you would the boy? (I did.) Alternatively, if a little boy happens to like playing dolls and doing make-up, are you going to tell him that’s ok but only at home? If so, how do you justify behaviour that is ok in one place but not in others? Is it possible that a small child of 12 months can have feminine or masculine behaviour patterns? Do we teach these behaviours or do they develop naturally in a child? Does it matter to me if my little girl likes to play dinosaurs and cars instead of baby dolls? If so, is it because I believe that girls shouldn’t be forced into wearing ‘pink’? Do I believe that sexual orientation is connected with genital development? If my child’s gender and sex are not in agreement, am I going to try to protect my child by trying to hush it up or will I support his or her gender and ‘out’ the situation?

With some of these questions considered and thought out before bringing a child home, you will be more ready to consider the real questions that will come with your own child. Each child has an individual experience and none of these questions will apply perfectly to your child, however, by thinking them through, you prepare your emotional side to cope with social development issues along with the medical ones.

Adoptive parents have some advantages that biological parents of children with a DSD can only dream of. Two main advantages in my experience are that first, an adoptive parent has had time to think about DSDs before having the baby. This makes it easier to focus on the baby instead of the condition in the first few months of the bonding process. Second, no matter what kind of condition a child has, whether a heart condition or a psychological condition, a biological parent is tempted (wrongly) to try to take responsibility for the ‘disadvantage’ they perceive their child to have. ‘Maybe I should have taken vitamin supplements to avoid this situation’, ‘If only I had known beforehand….I would have acted differently.’ Of course, every child is perfect just the way he or she is, but it’s easier for adoptive parents to accept the child’s perfections and focus on them. Adoptive parents have already informed themselves with how to deal with these challenges so those skills are already partly developed and there is no recrimination going on in the minds of an adoptive parent. Half the battle is already won: an adoptive parent already accepts the situation and takes active steps to help the child. A biological parent must first come to some kind of personal acceptance of the situation- healing self before helping the child. Imagine the safety instructions given on airplanes before take-off: before assisting a child, first secure your own oxygen mask. Adoptive parents get on the airplane with the oxygen mask already securely on their faces.

Intersex Kids China - we are grateful to Sarah for writing this article about adopting her 14 year old son who has a DSD.