Is Adoption or Donor Egg or Embryo Settling for Second Best

Dawn Davenport


Is Adoption or Donor Egg or Embryo Settling for Second Best

Is Adoption or Donor Egg or Embryo Settling for Second Best

We’ve been told since childhood to aim high–set your goals at lofty levels and then work to achieve them. Don’t settle for second best. I tell my kids the same. “It never hurts to try for the _______(team, scholarship, part in the play, job).” “Work hard and try for what you want.” It’s not a part of our societal mantra to sing the praises of settling for our second choice, but sometimes in life we have to settle because our first choice simply isn’t an option. But what if we’re talking about creating your family. Now, that’s another kettle of fish entirely. Is it OK to settle “for second best”. Is it fair–to you or to the child?

I received a call from one of my consulting clients a couple of weeks ago. We had worked together twice exploring their options for adoption. They had originally wanted to adopt from China, but after getting information on their options and given the specifics of their situation, they had finally decided to pursue a domestic adoption. But now, a couple of weeks into living with that decision, she called and said she had doubts. She really wanted to adopt from China and didn’t want to settle for something else. Another person I consulted with came to me after their third failed IVF using the wife’s own eggs to help sort out their options of using donor eggs, donor embryo, or adoption. At the end of our consultation they were leaning towards using donated embryos. The wife ended our consultation by saying that she guessed she could settle for donated embryos. Another time, a woman came up to me after I gave a speech at an adoption conference to say that her parents thought she and her husband were settling by adopting, and they even offered to pay for one more round of infertility treatment.

The Slippery Slope of Settling

The word “settle” is pretty innocuous by itself, but the truth, whether spoken or not, is that the rest of the phrase is “for second best”. Compromise is a part of daily life. We all have to settle for our second choice from big decisions, such as the college where we were accepted, to inconsequential choices, such as the restaurant where we could get reservations. But when settling for second involves bringing a child into a family, I get worried.

Given the nature of what I do, most of the people I talk with are in the process of evaluating Plan B. That’s not to say that adoption, or even donor gamete or embryo, is always a second choice, but it often is. This is simply the reality for most people. But I believe to the depth of my soul that all children that come into a family either through adoption or donor egg or embryo deserve to be first best, not second. This is easy to say, but how does this work, when in fact, this method of creating your family wasn’t your first choice? And what if you feel like all your available choices are second best? Does this mean you shouldn’t move forward?

If you grew up thinking that you would fall in love, get married, wait two to three years, then have a baby, it’s a shock to realize that it isn’t always that easy. All alternative options feel like your second choice. Duh, that is exactly what they are, and you’d be delusional to think otherwise. But, and this is the important part, this doesn’t mean that they have to remain second best.

When you have to fill in a building lot with dirt, you wait a while to let the new soil settle before you start construction. The new dirt needs some time to move and shift before it can support a building. This same type of gradual adjustment is often necessary with alternative family building plans.

How to Move Forward with Plan B or Should You?

It seems to me that the best approach is to get as much information as possible about your options for creating your family, then live with them for a while. Allow yourself to feel the disappointment, the anger, and the frustration with not getting what you wanted. Life’s not fair, and it’s OK to be mad. But while you are ticked, keep gathering information about your options. Talk with people, online or in person, who have lived those options. Be open to the possibility that your feeling of disappointment or settling for second best may diminish, to be replaced by a feeling of acceptance, and just maybe a little bit of excitement. When you reach the point that Plan B is different, but not necessarily inferior, from Plan A, then you’re ready to move forward. If however, the feeling of settling for second best doesn’t lift, you need to reconsider whether to proceed–for yourself and especially for the future child.

The first couple had initially been adamant that the only country they wanted to adopt from was China, but had been equally determined that they did not want to wait three to five years to become parents. After living with their decision to move to domestic adoption and not finding acceptance, they were ready to consider other country options. They now have their dossier in line for China, and are expecting a referral of a son from Kazakhstan this summer. (This was when that was a more viable option.) I received an email saying they were ecstatic. With the second couple, I strongly encouraged them to live with the idea of embryo adoption and play with it in their imagination. I gave them resources to read about this option, a list of online embryo adoption support groups, and the name of a family formed through embryo adoption that had agreed to talk with them about this possibility. Last I heard, they were still learning more and holding off on deciding, which seems like the best plan for now. I never heard what happened to the family whose parents offered to pay for another round of IVF, but from what she told me that day, she and her husband didn’t feel like there was anything second best about adoption, so I hope they are proceeding.

It’s unrealistic and unhelpful to tell people that feeling like they are settling is a bad thing. It often is the reality, at least initially, in their decision making process. Sometimes in life Plan A doesn’t work out, but rather than “settling” for Plan B, maybe you just need time to reassess what Plan A should be given the realities of your situation.

Now, be honest, at first did adoption or donor egg, sperm or embryo feel like you were settling for second best?

Image credit: Nica Lorber

31/03/2009 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 16 Comments

16 Responses to Is Adoption or Donor Egg or Embryo Settling for Second Best

  1. Avatar Lynne Wallace says:

    I am so thankful that my husband feels the same way about adoption as I do. We don’t care if our kids are related by blood or not. We don’t care if they are black, white or purple. We just want to be able to share all of our love with a child. We have never, and will never think about adoption as ‘settling’.

  2. Cynthia Averill Campbell Cynthia Averill Campbell says:

    This is so good! I’ve actually had hurt feelings when talking women about their children adopting when experiencing infertility. These women act like adopting is second best for grandchildren. Even after seeing my girls , makes me so mad that they would be seen as less! It can be family dynamic that makes the decision to adopt seen as either postitive or settling IMHO.

  3. Avatar Dawn says:

    Martha, what an absolutely beautiful post that illustrates my point so perfectly. I am so pleased you will soon be holding your “first best” daughter. By the way, we did an absolutely fascinating show on miscarriage on March 11. I am amazed at how little is known about this common occurrence.

  4. Avatar Dawn says:

    Joanna, thanks for the thoughtful comment. That is my goal–to help others find the path that feels like the weight has been lifted. For you that path was adoption, for someone else that path may be donor egg or one more round of IVF. I’m so glad you found the BEST way to creat YOUR family.

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Everyone knows that its irresponsible to make a bunch of kids that you are not going to take care of. It’s plastered on the walls of every bus stop and in the halls of every high school and junior high in the united states – avoid teen pregnancy wait to reproduce until your prepared to take care of your children blah blah. And people go to jail for neglecting the children they create and people are sued for paternity support so the message is everywhere that people owe it to the kids they create to take care of them. Do you really expect that you can convince someone that their biological parents are somehow exempted from the internationally understood concept of parental responsibility – just because someone infertile wanted to raise a baby and there were not enough orphans to go around? Seriously, they know that their bio parents short changed them and it’s kind of a slap in the face to try and make it all better by telling them how wanted they were by someone else who in many cases was willing to pay for their bio parent to hit the bricks. So tread lightly on the “you were so wanted” speech with donor offspring because in my experience they all talk about feeling so wanted they were bought and they all seem to mention the fact that it never occurs to their social parent or rearing bio parent that in order to be raised by a social parent they had to be unwanted by a bio parent. Flies right over their heads I guess they just are not looking for it. So focused on the pain they had to get over in not getting to raise an imaginary bio kid that they totally overlook that the kid they are raising is told they don’t need to get over not being raised by their very real very existing absent bio parent. They ACTUALLY lost family in the deal whereas the individuals raising them lost nothing more than the dream of biological family. Can you imagine? Totally whizzes past them like “we never thought you’d mind because they were not on board from the begining, they did not intend to be parents but we did”. OK but they exist right? They exist and they are their bio parents and they opted not to take care of them and opted not to include them as part of their family. So when your busy trying to make it seem like infertile people can still be cast in the creator roll what it means is the kid has to pretend like or live like they were not created by anyone else. If you are really ready to not create a family but bring someone in or join your families or expand your family to include people from other families then your ready to let the kid you raise be their authentic self. You won’t want to give them a new name you’ll love their name and that they have a mother and father already and you’ll want your own special unique roll in their life nobody else vies for. Then there is no telling the truth with the wrong words. No conceiving with donor eggs – come on your infertile its the donor that conceives.

    So much further to go to get people in a head space to not raise kids that blog behind their backs.

  6. Thanks Vinita. Would you mind adding this comment to the blog itself? Just go to and leave a comment.

  7. Hi Dawn, I loved this blog. Couldn't have come at a better time! Also, I just wanted to let you know what a wealth of information your website, blogs and radio shows are! I have only scartched the surface of it. I am sure I'll rely your information as the times comes. So thank you for creating such a wondrful resource.

  8. Avatar Ali says:

    Hi Dawn!

    I listen & read your blogs all the time. I have been a little behind while working on our adoption profile 🙂 I’m your friend on facebook too 🙂 My thoughts on this is I have never thought of Adoption as settling! I have been offered surrogacy many times since I found out I was infertile. My OBGYN was trying to push it! I just couldn’t bring a child into this world that way, when adoption was an option! Our second adoption we were pursuing Ethiopia this past summer, but my husband got cold feet with all the gov’t paper chase etc. So we switched to domestic adoption through a birthmother. I grieved over Ethiopia for a few months, and then moved forward. I never once considered that I was settling for domestic adoption. A child is God’s gift no matter how they enter our lives. I am not going to say that I have never wanted my own biological children, but I knew my heart just wanted to be a mother. No matter who they were or what they looked like. I treasure how my son came into our lives through foster adoption, it was an awesome experience. I also feel good that we made a difference in his life by giving him a forever family, as he did for us! God brought us together, and that is how it was meant to be! I am happy to announce that we are approved and WAITING TO BE MATCHED as of last week 🙂

  9. Avatar Martha says:

    Dawn- First of all, just listened to this week’s radio show– THANK YOU! You are such a wonderful host and remain so centered and impartial during your shows. It’s a pleasure to listen and learn.
    Secondly- a personal side-note: We are awaiting USCIS approval for our VN adoption. Of course we were ecstatic to receive a referral after 2 years of infertility. Last fall, after receiving our referral I got pregnant. The pregnancy failed, but it was such a blessing, and here’s why: our first thought upon seeing that little + on the stick was: “Oh my gosh. What are we going to do? We already have a daughter in Vietnam– and she is our #1 priority.” Of course it was sad (as always) to miscarry, the clarity that that experience brought my husband and I was priceless. We can say with 100% that we aren’t “settling” with adoption. Our daughter is our #1 priority no matter where she came from.

  10. Avatar Vinita says:

    Hi Dawn, I loved this blog. Couldn’t have come at a better time! Also, I just wanted to let you know what a wealth of information your website, blogs and radio shows are! I have only scartched the surface of it. I am sure I’ll rely your information as the times comes. So thank you for creating such a wonderful resource and keep it coming.

  11. Avatar Jamie says:

    You are so right, Dawn, there is no case where bringing a child into your home and family should be seen as settling – a family is a beautiful thing, however it is created.

  12. Avatar Joanna says:

    Great post Dawn! I really loved this “maybe you just need time to reassess what Plan A should be given the realities of your situation.”
    After going through many infertility treatments myself, once we made the move to adoption, I felt a weight had been lifted and was suddenly where we were always meant to be. Not that I didn’t grieve the other losses…but where IF never felt quite right, adoption always did.

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