Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why Not Adopt?

One of the reason many couples fear coming out of the closet with fertility treatments is because the public is somewhat divided on that topic.  An acquaintance of mine who received an IVF scholarship from INCIID was interviewed on NPR, and the online comments from listeners were half supportive, half bitterly critical.  The latter half mostly griped that fertility treatments are the ultimate in upper-class, self-indulgent vanity.  "Why not adopt?!" they cried.  "Why spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to have your own baby when there are tons of babies out there that need good homes?  It's just selfish and short-sighted.  What a waste of money."

In some ways, I agree.  Ever since I was a little girl, I've dreamed of opening my home to little children in need.  I can remember driving around looking at Christmas lights in the opulent Highland Park neighborhood with my family, and as my mother and sister oohed over the beautiful homes, my ascetic 12 year old spirit turned up her nose at the decadence and swore to only own a house that large if I could fill every room with a homeless person.  I can recall listening to educational sermons in church about the value and necessity of foster parenting, especially older children who will soon graduate from the system at eighteen without an ally or mentor to guide them to true independence.  I thought, "Oh man, I hope I can marry a man who will want to foster tons of wayward teens with me."  For a long time, I was so passionate about adoption and foster parenting, I couldn't see any reason to go through all that messy childbirth business.

But then, I fell in love.  And something miraculous and mysterious starting working within me, just as it does nearly every woman at some point in her life.  I felt the deep, spiritual calling to create life with my partner.  I felt my love for him yearning and reaching to extend through new generations.  My admiration for his beauty and wit overflowed until I sought a likeness in his future children.  I wanted to give birth.  I longed to feel life inside me.  I literally dreamed of breastfeeding.  This baby would come from my flesh and his, I would bring it forth into life with my own body, suddenly flowering with all this maternal instinct and drive.  My body was so heightened with desire, we joked that I could sense any baby in a mile radius, without even turning my head.  It wasn't academic anymore.  It was physiological.

As for the money argument, it seems that infertile couples must pay a sort of tax for their reproductive failings.  Though IVF treatment, at around $12-15,000 per try, seems indulgent and ridiculous, consider that the average domestic newborn adoption costs between $25-35,000.  What about China, you ask, where they don't even want their little girls?  An average of $29,000 per child.  (Jake and I don't even qualify for most of those international adoptions because of our medical histories.)  But, at least adoption is guaranteed, right, unlike risky fertility treatments?  Nope, approximately 31% of adoption attempts result in the birth mother changing her mind.  I immensely respect adoptive parents and children, both domestic and foreign.  However, part of that respect is acknowledging that it's no cake walk to adopt a child.

I still plan to adopt and foster.  My passion for helping others that way has not diminished at all.  I just know that I need to try this first.  I want to experience motherhood, with all its varied delights and pains, just as women for millions of years before me have.  When I look into the beautiful faces of my friends' and relatives' children, when I see a flicker of likeness to mommy or daddy, it breaks my heart with the universal beauty and miracle that is "family."  Though our treatments eventually may not work and we'll never experience such miracles first hand, I would hope that our decision to try is understood and respected.


  1. Katherine,you wrote this so eloquently and from the heart. My prayer is that you will be given that special baby you so much desire. Love, Elaine

  2. I hate this one - "why don't you adopt"? As if its the infertiles' duty to undergo the incredible stress, expense, and invasive personal entrance into their lives that the adoption process entails. The question is or should be "why doesn't everyone who wants to have kids adopt"?

    And I am writing this from the point of view of someone who's mother was adopted and who has thoroughly vetted this way of creating a family.

    To me adoption is even more protracted and expensive than any form of ART anyday. And invasive in ways that most can't even imagine.

    If you are like me and my DH you would only qualify for special needs older children in our state (an many foreign countries) and then maybe not because my DH is so much older and has his own health issues we might - might - qualify from foster to adopt of difficult-to-place cases. And that's all because my eggs suck.

    And then their are no guarantees. I know many couples who have spent years trying to adopt only to wind up heartbroken and empty handed. They just don't give those babies away.

    My point is you have every right to try IVF. It's a reasonable sound decision. You deserve respect and compassion. But you don't deserve judgment. Especially not from those who have not walked a mile in your shoes.

    Good luck my friend.