Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Have you considered adoption?"

Family (LOMO) by Martin Lladó
"Have you considered adoption?"

Anyone who's ever gone through any sort of trouble getting/staying pregnant has probably heard this post's title echoed in sentiments from friends and relatives (sometimes multiple times).  Here's what I don't believe: that I owe anybody an answer to that question.  But, lest that sound defensive, I'm actually very happy to talk to people about the various things Patrick and I have thought through.  Conversations surrounding infertility are often very hush-hush, and I'm someone who's blogged for about 12 years, so it's probably obvious that I'm not a hush-hush person.  But somehow the many times I've been asked the adoption question, I've fumbled, because there are things inherently frustrating about it.

1.  The questions are well-meaning.  I know this shouldn't be frustrating, but it kind of is, because this means I don't want to be defensive or irritated about it, even if my brain feels defensive and/or irritated.  After all, it's probably a friend asking.  They care.

2.  It feels like being told to Do Something Good By Just Adopting by someone who probably has not and never will "just" do that same Good Thing.  So it feels like being told hiking Mt. Everest is good for your health by someone who hasn't ever done it and never plans to, and who has no idea about all the dead bodies that litter the mountain, frozen where they fell.  Morbid example (and maybe the first ever adoption post that links to that internet rabbit hole?), but adoption is HARD, from what I can tell.  Really, really hard.  There is no such thing as Just Adopting.

3.  Speaking of it being Good, we don't want to be saviors and adopting wouldn't make us saints.  We don't want to save a kid (I mean, obviously I care; we sponsor a little girl from Pakistan -- but we're not her savior, and we wouldn't be a savior to our future child).  We want to parent.  Not attain sainthood.  It's totally selfish on our part.  (I'm not saying giving a child a loving home isn't a thing that would be good.  But it's honestly not our top motivation.  We want to parent.)

4.  Depending on the route, adoption can be very, very expensive, and very, very hard emotionally.  It's not the easy road out of infertility, nor does it solve infertility.  That doesn't mean we don't want to -- on the contrary, we want to adopt very, very much.  But, it's not a band-aid to something.  It's a child.

But say any of that casually, and it comes across as.....well it just doesn't work.   So when someone says, "Have you considered adoption?" I usually just nod and say, yes, it's always on the table.  And it is.  It is very, very much on the table.  We know we want to parent.  If our family looks different from how we envisioned it would, that's okay.  Becoming a multiracial family and becoming a part of the adoption community would bring us a lot of joy.

We would like to adopt internationally for a variety of reasons (confirmed theoretically after working through a few basic checklists in a coupla books), and certain countries are options for us, while others block people like us (we've been married just shy of 3 years; I'm 26 and he's 28; China is out, for example).  Additionally, and this is where it gets really hard, some countries will end up costing a ton more than other countries.  Some children from some countries average a certain age upon adoption, whereas children from other countries might be generally older, and some generally younger.  Some will be typically about 18 months.  Some will be more often about 2 years old.  Some older.  After losing so much already, what else are we prepared to lose?  Infanthood seems practically a given loss.  What about all of babyhood?  Just a portion of babyhood?  The tiny fat pony onesie I bought back when I thought it would be used soon?  Sock?

We have decided we are okay with this, but if you're not sure about the couple you're questioning, be aware that there are losses some people are not okay with losing.

I could invoke C. S. Lewis on that, I know:  “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Then there's the infertility-medical side of things: We personally don't *want* to go through every possible medical intervention prior to turning to adoption -- for us, that doesn't feel like the way we want to approach it (though there is nothing wrong with those who wholeheartedly feel like a biological child is the best option -- we want that, but everyone's going to give different weight to different things).  For us, we're okay moving forward with adoption leaving some stones unturned.

The whole point of this rambly post is simply this: adoption is immensely complicated.  It is also immensely personal to those going through the process of even thinking about it.

There is no "just".

And don't get me started on the "I had a friend who was in the process of adopting and then she got pregnant" legend.  I'm sure it happens.  But at that stage, I can't imagine we would be entirely joyful about it.  After all, in the process = a lot of heart-time spent.  And some agencies we looked at flat out said if you get pregnant during the process, we end the adoption.  So that's a loss, too.  Not a huge net win.  It's scary.

So for now, I add adoption blogs to my Google Reader and keep on living (so far: Finding Magnolia; Agnostic Adoption; Fosterhood in NYC -- more suggestions would be very welcome!).  It's a weird space of grey -- there are multiple roads, but we can't really pick one right now, so we're left standing and just speculating.  Time marches on.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

So, have we considered adoption?  Hell yes.  For years.


  1. I know just what you mean. Adoption is so complicated, financially, emotionally, and its something that we thought a TON about, and still think about now. For various reasons it didn't feel like the right choice for us straightaway but what I hate is when people who have never really had to consider these things throw out stuff like that! I feel like if we ever do pursue it I want it to be for the right, informed, responsible reasons, rather than just out of desperation. That's how we approached donor gametes and I'd want to do the same intensive research if we were to need to change tracks (which, at 26 weeks pregnant with twins I hope we won't have to do, but I do think about it).

    1. Exactly! Acting out of desperation seems like a less than perfect mindset -- we don't want adoption to be a last resort, and would like to approach it with excitement. Sending you lots of good thoughts!

  2. Yes I totally get you. We have thought about it, slowly, and painfully, and with all the complicated feelings that mix when you are actually going through it (as opposed to when you are giving free unsolicitee (well meaning?) advice).
    I am very aware that this is very very selfish, but if at all possible, we would really like to be blessed with a biological child. I want to see Mark's dimples and his cute ears in our baby, I am sure you get this.
    For a long time, when I thought about this (hypothetically), because we don't want to go too deep in that just yet, I thought I would not be able to do this for fear that I would unintentionally be mean to the kid, as his existence would be a daily reminder of what was denied to us. I think I am past that. Babysitting a newborn has made us realize how easy it is to love. How capable we are of that. So, like you say, once you come to terms with the reality of infertility, of the deck of cards you have been given, it becomes somehow easier.
    We are blessed / lucky that in The Netherlands health insurance is mandatory and half subsidized (meaning everyone is FORCED to pay insurance... and a big chunk of it is paid by the government. If you are unemployed you get some kind of scholarship so you still get it, and in this way everyone gets access to health care) and that fertility treatments are covered. So we will exhaust our options... hopefully we will get lucky, but I do realize what we need is a miracle.
    As for the HSG (and I don't mean to say something insensitive here), I had it done as part of the exploratory procedures. Like I am sure you know, it "tests" whether your Fallopian tubes are "open" or "blocked". If I understand correctly you have been pregnant before (and I am so sorry for your loss). Considering that, I would assume that your tubes are open? In any case this is a question for your doctor...
    All the hugs to you. And thanks for talking about this, awareness is so much needed. (It can only help stop the ignorant / hurtful but well meaning remarks). You are brave and honest and I believe that telling our stories can always help someone.

    1. See, the thing is, I totally don't see wanting biological children as a selfish desire. We're human. We're pretty programmed to want that. It seems totally reasonably to want it, and I think it's a shame when people get shamed for admitting it, you know? I think for us, what it boils down to is when we think about the things we look forward to most with parenting, it's stuff like...going to the zoo together, rather than carrying a child or seeing each other in a little's face. This isn't to say that we don't desperately want those things, but they're aspects we're willing to sacrifice to get to the zoo, so to speak. And for some people, it's a deal-breaker, and I totally respect and understand that. I totally get the "being denied" reminders, too. Patrick and I have used similar phrasing before ourselves -- for us, it's part of our reasoning for not wanting to pursue certain options. Not seeing either of us in a future child for us is preferable to seeing only one or the other of us. But everybody is so different, and so even though our thought process might differ, I totally totally get where you're coming from. I totally get the wanting to see each other. :( *hugs* I always used to joke that if our future child didn't have my husband's Shirley Temple curls, I'd send it back. This whole ordeal is probably my comeuppance for my joking around.

      I hate that our decision is hugely a matter of finances here in the US. For a "pro-life" country (lol), we do a really poor job of supporting family building for those who can't do it the old-fashioned way. I know people get loans for things like infertility, but we're very wary of doing so if it could be a huge amount of debt with nothing to show for it if it fails. So people everywhere are forced to compromise their family building plans based on finances and the desire to go into possible deep debt for something that may not even work. America sucks. :(

      My old RE (my previous employer's insurance covered an RE) wanted to the HSG test to rule out a partially blocked tube or something like that which could be the holdup for why I got pregnant exactly once, lost it, then haven't been able to get pregnant since. It seems to be part of the standard regimen of tests they suggest. In my Googling about, it seems like having gotten pregnant doesn't necessarily rule out having 1 blocked tube, or having other tubal issues which the test might make clear. I've got an appointment in two weeks to see a new OBGYN to see if they'd consider doing the test, since my new job's insurance won't cover an RE. :-/ I'll see what happens!

    2. Good luck with your new OBGYN. I hope everything will go well for you guys, whichever way. I did not know that getting pregnant did not rule out other tubal issues... it was just a half-educated guess (I am not gyneaecologist). It do know it is part of the standard regimen of tests, so as to see if the cause is tubal (when ovarian and male causes have been ruled out).

      Like you, it is things like going to the zoo, sharing everyday life, playing, that motivates us the most. And even though we are not there yet and don't know what will happen I think we could do it. Another factor that motivates me... I used to work at the zoo education department and got close to these two girls, two sisters. It turned out, serendipituously, that they were the (adopted) daughters of one of my favorite teachers. Seeing them and how easy it is too just become close and love a kid, gives me hope. Though, I'm not going to denie that aside from wanting to "see" ourselves in our child, I also wanted (and have always had) to actually experience a pregnancy (regardless of all the complaints I read about), to feel the baby grow inside me, to prepare for it. But we don't really get to choose these things (something they never tell you). Or maybe they do and I wasn't listening... people do say life is a miracle.

    3. I hope the laws in America will slowly (or better speedily) change. There is so much awareness... if people keep pushing I really hope we'll get there.