By Dawn Davenport
Creating a Family
How many of you when telling others of the lengths you are going to with infertility treatment and trying to get pregnant have heard, “You can always just adopt”? How many of you want to scream when you hear that phrase? Other people’s ignorance can sometimes drive us crazy. Adoption is a great option for family building, it was a great option for me, but it isn’t an option for everyone.
The phrase “just adopt” shows a lack of understanding about adoption in the US and abroad. Adoption in the U.S. favors the young, heterosexual, “healthy”, upper middle class couple. If you don’t fit that description, adoption is often a slow, difficult process. It may still be possible, but the adjective “just”, with its implications of “easy”, certainly doesn’t fit. Adopting internationally is definitely an option for some people, but again, it’s not an easy fix for infertility. While Hollywood celebrities make the process look simple (even glamorous), inter-country adoption is extremely complex, and is governed by the laws of both of the countries that are involved. Plus, if the countries involved in the adoptions are party to theHague Convention– an international agreement designed to ensure that inter-country adoptions take place in the best interests of the child– you will need to go through additional processes. In addition, certain countries may have regulations which limit your ability to adopt. With varying requirements on parental ages, divorce, and health, international adoption comes with its own set of challenges. Also, certain countries restrict placement for single mothers or fathers, or will not knowingly place children with same-sex couples. Regulations vary by country, and sometimes by agencies within the same country. To learn more about this process check out this Creating a Family podcast.
But traditional domestic and international adoptions are not the only choices – adopting children from the U.S. through the foster care system is an option for singles, gays (depending on the state) and those of moderate income. This is a terrific option for many. However, most of the 107,000 US children that are legally free to adopt through foster care are above the age of 6, have experienced trauma, and many are part of sibling groups. Parenting these kids is not the best alternative for many people, and I suspect is not an option many of those who bandy about the phrase “just adopt” would consider for themselves.
Adoption is also not a good option in general for many infertile people. Parenting means different things to different people. Most people never have to dissect what they want out of parenthood. They grow up vaguely assuming that someday they will become a parent, and then they get pregnant and give birth. End of story. But if you are infertile, you have to go the next step to decide what parenthood means to you.
Some people decide that their ultimate goal is just that…parenting. They want to go through the process of raising a child: the wiping of droolly chins; the flat footed ballet recitals; the sitting on the bench at endless ball games; the Christmas morning chaos of paper, cookies, and wonder; the sleepovers; the teaching to drive; the senior prom; the coming home from college; the grandkids. These folks have options if they find themselves infertile– donor eggs, surrogacy, or adoption. I don’t want to minimize their pain at losing a biological connection, or their need to grieve this loss, or the financial costs, but they can and most often do, move forward to become happy and content parents. For them, these Plan Bs are an alternative path to their real goal of parenting.
For others, their dreams of parenthood are not so simple. Yes, they want to raise a child, but not just any child. They want and need the biological connection to this child. They crave the genealogical continuity. They are too wounded by infertility to risk adoption. Most people I talk to who feel this way, wish they didn’t. They wish they could just accept the Plan B of adoption, egg donation or surrogacy.
Rather than judge them as a failure or as selfish for not being able to accept the more conventional second choice, I respect them for knowing what is right for them and not trying to blindly make adoption fit. If it is not “right” for them, it is also not right for any child they might have had through adoption.
In addition to ignorance, when people make the comment “You can always just adopt”, I also sense a bit of sanctimonious “holier-than-thou” attitude. “If you were a better person, you would ______(adopt or foster a child from foster care, save a needy child, etc.). I wonder how many of those who are making these suggestions have themselves adopted from foster care or taken in a handicapped child. Even if they already have a family, there’s no reason they too, can’t open their hearts and homes to needy children. No one way of dealing with infertility is morally superior to all others.
How anyone can feel anything but compassion for those suffering with the disease of infertility is truly beyond me. At the very least, they can try to be open to their pain.
Creating a Family is a 501c3 nonprofit providing education and support for infertility and adoption through our website (www.CreatingaFamily.org), weekly radio show (Creating a Family), and monthly videos. Our goal is to provide unbiased, medically accurate information to those suffering with infertility.