Sara’s Story: “Why don’t you just adopt?”
When I heard couples discussing their attempts at pregnancy and IVF, I said, with contempt in my voice,, “Why don’t you just adopt.” Yes, I was one of “those people”.
I was adopted, and it worked out fine for my parents and me. I believed that people choosing IVF were self-centered and arrogant about the necessity to pass on their genes to offspring. I admit I took the attempts to create a family through treatment personally—as if people who choose IVF were somehow disparaging or devaluing my non-biological relationship to my parents and sister.
Fast forward to the time when I stopped birth control and my husband and I attempted pregnancy. Clearly I was not ovulating. Our insurance mandated we try for 12 months before I referral to a fertility specialist. We visited different reproductive endocrinologists, attended informational sessions at adoption agencies and researched. In the end, money made the decision for us.
Our state mandates fertility coverage. Attempting pregnancy through medical treatment with insurance co-pays was easier to afford than adoption agency fees.
After a year of trying, fruitless medicated cycles and IUIs, we began IVF. Now, we were “those people” taking what I used to call “extraordinary measures” to start our family. Our first cycle resulted in an early miscarriage and a diagnoses of poor egg quality. My diagnosis also included Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism. Our reproductive endocrinologist (RE) told us dramatic weight loss might improve my egg quality. Our RE believed that future IVFs would also result in retrieval of poor quality eggs. Those poor quality eggs result in non-viable embryos or end in miscarriages. We said, Thank you and goodbye”. The result, we started our adoption journey.
Adoption today is nothing like it was 37 years ago when my parents adopted me. Mine was a closed adoption through Catholic Charities. It did not take that long, cost was much lower, and, whether they were ready or not, parents were handed a baby with no “instruction booklet.”. Closed adoptions cause damage to many members of the adoption triad. Today’s open adoptions, through ethical agencies, are much healthier better for all members of the adoption triad. At the same time adoptions consume time, money, emotionally draining and stressful.
We spent more than two and a half years and thousands of dollars pursuing adoption. We laid our lives and marriage bare in the home study process. We poured our souls into our profile book. We were asked to consider cases of expecting mothers and babies in truly heart-wrenching situations. We me with expecting mothers who smoked, drank and abused drugs while pregnant. We watched as month after month, other waiting parents were chosen instead of us. The rejections we felt while we waited and hoped was personal and painful. Our agency explained we needed to be ready because adoption matches came up suddenly. When we were in the top 2 or 3 waiting parent finalists, we experienced a rush of energy and enthusiasm that “this time” would be our time. I bought a stroller or hang curtains in the nursery. I cut tags off of the carefully chosen gender-neutral going home outfit. Twenty months passed, exceeding our agency’s average wait time (by six months) for a baby. I was an emotional wreck and no baby. “Just Adopt” had me in therapy struggling to hang on. Even with the plethora of hormones, fertility treatments were not as emotionally draining.
I was an emotional wreck with a finished nursery and no baby. “Just adopt” had me in therapy and struggling to hang on in a way that fertility treatments, even with all the crazy hormones, never had.
For the sake of our emotional well-being, we asked our adoption agency to place our profile on hold. We simply did not want any more rejection. During our adoption wait, I pursued weight loss that our RE recommended to enhance egg quality. We went back to the RE who was encouraging, but said that the only way to know if my weight loss changed my egg quality was to try IVF again. I want to make it very clear that weight loss is not the answer for everyone. However, in my case it was. Our post-weight loss IVF brought us a beautiful baby boy.
After our son’s birth, we closed our case with the adoption agency. Our social worker, who was wonderful and supportive throughout the years we worked with her, agreed that our adoption journey had been particularly brutal. If the universe was trying to teach me a lesson for my previous self-righteous ignorance, it was karma overkill. I learned early n our journey not to judge the paths that others take. Our decision to pursue treatments, adoption, and then more treatments was how we, fumblingly, found our way in the dark. When dealing with infertility, all of the available options are filled with loss and pain. The choice as to which loss is endurable, which pain is most bearable, is highly personal.