Monday, August 1, 2011

"Just" adopt

It seems as though one of the things that comes up frequently for couples having trouble with fertility is adoption. When my mother-in-law found out 8 months into trying that it had been that long, she said "well, you could just adopt if it doesn't work." The simplicity with which she said it surprised me. "Just" adopt. As though it's the end-all, cure-all to what ails my uterus. For any couple struggling with infertility, adoption is something that will be brought up by the well-intentioned at least once. I should preface this whole post with the fact that I respect what any couple chooses for themselves. By the same token, I hope for respect in expressing our views on the subject.

I read on a message board that someone had posted the following excerpt from Adopting After Infertility by Pat Johnson:

"... there are multiple losses which are a consequence of permanent infertility: 1) control over many aspects of life; 2) individual genetic continuity linking past and future; 3) the joint conception of a child with one's life partner; 4) the physical satisfactions of pregnancy and birth; 5) the emotional gratifications of pregnancy and birth; and 6) the opportunity to parent."

It was a very poignant passage for me, and sums up how I feel pretty well. Though pregnancy is only 40 weeks of motherhood, it's an important part for me. I have always dreamt of pregnancy, from discovering its existence, to telling our families, seeing the flash of the heartbeat on the ultrasound, feeling the first kicks, finding out the sex. Though labor and delivery are terrifying, I want the experience of bringing a child into the world. I want to have those first moments as a brand new family with Buddy, and to learn to breastfeed and waddle to the car at the hospital for our first ride home together. Though they're all a "stage" in the grand scheme of child-rearing, they are things I dream of and long for just as much as teaching our kids to swim or ride a bike, and watching them go off to kindergarten and prom and college. They are things I mourn when I think about the possibility of life without a biological child. Adoption doesn't fill those voids.

Adoption is also a costly endeavor, both financially and emotionally. Adoption comes with many legal and financial costs. I can't even begin to tally the financial costs when medical expenses, legal paperwork, and other aspects are added up. Emotionally, I think it would be more difficult than IVF. With infant adoption, we'd have to be chosen by a birth mom. That means we'd have to convince someone with just a few pictures and paragraphs that we are the best fit to take care of their newborn. The thought is incredibly humbling, and I think it would feel devastating to wait month after month and not be chosen. If we were chosen, we'd both be paranoid the whole time that the bio mom would change her mind. I think we'd worry about that for a long time even after we brought any baby home. It just sounds emotionally exhausting. We just agree that it's not the route we want to go.

There is more to it than simply the emotional and financial burdens. The truth is, and the shortest answer is, that we don't feel called to do it. I wrote a piece for a fabulously supportive group blog the day after we found out about Buddy's SA, and more than one commenter replied that I should at least consider adoption, because that's how they became a family either by adopting or by being adopted. While that's all well and great for them, it's just not for us. I realize there are children that need to be fostered and adopted and they desperately want to be a part of a family. But I also feel like there's this unspoken (or maybe it is spoken, since it's suggested so often) that we, as a couple dealing with infertility, are expected to adopt, like it's our job or that it simply comes with the hand we've been dealt. I resent that and don't think this is fair. Biological parents who have their own children aren't expected to adopt the children in need, why are we? Why are we made to feel selfish for voicing that we would chose a child-free life over adoption?

We all have our choices to make. It isn't an easy one. None of this is easy, but "just" adopting isn't the path we want, and we feel we have a right to have that choice be respected.

Edited to Add: As I posted this link to Twitter, I was answered almost immediately by a new mom and fellow blogger that had seen ridiculous debates on a message board we both frequented about how not pursuing adoption equals not wanting a child enough. I have to say that want isn't even a factor. We want a baby more than anything in the world. However, that also has to be balanced with what we can afford financially and emotionally. This is also why we've ruled out IVF. Trust me, if IUI doesn't work, I wonder if some day we'll look back and wonder if we limited ourselves. But we also know that we have to set limits, mostly for our sanity. As easy as IVF and adoption have been made to sound, we're not the only couple who've had to set these limits. The costs of IVF and adoption are prohibitive for many couples. Not to mention, we can't run this race forever. At some point, we have to create our own finish line so that we can move on with life. For us, that's IVF and adoption.


Mrs.Slick said...

The "just adopt" comments bother me also. I always want to respond back with "Does my IF make me less worthy of knowing all aspects of the parenting experience from conception on?" Why can "normal" couples have biological children and are never troubled with condescending remarks from people who seem to think that it's the infertiles of the world job to adopt all children. Why don't they adopt? Why must I?

My husband and I fully plan on adopting someday, but we're going to do everything in our power to have the full experience first. That does not mean I won't love or care for an adopted child as much as a bio child, I just don't want to always wonder "what if?"

Buttercup said...

I actually have no intentions of adopting. I don`t want to definitively say that I won`t because I believe that the path you are led down is pretty much never the one you originally intended, but I really can`t see it.

Not because I think I would love the baby less, not because of finances, not for any reasons other than I think I would be ok with just Steve and me.

I desperately want to experience Motherhood, especially pregnancy for all the reasons you listed Brooke, and I think it is strange to picture the end of my life without grandchildren, but I think I would be ok.

I guess in the last few years I have developed a keener sense of, `Life is a journey you are being carried on like a river, so either fight the current and end up exhausted and still in the river, or work with the flow so you can see and do the things you would like to on the way.`

Miss Trish said...

I'm right there with you B. I think that people who are not dealing with these issues should at least try to understand what they're talking about before they start spouting opinions like this.

If IUI and/or IVF don't work for us we probably will not be able to consider adoption for financial reasons. I'm fairly certain that due to the limits our insurance has on IF coverage, we'll only have one shot at IVF too. I completely understand what you said about the cost, both financially and emotionally, of adoption.

convertedcatlady said...

I think you sound like you're at a very stable place. It's wonderful that you know exactly what the views are that you share with your partner. I have to agree with you as well. The extreme costs of IVF/adoption wouldn't be feasible for many couples. Everyone has different personal needs to fulfill, and if adoption doesn't do that for you, you definitely shouldn't do it because of "peer" pressure. I've always wondered why that seems to be the first thing people think of when someone has difficulty conceiving. Food for thought, I guess. Thanks for giving me something to think about today.


Dorothy said...

Just stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed reading through some of your old posts tonight. I completely relate to the frustration with the adoption question. My new response when someone asks me if we would consider adoption is a surprised "Well, I don't know. Did YOU consider adoption?" They are always shocked by the question. One person even responded with, "Of course not. We could have our own kids."

Then I just give a" Hmmmm...." I am just sick of letting people make ridiculous comments without thinking.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I was adopted and it breaks my heart when I hear phrases like "well, you can always adopt" or "just adopt".

It's not a great feeling knowing that my adoption was my parent's backup plan. I even resent them slightly because I know they would have never adopted me if they were able to conceive.

Jennifer said...

I just came upon your blog, Brooke - though I remember you from TTGP - which I haven't been on since my m/c. Your writing is raw and refreshing. Thank you for this post, in particular.

- "ItalianGirl"