Friday, October 17, 2008

A Word About the Not-So-Wonderful World of Infertility, as it Relates to being Adopted

I am a mother of one, and I'm darned lucky to be, as near as I can tell. It took a year of trying to conceive before I got pregnant with my son, and we were fortunate to be able to avoid the gaping maw of Western Infertility Intervention--that time.

I had hoped to be the mother of two, so when our son was two years old, we started trying to conceive again, thinking that once again, it might take awhile, but having faith that it would happen eventually. The short version of this story is that my son is now five-and-a-half years old, and it hasn't happened.

The long version is that we did end up looking into the gaping maw of infertility treatment, jumping down its throat, and eventually getting chewed up and spit out by way of 4 medicated intrauterine inseminations; 2 in-vitro fertilizations; an early miscarriage; a second mortgage on our house; and untold stress on my marriage, my son, and my psyche.

Throughout the grueling process of infertility treatments, my husband and I frequently visited the idea of adopting a child instead of continuing to try to conceive one. My husband has two adopted siblings, so he grew up in a family of adoption, and feels very comfortable with the idea of us adopting. For me, the issue is not quite so cut-and-dried.

This is the part that gets very difficult for me to explain. Since origins and sense of belonging are very important and raw issues for me, part of my reluctance to adopt stems from the feeling I have of being the broken link of a chain. The idea of me (an adoptee) adopting another person conjures up an image of one broken chain link trying to connect to another broken chain link. It just doesn't make sense to me. What I have found is that this description doesn't make sense to other people. Often I get a very quizzical look from those I tell about it. This has long frustrated me. But recently, I had two breakthrough experiences about it:

Last fall, I went to a conference about adoption with the intent of learning about the adoption process--we were investigating starting the adoption process. I went to a talk by Zara Phillips, author of Mother Me: An Adopted Woman's Journey to Motherhood, and without identifying myself as an adoptee, I asked her what she thought about adoptees adopting children. She said "I don't know of any adoptees who have adopted; we tend to want children who are genetically related to us." It was so gratifying to me to finally hear another adoptee's view on this issue. I no longer felt like I was crazy for wanting children who were biologically my own.

Next, another adoptee in the audience contributed his point of view, which was that he felt very strongly that he wanted an adopted child, and in fact, he had recently adopted a little girl. He also said he hoped that when the time came, his daughter would also adopt. Obviously, this is an emotionally charged topic. People have strong opinions about this one, and they're hard to sway.

Later, when I read B.J. Lifton's Twice Born, I saw my broken link sentiments expressed by another adoptee for the first time; she writes "I was like a link from a chain that had been allowed to break..." Yes. That's how I've felt, and both sadly and thankfully, I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I departed from that adoption conference pretty sure I would be unable to adopt. Yet my husband and I are still grappling with the idea that our family will remain a family of three, when we would really like it to grow to four. Nothing is set in stone: maybe I'll find a way to forge that chain link back together into a stronger whole.


Dawn said...

I can certainly appreciate that need to create strong ties to your kids if your own link feels broken -- this makes absolute sense to me and I like the way you articulated it here. I'm also intrigued by adoptees who adopt and birth parents who adopt; it's unusual enough that I'm interested in the stories of those folks who choose to do it.

Joanna said...

What a great blog! I'm so glad you started it. Off to put up a link now.

(And I see you know Dawn, so you're in good shape. :) )

Incidentally: if you've ever read Julia at Here Be Hippogriffs, she dealt with similar issues. Her husband is adopted, and they dealt with infertility.

Maria said...

Andrea, I can't get over how immediate and vulnerable your sharing is.. . I feel fortunate to be invited in. I don't have direct experience with infertility or adoption, I want to say that firstmost. However, I have to say that on an absolutely fundamental level, I believe that we are ALL broken chain links. And every moment is an effort to connect these broken parts. My four biological children, I transgress and wound every single day. And yet this effort, this lurching attempt at relating and loving them, is my supreme privilege and joy.

Fang Bastardson said...

Hi former-neighbor

As an adoptee myself, I can't think of a finer thing you could do to honor and 'pay forward' the great gift your adoptive parents gave you than to share the love that made you the fine person you are today with someone else currently in the same boat you were rescued from.

I've met your son and he's an awesome kid - second only to my own, of course. You've procreated. You've established a link with the only blood kin you'll ever know (till your son has kids of his own) - I believe your determination to have a four-member family is karma telling you that somebody out there needs you. Someone is waiting for you to save his or her life as yours was saved.

I hope, through adoption or the old-fashioned method, you find the person you're looking for. My gut tells me he or she is already out there, just waiting for you and A. to come be their Mommy and Daddy.

Where would you and I have been without our adoptive parents, or as we call them, Mom and Dad?