I spoke at an adoption conference on transitioning from infertility treatment to adoption. My talk was aimed more for the adoption professionals to help them understand infertility grief and how it affects the transition to adoption. After the conference I received the following email.
My husband and I attended your session at the conference, and it was the first time since beginning the adoption process I felt that I was allowed to be upset that we were not able to conceive. Many of the social workers and people in my life have had the attitude of “well your adopting now, so why are you so upset?”, “You will be a mom eventually so why worry about that whole pregnancy part”, “Its not fair to the kids you will bring home if you cant be happy that you are adopting instead”. So I want to thank you for that… I was the fool crying her eyes out in the back.
The Many Losses of Infertility
Infertility is a disease of many losses. To name just a few:
- The loss of being able to plan when to have a family.
- The loss of spontaneity in love making.
- The loss of being able to parent.
- The loss of a genetic connection to our children.
- The loss of experiencing pregnancy.
- The loss of being able to breastfeed our children exclusively or at all.
- The loss of privacy.
Adoption Isn’t a Cure for Infertility
So many people want to subtly or not so subtly make adoption the miracle cure for infertility. It isn’t. Adoption takes care of one of the many losses of infertility – the loss of being able to parent. It is a great way to become a parent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t be sad about the other losses.
Just Get Over It
The best way to move past grief for many of us is to be given permission to fully grieve. If you feel like you are getting stuck in the grief, seek help from a trained professional. But often all you need is permission to be sad and a recognition of your loss. I for one give you that permission and see your pain.
Did you ever feel the pressure to just “get over it”?First published in 2014; updated in 2017.
Image credit: ohmyGaly
Add Your Comment
Please do not adopt if this is how you feel! Us adoptees do not need to grow up with the baggage you have from infertility. Deal with your loss in some other way please- don’t ask an innocent child to essentially be your therapist.
Absolutely, hopeful parents should deal with the grief of infertility to the very best of their ability. Including counseling with a therapist well-versed in the grief associated with the loss of fertility. We have some excellent resources for that very issue at our Coping Infertility Grief resource page: https://creatingafamily.org/infertility/resources/coping-infertility-grief/.
Outstanding! Keep up the amazing spirit.
^^ EXACTLY! I am now very happy with my life after 2 bouts of secondary IF after 2 stillbirths…. I am now homeschooling our mandarin marvel…. he’s a teen, so you think I’d be removed from the preggies in the HS groups… nope… and it still hurts… so I find myself hanging with the mommies who have had their tubes tied and aren’t interested in baby talk. This is recent because we just started HSing in 2014 (he came home at 14 in 2012)… the last stillbirth was in 2009…. and it feels like grief has some sort of muscle memory.
I have definitely felt all of the above grief when we decided to move from fertility treatment to adoption. Another grief that I am also realizing is that when you adopt you lose the ability to have a completely joyful and celebratory birth. Your joy in the babies birth is accompanied by the sadness and loss of the birth mother. Eventually you also need to address the loss to the child of their birth family. Though we have not yet adopted I am feeling grief over the loss of a simpler parenthood.
Maura, [grieving the loss of a simpler parenthood]-I think many of in our community will completely understand.
Our culture does not really make room for “grief”. Whether it is the loss of fertility or the loss of a loved one, we are expected that (after a very brief grieving period) we “suck it up” and move on like it didn’t happen. This message puts pressure on us to deny our feeling, both with the immediate grief and with integrating the loss into the story of our lives. One can only hope for close friends and family to provide the support that our society does not. Unfortunately, while my wife and I received a lot of support for our adoption, the infertility was left as an unspoken embarrassment to be pushed into the past.
Michael, the reasons you said are the very reason that I think support groups (online or in person) are so very important! You surround yourself by people who “get it”.
Believe me, long after we adopted our two boys, I was *still* experiencing infertility grief. This did and does not take away from my my love for our sons; we couldn’t have asked to be blessed with more beautiful sons. Yet I’d be a liar if I were to say I still didn’t feel the pinch every time I hear of a friend’s pregnancy or birth announcement, or even see a happy infant in a mother’s arms in a department store. It’s there, and I’ve learned to accept it as a part of the healing process…
Having recently transitioned from IF to adoption it took me a while to really get control of how I felt about things. I was pretty sure that we wanted to go the adoption route, but just the transition of all of the BS regarding IF into the equally crazy world of adoption is daunting. In some ways I liken it from the frying pan into the fire! I think the time I allowed myself in between was important to my own (and hubby’s) sanity and emotional well being. Both IF and adoption are equally exhausting in every way, so just the time to think about things was important. I definitely went through the 5 stages of grief post IF. I still have moments of sadness. I am still sensitive to baby announcements and baby showers, but I don’t feel as guilty for feeling that way. I have definitely accepted that life must go on. I really don’t worry about how others perceive our journey and decisions. Most are well meaning and truly care. I haven’t had any purposefully negative people push back, and thats probably a good thing as I don’t think I would handle that well. I’m just really glad that I have had the Creating a Family Facebook Support group to turn to for support.
I am constantly reminding myself that people do mean well and they just don’t know which usually results in me shutting my grief down and tucking it away. Or, I feel guilty like I shouldn’t have these feelings. I/we have a wonderful little boy in our lives. But, you cannot deny that the feelings are there and sometimes you just need to release them. It’s nice when someone understands and gives you that permission. So, thank you 🙂
Michelle, I think our family and friends (and even some adoption professionals) want you to quickly move past your grief b/c they want you to be happy, not realizing that it is beneficial to be allowed to fully and completely embrace your sadness. It’s actually probably the best way to ultimately move forward. I try to remember that people mean well.
Great post Dawn. Excellent points made. I know that I didn’t give myself permission at the time we chose to stop trying, and on occasion I still have moments of grief even now (years later).