Does Adopting a Baby Fix Infertility?

What happen if after you have your beautiful child through adoption or donor egg, sperm, or embryo you are still grieving the loss of your biological child?

“I thought I was living my dream. I have 2 perfect kids one from international adoption, one domestic adoption. I love them more than life itself. But yesterday at the park when all the other moms were comparing their pregnancy and labor stories, I felt this wave of sadness, followed by anger at my body for depriving me of so much. I took me by surprise. I have what I wanted-kids-I thought I was past all the infertility cr_p.”

“I have twins born to me from the miracle of egg donation. They are wonderful and we are all doing well. Except when I get a baby shower invitation or baby announcement. I feel angry that they get to experience this so easily when I had to work so hard. I’m angry because they can’t appreciate what a gift they’ve been given that has been withheld from me. I realize that I’m still stuck in the infertility world.”

And then I saw this beautifully written piece by an adoptive mama at On Loan from Heaven:

I look in the face of my baby every single day and THANK GOD that I didn’t get pregnant. I wouldn’t change my life for anything in the world…. anything! …But …, I am also painfully aware every single day that my body doesn’t work the way it ’should’. I remember every single day the struggle we went through to grow our family and I remember why we went through it…. because I’m infertile (I really hate that word but what else is it called?!?). I still feel the gentle pang in the part of my heart that would love to experience pregnancy…. not because a pregnancy would give me a child any different or more special than the one I have, but because women’s bodies were created to bear children. It’s in the Bible, for goodness sakes and MY body just can’t figure it out! I want to know what a baby feels like when he/she moves in my belly and as weird as it sounds, I want to feel contractions and labor and that moment when you witness your child’s first breath… .[She writes well, and I recommend that you read the rest of this post and subscribe to her blog feed.]

The Losses of Infertility Just Keep Piling On

Infertility is an insidious disease. It robs you of more than just the opportunity to parent. It also can take away your dreams of pregnancy, your dreams of child birth and breast feeding, your dreams of biologically continuing your family line, and your dreams of your perfect child that is the perfect combination of both you and your spouse.  Adoption addresses only one of the many losses associated with infertility– the loss of raising a child. Conception through egg or sperm donation addresses a few more, but you may still be left with grieving what might have been.

Triggers for the Pain

There are some predictable triggers:

  • Pregnancy and labor war stories.
  • Baby showers.
  • “Who does that baby/child look like?”
  • Facebook pregnant belly pics.
  • Realizing that your child does not share your musical or athletic talents, and that you won’t have the bond over this shared activity that you always dreamed of.
  • “You’re not my real mom” shouted by an angry teen.
  • And this one from Pat Johnston’s essay mentioned below that struck a chord in me since my kids are at this stage: Taking your son to college or moving him into his own apartment, feeling a stab of worry about whether the connection is tight enough to ensure that he will indeed come home.

Resolving Your Grief

Before deciding to adopt or use donor gametes or embryos, take the time you need to come to terms with or resolve your grief over being infertile. The decision to adopt or use donor egg, sperm, or embryos should be a process not an event. One of my biggest concerns with fertility medical professionals is that they often treat egg or embryo donation as simply the next step up the infertility treatment ladder, with no more thought given to it than another IVF cycle.

Resolution does not necessarily mean that the grief entirely goes away, but it’s a matter of degrees. How intense and how often are your feelings of loss? Pat Johnston, in a great essay, “Infertility and Aftershocks”,  argues that we should be proactive addressing the grief. Don’t wait around assuming it will just go away. Get help. Join support groups. Talk with others who’ve walked this path before.

No Need for Shame

There is no shame in feeling sad and angry. These feelings need not be a betrayal of the love you feel towards the kids that you have through the blessing of adoption or donor gametes or embryo. Parenting outside of your gene pool is different from parenting children from your genes– not worse, not second best, just different.  Your child, regardless how she joins your family, deserves parents who want her for who she is, not because she is all they can get.

What are your triggers for your infertility grief? What have you done to help move past this loss?

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