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Adoption: Gender Considerations

QUESTION: My husband and I are in the process of adopting a child. My dilemma is that at this point in my life, with a full-time career, I feel that I only have enough energy for one child. I want a girl and my husband wants a boy. How can we make this a win-win situation?

ANSWER: While it is natural for you to want a daughter, and for your husband to desire a son, your love must transcend gender. There is no guarantee that the son he will get will fulfill his expectations anymore than adopting a girl would ensure that you meet your dreams for a mother-daughter relationship.

More significantly, this dilemma presents a very real opportunity in your development as a family. This is the first conflict you face together as parents. Family research shows that the quality of the decision making process is more important to family health than what is decided. If one of you must compromise your initial preference, empathy for the other's real loss, or imagined fears, must be embraced.

Review your reasons for this decision together and recognize that you may be putting the "cart before the horse" to assume exactly what energy will be needed before you get there! Is it your decision to adopt only one child, or is your husband also adamant about raising a single child?

Likewise, review what energy your husband has for parenting. Even if you are engaged in a full-time career, your husband may be willing to be the primary parent at home.

If you remain committed to raising an only child and "stuck" on the gender question, discuss what exactly you are expecting from having a child of your own gender. Be specific. Are there activities each of you believes will not occur with the opposite sex? Can you see this changing?

Imagine yourself with a little boy and ask your husband to do the same for a daughter. Explore the opposite side of the coin as well. What would it be for you to not have the experience of raising a son? What might you miss? What would your spouse miss about not raising a daughter? Fully discuss the feelings, fears and fantasies that come up for each of you.

Explore any childhood patterns or relationships that you feel might contribute to your gender preferences. The exercises in From the Start and in Becoming a Family may help clarify beliefs about your gender expectations and experiences in your own childhood. Through this discussion you will gain a better understanding of the source of your desires (or fears) and be better able to visualize solutions to your conflict that are generated from sharing and empathy.

Your dilemma is fuel for exploring your backgrounds in preparation for parenthood and for maturation of the decision-making process in your marriage. If conflict spawns a deeper empathic and caring connection between the two of you, there is no doubt that the decision you come up with will be a win-win one for your whole family.

Perhaps it is not what you decide, but how this decision is made that will make the difference!

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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