For some people, deciding to adopt is easy. I never had fertility issues; I always wanted to adopt, so the decision was easy. But for others, it’s definitely not. Some people suffer from diagnosed infertility, some don’t know why they can’t seem to get pregnant and stay pregnant, and some find themselves single longer than they expected but still yearning for a family. First, you need to resolve any grief you might have about not having biological children. Then research all of your options. If you decide that adoption is the best choice, then commit to it, and don’t waver.

There are people, like myself, who choose adoption first. I was 13 years old when the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu was deposed. A 20/20 special on Romanian orphanages was all it took to convince me to adopt. I had just learned the whole story behind where babies come from, and I had absolutely no desire to ever be pregnant or have biological children. To my teenage heart, it seemed that there were so many children already here, waiting for parents.

By the time I was married, Romania was closed, but I still wanted to adopt. Six months after I was married, I was injured and ended up with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), or permanent, very painful nerve damage. The medications I found to suppress the pain are not compatible with pregnancy, but adoption had always been my first choice, so it wasn’t a big deal for me.

There are other people who plan to adopt some children and birth some children. Maybe they were adopted, maybe they feel called to adopt from a specific part of the world, or maybe their own parents were foster parents, and they share the desire to provide homes for kids who need them. Some people are able to have biological children and also adopt. Others find that they cannot have biological children. For these people, the decision to adopt may be easier than for those who always planned to have children through pregnancy.

For many couples, adoption is a difficult choice made after years of struggles with infertility. On any online adoption group, you will hear stories of big fat negatives (BFNs) and multiple miscarriages. Couples may need to choose between pursuing infertility treatments, IUI, IVF, or adoption. Anecdotally, it seems that often one spouse is more ready to consider adoption than the other. Single people realize that they have remained single far longer than they ever planned to be, with limited options for starting a family. People who never considered adoption before may find that they must either choose adoption or choose to be childless.

Some people hesitate to adopt because they don’t think they can afford it. However, adopting a child from foster care in the United States often involves little or no cost, and states often provide adoption subsidies to adoptive parents to help with the expenses of raising a child. For the other types of adoption, there are grants, loans, tax credits, and employer benefits that can help make adoption affordable on any budget. Learn more about affording adoption.

It’s natural to feel apprehensive about the adoption process—whichever type of adoption you choose. It’s not necessary to be 100%, absolutely, positively sure you’re making the right decision. How many decisions in our lives actually feel that way? But it is important to note that adoption is not a cure for infertility. If you have longed to be pregnant, to see which features in your baby are yours and which are your spouse’s, to pass down your mom’s red hair or your dad’s dimples, it is important to grieve the fact that you may never have that. Take time to think about what it will mean to have a child who is not genetically related to you. How much does it matter if your child doesn’t look like you at all? You may need to see a counselor to talk about your expectations. You may need to seek out people who have chosen adoption, as well as people who haven’t, and find a safe place to ask tough questions.

After you decide to adopt, you will be successful only if you commit to it. You cannot half-heartedly pursue adoption. You will never make it through the paperwork. Home study social workers want to know that you will be as committed to your adopted child as you would be to a biological child. Take the time to educate yourself. Find a support group, but remember that support doesn’t always mean agreement. A good adoption support group won’t just parrot back what you want to hear; the members will share their experiences and offer their insights, hopefully in a respectful manner. Devote time and effort to the process, or your adoption will never happen.