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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Infertility and Choices

I recently met with my best friend whom I have not seen in nearly a year. Between our adoption paperwork last year and her and her husband's infertility testings last year, we both were dealing with a lot. When Mike and I were blessed with Junior later in the year, they backed off even from phone calls as it was difficult to for them to be happy for us while they continued to struggle with their empty arms. We knew this would happen as we had discussed this scenario before we were matched with Junior. Roles would have been reversed had she given birth before we received an adoptive placement. I am still infertile, but we now have a child in our family; adoption does not negate my infertility, it is an alternative for growing our family. They are still infertile and are pursuing IVF in hopes of a child. After spending several hours catching up with my best friend, one thing she said stuck with me, she said that while they have been trying fertility treatments for two years, she and her husband have been trying to conceive for four years and it has taken its emotional toll. This statement got me thinking about her journey and about my journey.

Mike and I have had years, almost decades, of emotions regarding my fertility and other health issues. I actually found out at age 15 (20 years ago), a year before meeting Mike, that I would not be birthing children. At the time, I readily accepted adoption as my only path to motherhood. I was okay with this decision for years. After we were married for 10 years and were looking at adoption options, I also explored surrogacy, but realized we would have to go through adoption even in this case since we would be using a surrogate with at least donated egg, possibly donated embryo. Regardless of our path to parenthood, our choices were: adoption or childlessness. That does not really seem like options, but thinking more about it, I realize most people do not even think about how they are going to form their family. They have sex, the woman gets pregnant, carries a health baby to term and they raise the child. That is suppose to be the standard, no-thought process. We actually had to think about how we wanted to become parents, so did my best friend and her husband. They discussed fertility treatments and adoption. They already tried IUI and are moving on to IVF. Even with IVF there are a variety of choices which the non-infertile person is not aware even exist. With adoption we have choices of: foster-adopt, domestic infant or international. We started an international adoption process, but moved to foster-adopt. Even with foster-adopt, we had to choose a private agency (see A Side Step in Our Journey for previous blog post), but our choices were limited due to our location and desired age of child.

Now there are some choices we did not get to make about our child - name, age and past experiences. For many parents, picking a name for their child before birth is a wonderful thing. Since we were adopting an older child, we knew our child would come with a name; we would work with our child should he/she want to change his/her name at the time of adoption, but the child would already be named upon arrival. As for age, we only knew our child would be over age 5, then age 8, the we moved it to age 10 and older. And past experiences, we would have no idea until we were matched.

In ways infertile couples have more choices for family planning than fertile couples, but these choices are thrust upon us because we cannot achieve parenthood in the traditional way. Since we are forced to make various choices on our path to parenthood, it elicits a variety of emotions along the way. A common emotion during these choices is anger - anger due to frustration from having to make the choices, anger at our failed bodies, anger at having to expose our lives including finances to adoption workers or infertility clinic employees, anger due to exhaustion of going through the process(es) we chose, anger at other people's ability to get pregnant or adopt quicker. So often we feel alone when we need the greatest support, we feel we are either forgotten or misunderstood by our loved ones. Our fertile family and friends may not understand our decisions or about infertility so they may avoid us or say very crass things including identifying the cause (blame) of our infertility (see Creating A Family Blog: Playing Blame Game Infertility) which only causes us more pain and anger. My best friend and I are open about our infertility and our choices with others - her fertility treatments and me adoption - so we can let other infertile couples know they are not alone, we are not alone. When we started our adoption journey, I did not expect to become so knowledgeable about the various ways to adopt, fertility treatment, surrogacy and everything else related to infertility. I am in no way an expert, but I know way more than I knew existed before we started this journey. With my friend going through IVF I am learning more about the choices she faces. Maybe, some day, by talking openly about our struggles and choices, when the next generation faces infertility, it will not be the shameful, lonely, anger-filled dark place it still remains for many of us. Hopefully each of us dealing with infertility, couples and individuals, can find peace with the decisions we have made along the way.