Sometimes people hear of a couple that has experienced infertility and then gone on to adopt, and automatically think that the pain of infertility is magically gone now that there is a baby in the couple’s arms. While couples who have adopted have come to a peace and acceptance regarding their infertility, there is still a sense of loss. It’s a dichotomy of sorts: a total ecstasy and joy that their arms are full, and yet a grief that they never experienced the awe and joy of pregnancy and birth.
Three amazing women that I have the privilege to know were willing to share their thoughts and experiences regarding this particular aspect of coming into parenthood. Meet Kait, Glenna, and Stacey.
Glenna has been married for five-and-a-half years and experienced infertility for five of those years. Kait has been married three years and, though she did not go through a specific time period of trying to conceive, she was told early on before marriage that conceiving would more than likely be impossible for her. Stacey has been married six years and has been trying to conceive for three years.
Each woman’s story is different and unique, yet all three also carry some similarities. Some readers may relate to Kait but not Glenna, some to Glenna but not to Stacey. I’ll let them tell their stories themselves…
What led you to adoption?
Glenna: Infertility was a big factor in our decision to adopt, although we did talk about adopting before we even knew about our infertility. My father was adopted as an infant, so adoption has always been close to my heart.
Kait: This specific adoption was brought on by family emergency but we always knew adoption would be the main way we created our family. It had been hinted at earlier in my life that I would have trouble conceiving, but it wasn’t until last year that we received an official diagnosis. However, even before we knew “officially” what was wrong, we knew adopting would have to be our plan A and were both fairly settled in that course of action.
Stacey: Since I was young, I’ve always had a desire to adopt. My husband’s mother was actually a foster child herself, so the desire to help other children was there for him as well.
We debated about whether to private adopt or foster-to-adopt, and in the end there really wasn’t much debate. For us, we really wanted to help children who were already in such need of help and put our money and heart toward that.
We had been TTC for about 3 years when we first looked into fostering. Although it was well past the 1 year mark to begin thinking something was “wrong” we weren’t yet panicking or thinking that a pregnancy might not be in the cards for us.
If infertility led to adoption, did you have to work through that before you adopted?
Glenna: Definitely. We pulled out adoption paperwork numerous times throughout our nearly 4 years (at the time) of infertility only to place them back in a drawer because I wasn’t ready to stop looking at our infertility treatment options.
Once we received a diagnosis that left only one medical option, which we weren’t willing to pursue, we knew it was time to switch gears.
I had written a lot throughout our years of infertility, working through my emotions. That was very important for me because it helped me work through it and grieve the loss of my dream of conceiving and bearing children naturally. I think grieving is a necessary part of “working through infertility” before adoption.
Kait: We did. My husband really wanted our first child to be biological and then adopt the rest of our children. I just wanted kids and wanted him to be happy. We had to reconcile both of our dreams for our family and agree that however God brought about the creation of our family was what we would be okay with. When we were diagnosed, I grieved more for those dreams we had created than anything else.
I did also grieve for all those little flutterings of hope I had felt when my period had been late previously. I grieved for what seemed to be unconscious desires to have a pregnancy and the fact that I would probably never have those positive lines show up on a pregnancy test. Everything happened for us in a such a weird way, but I do wish we had more time to come to terms with our infertility.
Stacey: Truthfully the two never went hand in hand for me. I had always wanted to adopt so it wasn’t a last resort for me, it was a choice. I have had to work through my infertility and still do work on dealing with it sometimes.
What would you tell other couples that have to work through infertility before pursuing adoption?
Glenna: Talk to others who’ve been there. Write, pray, grieve. Adopting doesn’t mean you are “giving up” on your dream of conceiving, but so often people look at adoption as a plan B — the thing they pursue when trying to get pregnant doesn’t pan out. What adoption should be thought of is plan A, just perhaps not in the chronology one expected. Adoption certainly isn’t second best or a runner-up to conceiving. It is an entirely different miracle of its own.
Kait: Be patient with yourself. Everyone who knows about your infertility will either tell you that God has a bigger plan or that there is always adoption as a fallback plan or basically something about how your infertility is a blessing in disguise. The truth is, no one can understand exactly how infertility is impacting your life because everyone has different feelings about their infertility. Some women feel broken or like less of a woman. I personally never felt that, but I did grieve those moments we wouldn’t have, like the ultrasound or announcing to my husband that we were having a baby.
It’s okay to be devastated by infertility and it’s equally okay to have minor pings of grief, but really, just be glad you don’t have to wonder anymore when your period is late.
Mainly, I think it’s important to recognize that adoption is not a miracle cure for the feelings that come along with infertility. Having a child can help you heal emotionally from the infertility but it’s not like suddenly you have this kid and everything is perfect. Adoption, like infertility, comes with its own unique set of challenges, feelings, new situations, and complications. Don’t expect it to be a stand-in for birthing a biological child.
Stacey: Always make sure you and your husband are on the same page as far as adopting. Its a very emotional journey; let it bring you together and not tear you apart. Make sure that you want that particular child and not just a replacement for a biological child.
Tell us about your blessing!
Glenna: We have a beautiful 8-month-old son! He is an incredible blessing to us! It surprises me daily how much I love this child; I didn’t know love like this was possible!
We were chosen by his birth mother about a month before he was born. We were graciously invited to be in the delivery room when he was born — what an amazing miracle to witness!
Kait: Our oldest is two-and-and-a-half. She is bright and funny, knows exactly what to do to make people laugh at her, but shy when someone new comes around. It amazes me that even though the girls are only 17 months apart, M is the best big sister imaginable.
Despite not having had a reliable, safe father figure in her life before, she is incredibly attached to her daddy [her adopted daddy, Kait’s husband] and asks frequently throughout the day if Daddy will be home soon. Her favorite things to do are puzzles, reading books, and coloring. Anything that involves small details (like coloring — she likes staying in the lines) or steady concentration. She is a perfectionist and I know no matter what could have happened in her life, she would have the determination to make it into something beautiful.
Our baby just turned one, and oh my stars is this kid a spitfire! She is busy and silly and curious about everything. It’s unnerving how much she can concentrate on one thing until she gets it figured out. She will study people and the things they are doing so she can replicate the action. She loves music and will dance around the house, especially with her Daddy. She is demanding and opinionated, affectionate and friendly, and in to absolutely everything.
I think she did get a lot less baby time attention than her sister did. M is very dependent on us to affirm what she’s doing or be with her all the time. N doesn’t really care. She is incredibly independent and stubborn. In a lot of her behavior, she reminds me of myself, so it’s been a humbling experience to parent her. N did take a lot longer to attach to us, which was a unique challenge in itself, but once she did open up to us, it was so worth it.
Stacey: We initially, because of our classes with CPS to adopt, felt that we couldn’t take the heartbreak of fostering. Of course, during those classes God opened our hearts and made us realize that we could foster — that risking our hearts was worth it.
When we got a call for our first placement for two children, we knew two separate couples who had already said “no” to this placement, and based on the information we too planned on saying “no”. However, once the call came and she started telling me about the children I just couldn’t bring myself to say no. I told her I would talk to my hubby and call her tomorrow to let her know for sure. Before we hung up she said “I don’t usually tell names because people get hung up on names, but for some reason she felt compelled to tell me. She said their names are S* and J*.” I went speechless. I called the hubby barely able to breath. I told him about the kids and that I hadn’t been able to say no, but had told the lady that we would call tomorrow about our answer (I still hadn’t told him the names). He, too, couldn’t say no and we decided to take the babies (13 months and 2 years at the time) into our home.
After we made our final decision, I told him the names (I, too, didn’t want to sway his decision based on the names). Their names were the very first names that we had picked our for our biological children. They were supposed to be foster only (short term at that), but they fit from the first second they entered our home, and although through the course of their fostering there were some sleepless nights over whether they would stay or go, something always told us they were here to stay.
After 16 months of fostering and praying, we finalized the adoption of our son and daughter on November 12 of 2008, which will now be known as “Forever Family Day” to all of us.
What was the hardest thing about adopting and/or fostering?
Glenna: I think that realizing that our son came from another person was a hard truth to accept. When you adopt, babies don’t just come from a baby store or from some generic person out there. Adoption is a choice a woman makes when she comes to the realization that she can’t (for whatever reason) parent her child. It is a painful, painful decision — one that will affect this woman (and the child’s birth father) for the rest of their lives. Her pregnancy was a crisis, a thing she had to deal with. Choosing to place your child with someone else to raise, well, I cannot imagine making that decision.
What brings me my greatest joy is the result of another woman’s most profound loss. It was paramount for me to understand this truth. It has helped me immensely in our relationship with our son and with his birth mother.
I cannot and will not pretend that his life began with us, even though we were in the delivery room when he was born and took him home from the hospital. His life began 9 months prior, and I have utmost respect for the amazing woman who chose life for him and placed him in a family who would raise him and give him things she couldn’t necessarily give. Any couple who wants to adopt needs to grapple with this realization.
A book that opened my eyes to this was Because I Loved You: A Birthmother’s View of Open Adoption by Patricia Dischler. I highly recommend this book to any couple considering adoption.
Kait: Knowing that someone else got those special moments from early in my child’s life. Yes, we have the rest of their lives for more special moments, but I do mourn the ones we missed.
I also did not expect to miss our former life so much now that we have kids. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I will admit I miss going out to dinner with my husband and not having to question whether the place is kid friendly. I miss going to the movies without having to arrange childcare. It’s silly little things like that, but those are the things that changed the most once we added kids to our life.
Also, I really hate how people will stare (our kids are biracial) or how they assume the girls are mine from a previous relationship and my husband was just such a nice man to take all three of us. I’d rather have people ask questions instead of making ignorant assumptions.
Stacey: The hardest thing is putting yourself out there — making your heart more vulnerable than it’s ever been and knowing that in the end of it all, there’s a very likely chance that its going to be broken again and again. I still wouldn’t trade it, though. The children in foster care have cried enough to last a lifetime and here we are adults with love and a support system. It’s okay if our hearts our broken and we cry; I would rather it be us than them.
What was the greatest thing about adopting?
Glenna: I am a mom! The Lord gave me the greatest gift of becoming a mother, even though I am barren. I have the privilege of raising my son in the fear and admonition of the Lord, of doing all the things a mother gets to do, of fulfilling the call of motherhood that I have longed for for so long. I am blessed!
Kait: Literally waking up one day and having a family. Seeing these two little girls who have never had a real father figure before, just fall all over themselves with joy when their daddy gets home from work. Hearing the girls call for me and knowing that the “MOOOOOOOM!” they want is me.
Stacey: Without a doubt, seeing a baby or child transform from this unsure/scared child and leave our home a happy, smiling child. While it hurts for them to leave, there is this tremendous joy that comes from helping a child and watching them smile and know that you helped put that smile there.
Did fostering/adopting make infertility all better? Did people expect that it should have? What do you wish people could know concerning that?
Glenna: Of course not. It doesn’t make your infertility go away. I am still barren. In April, we will hit our 5-year mark of trying to conceive. That’s a hard pill to swallow, still — the sight of a pregnant woman, her belly swollen with blessing, is still a painful reminder of my barrenness, of the pregnancy and childbirth I may never experience.
However, I will say that adoption has definitely lessened the blow, so to speak. Though I have never conceived or given birth or breastfed, I am still a mother. I was up all night with feedings, I have changed hundreds of diapers, I have dealt with tummy aches, impromptu baths after diaper explosions, copious amounts of spit-up, laughter, smiles, walks in the stroller, trying to get an 8-month-old out the door while carrying purse, diaper bag, coat, keys, and cup of coffee all at once. Though I didn’t become a mother in the way I expected, I am still a mother.
The question I had to ask myself at the beginning of our adoption process was this: “Do you want to get pregnant or do you want to be a mother?” I wanted to be a mother, hands down!
I had to question my motives here. Was my dream only to get pregnant and experience all the woes and joys of pregnancy and birth? If that was my only goal, then motherhood was not my end game. As it turned out, motherhood was my goal, and the Lord graciously led me that end.
Kait: It didn’t make infertility all better. I think some people did expect that our hurt feelings over their insensitivity towards us with regard to our infertility would miraculously disappear.
I wish people knew that as much as I love my children, I do still mourn a little for the pregnancies that never made it into births. My heart aches when friends complain about their pregnancies. Pregnancy, infertility, and the miscarriages we had will always be a sore spot in my heart. Adopting doesn’t change that.
Stacey: It doesn’t make it all better. They’re so separate. Adopted children aren’t replacements. They’re a separate, amazing blessing, one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. You’re still going to have to mourn the loss of your fertility and still feel the sadness. Allow yourself to feel those things. It’s not fair for an adopted child to be a “replacement” for a biological child. They need to know you wanted them and love them for the blessing that they are. It’s very important for the adopted child to never have to feel as though they second best.
Do you feel you have experienced something positive because you have fostered/adopted that those who have biological children may have missed out on?
Glenna: I definitely feel that way, but some of that feeling is probably rooted in knowing I have missed out on the pregnancy/birth aspect. I did get to witness my son’s birth, so I have been with him since he drew a breath. I understand the analogy of spiritual adoption better than many of those who practice the Christian faith, although my son will have a much better grasp on that than even I do.
Since our adoption is transracial, I have learned a lot about what family can really mean and look like. Physical similarities aren’t as important to me as the things we pass down through our heritage and our faith.
One thing that I feel others miss out on is that my husband and I feel that God called us to step out and do something different, to look differently than other families, to be intentional about how our family looks and functions. Once we considered adoption, we felt that we were called to adopt children who needed to be placed, not necessarily children that looked just like us. Transracial adoption has been one of the greatest aspects of our adoption blessing.
I have also watched God provide for every single dollar of the financial aspect of our adoption (it’s very expensive!), and that has been a huge blessing to watch unfold.
Kait: I think we got to experience the miraculous change in our children and in ourselves when we finally came together and all realized that we were family, this was permanent, and no one was going anywhere.
I also think because it didn’t come as easy to us as some couples, because we had to struggle and hope and pray that someday we could have a family, we did get to witness more of the miracle of being faithful and of God’s provision.
But the coolest thing we got to experience was watching each other become parents in a hands-on way. We didn’t have this whole experience of months to come to terms with the idea of parenthood, then a newborn, then an infant, then a toddler, etc. We suddenly, unexpectedly, went from zero to two kids ages two and under. It was a huge adjustment, but we got to see each other at our best and our worst and ultimately came to depend on each other more and put more value in our relationship.
Stacey: Just as there are things I have missed out on by not giving birth, I do feel that there are things that are missed out on when couples don’t get involved in fostering/adopting. While there is heartbreak that you’re able to avoid by not fostering, the joy of helping and loving a child in need is so rewarding. It has brought my husband and I closer than I can communicate adequately enough, as well as brought us closer to God.
As the interview wrapped up, Glenna and Kait had some last additional thoughts:
Kait: I just want people to know that we had the option of taking meds and probably would have had a good chance of ending up pregnant and probably even having a baby out of that pregnancy. That being said, I do not for one moment regret turning down the option of fertility meds.
We have the most amazing kids in the world (I know everyone says that) and I can’t imagine loving them more. I think too many women are too hard on themselves after being diagnosed with infertility. The most important thing to me was being a mom, not being pregnant, and I got that without having to take the roller coaster of meds and doctors and tests.
Glenna: I really want to encourage couples who can have children naturally to please consider adoption. There is a need for families to take hard-to-place children, not necessarily healthy, white infants who are quickly and easily placed with families.
There are multitudes of children who are waiting on loving families. That is the point of adoption — not to make infertility all better, but to place a child with a family he or she needs. Adoption is an incredible blessing, whether you pursue foreign or domestic adoption. Even if you can have children biologically, at least consider adopting or support someone who is adopting.