Guilt and worry, to some extent, are a part of parenting for all of us. It comes with the whole parenting package: sleep deprivation, mom-taxi runs to soccer and orchestra, and (my kids’ favorite!) spit-cleaning sticky faces as we walk into church.

But there is guilt, and then there is *GUILT*, right? We often hear about that *GUILT* from adoptive parents who want to continue building their family but feel guilty about returning to fertility treatments rather than adopting again. It’s a big conversation that parents should weigh carefully before deciding.

Weighing Issue #1

Many adoptive parents feel as if they are being disloyal to their adopted child by even considering fertility treatment as an option. They worry that they are communicating that how he joined their family “isn’t good enough.”

In our online community, we always appreciate hearing from adult adoptees to help us understand the experience of being adopted. This issue of “not being good enough” is one they encourage parents to weigh carefully.

…it sends the message that “plan B” (adoption) still wasn’t good enough. And then more treatments were needed to achieve the more “desired” child.

I can’t imagine growing up knowing *we* weren’t enough that they felt they needed to do treatments to have one of their own.

Weighing Issue #2

The adoptive parents we spoke with had additional concerns about the emotional and psychological burden that adding a child by fertility treatments might put on their adopted child.

Granted, many in our community are adoptive parents who know the challenges of parenting a child who has experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect, but their cautions are well-taken.

I realize my child needs all the attention I can muster. Her situation is complicated enough right now to add another set of layers (i.e., the normal sibling jealousy, for instance)… It wouldn’t be fair for her in our situation AND I don’t have the energy…

I wouldn’t do that to her. She has been through enough in her young life already… All I can say is that if we decided to go down that path, and the emotional and financial rollercoaster it would involve, I don’t think it would be acting with our daughter’s best interests at heart.

Weighing Issue #3

Another issue that the parents in our community are weighing out is how they may feel now (even after adopting) about “the loss of the pregnancy experience.” Some felt that the “how” no longer mattered to them once they became a parent. However, others have mentioned that it still felt significant enough for them to at least consider. Still, others admit their grief over never being pregnant or having a genetic connection to a child has not gone away.

Weighing Issue #4

For many years, the unwritten rule that many hopeful parents grappled with was that you must be finished with infertility treatment before adopting. Period. Adoptive parents trying to decide between infertility treatment and adoption fear the judgment they might face in their circles for breaking that norm.

Then Why Not Adopt Again?

Even with these issues at the top of their minds, many parents still want to explore the idea of returning to fertility treatment instead of another adoption. There are as many reasons why one would consider going back to infertility treatment rather than adopting again as some people think about it. We’ve heard just a few in our community and from our readers:

  • Medical advances have improved the chances of success with infertility treatment.
  • “Treatments,” such as embryo donation (often also called embryo adoption), are now more common and cost less than most adoptions other than foster care adoption.
  • The landscape of adoption has changed dramatically in recent years. International and domestic adoptions are not what they used to be.
  • “We are much older now” – these parents feel as if they are less likely to be chosen by an expectant mom, and so fertility treatments feel like a better bet.
  • Egg donation is more common now and often can be less expensive. The age range in which patients can be successful with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has also expanded.

What about a Naturally Occurring Pregnancy?

We’ve all heard of couples getting pregnant after adopting. Some of our members report hearing about it so often that you’d think adoption should be part of the standard infertility treatment plan. The reality is that this doesn’t happen nearly as often as people think. We just hear about it every time it does.

We are unaware of any research on how a subsequent natural conception affects an adopted child. Anecdotally, we all know some adoptees and families who handle it well and some who don’t. That seems logical to us – every family has its tolerance and coping style.

However, we do wonder what the adopted child perceives and feels when parents “accidentally” get pregnant vs. actively pursuing fertility treatment. It’s definitely worth weighing into your decision process.

What’s the Right Thing to Do?

There is no one correct answer for everyone. However, adoptive parents should weigh out the issues we’ve mentioned here thoughtfully. And be open to considering other matters specific to your family’s adoption situation.

Every child’s history and temperament are unique. You must take stock of how your adopted child might feel about the questions you are asking. Only you can know your child’s ability to handle significant changes like a new sibling. The added issues of how that sibling joins your family also must be added to the scales you are trying to balance out.

We get the desire to continue building your family. However, now that you are parenting an adopted child, how you create that family is no longer just about you and your feelings. You must weigh your reasons for wanting to have a child through fertility treatment against how you think your adopted child will feel. No child should ever feel like a placeholder while their parents try for their “real” child.

How to Prepare Your Family for the Changes

Whether you decide to pursue another adoption or try another baby through fertility treatment, consider that preparing yourself can buffer you for the transition. We have several resources to help you prepare your child for adopting a sibling.

If you are pursuing fertility treatments, consider the following tips for combining children by birth and adoption in your family. We have many more supports for Blending Children By Birth and Adoption in our Resource Pages.

Combining Children by Birth and Adoption

Build a family library full of books.

Look for books about the many different types of adoption and the many ways families grow. The books will help you get comfortable talking about adoption while exposing your child to the ideas as her understanding grows. Start reading them to your child before she can understand the concepts.

Preparing Children Already in the Home for Adoption

Join in-person and online support groups.

Choose one that includes families whose children joined the family in different ways. Most adoption support groups have families with kids from both birth and adoption.’s Facebook support group includes adult adoptees and birth parents who can bring added dimensions to your thought process.

Normalize how your family formed.

The method by which each family member joins your family should be a casual and easy topic of conversation in your family. Start talking about it when the kids are young so the conversations feel normal. It’s also a helpful way for you to practice the language you want to use.

Set the tone for your family.

Whatever means you pursue to form your family, you get to create your family’s unique culture. If you value and embrace your differences, your children will, too. Look for books, movies, music, and community events that focus on diversity and keep learning together to expand your understanding and theirs.

Have you considered going back into infertility treatment after adoption? Do you worry about how this decision will affect your adopted child? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image Credits: Thomas Quine; ND Strupler (cropped);  sergio santos