I will always remember that moment. It was the day before we discovered that our fifth and final attempt at IVF had failed. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday when the thought popped (unbidden) into my head, “what will you do if this one fails too?” The answer was simply, “I don’t know.”
I adored my son (conceived miraculously from the only embryo we produced in our first attempt at IVF) and my step-daughters,but the thought of not having any more children was devastating.
Here I was, driven, goal-oriented and time urgent (the typical infertility profile) and for the first time, I was without a plan.
It is only now, four years later that I’m grateful there was no plan B. At the time, adoption was not an option for us because my husband wasn’t keen. So, I had to fully grieve the loss of the daughter I had dreamt about, the little girl with my features and my husband’s temperament that I was planning to conceive and birth.
Little did I know that in letting go of her, I was preparing for the daughter I was intended to have—the one we adopted. She is two now and everything I had hoped for, and more.
Adoption was definitely the right option for us. But is it for you? Ask these five questions to find out.
Question one: Are you emotionally ready to adopt?
Some people recover quickly from the struggle with infertility. For others, moving on from the failure is a prolonged and painful process (this is often a function of how long you struggled and how devastating the loss was). For the latter group, rushing to adopt can make coming to terms with your new family much harder. Emotional preparedness is essential if you want to avoid post-adoption depression or attachment problems.
My top tips for preparing emotionally are:
- Take time to mourn the loss of the biological child you hoped for. Your grief is completely valid and creating a memorial (for me it was a memory box), going for counseling, obtaining spiritual support or finding creative outlets are all options for dealing with it.
- If the grief of a failed fertility procedure is still raw or you are finding it hard to move on, consider getting some help.
- Process these questions as honestly as you can:
- Are you ready to parent a child who is different from the picture that you have in your head?
- Can adoption be the best and most perfect option for your family or is it just plan B?
- What are your motives for adoption? We have all heard people say, “adopt, then you will definitely fall pregnant.” It does happen, sometimes. But if that is part of your thinking, it is best to acknowledge it. At the end of the adoption process you will have a son or daughter but if that doesn’t lead to biological children too will you be content with your family?
Question two: Do you and your partner both want to adopt?
If you have a partner, this is one of the first questions that your social worker will ask. You will be co-parenting so you need to be in agreement before you proceed.
The 18 months I waited for my husband to choose adoption were unbelievably hard but in the end,a child’s life and our family’s happiness were at stake so it was well worth the wait.
Question three: Are you ready for the process and the wait?
The adoption process is actually not as long and invasive as some people make it out to be. In fact, it took eleven months for our social worker to screen us and find us a baby, exactly the same amount of time as it took me to conceive my son through IVF and carry him to term.
But at the time, it felt excruciating, especially after all our years of infertility.I therefore encourage woman to be prepared for the process and the wait, and to remember that as a rule of thumb, the more specific you are about the child you want, the longer it is likely to take.
On the plus side though, while the adoption screening is intensive and requires time, honesty and self-disclosure, there are no internal examinations!And, unlike the majority of my IVF attempts, we actually got a child at the end of it.
Question four: Is trans-racial adoption an option for you?
The media is full of adoption stories involving white, coloured and Indian children but in truth these are quite rare. Because of South Africa’s demographics, the vast majority of adoptable children are black. For this reason, most agencies either have strict criteria for same-race adoptions or a closed list (that is, they will not accept new applicants). So, if you are only willing to adopt a white, coloured or Indian child, it’s best to prepare for a long wait or for disappointment.
However, if you are prepared to adopt trans-racially (or are a black family wanting to adopt) and you are approved, you are certain to get a child, and relatively quickly.
Question five: Can you love your adopted child as much as a biological child?
This was the first question I asked my husband when we decided to adopt. He is a wonderful dad and I knew that if he didn’t love our adopted daughter as much as his biological children, I would know, and so would she. Turns out I had no reason to be concerned. He was committed, and from the first moment he held her and she snuggled into his arms,he knew that he would take a bullet for her. In the end, love is a choice and when it comes to children—biological or adopted—it isn’t a hard one.
About the Author: Robyn is a writer, survivor of IVF and a passionate adoption advocate. She is mom to a biological son (7), an adoptive daughter (2) and two step-daughters in their twenties. For more information about infertility and adoption, or to read her story, visit http://becomingamom.co.za/