A few years ago, I was assigned to help facilitate a private adoption through the agency I work for. After spending several months working with the expectant mother and adoptive family, I was thrilled to be able to be present at the hospital when the precious baby was born. Watching the loving interaction between the birth mother and family was a gift.
Before discharge, the birth mother and family picked out a sweet outfit for newborn pictures. I stepped back and observed all that was going on, said my good-byes, then drove back to my office to give a report to my supervisor. As I started to tell him about the experience, I began to well up with emotion, and asked if I could leave for the day. Honestly, I was shocked at how emotional I was, but also even more caught off guard by my own feelings of loss.
Even though I was already a mother through adoption, and felt incredibly blessed by it, witnessing the entry into this world of a child who was already so loved, took me to a place of grief over my own experience with infertility and barrenness. Throughout my adoptive parenting journey, I have learned a few things that are important to know about adoption after infertility.
1. Infertility and adoption are two separate and complex journeys. Sometimes people assume that infertility automatically means someone should adopt, or that only infertile people adopt. Both are false assumptions about each experience. Infertility has its own set of challenges—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In many respects, adoption does as well. People who are struggling with fertility issues need to be able to process, grieve, and move along in the process without the conditional expectation of adoption. Both infertility and adoption require full attention, and should be seen as separate life experiences.
2. Infertility takes a back-seat after adoption, but never fully goes away. Even with the fulfillment of children, the struggle with infertility and barrenness has left its mark on one’s life. Is it an everyday impact? No. However, the experience does shape one’s perspective on parenting, things in life that are often taken for granted, and what was once thought to be a possibility.
3. Loss will catch you off-guard even after you have adopted. Adoption is full of immense joy, but it also has poignant moments when one’s heart is pulled into pieces, and reminders of infertility and barrenness will intertwine with this. The sense of loss over not being able to carry one’s child, or protect the child before he or she came into one’s life is something that may be grieved from time to time. Families also are aware that adopted children also carries the loss of their biological families.
4. People may still ask you if you plan on having your “own” children. It is hard not to take offense to questions like these. For many families who have tried unsuccessfully for years to have a biological child, this question can be very hurtful. Furthermore, adoptive parents very much feel that their children are their own, and not a substitute for, or second to, biological children.
5. You will recognize the gift that parenting is, and the beauty of how your family was formed. This is probably one of the most endearing parts of adoption after infertility. Some may describe their journey through infertility as emotional, long, and at times, spiritually draining. With adoption, families can look back at the struggle and recognize it as one part of the story that led to adopting the very children intended to be a part of their lives.
Adopting children after years of infertility is by far one of the greatest of life’s treasures. Where infertility brings despair, adoption gives hope. Where infertility dissolves purpose, adoption gives it.
With this being said, it is important to be mindful that both experiences—infertility and adoption—are lifelong journeys. Both have significance, and both carry a measure of perseverance.
What are some other things you feel are important to know about adopting after infertility?