During the long, painful years when we were having so much trouble trying to bring a healthy child into the world, many well-meaning friends would often say – in a soft, gentle voice, “have you considered (pause for dramatic effect) adoption?” And I think I did a pretty good job of being patient with these people, especially as I understood that they were only trying to help. The obvious truth is, though, that of course we’d thought about it. When you find yourself on the far side of four problematic pregnancies and several egg donation treatments with no surviving children, it’s a pretty safe assumption that you have, indeed, considered a multitude of options, exploring and researching all possible avenues as you discover what you are and are not prepared to do in your quest to be a parent.
And without a doubt, adoption can be the right choice – for some. Despite everything we went through – the disappointment, the agony, the physical (mine) and emotional pain, the loss of a child… The path that I simply couldn’t bring myself to choose, let alone embrace, was adoption. I’m not one of those people who is immediately drawn to all babies, and I just don’t have that natural, instinctive, wonderful ability to bond with other people’s children (and I’m pretty sure children can sense that). While I was reasonably certain that I would love any child I managed to bring into the world, I was terribly, terribly scared of going the adoption route, frightened that I would not be able to connect to the child who would enter our lives in this way. I didn’t feel that it was fair to subject a child to such an experiment, especially when I couldn’t get past my doubts regarding the outcome. How could I even consider adopting a child when I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to love that child as it deserved to be loved?
So adoption was my red line. Initially, I even had trouble with the idea of egg donation. It took me quite some time to get used to the idea, and the only reason I was able to go through with it (the first time, anyway), was because my best friend had offered to be our donor. There was no way I would have been able to bring myself into that space otherwise, at the time. I had such a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I had to turn to technology to make this work, and I absolutely, unequivocally needed the reassurance that, despite the cold, clinical procedures being used, there was still an act of love involved in there somewhere, even if it couldn’t be the one normally associated with conceiving a child.
With each failed egg donation cycle (three in all), my boundaries expanded and my “requirements” became more flexible, but it was of course, a process that didn’t happen overnight. I had to be able to talk myself into a place of acceptance with each new stage. I had to redefine my red lines, and what was acceptable to me by the third cycle (using a completely anonymous donor from Romania) wasn’t something I could even contemplate for the first cycle. We began to consider a fourth egg donation cycle (going the same route that we’d used in the third cycle), while at the same time, accepting the fact that we might, indeed, remain childless, for I was still unwilling to consider adoption. In the end, though, before we could start on that fourth cycle, I discovered that I was pregnant (after having done practically everything that pregnant women shouldn’t do – drinking alcohol and lots of caffeine, eating sushi, taking medications, lifting heavy objects and having a flu shot) – a high-risk pregnancy that resulted in the birth (a birth that almost cost me my life) of the six year-old who seems to have taken over our home.
What made me think about all this now? A single, 47 year-old friend of a friend recently gave birth, having used both a donor egg and donor sperm to get pregnant. My friend couldn’t understand why her friend hadn’t just adopted, and while I’m sure the friend had her reasons, those reasons really shouldn’t be of anyone else’s concern. It is a misnomer to believe that anyone who wants to have children will be willing to do anything to get them, or that these people do not have red lines that they simply aren’t prepared to cross. And, for those of us who have been down the infertility path, it is nothing short of insulting and hurtful to try to make us feel guilty by opting for assisted reproduction techniques instead of going straight to adoption. It’s hardly fair to assume that people with infertility issues should be grateful to solve the global problem of unwanted children just because they’re unable to have any of their own naturally, nor should they be guilted into doing so. The tragedy of so many unwanted children in the world should be a global issue to tackle, and not a burden to be shouldered by the infertile couples of the world. It’s just not that simple. And do you know what else? You don’t have to understand it. You merely have to accept it.