IVF and Adoption Don’t Always Work

Dawn Davenport


When IVF and Adoption Both Fail

What can you say to a friend who has experience repeated IVF failed cycles and then multiple adoption losses?

The sad truth is that infertility treatment doesn’t always work. It’s also true that many adoption matches don’t work out. When both happen to the same person, it is doubly sad. What can you say to a friend or family member that has not been successful with infertility treatment or adoption?

I have friends that have experienced infertility. I’m lost as to how to help them.

Our friends did numerous infertility treatments until an emergency hysterectomy pretty much ended all medical treatments for them. After many months of grieving they started to pursue adoption. I was horrified by how difficult and cruel adoption can be to childless couples. They experienced failed adoption after failed adoption and after their fourth failed adoption, their adoption agency has told them they are now too old to adopt.

How as a friend can you help couples like this? They experienced so many tragedies in their lives and there does not seem any paths left for them to have children.

Wow, I’m so sorry for your friends. What an awful place to be. I am also so thankful that they have friends like you who care enough to try to help.

The Power of Listening

One of the most powerful things you can do is to simply be with them through their grief. Don’t give false optimism; don’t give advice; don’t tell them about all the happy childfree people you know. Simply acknowledge their pain. You can’t fix it, and they don’t want you to. They simply need your kind ears. You can’t understand fully their pain, but they likely crave recognition of their loss.

I can’t recommend enough this Creating a Family show we did recently with Dr. Ken Doka on Coming to Terms with Infertility Grief.



Get Thee to a New Adoption Agency

I realize that I just told you not to give advice, but I can’t resist the temptation to say that if your friends are still in their 40s, age should not exclude them from adoption. Even if they are in their early to mid 50s, adoption may still be an option, especially if they are able to afford some of the adoptions that are more expensive because of the expectant mother’s medical fees or living expense.

Try to feel out if your friend is open to a small suggestion of checking with another adoption agency.  You might suggest she listen to the Creating a Family show we did on What Expectant Mothers Look for When Choosing Adoptive Parents.

What do you say to friends who have a failed IVF cycle or a failed adoption match? Or if you were the one facing the failure, what did you want people to say or do?

Image credit: Ashley Rose

18/02/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 29 Comments

29 Responses to IVF and Adoption Don’t Always Work

  1. Avatar Jess says:

    Visiting from ICLW and I agree 100%

    To Angela above- unfortunately foster care varies greatly county to county and state to state. The state I live in for example, is anti- foster-to adopt. In fact they will seek out parents who don’t eventually want to adopt, and they try to avoid foster parents all together.

    I think it’s so sad that some people just don’t have the money or sometimes the emotional ability to continue trying to become parents. Many are childless not by choice. I have two such friends and it is heartbreaking.

  2. Avatar marilynn says:

    Addie mentioned about having taken care of an infant for three months and she said the adoption match failed. That phrase I’m assuming means that the adoption never actually happened it was called off at the 11th hour so to speak? The way she referred to her as her daughter and loosing her it sounds like her adoptive parental rights were terminated and someone adopted the baby from her and her husband.

  3. Avatar Angela says:

    I adopted all of my children in the last few years and I am in my 40’s. All of my children were older though. The youngest was 8 when the adoption was final. I’m surprised so many people don’t even consider adopting through foster care. I knew a couple in my area that had an infant placed with them within three months of becoming foster parents and they were able to adopt the baby.

  4. Avatar AnonAP says:

    I think the focus on listening is the biggest thing here. Before we adopted, we were at a stage where we had identified an end point. We knew we were getting worn and that the focus of waiting and wishing to become parents was becoming so great that it was pushing out the things that made us happy with each other and with our lives. We made an agreement with each other that we would not renew our homestudy again. One more year and out. This isn’t to say that your friends *should* step out, but when you listen to them you may find that they may be looking not just for suggestions about finding another agency but potentially for an affirmation that it’s OK to stop. That it’s not a failure or a reflection on them that they are tired and emotionally exhausted and want to curl up around their pain, grieve, and move on. By all means, if they are still game to keep on trying to become parents, then find another agency. The age limit is not set in stone unless they are adopting internationally through a particular country. If they are done though, be ready to join them in recognizing that it’s both terribly sad and an OK thing to close that chapter.

    • Anon AP: [If they are done though, be ready to join them in recognizing that it’s both terribly sad and an OK thing to close that chapter.] YES. Of course, that’s the hard part–really listening to see where they are at emotionally.

    • Avatar Cindy Jaeger says:

      I can relate to the tired and emothinally exhausted and ready to grieve and move on. I’d love to find some others in the same place to network and build friendships with. Family and friends don’t understand the stress and the years of slowly losing a piece of yourself because you are working so hard to create a family. People can relate to your desire to achieve a family; people can not relate to the adoptions not working and being ready to move on in life.
      Where do we find more couples like us??

  5. Avatar Greg says:

    I think it’s a myth held by the general public that being childless is a choice and that IVF can cure infertility and if it doesn’t people can just adopt. The reality is IVF fails more than it works and not everyone is able to adopt. There is a segment of the infertility community that ends up childless and forgotten about. It’s unfortunate because these people are just as important and worthy of support as those who end up becoming parents.

  6. Avatar Addie says:

    When our adoption match failed after we had her for three months, it was a significant grief for us. We really struggled with finding someone, including the right type of grief counselor who could really validate that grief for us. Some people tried to compare our loss to that of a miscarriage, which was a struggle for me to take because we had known our daughter and raised her for three months. What helped us the best was when people just told us they loved us, and that they let us know that they weren’t “forgetting” about her. I also loved it and love it to this day several years later, when people ask about her like “what was it like to care for a preemie” or “did you love dressing a little girl”? I enjoy acknowledging her and am troubled when I mention her and I see someone else get uncomfortable. Even though we have two beautiful boys, when people recognize that we’ve had three children, it gives me great peace.

    • Addie, you’ve hit the nail on the head about this type of grief. It even has a name–disenfranchised grief or ambiguous grief, and includes infertility grief, miscarriage, and disrupted adoptions. It is made all the harder to deal with since it goes unrecognized by the general public, as well as some therapist.

  7. Jane, I don’t think those stats exist. I fear I may have taken us down a rabbit hole with my comment on older couples maybe being able to afford adoption situations that younger couple could not. In my experience couples wanting to adopt who do not fit the stereotypical profile (single, older, etc.) often have to wait longer for a match unless they are open to more risk factors (prenatal exposure, potential mental health issues in birth families, legal, financial). I don’t have a firm cut off by what I mean by older, but I’d say older than about 45. This is NOT a hard and fast rule and is certainly not scientific–simply my observation.

  8. Avatar Cyndi E. says:

    I’m the same age as bio grandma…

  9. Avatar Dina says:

    Dawn, to answer your age question when we adopted our oldest in 2007 I was 38 and my husband was 42. Then in 2011 we adopted our youngest I was 42 and hubby 45. Both birth mothers said they didn’t look at age right away and it was not really an issue for them. BTW my husband is 2 years younger than our son’s bio-grandmother.

  10. Avatar Jane S. says:

    Dawn Davenport, What are the average costs and success rates of couples in their early 50’s doing domestic infant adoption?

  11. Avatar Kristine A. says:

    Christine, my friend and I experienced differences with the fertility clinics that we went to. My husband and I had a consultation and testing at the RSC fertility clinic that went to, and were considering doing IVF with them. When the doctor at the RSC told me how they select the best embryos to transfer, I shared with him that I would want to use all the embryos (because of my Christian faith, I wouldn’t want any destroyed). He responded, “It’s your money, we will do what you want.” My friend who is also a Christian told the fertility clinic that she went to something like that also, and was told that they would not work with her basically because that could affect their success rates. (Interestingly neither of us ended up doing IVF, and both were blessed with adopting a baby in infant domestic adoption within one week of each other!)

  12. Jane, I probably could have said it better. What I meant was if the “older” couple might be able to afford so adoption matches that cost more money.

  13. While fertility treatments don’t work for everyone, I would have to say this may have more to do with the clinic than the patient. In my case, after 2 failed attempts at artificial insemination, my fertility specialist REFUSED to perform IVF on me with less than 3 good eggs. This happens when clinics establish protocols that are meant to boost their success rates. Irate, I discussed this with my GYN whose wife had been allowed to do IVF with just one egg which resulted in the birth of their son. I imagine his connections as such a doctor resulted in having this IVF attempt performed. He said he would advocate on our behalf with the clinic, but never did. “Rules are rules,” we were told. A consult with a second fertility clinic resulted in being told the same thing–their protocol being that of 4 eggs. This is completely unfair to couples who would do anything to achieve pregnancies. Unfortunately, reproductive technology is a multi-billion dollar industry and with many clinics unregulated they can just eliminate you as a candidate that will make their “business” grow.

  14. Avatar Jane Smith says:

    Dawn Davenport, I’m curious as to why older couples would have to pay more in birth mother expenses to adop

      t a child?
  15. Avatar Kristine A. says:

    Dawn. we were in our 40’s when we adopted and I asked our agency if we were too old and they said no, that we were in the middle of families with their agency – there were couples in their 30’s, couples our age, and couples that were older.

  16. Avatar Cyndi E. says:

    adopted newborn at 44.

  17. Avatar Kim says:

    We had failed IUIs, 4 surgeries, a failed adoption, then adopted our son, another failed adoption. We recently were told by our attorney that they hadn’t shown our book in 10 months. I welcomed another adoptive couple telling me about an agency that was looking for more couples, because they were short on couples. I appreciated empathy at the time, but what I really needed was more options and HOPE for something different. We are now, as of 2 weeks ago doing a shared homestudy with our attorney and the new agency. I had plenty of empathy throughout my 11 years of marriage that what I needed was some more options, answers, hope.

  18. Avatar Karen says:

    We adopted our first when I was 42 (husband 47) and out second last month 43 and 49). We did have to go to more than one agency because of our ages. We were told it could take many years if it happened at all. The consulting agency we finally ended up with didn’t care about age. Their attitude was that it was up to the birthmothers and many don’t mind about age. We thought it was ironic that it would take so much longer when we’re older. Wouldn’t we be reeeaallly old by then? 🙂

  19. Avatar Dawnmarie says:

    Wow, I’m in my 40s and we just adopted. I can’t imagine being told I was too old. I know that some countries have rules about the age of the PAPs but for adoption in the US there are options in your 40s for sure. Maybe the agency felt that emoms wouldn’t pick them now? Or maybe they just didn’t want to work with them anymore. If they’ve been with the same agency through 4 failures, they’ve probably paid just one set of agency fees, they would repay the expenses and legal fees each time, but the agency wouldn’t get paid again. That’s probably more of what’s happening there. I know how hard it is to have IVF failures and then a match fail too. It sucks. And often by then they don’t want advice so much as empathy.

  20. Kim, amen to that!!! Without it, I’d be lost.

  21. Avatar Kim says:

    True. But hope is a great thing too 🙂

  22. Kim, I agree. I was torn about giving that advice however because so often what people really need is a empathetic ear, not advice. I am curious though, how many of you adopted in your mid-40s or older?

  23. Avatar Kim says:

    I can’t believe an agency would tell the couple they are too old to adopt! Maybe by their standards, but their are plenty of options for adopting. Many other agencies will take older couples, as will foster care.

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