Choosing Adoption After Infertility
Making the Decision to Adopt After Struggling with Infertility
The emotional burden that accompanies infertility can sometimes seem enormous. Feelings of grief, anger, frustration, disappointment, and all the other difficult emotions associated with a severe loss place a heavy toll on those who are coping with infertility. Physical distress and emotional trauma associated with attempts to become pregnant only increase this emotional burden. Personal failure and the frustrations of being thwarted in the desire to become pregnant and have a family may seem overwhelming. Social pressure and expectations of family, friends and colleagues can compound conflicted emotions. And yet all of these issues must be addressed in order to become a good parent to your adopted child.
It is not uncommon for several years to go by as prospective parents struggle with infertility treatment and loss.
For some, the struggles with loss issues related to infertility can take even longer.
Most people grow up assuming that they will be able to have children when the time comes. It can be a tremendous adjustment of one's self image if this turns out to be impossible. Issues going all the way back to childhood assumptions and experiences may have to be revisited in readjusting your self image and sense of self worth. While some people know earlier on that they will not be able to have children by birth, the transition to feeling comfortable with the thought of having a family by adoption can still require major adjustment.
Sometimes when they think back to childhood, people find that they have a had a desire to raise a child who is not biologically similar very early on. Humanitarian concerns or inheritance risks may speed the decision. Sometimes a meeting with an adoptee sets the stage for a decision or inclination for adoption. Often there is a feeling of rightness, once the decision is made to adopt or you when are united with your child.
The adoption process itself, as well as the outcome of adoption (a "real" child rather than an "imagined, idealized" child), propel prospective parents to work through the emotional aspects of infertility toward parenthood. For most people the decision to adopt is itself a process, just like dealing with infertility. At some point the prospecitve parent starts to wonder - what would it be like to raise an adopted child? As they start to investigate adoption, they find themselves once more in a process of discovery. What matters to more - similar appearance, age, health? How much risk are they willing to take? Each step along the way leads the prosepctive parent on a journey of personal exploration.
This voyage of self investigation is not always a comfortable one - considerable risk and stretch is involved. Often, the adoption process itself may be frustrating and unsteady - countries can close to adoption overnight, lack of information and delays are rampant, birth plans can fall through, rejection may come from birth parents or agencies, paperwork can intervene, and the referral or birth itself may not be what was planned. No question, but adoption stretches each individual's personal boundaries. It is a time of growth, and as such pain and fear mingles with wonder and excitement.
Luckily adoption social workers are used to the combination of ambivalence, "ignorance" and desire for facts and information that future parents express. During this period many people find themselves seeking out those who are touched by adoption. It is very reassuring to connect with someone or who has adopted or is adopted themselves.
Fears of adoption
Adoption is more widespread than one might think. Six out of every ten American has had a personal experience with adoption. Two to five percent (2-5%) of American households have adopted children. For the most part adoption works well - only 2-15% of all adoptions disrupt. (Clinical and Practice Issues in Adoption : Bridging the Gap Between Adoptees Placed As Infants and As Older Children by Victor Groza, Karen F. Rosenberg).
Fear of rejection, ostracation, more failure or loss, a child's health and emotional well being - all these worries concern prospective parents considering adoption. However, the most significant concern about adoption usually revolves around 'love'. Prospective parents wonder, "Will I love my child and will he/she love me in return?"
After she adopted her daughter Sue found the answer to her questions.
As an adoptive parent one concern which is often brought rather forcefully and sometimes impolitely to our attention, is that adoption may be viewed as second best. This attitude may even reflect upon our children, who may be viewed as or may feel less than wonderful, even as second rate themselves.
Several concerns related to love are specific to parents who already have children by birth. They may wonder how they will feel about their child who joins the family by adoption.
One of the most significant concerns for these families may be the impact of bringing an adoptive child into an established family. While this is something that parents need to address seriously, the expansion of the family can have many benefits for everyone.
Relief of adoption after infertility
As prospective parents make the decision to adopt and then move through the adoption process, their focus begins to shift away from pregnancy - emotionally and physically. They begin to let go of the idea of perpetuating their biological line. Their revised goal becomes one of having a family.
Many people find that this letting go brings with it a great sense of relief.
One of the blessings of choosing adoption is that over time there is a lessening of envy and angry feelings toward others who are pregnant or have children. These feelings are a common emotional response to the loss related to infertility.
Some parents feel that their issues of loss related to infertility help them empathize with their children's losses in adoption.
For many people the joy of adoption also brings with it an unexpected healing. This may take time - even years. But while residual loss related to infertility issues may remain, most adoptive parents find that their children bring such blessings that they come to terms gladly with their situation. They grow through adoption themselves.
© Copyright 2000 Allison Martin
Allison Martin, M.P.A., is the manager of the Adopt Vietnam and the national Families with Children from Vietnam websites. Allison Martin has three well beloved children, two who joined her family by international adoption.
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