Infertility to Adoption
About 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant, according to the Office on Women’s Health. Most couples start fertility treatments after six months to a year of trying, but some walk away from the process disappointed. During this difficult time, couples must ask themselves, "Do we want to become pregnant, or do we want to be parents?” This difficult question is not easy to answer for many couples. For couples who have struggled with infertility, grieving the dream of having biological children of their own is difficult, but an important first step in the adoption process.
Fully grieve your infertility
The journey from infertility to adoption is not a smooth one, and allowing yourself to go through the emotions of grieving is the first step towards adoption. Listed below are the phases of grief, but keep in mind that everyone grieves differently. You might not go through all of the stages of grieving listed below or experience them in this exact order. The ultimate goal is to allow yourself to grieve your loss and reach a place of acceptance.
Denial: Denial is the first of the five stages of grief. Denial helps us pace our feelings as we grieve, allowing us to only feel as much as we can handle at that current time. As you accept the reality of your loss and start asking yourself honest questions, you are unknowingly beginning to heal. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying may begin to surface through anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Anger: Some of us will experience anger, but it is a crucial step to begin the process of healing. It is common to lash out in anger to friends, family, your doctors, and yourself, but it’s important to express your anger in a healthy way and to communicate. Those around you will know underneath your anger is pain. It is natural to feel deserted or abandoned during this time. When you allow yourself to be angry at the situation, the more it will begin to disappear, and with time you will begin to heal.
Bargaining: Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything to get pregnant. Guilt is often acquainted with bargaining in some situations. You begin to bargain with “If only…” or “What if…” statements. The “if only” causes us to find fault in ourselves and influence what we “think” we could have done differently to change everything. You may even bargain with pain, you will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss of knowing you can’t have biological children. You may want to remain in the past, trying to negotiate your way out of the hurt. The stage of bargaining can come up in any of the other stages of grieving. For most people do not enter and leave each stage in a linear fashion. You may feel one, then another and back again to the first one, and this is perfectly normal.
Depression: Depression can form in emotional or physical pain. You may feel mentally drained or be physically sore, but this can be your body’s way of helping you process and move toward acceptance. It may seem as though it will last forever, but don’t forget that this feeling will get easier overtime. Allowing yourself to feel sad is one of the necessary steps to acceptance.
Acceptance: Acceptance is when you have processed and accepted your infertility, and will no longer allow it completely consume you. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. You’ll begin to consider other ways to build your family and start discussing your other options with your partner. Your infertility struggles will never seem easy, but you’ll be able to accept them and move forward. Only when you have truly accepted your infertility should you pursue adoption.
Get on the same page with your partner about adoption
Adoption after infertility is a big decision for a couple to make together, so it is only natural if one of you is feeling hesitant. When only one spouse wants to adopt, it’s usually because the other partner is still going through the phases of grief. Every couple reaches their decision to adopt at different times, the adoption process cannot be rushed. It’s important that, as a couple, you and your spouse are united in the decision to welcome a child into your home and family. If your spouse is struggling with adoption and moving on from your infertility challenges, the best thing you can do is communicate with them. Open dialogue with each other may identify where each is at in the grieving process. This can help both of you to sort through thoughts and feelings concerning adoption. Adopting is very much like a pregnancy in one key way: you’re preparing to welcome a living, breathing child into your hearts, home, and family. In both cases, parents can have fears and worries concerning their new child, and for many couples, one partner may be feeling more afraid than the other. When this happens, communicating with one another is imperative. If you don’t know where to start, try beginning a conversation with these points in mind:
Be Open about Your Feelings: Your partner may be afraid to express their struggle because they may feel that you are entirely secure in the decision. Whether this is true or not, being open about any fears, misgivings, doubts, or other emotions you may be having will most likely be helpful and even soothing to your partner. Knowing they aren’t alone in their worries may give them more strength.
Encourage Them to Be Honest: Honesty is the foundation of any relationship, and it is very important when taking on the grand adventure of parenthood. Encourage your spouse to be completely honest with you every step of the way so you both know the other’s feelings. This may also put them at ease and discourage any concealment of true feelings and thoughts.
Be Understanding: Perhaps you can’t relate to how your partner is feeling at all, and, if you can’t, that’s okay. Despite the mismatch of feelings, showing your partner that you can still understand and empathize with them even if you don’t agree, adds strength to your relationship as a couple, which can reinforce your relationship as parents. Plus, it may give insight to how/why your partner is feeling that way, and you can both learn a new perspective and find ways to overcome it together.
Get in Touch with Other Adoptive Families: For some, being able to speak with a parent who has already adopted a child may be helpful. They can ask questions, express their fears, and learn more about how adoption truly is from someone who has, and is, currently experiencing it. As you move through the adoption process, you’re sure to make friends within the adoption community, and this can open up access to lifelong friends who will be there to walk your partner through the fears and worries they’re dealing with.
Speak With a Financial Advisor: If the bulk of your partner’s worries are concerning the cost of adoption, speaking with a financial advisor may be able to put them at ease or, at the very least, offer them more information. There are grants and loans available to adoptive families, as well as other resources to help with the cost of adoption.
All in all, if your partner is experiencing some wariness with the idea of adoption, don’t ignore their feelings. Getting these things out and into the open will lead to a better relationship as well as a sound decision. Don’t become discouraged or lose hope if your partner is struggling. It may very well pass after looking into the options listed above. It’s natural to experience fear and doubt, so don’t let it stop you or cause bigger problems than it needs to.
Loving Your Child: How They Come Won’t Matter
Perhaps you don’t want to admit it, but you’ve wondered whether or not you’ll love an adopted child as much as you would a biological one. This is a common concern as there are so many complicated thoughts and feelings when you’re transiting from infertility to adoption. You might have learned through school, the internet or social media that there is an instant and close bond between parents and their biological children, especially with mothers because of the pregnancy process. However, even in some biological families, these ties don’t always immediately come. Sometimes mothers and fathers have a difficult time bonding with their baby, and in cases where women experience post-partum depression and other postnatal health issues, bonding with a new baby can be difficult. This is all to say that an instantaneous level of love and devotion does not always happen. In many families, mothers and fathers grow to love their children, and the deep bonds set in a little later. Adoption can sometimes be the same way. This bond you form has nothing to do with whether the child is biological or adopted; it has everything to do with the experiences you share. Every time you feed, change, bathe, hold, hug and kiss your baby, you and your baby are bonding. Carrying a child in the womb or sharing biological data with them is not always the foundation of a close, loving relationship. The love that is shared between a parent and child comes from the care, respect, and nurturing the parent bestows upon the child. With this in mind, it makes complete sense that the love you feel (or think you would feel) for your biological children, can be the same for your adopted child.
Look Into Counseling
There are counseling and support groups available for couples going through infertility, remember that you are not alone. Talking things over with a professional can help you as you go through the stages of grief. There is adoption counseling available to help families thinking about adoption, embarking on adoption, or struggling with adoption in any way.
Adoption is different for every family, but it is often a beautiful and unique experience. Infertility to adoption looks like hope for many individuals and families. Adoption gives people the chance to experience raising a child, having a family, and impacting a child’s life forever. Adoption comes with many advantages, experiences, and opportunities, so why not look into it today?