Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Infertility and Adoption

Every single person on the face of the planet does it. Including me. When you hear of a couple suffering from infertility, or inability to maintain a pregnancy (recurrent miscarriages), your mind automatically goes there: "Why don't they just adopt?" It's a natural human instinct - to want to solve the "problem" of childlessness, and to want to ease the pain of the childless couple. It comes from a good place inside. But here, I will try to explain why those thoughts should STAY in that good place inside, and never be spoken.

First of all, I think everyone who has been through the adoption process, or knows someone close to them who has, will attest to the fact that there is no "just" about "just adopting." On the contrary, it is a lengthy process that will humble the most confident and able among us. The most intimate details of your life will be examined: your childhood, your relationship with your spouse (including sexual), your finances, your home... all for a person you barely know to judge. Don't get me wrong- I don't believe this process is flawed in and of itself, and God bless the Social Workers who work day in and day out to ensure that the children involved get the very best they deserve. And, I know of NO adoptive parent who has said, "You know, given the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn't do it... it was just too grueling!!" But, the process certainly is not for the faint of heart. And it can take years of heartache.

Process aside, I think that when we as humans consider adoption as the natural follow-up to infertility, we underestimate God's hand in our suffering. St Paul said that in his weakness He was made perfect - and it is only through the darkness that God can truly bring out His glorious light, only in the suffering that He can truly show His goodness. God is at work in each and every one of us, and He is HARD at work in all of those who suffer. I submit as solid proof of this fact my own journey over the past 5 years.

Mr TCIE and I have been open to God's will in our lives since we married 5 years ago, and we hoped and prayed that His will would include children. We were unlike many couples I know in that we had felt called to adopt before we were even engaged. Childless living was not even an option, nor did it ever cross our minds, before we married.

Now, God's hand in our life is so evident. And never was it felt more than in our darkest hour - from 2009 through 2010. Through our suffering, God has found ways to bring forth the Truth, and to use us as instruments in proclaiming His good news. We have found, despite (or better, because of) the cross we've carried, joy and peace. Yes, we still suffer from childlessness, but we have hope that His will is greater than anything we could ever envision for our own lives.

When you suggest or ask about adoption of the couple who has not been called to adopt, you add insult to injury. I can safely venture a guess that in the 21st Century, most if not all couples know what adoption is, and if they are childless, they've already "looked into" it. When you suggest or ask a couple about adoption when they are already pursuing it, you put them on the spot because there are so many unknowns and uncertainties about the process. And when you suggest or ask about adoption of the couple who cannot adopt due to medical or personal reasons, you pour salt and lemon juice into a very deep, open wound. Your best bet is to offer your silent support on the subject of childlessness, unless the couple brings up adoption first.

Some childless couples will feel the call to adopt. Others may not get that call, and may instead feel called to childless living. Still others may receive the call to adopt many years from now. And some may have a surprise pregnancy in their future, in God's time. Each plan is paved out by God, and each plan is specific to those two people.

This is what God wants to do for each individual couple (is that an oxymoron?) who suffers with infertility/childlessness. He wants us to deepen our faith, grow in His love, and become His hands on earth. Our focus as humans should not be on a pregnancy or an adoption as the "result" at the end of the infertile couple's suffering, but rather, on life everlasting. Should a couple adopt children or conceive after years of infertility, all glory and praise be to He who gives life - but these are blessings only, NOT the Resurrection of the cross of childlessness. Our Resurrection will come in heaven, not on this earth.

Lastly, we do a great disservice to adoption when we automatically connect it to infertility, and don't honor it for the beautiful and amazing blessing it is on its own. Logically, our human minds will always connect the two. But in our words and actions, they should remain two separate and distinct entities.

38 comments:

Patiently Waiting...... said...

I have been a "lurker" for some time.....thank you for this post. I love your insight and agree with so much you had to say. When telling people about our future adoption, the most upsetting response we receive is "can't you have your own kids?" Adoption is a gift and conception is a gift. The two should not be compared. Great post.

Erica said...

Thank you for your post. I probably would have been one of those insensitive people to ask such questions. I am wondering, if you don't mind this question- is adopting an older child as difficult as adopting a baby? Sometimes I think that I would like to adopt an older child in the future

Cathy said...

OMGGGG did it eat my entire comment???!~!!!!

Anyway...

So, so true.
NOTHING irks me more than people who think my daughter is some sort of consolation prize, some sort of second best. MY DAUGHTER made me a mother, period, and that can only be done once. I was fortunate to have the pleasant surprise of a pregnancy three years later, but nothing changed about my motherhood with my son's arrival. I didn't have a better kid, a more precious kid, a
superiorly-conceived kid. I just had -- a second kid.

If my daughter EVER feels like my motherhood became "more real" because of her brother, if she EVER thinks I would have done things differently, I will consider it a giant failure of my parenting skills.

Mary said...

I really think this is your best post ever! (as long as I've been reading, anyway :) )...Thank you for writing this - so many people can learn and benefit from it!!!

Hebrews 11:1 said...

Another rock-solid post from TCIE. You are spot-on, every single word. You really are an incredible person.

Chasing said...

Great post! I always love me a blog post offering an inside/outside thought instruction. ;-)

Kaitlin @ More Like Mary said...

I couldn't agree more! I know people don't mean it this way-but it really does belittle the calling of adoption.

Sissy said...

We've been waiting for over two years now and when people ask me what is going on with our option, I don't know what to say. There hasn't been much going on. You hurry up and do all this paperwork and then you wait. And you get matched and then things fall apart and then you wait some more. Sigh. Sometimes I just don't want to talk about it.

Complicated Life said...

It's interesting because my husband had never really considered adoption before our marriage. Then as we journeyed for years through infertility, he grew more open, we felt called and we pursued it and desired it so badly. I still get teary when I remember when we got "the call" and he had tears swell up in his eyes. Of course, God had different plans and we didn't get to adopt that baby girl. However, we are counting down the months until we're back in the pool. When I tell people, they say, "Oh, you're still planning to do that?" as if we woudln't consider it now that we've actually conceived. It's a little insulting, but I can't hold it against them b/c they don't really understand.

Anyways-bottom line-lovely and true post. :)

Maureen said...

People so don't get it. You've spoken to the issue well. I remember after we had adopted our son and birthed our daughter and then felt called to adopt again, oh the puzzled looks we got. I just said we love our babies so much, how could we not want more? Often it was well intentioned questions but I would remind those who'd gotten remarks on the size of their larger families that they were "what again"ing us, just as others had done with their pregnancies. It's so hard to see another perspective than what you yourself have experienced.

The Comeaus said...

We were recently asked if we'd "ever considered" adopting. ?? As if anyone in 2011 would not know that is an option?

But, for reasons WAY beyond our control, adoption is absolutely not an option. Even for financial reasons alone, it is not an option. And yes, this adds salt to the wound of secondary infertility in a big way.

I would LOVE to adopt because I love the idea of giving a home to a child in need of the love of mother and father--any child. The longer we suffer from not having more children, the more I find myself daydreaming about it: "Yes, I could love an adopted child just as much as I love our biological son. Yes, I could feel the very same things for that child because each child is equally deserving of mommy's love. Yes, I would have 'gestated' that baby in my heart for all these years. S/he would be my precious third (at least one in heaven) baby, the third baby we have been waiting for, and I would be the mommy s/he needs." I find myself getting emotional about it, so I don't think about it too deeply. It's impossible, after all. But, have we considered adoption????? Wow...to be asked that... As if we would only want to give our love to a biological child! It gave me the impression that people think we are selfishly "hoarding" our love.

There's also a flip side to what you wrote: as someone who does have a biological child after having been infertile before his conception too, I can tell you that even the extraordinarily wonderful, mind-blowing experience of becoming a mother has NOT been THE Resurrection for me! Believe it or not, I was surprised to realize that after his creation. Why should I have been? I guess, somewhere in my subconscious, I expected to always be happy because of my motherhood. But a human, even our own precious child, cannot take the place of Jesus.

I am happy that you are learning that now, even without a child (yet?), because it is THE lesson of life: to realize that God alone suffices. I think it is like Jesus saying, "Blessed are those who believe without having seen." It's a sign of very deep faith. You are believing this truth before you have the child to prove it to you, and that is a special grace.

Yes, being a mother is a gift beyond all measure...but it is not the ultimate Goal. I realize that some women may feel bitterness towards me for saying that, since I already have a child, but it is the Christian message--not just mine. I know what it is not to have a child and what it is to have one, and the emptiness that Jesus alone can fill is the very same as it always was, with or without motherhood. My son doesn't--can't--fill it.

I think infertility drives this reality home to us, if our hearts are open to it, and yours certainly is!

OK, I am SO sorry for making this so long and for getting a bit off topic, but I can't believe how much this post touched me.

Little JoAnn said...

Very insightful and so true...I like what you said about it being a very difficult and invasive process. It makes me shudder to even think about it (the process) and kinda makes me mad, too. As my parents didn't have to jump through so many hoops to adopt back in the day. UGH.

Many people do not qualify for adoption for various complicated reasons. So, absolutely it needs to be said that it is not an "automatic next step" on the suffering rung of IF.

That the Cross of IF stands alone.

CS said...

So my secret take on the reason why God made infertiles is so that there would be people available to adopt orphans. Period. Because there will always be orphans from disease/war, families that are already full of their own children are less likely to adopt... so you need us infertiles. BUT, I think think our ranks are swollen from modern lifestyles, and many of us shouldn't be infertile, we just need to figure out what's up. Anyhoo, right or wrong, it makes me feel a lot better about being IF. Like maybe I have a higher calling. So I do associate IF and adoption, for right or wrong. I'm sorry, I think my view is probably overly simplistic.

The Apostolate of Hannah's Tears said...

AMEN~!

Just beautifully said indeed.

Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble said...

I always learn something coming here. Thank you, this was beautiful.

JellyBelly said...

As you know we have been struggling with the adoption question. Before we even knew that we were IF we talked openly about adoption and we were both very open to the idea. Fastforward to almost six years of IF and now I'm papralyzed. I can't decide what kind of adoption to pursue. I can't bring myself to start the paperwork that I already have (gee, sounds like I need to post about this myself!).

I didn't realize how many issues the process was going to raise in my heart. I know there is a reason why I am so hesitant and there will be a time when I know it is right. God's perfect timing, right?

Beautiful post, as usual. :)

Elicia said...

I have followed your blog for some time, but never commented before. I have close friends dealing with infertility currently and for personal reasons cannot adopt either. It is such a heartbreak for them. Thank you for writing about this issue, you say so much that needs to be said.

Be Not Afraid said...

What a great post!

Julie said...

Adoption built our family and I am so blessed.
People (strangers mostly) ask me when they hear we adopted our daughter "couldn't you have your own?"

I want to scream in their face..."SHE IS OUR OWN DAUGHTER!!!!!!!!!"

people just think of adoption as second best. for us, it was our #1

the misfit said...

I would like to volunteer as someone who rarely (if ever) thinks "why don't they just adopt?" in response to hearing that a couple is infertile. As I've proceeded further into my own journey, I've stopped even thinking "why don't they seek medical treatment?" I now figure that they must have realized what I had to learn the hard way.

My perspective stems in significant part from the fact that I don't feel called to adopt, at all. I think my husband is more open to it, but not in a particularly determined way.

And I have to say...I particularly agree with your last point...I haven't gotten an opportunity to trot it out yet, but the next time (God forbid) someone asks me "Why don't you just adopt?" I'm going to have to answer, "Why don't you?"

Jeremiah 29:11 said...

Beautiful post!! :)

Sarah said...

This is such a great post. Thank you. I just rejected an article today that took a very "why isn't everyone adopting? Shame on Christians" tone, and after reading this blog post, I am so glad I did. You make so many excellent points, and as many adoptive parents know, adoption is not the same as "charity" (in the narrow sense of the word).

Maureen said...

Sarah,
You should send this post to the submitting author to provide some insight.

Sarah said...

Maureen... good idea. I will look for an opportunity to do so!

Isaiah 55:8-9 said...

What a great post. This is so true. I'll never forget a (very dear) friend asking me when she was almost 9 months pregnant if we had thought about adoption. It was like a knife in my heart. While I knew she said it with the best of intentions, facing her enormous belly was hard enough (much as I love her) let alone being asked that question. You're right - it's not a solution to infertility, and not everyone who is suffering from IF is able to or called to adopt. I had another dear friend, who, when I told her my husband and I had decided to pursue adoption, got tears in her eyes and told me she had been praying for that, but that she knew it wasn't her place to say anything. (A much better response!) Blessings to you!

A said...

Oh, what a beautiful post! So well thought out and so well written! It should be published! Thanks for sharing!


-A of inallthingsgood.wordpress.com and babydistrict.wordpress.com

Amazing Life said...

oh, TCIE! I love this post and that you are able to put into words the truth of the matter.

I specifically love the truth statted in your last paragraph.

Daddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Comeaus said...

Oops, I just made a comment with my husband's username, and I deleted it!

I just wanted to say to "CS" above that I have thought SO MANY times that we are infertile so we can take care of orphans in future disasters. I thought I made that idea up! Haha! I thought I'd never breathe a word of that to anyone (other than my very supportive hubby!) because they might think I'm nuts, but I DO see this as a very real possibility! God has His ways...

Julie said...

I also want to say that it bothers me when people say "you know there are fertility treatments out there" to me. It bothers me so much. Not every infertile is called to seek medical help to conceive. God's call for each couple is specific to them.

Makes my blood boil sometimes.

This_Cross_I_Embrace said...

Julie,
Not to mention you never know what people have already done in terms of treatment... kinda like how the RE told me once, "Oh yes, that's right, you're not doing any high-tech treatments..." (when he meant I wasn't doing any immoral treatments). And this was after I had gone to both Dr Toth and Dr Kwak for some of the most high-tech treatments available in the country!!
Rule of thumb: keep lips zipped when it comes to someone's infertility ;)

St. Rita's Roses said...

I agree 100%- keep mouth shut! As if adopting is so easy (financially and emotionally..etc). People have said the most ridiculous things to us. I guess since my clock is ticking!! Just down-right rude. Thanks for this post.

TCIE-just wondering, have you ever considered adoption??---hehhehehe- ok, bad joke.

This_Cross_I_Embrace said...

Well, Rita... I think I'd rather fix up my 1895 piano than buy 1/2 a kid ;)

Sunshine said...

I have always been attracted to the idea of adoption or fostering but when I came face to face with adoption last summer (the same week I started my KK treatment) I realized that I wasn't ready and I didn't know if I ever would be.

I think it makes people feel better if they can give us advice sometime- like they can be off the hook once they shoot their mouths off. They really have no idea what any of this is like.

Great post!

"His Perfect Timing" said...

TCIE .... great post! I feel very similarly to what you, but also to what CS commented. I guess I'm still waiting to see how God's plan unfolds for me .. There are so many paths. I love reading all the comments ...great points by all!

Lisa said...

So true! So true!

LP said...

so very insightful....for those who study TOB, I think this post and the experiences of IF illumine some aspect of JPII's reflection on "original solitude" imho...particularly the part about the Resurrection being found only in Heaven and the wounds that are unable to be fulfilled by human experiences. Truly, wherever the cross is embraced, the truth of who we are is revealed (GS22)).

On a personal note, I hate not knowing what to say to friends in difficult moments...this reminds me that patience & walking w/someone in uncertainty, hope & suffering is difficult but needed for "outsiders" too.

I learn so much from you bloggers! Blessings to you TCIE.

-a friend of Jer 29:11

Anonymous said...

We decided against adoption, because we knew so many instances where it did not work out for the couple who adopted. Many adoptees were just angry about their situation, and did not view their adoptive parents as their "real" parents. When you meet so many adoptees who are angry at the world, you start to wonder about it. None of them were grateful for having been adopted. We just said no to adoption. We are happy with our decision.