Why Not just adopt if you are infertile

I read an essay by Lisa Belkin in the NYT that got me thinking. The essay, titled Too Many Ways to Have a Baby?, was the fairly standard “Gosh darn, they can do just about anything with technology and where is it going to end” type article, but the part that I found interesting, in a disturbing sort of way, were the comments from readers.

There were a fair number of compassionate comments such as:

  • As someone who was fortunate enough to have the kids she wanted, I feel I am not in a position to judge the ones who have to resort to the new scientific methods. … I think as long as things are done in a legal manner, we should try to hold judgment! Yay for science!! ~ Anothermom
  • The desire to have children just like the desire to stay alive is a very strong biological and emotional drive. Just as we as a society continually strive for better healthcare and medical technology for one, so we will strive for the other. It is not so surprising. ~anne marie

But there were also quite a few comments like the following:

  • To me the answer is quite simple. If you can’t have children the natural way, adopt. There are SOOOO many children already out there, just wanting to be loved. ~yip
  • Why fight biology so hard? There are so many adults who want to be parents, there are so many children who want to be loved. It amazes me that more people don’t jump into adoption immediately like we did. ~Sarah
  • Adopt. If you can’t love a child who isn’t perfect, or who isn’t a DNA carbon copy of you, maybe you shouldn’t be a parent. ~ACW
  • While I cannot begin to understand how wrenching it must be for women who want to have babies but can’t, I’m also puzzled by why they go to such lengths to conceive when they could adopt. There are thousands upon thousands of babies in this country — and many others — waiting for a loving home. So why all the obsession with being pregnant and having your own baby? ~question
  • What natalist myopia. I want to throw up. Maybe Marilyn Quayle was right. Maybe women really don’t want to liberated from their essential natures. ~ AAARGH

Oh my, where to begin?

Why Not Just Adopt??

Indeed, why not just adopt? Well, first of all, while it may be true that there are “thousands upon thousands of children in this country — and many others — waiting for a loving home,” not all of them are available for adoption, and few of them are babies. If only adoption were so simple as merely deciding and picking. Most people who want to adopt will be able to, but it is far from easy or quick.

But more important than the general misunderstanding of the realities of adoption, these comments reflect a basic misunderstanding of infertility and adoption. Adoption is not a cure for infertility, and an adopted child is not a generic replacement for the longed for biological child.

Adoption Isn’t a Cure for Infertility

Adoption is a “cure” for childlessness, but not for infertility. For some the move to adoption is an easy and logical next step. For others it is not.

Some people yearn to see their genes in the next generation; they crave being pregnant and breastfeeding; they want some degree of control over their child’s intrauterine environment and genetic makeup. For them, parenthood is more than simply parenting. They want to procreate. Is it really that hard to understand that they simply want what comes so easy for most of us?

As someone who chose adoption even though we were not infertile, I can more than attest to the fact that adoption is a great—no, really a phenomenal—way to create a family, but it is not for everyone. I don’t want it to be. That’s not fair to the infertile, and it is certainly not fair to the prospective adopted child.

Other Creating a Family resources you will enjoy:

First published in 2009. Revised in 2016.