It took less than a minute into the Conceiving Family documentary for tears to well up, which is, of course, the litmus test for any adoption story. This moving BC-made documentary sheds light on the challenges and joys of adoption as a same-sex couple and serves as a testament to the power of commitment, love and family no matter what your family configuration.
Produced and directed by adoptive mom Amy Bohigian, the doc follows the adoption journeys of five gay and lesbian couples. If you’ve ever wondered why a same-sex couple would adopt or why a birthmom would choose a same-sex couple (I realize these are obnoxious questions but people do wonder), this documentary makes clear that the ability to love, commit and parent have absolutely nothing to do with sexual preference.
That said, when I hear about adoption films, stories or articles, I worry that the focus will be about parents’ struggle to find a child capping with their thrill at being parents. I wondered if all the families would be new parents? What if there’s no mention of birthfamily or all couple were racially homogenous? My concerns were totally unfounded. Somehow, Bohigian manages to represent an astonishing cross-section of people.
She documents her own mind-boggling story from the beginning with a lot of humor. She and her partner adopted twin toddlers through the Ministry who had been living with a Christian fundamentalist couple from birth. They spend a tense two weeks with the foster parents transitioning the children from one home to the other. A year later, they visit the foster parents who have had a sea change in the way they view homosexuality.
Another featured lesbian couple adopted ailing premature identical twins from Romania almost 20 years ago. They give that all important long view of adoption. I don’t want to give too much away but to say that adoption becomes quite a theme in all of their lives! This couple really blew me away. Their lives were completely transformed by parenthood and … hint, hint… now in their 60s, they haven’t slowed down.
The third lesbian couple adopted a baby at birth from a First Nations teen. This story is also deeply moving. The couple made huge efforts to connect the child, who was affected by alcohol in utero and is now around 8, with her community and birthfamily, and all participants are now peace with the adoption. This piece demonstrates the lengths that adoptive parents go to ensure the best interests of their children and how important children are to their families and communities of origin.
Two male couples are also featured. One couple adopts a baby at birth in a closed adoption (at the birhtmother’s request) but talks about the birthmother and how they feel about her. Another gay couple adopt a 5-year-old boy through foster care and are a touching example of tenderness and care. Adding to the complexity of their adoption is one of the dad’s religious mother. But in the end, a child is all it take to break down all those barriers and concerns.
One thing that struck me about all the couples was how they all understood first-hand what it feels to be an outsider and to struggle for acceptance, a feeling their kids may encounter as adoptees growing up. They all spoke movingly about their love for their children and many had some degree of relationship with either the foster parents of the biological family. These are parents who truly get adoption.