We received a question from a woman who had been trying to conceive for five years. She was worn out from the struggle. She can adopt but wonders if this baby “will be enough.”
This woman asks a question that I think many people who have failed at infertility treatment wonder:
“If you adopt, does your heart stop breaking every month when you know you’re not pregnant? Will this little baby be enough or will you still need more.“
This question breaks my heart for the pain it expresses. Only she can decide if this baby will be enough, and she owes it to this baby and her birth mom to figure it out.
It’s OK to decide that you must experience the biological aspects of parenting (pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding) and the genetic connection. Other avenues are available, such as third-party conception (donor sperm, egg, embryo, or surrogacy). Or you may decide to live a child-free life and devote your energy to other things. Here are some things to think about as you choose.
Adoption After Infertility May Allow You to Feel Normal Again
Adoption allows you to enter the world of parenthood, and for many women, that is a welcome relief. They have spent a long time on the outside looking in and relish talking about sleepless nights, comparing notes on the best strollers, and discussing the advantages of Mother’s Day Out programs. It feels good to be in step with the rest of your peers again or, for some, with the generation behind them.
Feeling of Relief and Time to Repair
Many women tell us that their predominant feeling when moving to adoption is relief! They are so ready to be off the medical treadmill. They are ready to reclaim their lives and spend time on their marriage. They are ready to enjoy sex again. Focusing on adoption feels like a new beginning.
Beth: After my last attempt, IVF failed, my body and soul were tired. I was done. I could not go through it any longer. I was so thankful to be adopting.
You May Always Be Curious
If we’re honest, many people who adopt after infertility treatment doesn’t work continue to be curious about the “what ifs”?
…What if I got pregnant?
…What would it feel like to be pregnant, give birth, breastfeed?
…What would a child genetically related to me look like, act like, or be like?
It’s worth thinking long and hard about how strong this feeling will be for you. Mild wondering is one thing; a burning desire to know is another.
Adoption May Not Be the Answer
Some people know that they yearn for pregnancy and genetic connection. They don’t want the added complexity that parenting an adopted child will bring into their lives. Adoption is not a good fit for them.
“I want to raise my own child. I know that isn’t a popular thing to say, but it is how I feel. I want my own.” ~ Jane
For some, the lasting effects of infertility may interfere with their ability to attach.
“I’ve had 2 foster babies placed with me and I just can’t seem to attach to them. I don’t know if it’s my unresolved issues with 4 rounds of failed IVF or because these children are so very different from me in personality, or because I didn’t get maternity leave or because we’re not sure we’ll be able to adopt, but I can’t seem to let my guard down and feel totally like their mom.” ~ Leslie
Adoption May Be the Perfect Answer
“As others have told you, adoption isn’t a cure for infertility. It’s a completely different path. For me, very very rarely do I reflect on my infertility any longer. And when I do, it’s for a brief moment. The moment I laid eyes on my son, I fell deeply in love with him. For months after we brought him home I would cry, when my husband would ask me why I would just tell him I was so happy our son was here. In fact, just the other day he did something so sweet I started crying, which I’ve not done in a long time. I say this often, my son is the song in my soul, the breath in my body, and the beat in my heart. Because of him, I know what it means to truly be willing to die for another human being. I take nothing for granted with him and I never wish for him to be older. I thoroughly enjoy every single day with him. Even during tough parenting times, when he’s up in the middle of the night, ready to play. No matter how tired I am, I am grateful for that time, because I know one day he will be grown and won’t need me to get up with him and instead of wishing for more sleep, I remember to enjoy the fact that it seems like he and I are the only 2 people in the world awake. During tough parenting times, when he is testing his independence and trying to navigate big emotions, I am thankful. Because I am fortunate enough to be here with him to help him navigate those emotions.” ~ Niki
“I think its different for everyone but I will say for me, that my son (adopted at 4) completely and totally filled that hole in my heart. I didn’t have that “ache” anymore. I’ve been too busy focusing on what I have rather than what I don’t. I can say that with 100% honesty.” ~ Carmen
The Answer May Be Someplace In Between
For most people, the pain of years of struggling to get pregnant will not be erased when you decide to adopt. How could it? These struggles, in part, have made you the person you are today. But it is possible to move forward with this pain since joy and sadness can exist in our lives simultaneously.
“We adopted our first daughter after trying for almost 2 years. A year later, we adopted our second daughter (a complete surprise), and now I’m expecting through fertility treatment. I love my daughters with my whole heart and couldn’t love them anymore if they were my bio daughters, and they are worth every single failed cycle. Having said that, even being pregnant now, it doesn’t take away the 3.5 years of trying and the fact that we can’t have children the way most people can. I don’t think I will ever get over that, so I just have to trust that God’s plans are better than mine.” ~ Carlie
From a woman who adopted after four miscarriages and failed infertility treatment and then was able to get pregnant and give birth three years after she adopted:
“Ultimately, adopting and then having my bio baby allowed me to parent. Even having the bio baby, though, didn’t ‘cure’ my infertility in my mind. I mean, sure, I had a baby, I was parenting two of them, and motherhood is amazing, BUT, after years of watching almost every cycle, of surprise pregnancies that failed, and always waiting and wondering, it was difficult to let go of that side of me. Ultimately, the only thing that helped those feelings go away completely was having a hysterectomy!! I finally feel like I have control over my fertility, Did my infertility affect my parenting? Sure, how could it not. Did it make me a less capable, weaker, or less grateful mom? Not by a long shot!” ~ Christi
That being said, working through the grief associated with infertility is very important. Some people will tell you that you must work through it entirely BEFORE considering adoption. Many realize that infertility can affect you for a lifetime, and you can parent successfully without a long wait to deal with it all.
Give Yourself Time to Regroup
You may feel in a hurry to decide, but give yourself time. We say it so often that it has become a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate: Adoption is not a cure for infertility. It gives you the privilege of parenting but does not erase your infertility.
No child deserves to be a place-filler for the child you want. It is not the child’s place to be used as therapy for your grief.
“I’m two years into parenting my two girls and I love them to death, but my heart still hurts. I am still unable to go to a baby shower and be around babies. The pain doesn’t end. I love my girls but I will always wonder and wish.” ~ Susan