Infertility can be devastating. It is an emotionally draining journey in which it seems like the only thing you can cling to is hope. It can also put strain on friendships, marriages, and, for believers, their spiritual walk.

People experiencing infertility are met with a lot of questions and statements. “You can always adopt.” “Are you trying hard enough?” “Are you going to adopt?” “Just relax. God has a plan for you.” Although these questions and statements are often spoken from a place of genuine concern, they can be very frustrating and hurtful to the ones experiencing infertility.

Despite the social pressure to consider adoption, there are many important factors to think about when deciding if adoption is the right step to take in forming a family and if one is ready to move towards adoption.

Here are nine factors to reflect on:

1. Do you have the ability to say goodbye to the “fantasy” child? Prospective adoptive parents need to understand that an adopted child is not a replacement or second option to having a child biologically.

2. Are you able to discuss your grief and loss clearly? There is a great deal of grief and loss in infertility. The ability to process and move through the stages of grief is very important.

3. Have you shifted from the need or desire to get pregnant, and are you now focused on being a parent? In other words, is the idea of becoming a parent more important than the way one becomes a parent? Pregnancy and adoption are both beautiful experiences; however, one does not replace the other. They both deserve full attention.

4. Are you willing and motivated to educate yourself about adoption? Furthermore, have you evaluated the choices and types of adoption available? It is very important to consider what type of adoption is the best for you. There are a tremendous amount of children around the world who are in need of parents; however, it is vital to check the facts when deciding the options that best fit your situation and resources.

5. Are you enthusiastic about the process? Adoption takes a lot of time, patience, paperwork, determination, and the ability to open oneself up to others. If considering foster care, are you able to separate your desires to become a parent from the legal goal of reunifying birth families with children placed in foster care? When the desired foster family’s goal to adopt collides with the court’s goal of reunification, it can cause significant distress.

6. If married, are you and your spouse “at the same place” in terms of working through infertility and moving towards the pursuit of adoption? This is very important to consider. Adoption can be a lengthy and emotionally challenging journey. If one spouse is hesitant, it can put strain on the marriage. After adoption, and depending on the nature of the adoption, raising children whose life experiences may result in emotional, physical, and psychological struggles is difficult. Parents need to be united in their approach to parenting.

7. If you are a person of faith, have you come to recognition and connection of how your faith intertwines with infertility and adoption? Has infertility affectd your spiritual walk? How about adoption? Consider how your faith is an integral part of both of these aspects of your life.

8. Are you able to talk about infertility without shame? Infertility can cause someone to feel incredibly alone, confused, and separated from was once a “normal” existence. Persons hoping to adopt need to evaluate their ability to discuss infertility without undue emotional stress. It is normal to grieve the loss of being able to have biological children. It is very much a difficult and draining experience; however, one should consider their readiness to adopt and whether they have processed their infertility completely.

9.  Have you considered the circumstances of children in need of adoption? The needs of children awaiting adoption are complex. Here are some other things to consider: attachment issues, loss and grief of the child, abuse history (if any), sense of abandonment, sibling groups awaiting adoption, the concept of a child being “shared”, possible prenatal drug exposure or lack of prenatal care, and cultural heritage.

Adoption is an incredible and life-affirming opportunity in the lives of children and prospective families; however, it also unique and fluid. Adoptive parenting requires intentionality when dealing with complicated situations. It also tends to evolve as children grow older and recognize that their life stories are different from their peers’.

Infertility is also uniquely marked with sadness, confusion, and difficulty in understanding the impact it has on one’s life. It also requires full attention. It does not, however, completely define one’s future. If you are facing infertility and wondering if adoption is something you should pursue, take your time, investigate your feelings, and seek support from others who understand the journey you are on.