I’m really excited about today’s guest post from my friend Trisha. She and her husband have been through a great deal in their journey to become a family. Recently, they adopted their little girl. I know that I have often heard the phrase “just adopt”, and while it is often well intentioned, is simply not that easy. It was a topic that was difficult for me to explain because I had not been through it, but Trisha explains the ups and downs quite well. You can visit her blog at The Elusive Second Line.
It’s a phrase that every infertile has heard, “Why don’t you just adopt?”. Those words are the go-to answer when someone finds out you are having trouble getting pregnant. Adoption, it seems, should be the magical answer to all our problems! Hey just go fill out some papers, pick out your kid, and BAM! Instant family.
But it is not a fairy tale ending. And it is far from easy. There are many different factors that one has to deal with when approaching the adoption path.
Factor One. Something I hear often frustrates me beyond anything else. I hear people say that those who can’t get pregnant should adopt rather than seek fertility treatments because there are so many children that need good homes. They are not wrong about there being many children out there without families, but what I fail to understand is why, as infertile, it is my responsibility to save those children.
Maybe that sounds wrong, but let me explain. There are a lot of children in the foster care system, that is a fact. But what so many people fail to understand is that the goal of foster care is to eventually reunite those children with their biological families. When you become a foster parent you take those children into your home and care for them for an unknown period of time. These children may become available for adoption, or they may not. Then they are moved out of your home and you are back at square one. We briefly looked into the foster care system and were told that if we wanted to adopt a child under the age of two that there was a good chance that would eventually happen, however it was also very likely that we would foster 5 or more children before one came available for adoption. So we would take these children, care for them, love them, and then lose them. Of course it is a wonderful thing that these kids will be reunited with their biological families, but where does that leave the foster families? Still waiting for their baby and hurting as each child is taken away.
Older children are a little easier. They are usually fast tracked to adoption. But first they are bounced around from foster family to foster family. That is emotionally damaging to a child. Not to mention whatever damage they may have received from their original home environment. I greatly admire people who adopt older children from the foster system. It is a truly wonderful thing to do. But it is HARD. I worked with a few kids who were adopted out of the system at one point. They were lovely, smart, fun children. But they were damaged. Their parents have their hands full trying to repair these children through love and understanding. It’s not an easy path to follow.
So my point is, why, as an infertile, are these children my responsiblity? Because my body can’t produce a child without medical intervention I am obligated to save these children and forfeit a biological child of my own? I don’t think so. Fertile people have just as much obligation to these kids. Just because they have working plumbing does not excuse them from responsibility of taking care of the next generation.
Factor Two. “There are so many children that need good homes”. I’ve already agreed with this statement when it comes to the foster care system, however most children within the foster care system are older. So what if I don’t feel prepared to take on a 7-year-old? What if I need a baby? Those are hard to come by in the foster care system, and most of them are reunited with a family member. So your only other option for an infant is private adoption.
Regardless to what people may think, there is not a stock pile of babies somewhere and when you decide to adopt you just fill out the forms and they hand one over. It is a long process and it is competitive. The average wait for a newborn in the United States is 2 years. You can go international but in my research I found that the wait is just as long, the process is harder, and usually you do not get the child till they are at least 6 months old.
I for one needed a baby. I had suffered through 4 pregnancy losses when we decided to adopt. I was terrified that because of how emotionally detached I was after the miscarriages that I would have a hard time bonding with an adopted child. I knew that I need to get that baby as early into their lives as possible. I needed to feel like they were mine from the beginning. I was damaged and needed to have things done a certain way.
We got lucky. We found an agency that had many African-American birth moms in a predominately White state. Not as many families were willing to take a full Black child, which narrowed down our competition considerably. Is that wrong? It is certainly sad to me. But really I can’t fault someone for making such a personal choice about their family. I grew up with adopted cousins of all different races, so it was never an issue for us. Because we were willing to take a child of any race were selected extremely fast. We only waited 2 weeks after being approved (which took around 8 months) before we were selected to become the parents of a little girl. On August 30th, 2013 our little Muppet was born. She has become my universe and I couldn’t love her more even if she had been born from my body. But our story is the rarity. I know many couples who were in the process much longer than us and are still waiting to be picked. For every 1 baby that is given up for adoption, there are 36 couples waiting. Not as easy as it seems, huh?
Factor Three. Private adoption is expensive. Like REALLY expensive. Home studies, background checks, agency fees, birth mom expenses, lawyer fees, court costs, and post placement visits all come out of your pocket. There are a few ways around some of the costs but they are rare. Say you are able to find a birth mom without agency involvement. This can significantly reduce your costs. You would just have to all the prerequisite costs (home study, background checks, ect), lawyer and court costs, and any medical costs that you agree upon with your birth mom. If she has insurance, score for you!
But in my opinion this is a riskier route. Yes the agency fees were the majority of our costs, but because we went through them I felt that our placement was very low risk. Through the agency our birth mom received a lot of counseling, she also had a case worker that was with her pretty much every day so if any problems or concerns did come up, there was someone there to help her through it. We always knew what was going on with her and that brought a lot of piece of mind.
I had a good experience with our agency and would recommend them. But that doesn’t change how much money an agency adoption costs. We had a fundraiser done in our name to help us come up with the money for our adoption. The generosity of people was overwhelming and made me so grateful for the people in our lives. Not everyone has this option though. To come up with the money out-of-pocket is very difficult, I’ve heard of many people having to take out 2nd mortgages on their homes or take out loans just to pay the fees. I was talking about this to someone once and they said “Why do you have to pay so much? You are taking a child and giving it a home why should you have to pay?”. I’m not saying I agree with this statement but the fact is not everyone has the option to pursue adoption because of the cost. In some ways fertility treatment can be cheaper which is horribly depressing.
Factor Four. There is a sense of loss when you give up the idea of biological children and decide to adopt. This is one thing that I think people who have never had problems with fertility just do not understand. It is a loss. For so long you picture this perfect pregnancy and a perfect baby that looks just like you. All around you everyone else gets to have this, so why don’t you? Adoption is an incredible gift to those of us whose bodies refuse to grant us offspring, but that is not always the easiest thing to accept. Before I was married I told my husband that I wanted to adopt one day. It has always been part of my family and something that I truly believed in, yet it took me 2+ years, 4 losses, and 2 emergency surgeries before I finally gave into the idea of adopting. I never would have thought that back in my innocent years.
I had to mourn the loss of the possibility that I may never have biological children. Yes, mourn. There was so much sadness and anger about this inside of me. Why me? I asked that more times than I could possible say. But I did grief and accept my situation. And then I fell in love with adoption.
This post may seem like I have a lot of negative feelings towards adoption, but I don’t. It has been the most amazing, magical, humbling thing to ever happen to me. I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey to a family. All though it was filled with so much hurt it led me to the most beautiful little girl that I have the privilege of calling my daughter. What I want people to take from this is how big of a life changing thing adoption is. Next time someone says to you “Why don’t you just adopt?” Instead of ignoring them, tell them. Tell them what it really means to adopt. Because the biggest thing I’ve found through this whole thing is how uneducated our society is about adoption.
Whether your path leads you down this road our not, I hope that it can at least open a few eyes and hearts to what adoption can be like. I sincerely hope it doesn’t scare anyone away from this process because honestly…it saved my life. For how many difficult factors are involved in adoption, there are 3x more positive ones. If I were to write a post about the joys of adoption, you would be reading for a very long time. Instead though, I wanted to write about the harsher realities of the process. I would encourage anyone considering starting the process to dig deep and get all the information you can. Nothing will benefit you more than knowing exactly what you are getting into.
And if you do decide to go this route to your family, I wish you all the luck in the world. It will be a frustrating, emotional, and difficult journey. But if you can survive it, you will receive the most wonderful gift anyone could ever give.
I’d love to hear from more of you – if you’d like to write a guest post info can be found here