Persuing IVF and Adoption?
By Russell Webb
Question: "My husband and I have struggled with infertility for several years. We have tried to conceive through IVF, but to no avail. We have come to the conclusion that adoption may be the best way for us to form a family, but I still want to pursue IVF treatments. My husband thinks that we should stop IVF, come to terms with the fact that we can't have our own children and concentrate on adoption."
I appreciate the dilemma that you are in. Not only is IVF difficult to go through emotionally, but then to consider adoption as well can be even more stressful. However, when considering such important issues, it may be valuable to take some time to think about your own internal emotional process. Why is it that you want to continue with IVF treatments, if you have come to the conclusion that it may not be the best way for you to form your family? It may be that as much as you desire to have a child, that you still desire a child that is biologically linked to you. This is not wrong, but it does mean that you have not given yourself permission to grieve the loss of your biological child.
When a couple considers adoption, I believe there are certain emotional milestones that need to be reached in their personal journeys in order for the adoption to be successful for the child and for the adoptive parents. The most important emotional milestone is coming to terms with your losses associated with infertility. If this does not take place, it means that adoption will always be second best. It means that your adopted child will have to compete with your fantasy birth child that you were never able to let go of. This can severely damage the adoptive relationship. The adoptive parent isn't happy because the adopted child continues to remind them of all they did not get through adoption, and the child isn't happy because he or she feels they can't measure up to what their adoptive parent's image of them should be. It hurts everyone involved.
So, how do you come to terms with your losses associated with infertility? Realize that trying to go down two roads (IVF and adoption) at the same time may be emotionally hurting yourself. Then, take a break from IVF and adoption for awhile. Chances are you have been pursuing this dream full time for quite some time so rewarding yourself with a break for 1 to 3 months can greatly help to rejuvenate your emotional resources. Use that time to help process your grief and losses. Many people I have had the privilege to work with, have found it very meaningful to give a name to the biological child that they feel they have lost. It makes an unrecognized and unseen loss more tangible and real. This is not for the purpose of bringing on pain for people, but rather to help them work through the pain they already have.
You may find that writing a letter to your fantasy child you lost to
be helpful in coming to terms with the loss of your biological fantasy
child. It gives you a way of expressing all that you would have
liked to have expressed to your child -- all of your hopes, dreams,
regrets and love for them; and most importantly it gives you a
way to say goodbye to your child. It is not an easy letter to
write, but it can enable a person to begin the process of letting go.
So, whether you are ready to concentrate on adoption or not, it is important to realize that you are human and you have an emotional process to deal with that is also a part of your journey towards your goal of raising a child. Adopting a child without grieving the loss of your fantasy birth child can cause you more hurt than help. An adopted child is a precious gift of entrustment on the part of a birth parent and is not a second best to having a birth child. When you come to terms with infertility and all of its losses, then and only then can an adopted child be seen for what they really are not a substitute for another child, but a precious gift in and of themselves.
© Copyright Russell Webb
Russell Webb is a Marriage and Family Therapist who works for the Tumbler Ridge Assessment and Resource Service. He and his wife Tina, have 2 children through open adoptions. You can reach them through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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