Made to Feel Guilty About the Status of Our Fertility

13 Feb

Photo courtesy of VirtualErn
And in one moment…
courtesy of VirtualErn

The application for our placement agency includes a long section of essay questions and five of the 24 questions are about how we’ve managed to work through our infertility.

Which is hard for us to answer because, you know, that’s not our situation.

Quick review for the newcomers. I have an auto-immune condition in my retina. To protect my vision I take a mild form of chemotherapy that suppresses my immune system but causes miscarriages and birth defects. I will likely have to keep up this course of treatment for the next decade at which time I’ll be in my mid-40s. So … adoption it is.

The fact of the matter is that most people who adopt have tried without success to conceive. Sadly, infertility affects 7 million American women (about 12 percent of the female population of child-bearing age). A lot of the adoption blogs I read are actually about both adoption and infertility since they often go hand in hand.

But not always. Sometime single people adopt. Sometimes same sex couples adopt. Sometimes people with hereditary medical conditions adopt. It’s easy to forget that we’re not the lone fertile people in the world of adoption when you consider how much of the content is geared toward couples working through fertility issues. There are even agencies who won’t accept couples like us, agencies that only help people who have struggled with infertility.

I alternate between feeling sad / mad / excluded, and feeling guilty that I have to work at NOT getting pregnant.

Take those five essay questions about infertility. There’s not a question about your ability (or lack thereof) to conceive. There’s an assumption. What have you done to deal with your infertility? What has been the hardest thing to cope with? Have you had the opportunity to close the door on other attempts to become parents?

I didn’t even have the opportunity to open the door.

And that’s okay. But it would be nice if I didn’t feel like I constantly have to defend our decision. You know how people always tell you that most of the time when you think you’re being judged, it’s all in your head? Well, in this case, it’s really not.

It’s not just the agencies that make me feel bad; sometimes it’s the other hopeful adoptive parents. Please – please – know that most people I encounter are kind and nice and not at all judgey … but sometimes I read forum posts like this one that make me feel really bad. Thankfully most of the respondents jump to the defense of people like me / couples like us, but the point is made. Some people engaged in this process don’t think I should qualify to adopt a healthy infant and that breaks my heart a little bit. Thankfully it’s a minority of people who feel that way, but it’s not exactly isolated.

Here’s another post in which the question about fertility is posed and there’s a lot discussion on both sides, with most people saying everyone should be allowed to adopt without prejudice and some people saying things like, “I do kind of think that childless couples who are infertile should be considered first and foremost and their profiles should be shown first.” Another person says that she doesn’t understand why a Caucasian couple who is not infertile would want to adopt a Caucasian baby when the wait is so long and there are people who are infertile waiting for those children – but she doesn’t think there should be a law about it or anything. Well, that’s good. At least she doesn’t want to legislate us out of the system (although, in fairness, since we’re open to children of mixed race heritage maybe she’s not talking about us specifically).

At any rate, it’s not something I spend tons of time dwelling on – we’re happy to have found an agency that doesn’t require infertility and I know there’s a birth mom out there who won’t care either. It’s just that occasionally, like while filling out our essay questions, it crosses my mind and stirs up these icky feelings.

Do you think that couples who are infertile should be given priority over people who are choosing adoption for other reasons? Do you think it shouldn’t matter WHY people are adopting as long as they can provide a stable, loving home?

4 Responses to “Made to Feel Guilty About the Status of Our Fertility”

  1. Love February 13, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    I can’t believe that the reason why someone can’t or doesn’t want to give birth herself is even a factor in the equation. If you can provide a loving, stable home and be there for a child emotionally, physically and financially, why should anything else matter?

    • susan February 13, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

      Thanks, Love. I was pretty surprised, too.

  2. Heather February 21, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    First of all, I completely agree with Love.

    Secondly, I can’t tell you how many time people just assume that we had fertility issues. Eventually, I quit trying to correct and just smiled which is probably not even close to the right thing to do. However, trying to educate AND defend yourself gets really, really tiring– especially after you’ve been waiting a while. You want to spend the “adoption energy” that you have hoping rather than defending your choice.

    One thing that I have found is that people are quick to judge about adoption. People who have no experience and no background information live to share their opinions. Try not to let their unsolicited opinions discourage you or make you doubt your choice. You- and you alone- are the best judge of what is best for your family. <3

    • susan February 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

      I know! It’s astonishing how many people are so quick to share those judgments with us – or with me anyway. I think the same thing happens to women who are pregnant, though far more people have been pregnant so it makes a little more sense, I guess. The comments that bug me, of course, are from the people who have no experience with adoption whatsoever and want to warn me about all the potential dangers.

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