I’m as competitive as the next person. Whether I’m playing dominoes, tennis or Trivial Pursuit, I
like to win. I don’t often, but I like to. Competition can be a force for good: spurring us, challenging us, pushing us. But competition does NOT belong in family building. It’s one thing if those ignorant of the pain of infertility question our choices, but those within our infertility/adoption community need to support each other. From where I sit with one foot in the infertility world and one foot in the adoption world, I see way to much competition, and it drives me nuts.
Why can’t we accept other people’s choices?
Infertile and adopting couples get it from all sides. I probably hear it more because my work and radio show cover the waterfront of all alternative methods of family building, but you don’t have to scratch the surface of many internet forums or support group meetings to hear it for yourself. It may be subtle, but it’s there all the same. People who adopt internationally hear “Why didn’t you adopt children here in the US?” People who adopt infants domestically hear “Why didn’t you adopt from foster care.” People going through IVF, especially after the first failed round, hear “Why don’t you just adopt.” People moving to adoption after infertility hear “Why are you quitting, I know of someone who got pregnant on the _______(third, fifth, tenth) IVF cycle.” And heaven help the folks who choose to adopt without being infertile. They are almost past commenting, but they still hear plenty of “don’t you want children of your own?”
Creating a family isn’t something you’re suppose to win.
Competition assumes that there is something to win—that one way is better. Oh, if only infertility and adoption were so clear. What’s right for me may not be, and probably isn’t, right for you. And what’s right for you right now, may very likely change in the future. Although we share the pain of wanting children, everyone’s journey is unique.
Jealousy from within
Many of these comments come from folks who have never needed an alternative way to form their families. They ditch the condoms, buy a bottle of wine, and nine months later welcome a child into their family. For these people, the issue isn’t competition, just ignorance and insensitivity. Deal with them as you see fit, preferably without physical violence.
I want to address the green-eyed monster’s presence within our community. The dirty laundry we wouldn’t necessarily want to share with the rest of the world. People in infertility treatment may question how you can give up the biological connection. People who adopt may question why someone would continue with the uncertainty and expense of infertility treatments. People who adopt domestically may question why someone would adopt from abroad when there are kids right here at home that need families. People using their own eggs for IVF may question how someone could use donor eggs without exhausting all other options first. People who adopt children already born may question why someone would adopt an embryo.
People have to choose what’s right for them.
I don’t have a problem with real, honest to goodness questions. I’m all for increased dialog and understanding. But the intent of a real question is to receive information. Many of these so-called questions are veiled, or not so veiled, attempts to judge the other person’s decision. These questions come with an inherent sense of the superiority of one method of family building.
Let’s face it; most of us opt for the easiest way to have kids. For some, there is no easy way, but they choose the next step that feels most comfortable. Ease and comfort are individual and may change with time. We have no control over what other’s outside of the sisterhood and brotherhood of alternative family building say, but we can control what we say. Let’s make a pact to celebrate all forms of family creation and drop the sense, at least outwardly, that one way is the best way. If we end up with the family we want, then we have won.
Image credit: Timmy Toucan
Add Your Comment
A friend who is hurtful, isn’t a friend
And the children who have been deemed orphans when they are not? The children of mandated adoption? Those adopted by the incapable or lossing their culture, language and identity?Doesn’t the very profitable adoption industry need a massive clean up to make it more about children genuinely needing families?
I had a child through IVF and have actually had people tell me that my child does not deserve to be here – that I should have adopted a child from another country instead. It takes a lot of gall to tell someone their child should not exist. The pro-adoption freaks make me sick and I am tired of the way they preach to everyone else about adoption. It is not my fault that people in other countries choose to have children they can’t support.
A family is a family…….no matter how it happens!
I just came across your website tonite and was thrilled to find both topics together – infertility and adoption! They certainly are connected for me at the moment, so it’s great to find resources for both in the same location. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog and listening to your radio show.
On this topic, I totally got that competitive feeling sitting in the waiting room at the IVF clinic. Instead of a “we’re all in this together” vibe, I couldn’t help thinking about the odds of which couples would be successful. It is an intensely personal decision, one not made lightly. As an often indecisive person, I’ve surprised myself at how strong my gut feeling is for my own family building.
Good luck everyone in your own endeavors!
I’m so glad you “found” us over here at Creating a Family. Make sure to sign up for the weekly email newsletter where we try to keep you up to date with what’s happening in the area of infertility and adoption. We also include the weekly blog and radio show topic. You can sign up at the top left side of this page. Also, join the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group. Everyone in that group is helpful and supportive, so come on over and join us. https://www.facebook.com/groups/40688106167/
I have to be honest – this hit home. I am a married 36-year-old woman who has been unable to conceive. I have heard it all: from the insensitive to the unthinking to the down-right cruel. We have been trying to adopt out of foster care, but that is not an easy or short process. I find myself getting jealous when I see women (often younger than I am) getting pregnant multiple times when I can’t get pregnant once. I find myself getting angry when someone gets pregnant who doesn’t want to be. I find myself feeling resentful when people who either can have children or even already have children want to adopt. The line that runs through my head (against my will and conscious thought) is “It’s Not Fair!”
But the thing is, other childless couples, who for one reason or another cannot (or should not) have their own biological children, choose many different options – And I support their decisions. What feels right for one couple might not be right for another. Personally, I believe that adoption is a blessing no matter which route parents take.
Sunshinelady, I don’t know if this will make you feel any better, but so many woman (and men) feel the same way. At least you are able to feel compassion and acceptance for others who are in your boat and unable to have biological children.
Don’t forget those of us who eventually decide to remain childless/free after infertility & loss. I have sometimes felt the weight of judgment, the pressure not to “give up” from my infertile peers even more than fertile friends & family.
Loribeth, good point. In some ways those who decide to live childfree probably get it the worst!
What a beautifully written post about a subject that is so near and dear to me! I actually posted a few weeks ago about our reasons for making the choices my husband and I decided on for family building, and I received so much negative criticism for those choices and me personally that I took it down. Probably the ‘nicest’ comment was along the lines of ‘well, that’s what you think, but it’s wrong.’ Thank you for inspiring me to try writing about this again!
April, I’m sorry the response you received was so negative. Those of us within the infertility, loss, adoption community must speak out when we feel strong enough, if only to educate others. However, some times you just don’t feel strong enough for the exposure, and that’s OK too. Hang in there!
Rachel, I’ve been thinking about your post for a couple of days now. Sounds like your friend is trying to make you feel unsure or ashamed of choosing to go with fertility treatments or to puff up her own “parent cred”. That is most uncool. It’s great that she’s happy with adoption, but it sounds like she needs to learn that, as Carolyn noted, “bringing a baby home and parenting is the goal” not choosing the path that you think provides you with the tallest soapbox.
One thing I’ll share is that during the home study process for adoption our social worker asked, “what is it that brought you to adoption?” You can imagine that providing an answer of “because my dear friend twisted my arm until I walked away from what I really felt was the best option for my family” is not ideal. If you ever find yourself considering adoption, you’ll have a solid answer to that question and you’ll feel it, just as you feel that you’re ready to be a parent and that you’re ready to move forward with fertility treatments.
Best of luck with everything! May your world soon be turned upside down by sleepless nights, diapers, and toothless grins.
anon WP, beautifully and articulately said!
Great blog! I’ve got one child through reproductive technology and one through adoption, and I counsel people experiencing infertility. I have found that it’s impossible to guess which route a couple or individual will take toward having a baby. I do know that everyone I speak with wants a baby intensely. Who has the right to steer people in one direction or another? To my mind, nobody can possibly judge one alternative as being the “right” one. Bringing a baby home and parenting that baby is the goal. Fortunately, there are many ways to reach it.
Carol, right on sista!
I feel naive even thinking this–but really, WHY can’t we just support each other? Those suffering from infertility need support–ESPECIALLY from other people suffering the same thing!!
If you can’t say something nice(or something remotely sensible, pertinent and actually supportive), don’t say anything at all!
Adoption and ART are 2 completely separate things. One is not better than the other.
People who are able and choose to get pregnant easily and without intervention are subject to snide comments too. Ever heard the terms “breeders” or “fertiles”? Rudeness related to family planning and building of all types is unfortunately common, and the “competition” foolishness is a waste of everyone’s time and energy. I guess some of this attitude likely comes from ignorance, some from sophomoric feelings of superiority, and some perhaps from preemptive defensiveness. When people are concerned that they are about to be judged on their choices, they sometimes launch the “offense is the best defense” response. Can’t say I haven’t been guilty of that particular sin…
But, there are ways to handle all that crap, right? We can:
1) Be confident in our choices. We’ve run the numbers, considered our situations, done the homework, and we have made the best choices for ourselves. Not the best ones for everyone, but the best ones for us.
2) Express that confidence by not engaging with the judgy people unless there is some productive end to it.
3) Be respectful of the choices of others. They’ve run the numbers, considered their situations, done the homework, and have made the best choices for themselves. Not the best ones for everyone, but the best ones for them.
4) Express that respect by giving a positive response (that may confuse the truly snarky members of our community). “Oh, you guys had success with X? Congratulations! Thanks for sharing that with me. You must be so happy.” (Potentially quickly followed by “Oh, oops, I’m so sorry, but I just realized I have a thing. Ciao!”)
5) Try not to let these ugly people get in the way of us learning something new. Maybe the person has some good information or experiences to impart. Maybe we’ve just been through so many crappy conversations that we risk missing a good one and our own defensive walls are up. It never hurts to take a deep breath, stare at the person to see if they squirm, and then make a decision about how to react.
6) Aaand, of course, to the question “why didn’t you…?” the answer is, “because that’s not what we decided to do.”
One of the worst things in my mind is that these types of conversations can’t avoid all the children’s ears. So does that mean that kids are looking at each other and having their own battle for superiority of origin within their classrooms and playgrounds? That idea gives me the heebie-jeebies.
anonWP, I think you have a good point about premptive defensiveness. Also, when feeling slightly insecure about your own choice, some people feel the need to put down anyone choosing something different.
I love your comment-“Thanks for sharing that with me. You must be so happy.” I’m sure it confuses those who had bad intent and make those with good intent feel good. I also loved your suggestion of being open to new ideas and suggestions. That is so hard to do at times, especially once you’ve been burned a few times, but worth thinking about.
Great post! I am going through infertility treatments. I have a friend who is adopting. She is really trying to push me towards adoption. Don’t get me wrong, I think adoption is wonderful, but I’m not ready to go down that road yet. This friend acts like I am being selfish for wanting to give birth to a child. Her attitude toward my decision has been very hurtful. I may chose to adopt some day, but I’m not there yet.
It is so important that you listen to yourself. You, and only you (and spouse if you have one) can make this decision.
So funny that you wrote about this today. This past week I wrote a very similar post on my blog about people’s comments now that we have decided to adopt. http://whilewaitingiwillworship.blogspot.com/2011/08/adoption-does-not-equal-pregnancy.html
I think you said it so well about the “judgment” behind people’s comments. I never thought of it that way, but that is totally what it feels like. Thanks for this post!
I also loved your blog.
I think competition amongst the alternative family builders is the worst. It is bad enough we have to field questions from those who are just plain ignorant because they need no assistance making a family. But to hear subtle jabs from each other about the *best* alternative hurts. I also hear a lot of self-imposed loathing of infertiles comparing themselves to other infertiles, which creates a rift between those with varying levels of “success”. I think people are trying to justify their own choices and to some extent, their feelings. But we should be more mindful that we are all here to support each other and should present a united front to the rest of the world.
“But we should be more mindful that we are all here to support each other and should present a united front to the rest of the world.” Well said!
Agree with Hillary. Why there is this competitive notion is absurd. I am now struggling with the decision I knew I’d have to make – hysterectomy and I would like to give my daughter a sibling, she is adopted but with the question now being forced of a hysterectomy and colon reconstruction and crap insurance I don’t know if we can afford to give her a sibling and I am SO tired of hearing the comments… well, you have one shouldn’t you be happy, or why wouldn’t you just adopt again (um, emotional struggle, expense etc, etc) or well I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t try surrogacy or IVF again or why not use a surrogate again but not your eggs… it drives you mad and I especially hate it when it comes from people whose infertility treatment worked… did you really forget all the stuff that it took to get you that miracle baby?
Gemma, yes, I think sometimes people do forget.
Don’t forget those who choose to adopt a healthy child and get ask “why don’t you adopt special needs children? They need families too” or “why don’t you adopt an older child?”. I’m sure the list coukd go on and on. All these decisions are intensely personal and whether or not we agree and/or understand, we should be respectful.
Rebekah, well said!
Hillary, thank you. Most people are suffering enough. They don’t need judgement especially from other sufferers.