Approximately one in eight couples experience difficulty getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. While it is certainly not the only thing driving couples to adopt, infertility is a part of many hopeful adoptive families’ stories.
Not all infertile couples should adopt, and adoption is not a cure for infertility. The loss of a child or the inability to conceive deserves to be grieved.
Grieving infertility is not a linear process with a series of steps to follow. Neither is it simply forgetting or “getting over it.” In his book Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller describes emotional health as being able to “feel your grief without it sinking you” (Keller, 2013, p. 253). When we face and acknowledge the loss of infertility, it better equips us to walk the adoption journey ahead.
Here are a few practical steps I recommend taking.
1. Seek counseling.
There was a point during our infertility and adoption process that I sought the help of a professional counselor. Talk therapy can be a valuable tool in processing grief and loss.
One helpful exercise was making a list of specific things and experiences lost due to the inability to conceive. The process of walking through that list and naming each thing aloud was extremely therapeutic. In the longer run it also helped me realize how, through adoption and with my children, I had gained so much more then I had ever lost.
2. Talk about it.
“I’m struggling right now. We’re ready to grow our family, but it just reminds me all over again that it will never be that simple. I didn’t expect to feel this way.” Even with a group of my closest friends, it took courage to speak those words.
I had not expected those feelings to come with our decision to adopt a second time. Adding another child to our family – something many people do easily or even accidentally! – would take planning, lots of waiting, and lots of money. It didn’t seem fair. I knew that we were on the right path, but I still felt grief. I needed to talk about it and share that grief with friends I knew would help me bear it. Inviting friends or family into your grief can be difficult, but the burden feels so much lighter when we share it. Find someone you trust and talk about it.
3. Give it time.
Perhaps most of all, the gift of time will help as we walk through loss and grief. With time comes perspective, and today I can look back in peace and see the ways our walk through infertility led us to where we are today.
And today, I would do it a million times over as long as I end up right here. Hang in there, mama (and dad). I won’t promise it will be easy, but I guarantee it will be worth it.
What are your thoughts about grieving the loss of infertility? Has it affected your adoption journey in any way?
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