This blog article was written by Ellen Glazer in honor of November as National Adoption Awareness Month. She is a LICSW, Family Building Counselor and Coach, Co-author of “Having Your Baby through Egg Donation” and author of “The Long Awaited Stork”. Find out more about Ellen at Ellensglazer.net
Many years ago, when I was trying to become a mom, I had a friend who worked in an infertility clinic. Keenly aware of my struggles, she offered up the following when I asked her if she liked her job, “My favorite days are those when people bring in the babies they gave birth to or adopted. I love to see the babies.” In that simple statement my friend gave me an enduring gift—she let me know that adoption is a great resolution to infertility.
Fast forward several years. Along the way, I became a mom through adoption and focused my social work career on infertility and adoption. I always remembered my friend’s words and tried to pay them forward whenever I could. Once, when I was in an airport departure lounge, the ticket agent approached me and said, “You don’t remember me but I met you seven years ago. I know this because I have a six year old child whom I conceived with IVF. I have always wanted to thank you for making my IVF experience so much easier.” Puzzled, I asked her how I accomplished this in our one “mandatory” visit. She replied, “You told me that I could adopt–that whether the IVF cycle worked or not, I would be a mom.”
More years have passed and even the airport vignette is old history. Over the years I have had the great pleasure of seeing countless couples and singles become parents through adoption. During the holiday season I look forward to the mail each day, because it always bringing cards with photos of children. Some joined their families through IVF Others through egg or sperm donation. Many through adoption. All are beautiful and thriving children.
I wish the holiday photos told the full story but they do not. What is missing is how long it took many of the parents to move on to adoption and other options. The widespread availability of IVF, its increased success and the availability of egg donation have turned the “roller coaster” of infertility into a prolonged “journey.” Where once infertility patients rode the rapid roller coaster highs and lows and then stepped off onto the solid ground of adoption, I am now seeing people slowly making their way on a prolonged journey. It is common for them to say, “We’ve done six IVF attempts at a total of three local clinics and now we’re going to Colorado and if it doesn’t work there, we’ll think about egg donation. We think that at least that will work but if it doesn’t, we might have to adopt.” Where once adoption was the natural “go to” destination if one did not achieve a successful pregnancy after a year or so, it seems it has become “the last resort.”
Working with many clients who choose egg donation, I know that this option often leads to joyful outcomes. So do some repeated IVF attempts, as does sperm donation and surrogacy and embryo donation. There is a broad menu of options and each one can be right for one family and not for another. What troubles me is that when people look over the menu, I’m not sure that adoption is ever the featured option it should be. For those who might one day consider adoption, here are some things to think about sooner rather than later.
Time is precious —If you spend years pursuing a pregnancy, you will have fewer years to enjoy the fruits of your parenting labors. The “terrible twos” are not usually a lot of fun but the “terrific twenties” are wonderful. How old will you by when your twenty five year old says, “Mom, will you to do a bike ride through Italy with me?” If you are 45 when he is born, you will be seventy when you are pumping up those hills of Tuscany. Hopefully you will be in great shape but more likely than not, you’ll be in better shape five to ten years earlier.
Time is precious also in terms of lost grand parenting and cousin relationships. As you delay parenthood, your own parents get older, your future child’s cousins move beyond a point when they can share the pleasure of being part of an extended family. I always remember the first couple I knew who became pregnant with IVF. It was new then and I was thrilled for them. And so I was stunned when they replied to my congratulations with the following, “We have mixed feelings. We’re happy but we also feel like we lost our thirties. We lost two of our parents during this time and the surviving grandparents are that much older and they are frail. We spend too much time pursuing this pregnancy.”
Resources are limited—Even if you are fortunate enough to have a big bank account or stock portfolio, the prolonged pursuit of pregnancy has other steep costs. In addition to the costs of time, mentioned above, it takes energy—lots of it—to endure repeated IVF cycles and sometimes the miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies that could follow. It’s also hard to maintain self esteem when you hear, “you are a poor responder” or more bluntly, “you have bad eggs.” Be sure to make on-going deposits in your resource account so that it is not fully depleted when you arrive at adoption.
Adoption is becoming more difficult—While it is true that people can adopt in their mid-to –late forties and sometimes even fifties, adoption is becoming more difficult It is likely to take you longer and cost more than it would have a few years ago. Be sure to factor this in when you review the menu of options before you and don’t assume that you can easily adopt –your delay is likely to mean fewer options, higher costs and more stress in the adoption process.
Adoption is a guarantee—IVF offers you a chance for a baby. So do egg donation and donor sperm and surrogacy. Adoption offers more than a chance—it is a guarantee. It may take a long time, there may be fall throughs along the way and costs will mount, but adoption will work.
Adoption offers a healthy baby—When you adopt a baby, you walk out of the hospital with a healthy baby (unless you opt to adopt a child with a disability). With a pregnancy, you get what you get. Yes, there is prenatal testing and the difficult option of termination but prenatal testing does not cover all the things that could go wrong in a pregnancy.
This essay, written on November 22, 2014—National Adoption Awareness Day—is for those readers who would consider adoption, as well as those who are the medical caregivers of those who might consider adoption. Adoption may not be right for you or right for your patients. What I hope I have done here is to put the adoption where it belongs on the “paths to parenthood” menu.