When you open up about your fertility struggles with others, it seems like the most common question you receive is, “So are you thinking about adopting?” And the longer you try to get pregnant, the quicker that question turns into “Why don’t you just adopt?”
The question usually comes out of a loving place… A place of comfort, of hope, of trying to help. After all, infertility often doesn’t make sense. It sure seems like a lot of people who struggle with infertility would make great parents and so badly want to have children. And for someone on “the other side”, adoption seems like a perfect solution. An infertility “fix,” if you will.
And it’s great. It’s great that people who aren’t able to conceive their own children have the opportunity to adopt a child (psssst, people who ARE able to conceive their own children have that same opportunity!). Adoption is an extraordinary thing. A birth mother selflessly giving a child a loving home while also giving a longing couple a child to call their own… it’s beautiful. It’s selfless. It’s an amazing gift. Greg (my husband) often says that if he were adopted he would understand the love of God and how He adopts us into His family in a completely different way. And he’s probably right.
But that doesn’t mean that couples struggling with infertility can or should “just adopt.”
To “just adopt,” it will cost you at least $20,000.
To “just adopt,” it will require months and years of waiting for a child.
To “just adopt,” it will mean raising a child who doesn’t look like you.
To “just adopt,” it will require grieving the loss of your fertility.
To “just adopt,” it will mean having a relationship with your child’s birth parents for the rest of your life.
To “just adopt,” it will cause many (ignorant) people to not view you as a “real” family.
To “just adopt,” it will likely include your child asking for their “real mother/father” at some point.
To “just adopt,” it will give you little control over how the child will be treated in utero.
To “just adopt,” it will include being asked some extremely personal questions (i.e. “how many times per week do you have sex?”) by someone you barely know.
To “just adopt,” it will likely include additional hardship, anxiety and stress that may not be part of your life if you only had biological children.
So no, we can’t “just adopt.” There’s nothing quick, easy or painless about it. And it certainly is not a simple replacement for the biological children couples aren’t able to conceive or have lost.
Greg and I have discussed adoption, we want to adopt and, in fact, we had hoped to someday adopt, even before we knew about our fertility struggles. We have friends who were adopted as children and friends who are currently adopting children. Don’t mistake this post for an argument against adoption. WE ARE FOR ADOPTION. Adoption is a wonderful way to grow or start a family and I wish more people, fertile or not, did it.
But that doesn’t make adoption an easy choice. I think we can agree that how and when anyone starts a family is an incredibly personal decision that shouldn’t be made lightly… especially out of outside pressure or guilt. There is enough self-induced guilt surrounding infertility already. Making couples feel selfish for having a strong desire to conceive their own biological children, or for trying medical interventions or even for taking their time to prayerfully consider and seek wise counsel prior to pursuing adoption is rude. That’s all there is to it.
(And FYI, comments like “Maybe God just doesn’t want you to have children” or “stop being so selfish and just adopt a child” certainly don’t help the guilt issue, in case you were curious!).
Maybe next time you talk to an infertile couple, instead of asking “why don’t you just adopt?” or “you’re not really going to do IVF, are you?” or “don’t you think if God wanted you to conceive, you would have by now?” stop and think for a moment.
Think back to when you were newly married and people constantly asked, “so when are you going to start a family?”
Think back to when you were on your third year of renting an apartment and often heard, “you’re throwing away money by renting, why don’t you buy a house already?”
Think back to when you had just graduated college, were making $9/hour at a coffee shop and were paralyzed with fear while people inquired, “so, have you found a job in your field yet?”
What’s with the pressure? Can we find some common ground and stop the judgments and assumptions and guilt-trips, and practice some compassion instead? Not just for infertile couples, but for anyone going through a hard time, figuring out a new normal, approaching a big decision or just trying to make it through the day?
Maybe you’ve said these things to someone dealing with infertility and it came out of a place of compassion and love and trying to be helpful. Maybe right now you’re feeling real awkward. If that’s the case, let me just tell you: it’s ok. Before we began this journey with infertility (and probably even while we’ve been dealing with it), I thought and said these things too. I’ve had the “shut up and just adopt” mentality. I’ve been there! It’s hard to know what to say or how to act around this issue, because like I said, infertility doesn’t make sense. There’s no easy answer or easy fix for our bodies, for our minds or for our hearts. So I know you’re not trying to be malicious or hurtful or condescending.
But the fact of the matter is that sometimes that’s how I feel. And when I hear those questions or feel that pressure, I wish that you knew how long I’ve prayed for direction from God. How many long talks my husband has endured as we try to make a plan of action. How many tears I’ve cried over feeling broken, unworthy, un-feminine. How many times I’ve wished that I could conceive like a “normal” woman. How many hours I’ve spent researching infant adoption, alternative fertility methods, intrauterine insemination, eating plans, hormonal medication, foster care and every other option available to us.
So that’s where I’m at. We’re not going to “just adopt” right now. We have a “trying to conceive” plan. And that plan has stipulations and clauses and a big fat end date (which, as I’m painfully aware of, is drawing nearer and nearer every day). But even when that end date has come and gone, it doesn’t mean that I will be immediately be ready to “just adopt.”
And to that point, we will never “just adopt.”
When we open up our home to a child who is not biologically ours, who does not look like us, who comes with lawyers and representatives and baggage, it will be a deliberate decision. Adoption won’t be a means to an end, a consolation prize or a good deed done out of guilt.
When we open up our home to a child who we will pray for, who we will welcome as our own, who we will wait and wait and wait for, it will be a loving and a joyful decision. Adoption will be the greatest gift and it will be altogether beautiful.
There will be nothing “just” about it.
p.s. If you are also for adoption (reminder: WE ARE FOR ADOPTION), and want to support two really amazing couples as they grown their families, check out Mike & Christina’s adoption site and Adam & Kristi’s adoption site. These are good friends of ours who will all be AMAZING parents. We’d love if you could pray for them as they continue in this journey and if you could donate to their adoptions, should you feel led. Thank you!