May 10, 2013
Ever since I got back from doing IVF, people keep asking me if I will now turn to adoption. I thought I would explain why that's not in the cards for me, and why sometimes that can feel like a loaded question.
I have been thinking about building our family for six years. I have cried, raged, hoped, and writhed. I have been poked, scraped, injected, and pumped full of radiographic dye. I have bled and been anesthetized a lot.
I am exhausted.
Last week I had a consult for a second opinion on whether I could ever be considered a good candidate for IVF. As I waited for the doctor to enter my room, I realized I was getting panicky that he might say yes. That he might say that we should try another round or three of IVF and keep trying until we maybe, possibly, might get a good embryo that maybe, possibly, might implant and become a baby. I realized I was not worried that we would hear bad news; I was worried that he might offer me a glimmer of hope.
I realized I was done with hope.
I have been full-steam-ahead for six years, from the moment we decided we wanted a baby. It is not in my nature to be any other way. If I'm in, I'm all in. I am not the type of person who can "just relax" and go with the flow. I tinker, I fidget, and I run tiny science experiments every single month. And every time, I feed the fire of hope that this time, maybe this time, I have figured it all out and gotten it right.
That hope is really hard to live with. I realized recently that I could more easily live with my daughter being an only child than I could with that neverending rollercoaster of hope I've been living for six years.
Which brings me to my point: choosing to go the adoption route means choosing to keep living with that hope. It means putting my name on a list and allowing myself to sit there, heart open, hope half-kindled, waiting to see if we'd ever get the call.
I cannot do that.
This choice has nothing to do with the babies themselves. I think I could bond with an adopted baby, I think I could love an adopted baby, and no one anywhere in our families would have any issue at all with an adopted person joining our life.
This is not about the baby; it's about the process. I, personally, cannot endure the process. Many people can, and I marvel at their strength. (I'm lookin' at you, dear Darla.) I cannot. Definitely not after the past six years.
The IVF was incredibly stressful and that was a 28-day process. At the end of the month, you know if you have a baby or not. If adoption worked that fast, perhaps I could endure it. If someone showed up on my doorstep today and handed me a baby, I could run with it. But the adoption process could mean years of waiting. I cannot add more years to the six years I've already (barely) survived.
And I know that if I had nothing, I would be willing to endure more risk and more heartache in order to bring a child into our life. But I have done that once, which takes the edge off of your pain. Having one child means I do not have nothing. I have her, and I can choose to put her first by letting her have a mommy who is zen and content instead of a mommy who gnaws at her fingernails and waits for her heart to be trampled at any moment.
I am growing OK with walking away from the struggle and the hope and the family I once imagined. But every time some well-meaning person asks me if, now that everything else has failed, why don't I just adopt, I have to rip that scab off just a little bit in order to explain why I don't. And I have to justify why I am done. Whether they mean it or not, they put me on the defensive for having to explain why even though I would like one more kid, I cannot endure any more heartache or waiting or hope. It does feel like an accusation, like they're saying that we just haven't tried hard enough, that there are avenues we haven't pursued and we're quitters for stopping now.
I busted my butt for six years, and the question implies that I am a quitter.
I wanted two kids. I got one. But I know other families that don't have any history of infertility who stopped short of their original kid goal. Maybe they started out wanting four and stopped at three. Maybe they had two and enjoyed daydreaming of a third but just decided that they were getting too old to be pregnant again. Why aren't these couples getting badgered to "just adopt" to hit their original kid quota? Why is it only those of us who have been through YEARS of sorrow and pain who are expected to soldier on and happily enter the completely new realm of paperwork and home visits and waiting lists and lawyers? We've been through enough complicated crap already. Some of us are just ready for the ordeal to be over so we can get on with LIFE.
Usually I just try to pithily explain that adoption is expensive (three times as much as my IVF), and grueling, and not always guaranteed to result in a happy ending for everyone.
This article does a great job of explaining why suggesting that couples "just adopt" is not as simple as it sounds. Many of these stories are heartbreaking and make you realize that the adoption process is not for the faint of heart. But this part especially resonated with me:
I think I could answer this question calmly and logically if I thought it was asked from a place of genuine curiosity or concern. But it always feels like an accusation, as if a woman who wanted children but didn’t adopt is somehow a lesser human being, or the dreaded word so often associated with childlessness: selfish.
So, instead of educating about the complexities of the adoption process, I usually just offer a neat version of the truth: that we would have, if we hadn’t already maxed out our heartbreak cards.
After five years of dealing with infertility, my husband and I did choose adoption over the expensive and evasive fertility treatments that were offered as our next low-odds hope. We quickly learned that the "millions of unwanted children looking for loving homes” is a myth and "just adopting” isn’t a matter of going to Wal-Mart and selecting a baby off the shelves.
Deciding to remain childless or to just be happy with the one you have is a perfectly valid life choice. And I know that most people in my life are loving and kind and are just curious when they ask what our next step will be. They don't mean any harm. But I suppose what I want people to think about is this: asking these questions is normal and part of being a good friend...but I personally would really appreciate if friends started the conversation with "I'd love to talk to you about your journey if that's OK with you. I know you've been through a lot already and I am so impressed with your strength. How do you feel at this point?" Providing a really open-ended question like that -- where the person can say that they might consider adoption next, or say that they want to take a breather to figure it all out, or say that their journey is over -- puts the speaker in control of where the conversation steers, instead of being forced to discuss things that maybe she doesn't want to have to explain. And the compliment seriously helps. Most infertile people just want to be validated, shown that what they've been through is indeed an ordeal and that friends and family have noticed the struggle and give them a pat on the back before the barrage of personal questions begins.
And I really want to be brave enough one time to answer "Are you considering adoption?" with "Why...are you?"
People ask if I had a mastectomy (why? did they want to SEE? or just stare at my chest and try to imagine what is going on under my shirt?) or if I've heard of some miracle cure, or tell me about Aunt so and so who was diagnosed (and then i hold my breath to hear the rest of the story - did she die a horrible death?). And so on. My favorite is "Oh so are you in remission now?" So there is some commonality.
But based on my experience, here are my thoughts - you say you usually 'pithily explain' about cost, grueling process, etc. That puts YOU in the role of justifying your decision which is the WRONG spot for you to be in. THAT is why you come away feeling scrutinized and possibly judged.
My solution - have a go to question always in mind (like about some current event, weather, or SOMETHING). Then when they ask about adoption say "We've thought about it but decided it is not the right route for our family. SOOOO how about them Cubbies?" or insert predetermined question there. That gives a strong (but polite) signal that you want to change the subject. You are PREPARED to change the subject. You take control and change the subject. If someone pushes further, then in my opinion, all bets are off and you can say whatever you want. But YOU have to be in the driver's seat, determining how much and what you want to share. Nobody is going to come to you with that little speech you wrote above, starting out with an affirmation and an open ended question. Well not nobody, but probably ALMOST nobody. People aren't like that. They just spit out what is on their minds without thought. Llike - ok IVF didn't work - so what about adoption? That, to a casual friend, relative or onlooker, could be a natural progression of the convo - with NO understanding of the weight that question carries to you. Nobody understands the pain of what you've gone through (or what I've gone through) unless they've lived it themselves. And even then, their reality is going to be a bit different.
So take back the power. This is YOUR LIFE. The only person you have to discuss and justify to is Mr. Grok, and I'm sure you have had many heartfelt discussions with him. Everybody else is owed nothing.
And IF you do want to explain in more detail to someone, I would say "There are many reasons, but overall we've decided that the adoption route isn't right for our family." I feel that if you go into the cost or the grueling wait or any other concerns, people automatically run this through THEIR OWN thought process ("If it were me, I would go to Russia" or "Money would be no object" or WHATEVER), and you DO NOT want to go there. I think your reasons are valid TO YOU and nobody else's business.
I hope this isn't offensive, or too long, and I'm sorry for the extensive use of CAP LOCK, but I didn't know any other way to get the emphasis across.
As I've said before, I have followed your blog for years and years, and although you don't know me at all, I feel a fondness for you, and a protectiveness from the prying of others.
Sending love. Amy
Posted by: Amy at May 16, 2013 09:53 AM (MRKBy)
Posted by: Amy at May 16, 2013 09:56 AM (MRKBy)
Posted by: Judy at May 22, 2013 06:58 PM (fzs/0)
I have always been an oversharer. I guess I need to get more comfortable with a quick "Yeah, it's just not for us!" and let it go. I always feel like I need to explain The Whole Story. But you're right, I don't.
Thank you for still reading, and years and years of support.
Posted by: Sarah at June 09, 2013 12:20 PM (wxkaY)
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