If you are currently experiencing infertility or have experienced infertility you have probably been in a conversation similar to this:
“When are you guys going to start having kids?”
“Oh, well, we’ve been trying for quite some time now, it may not be in the cards for us.”
“Well, there is always adoption.”
And just like that the infertile Myrtle is left feeling unheard, misunderstood, and broken.
As you probably know, Dean and I are in the midst of becoming home study approved for our first adoption. And, as someone in the adoption process, I am going to tell you why (from my perspective and with the help of Pat Johnston) adoption cannot cure infertility.
I will confess, that a small part of me hoped that adoption might solve my infertility problem. I didn’t think we would adopt and then I would get suddenly get pregnant, although, everyone and their cousin knows someone who knows someone who started to adopt and then got pregnant. I’m pretty sure the reality is that everyone knows the same couple, and that couple just happens to be super social and knows everyone. So, I’m not holding my breath thinking that will happen to me, but I’m holding my breath a little bit, but I’m not, but I am…
I naively thought that the loss I felt from infertility was because I was not a mom. I thought it was the simple loss of a simple dream: The desire to be a mom. If that were the case, adoption would indeed cure my heartache. So why, while in the midst of this exciting, yet stressful adoption journey did I suddenly start reverting back to old thoughts and heartache about my infertility?
“It’s not fair, they are having baby number whatever and I’m still on baby number nothing.”
“Look at how beautiful that baby is, you can see a perfect blend of mom and dad! I will never have that.”
“Wow, pregnant mommy-to-be is simply glowing!! I will never have the pregnancy glow.”
“An ultrasound of Baby “Whatstheirname” and you can see her fingers and toes! Oh…I will never get that ultrasound awe and wonder with my own child.”
“I can’t believe she endured that many hours of labor! I wonder if I could do it, maybe I couldn’t and that’s why God has a different story for me. I guess I will never know if I am woman enough.”
This wasn’t supposed to happen! I was done with these thoughts! I will be a mom, I firmly believe that, but then why am I still upset?
Because adoption is NOT the cure for infertility, here’s why:
According to Pat Johnston, in Adopting after Infertility (I will confess, I didn’t read the book, but I read an article that quoted the book and well, it is dead on!) there are six losses associated with permanent infertility:
- Control over many aspects of life
I think this is a loss we all must face at some point in life, regardless of infertility, however, some face it sooner than others. Infertility is one of those situations that can bring about this loss a little sooner, but it is important to know that not everyone is willing to face the loss of control, so not everyone will understand how to let go. I laugh when I hear young couples say, “we don’t want to have kids right away; we are going to spend a couple years just the two of us and then start a family.” I laugh, not because it isn’t an enticing plan, but because it’s a plan. Infertility affects 6.1 million Americans (http://americanpregnancy.org/infertility/fertility-faq/) and those 6.1 million Americans all had plans too. All 6.1 million plans didn’t go according to the plan. And most likely all 6.1 million plan B’s (not the drug…because that would be an oxymoron in this case) didn’t come to fruition either.
As an infertile Myrtle, I can tell you that I made a new plan every single month. I would try anything to control my fertility. I tracked my cycle, my discharge, my temperature, and my hormone surges. I tried drinking disgusting noni juice every morning for 6 months. I tried to lose weight because my BMI was “too high” and might be causing problems. I started eating all organic. I switched to Paleo. I tried normalizing my system with birth control and coming off. I tried the Sperm Meets Egg plan (http://spermmeetseggplan.com/). Every single month for nearly 6 years I have made plans regarding my fertility. Yes, I still find myself making plans: “Reverse the ‘affects’ tampons have had on my fertility by using a diva cup and get pregnant.” And let me tell you, the planning that comes with fertility treatments is INSANE! I did go through some fertility treatments, but only two months’ worth, some people are in fertility treatments for years! That’s a lot of plans!
But when all my plans didn’t work, I suddenly had to realize something: I have no control over my fertility. I have no control over whether or not my body will release an egg. I have no control over whether or not I will have a cyst that month. I have no control over whether my body will even produce a follicle large enough to be released as an egg. I have no control over my hormones, or when I try to control them with meds something else in my body goes out of control (like my weight). I did not cause my infertility. My thoughts did not cause my infertility. My past high school actions did not cause my infertility through Karma. It just is. I’m working on the “Let go and Let God” thing, but it’s not a once and done thing- I get a monthly reminder that I am not in control. Facing the loss of control over various aspects of my life is a continual journey.
- Individual genetic continuity linking past and future
I think this one is easy to recognize. I absolutely love that I have my Nanny’s nose and profile. I love that my hair is graying early like my dad’s did. I love that my legs look like my mom’s. I love that my cousin and I get asked if we are sisters. I love that my brothers and I share eyes and freckles. I love that I have a cousin with feet identical to mine. I love seeing my brother’s son and how much he looks just like my brother and yet equally just like my sister in law. How can that be? I love seeing that Dean has his dad’s pronounced brow and his mom’s strong chin. And it is a very real loss to know that we will not be passing these traits on to another generation. It is also a very real loss to know that the name Dean shares with his Dad and Grandfather will end with him. And all of this brings me to the next loss…
- The joint conception of a child with one’s life partner
Dean and I will never know what type of children our genes would create. Would they be beautiful? Would they get all the goofy traits? Would they look like me and him? I always wanted to have kids that had Dean’s metabolism, eyes, and athletic ability with my hair, complexion, and ability to dance. But it’s not just that. There is a reason why love progresses to sex: an act that reproduces. There is a connection there, a deep knowledge and understanding that your love created a human! It’s a miraculous thing, a beautiful thing, a thing we may never be a part of and that’s a thing worth grieving. Not only that, but people who have children together are usually bound forever in some way shape or form. It’s not always loving, but it’s always there. Dean and I will not have that. It doesn’t mean our love is less real or less binding, but I must now face a deep dark fear of mine: will it be easier for Dean to leave me if we do not share a biological child?
- The physical satisfactions of pregnancy and birth
This one may sound a little crazy to you birth mothers out there. But I will always wonder if I would have ballooned up like an elephant or just been all belly. I will always wonder if I would have glowed. I will always wonder what it would be like to have my husband kiss my pregnant belly. I will always wonder if my husband would look at me a little differently: in awe of the miracle I was carrying. I will always wonder what it’s like to feel a kick, to hear the heartbeat, to see an ultrasound of my womb. I will always wonder what my labor stories would have been. Would it be quick? Could I do it naturally? Would I have used a midwife? Would it have been a C-section? Just how big would my boobs actually get? I laugh at that last one, but the reality of my situation is: I may never know and it is something that needs to be grieved.
- The emotional gratification of pregnancy and birth
Again, this may sound crazy, but it’s real. Would I feel like more of a woman if I gave birth and had a labor story? Will I ever be able to join in on those birthing stories with which all moms manage to monopolize the conversation? Will I ever be able to relate to my best friends, cousins, and sisters on this level? Will I forever be on the outskirts of motherhood because I wasn’t able to give birth to my child? Will I have a deep emotional connection to my child like a birth mother would? Will my children know my voice and find comfort in my heartbeat? Will I ever have those hilarious stories about pregnancy crying, pregnancy brain, etc.?
- The opportunity to parent
Oh, yay, finally one I don’t have to grieve! I will be a parent.
Do you see why adoption is not the cure for infertility? Adoption only provides an opportunity to avoid the last loss! That is 5 out of 6 losses us adoptive parents still need to grieve! Sorry for all the exclamation points, but I am just really excited about this.
Facing these losses is bringing me peace and freedom and a fuller excitement about my future as an adoptive parent. I’m learning it’s ok to still be sad about my infertility, it’s ok to continually mourn the loss of dream biological children. It doesn’t mean I will love my adoptive children less. And weirdly enough, the more I allow myself to mourn, the less I feel the need to mourn. It happens less often, it takes less time to come out of it, and I always come away feeling recharged and ready to be an adoptive parent. Mourning the loss of my fertility doesn’t mean I’m not ready to adopt, it is a huge sign that I’m ready to move on. It is showing me that I am ready to adopt.
It is also showing me that my adopted child will eventually face these types of losses as well in regards to their biological parents and with me and Dean as adoptive parents. I think there is a reason why God calls the infertile to adopt, because in some way we can validate our child’s loss of a biological family. It doesn’t mean they love me and Dean less, it’s a loss worth grieving and it’s ok.