I remember the first time we heard it. We had just told a friend about our infertility struggle when she asked us a question we would hear again and again.
“Why don’t you just adopt?”
She meant well. She knew how badly we wanted to start a family. For her, adoption was just another way to create one.
Today, 17 years after our eldest son’s birthparents placed him in our arms, we understand that sentiment more than ever.
But at the time, it wasn’t what we wanted to hear.
We were still grieving, unable to understand why something that came so easily to other couples was so hard for us.
We knew about adoption, of course, but in a vague, not-so-good sort of way.
Most of our understanding came from the horror stories we read about in the media or heard third-hand from friends. By any measure, it wasn’t a great introduction.
It’s been years since we thought back on that tumultuous time, but it all came back to us last week when we read this article, Please, Stop Telling Infertile Couples to ‘Just Adopt,’ by guest blogger, Leah Campbell.
In it, she recalled her own struggles to carry a baby and the “unsolicited, yet go-to solution offered by one and all” to “just adopt.”
Ironically, today, Leah is a proud adoptive mother and will readily tell you that “just adopting” was the best decision she ever made.
But, as she points out, “there was no ‘just’ about it.”
Adopting, and open adoption in particular, is hard work that can take years to complete. It is also unpredictable, costly, and comes with no guarantees.
No wonder the people who are the most vocal about “just” adopting have never done it themselves or faced infertility.
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course, so what’s the big deal? What’s so wrong about telling infertile couples to “just adopt?”
It’s this: Those two words by themselves trivializes the process and makes it sound like adopting a baby, to quote one of our Facebook Fans, “is as simple as adopting a puppy.”
Other fans weighed in with their own comments:
“‘Just Adopt’ doesn’t exist – with all the background checks and hoops to jump through to ‘qualify’, JUST isn’t even close !”
“‘Just adopt’ is like saying “simply graduate with an advanced degree.”
‘It’s the same as saying ‘just get pregnant’.”
“There was so much physical and emotional pain with infertility. Now, waiting to adopt, we have discovered the emotional stress and pain along with the long process.”
One Fan explained that “people shouldn’t comment or offer advice on things they aren’t personally experiencing themselves” because “it will never end well,” and in many ways, he’s right.
Adoption is a complicated, highly personal decision. It’s not a cure for childlessness, it’s an alternative.
And as wonderful as it may be, it doesn’t erase the pain of infertility.
But then infertility should never be the sole reason for anyone to adopt. If you’re hung up on having a child that physically resembles you and shares your genetic history, adoption isn’t for you.
However, if you’re interested in becoming a parent and have love to share, adoption can be an awesome experience and a way to, yes, have a child “of your own.”
But don’t rush into it. Although it’s tempting to jump in right after your infertility diagnosis, take the time to heal and regain your strength.
From going through your home study to creating your parent profile, adoption is an exhaustive –and exhausting–process.
If you’re not in a good space, the delays and unexpected twists and turns can wear you down and leave you feeling helpless and heartbroken.
The other thing to keep in mind is that adoption is rooted in loss.
Parenting an adopted child is very different from parenting a biological one. Adoptees face unique challenges that parents need to recognize and be prepared for.
To say “just adopt” ignores those challenges and treats the child as if he were a replacement for the infertile couple’s so-called “dream child.”
Adoption isn’t for everyone, and that’s totally okay. Neither is parenthood.
Infertile couples need to come to it when they’re ready, in their own time, on their own terms.
For some, it may be immediately after their infertility treatments. For others, it may before or independently of them.
For us, the turning point came after we joined an adoptive parent support group and starting hearing positive open adoption stories.
Until then, open adoption wasn’t on our radar. Those conversations not only gave us hope. They changed our lives.
Adopting our children was the best decision we ever made. Looking back, our biggest regret is that didn’t make it earlier.
But the truth is, we weren’t ready to do it. And what’s more, if we had, we would never have had the children we do today, and that’s hard to imagine.
Our adoption journeys were unlike anything we had ever experienced. Each one had its ups, its downs, and everything in between.
But we came out of them stronger than when we went in.
And, by then, we learned the lesson that Leah and every other adopting parent quickly learns: There is no “just” in adoption.
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