Think of six couples you know. Odds are, at least one of those couples will have trouble getting pregnant. Sometimes, if there is an identifiable problem, fertility treatments can help. And sometimes, when there is no identifiable problem, treatments don’t help. And the disappointments keep coming. Some couples try for years, spending upwards of $100,000 on drugs, IUI, and/or IVF and battling the brutal rollercoaster of emotions–anxiety, hope, despair–that accompany each exhausting treatment cycle.
Sometimes the persistence pays off. More often, it doesn’t.
Henry David Thoreau said, “The cost of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” I thought about this as we discussed adopting rather than undergoing month after month of stressful fertility treatments when in my heart I felt they would be unsuccessful. Thinking about needles, appointments, drugs and pregnancy tests made me feel miserable and anxious, as did giving up running and strength training (and red wine) and all the other things I love that may or may not affect my chances of conceiving. After trying for months and months with acupuncture and herbs, (and not preventing pregnancy for years) we tried two rounds of fertility drugs. I was obsessive and preoccupied with each step, distracted at work, irritable or teary at home and became severely depressed for a few days every month when I’d discover we weren’t pregnant. I was scared to exercise. I was no fun to be around. It was no way to live; I was exchanging too much life.
But when I thought about adoption, I felt light and free, excited, hopeful, positive and happy. Those feelings, on top of having always thought adoption was a beautiful thing, convinced me that maybe it’s supposed to be this way for us. Instead of carrying a biological child, maybe I was meant instead to care for an adopted child. Maybe there’s a reason I wasn’t getting pregnant. Maybe forcing my body to try and do something it obviously doesn’t want to do is a mistake. And maybe that’s not only OK… maybe it’s exactly as it should be.
Ever since I was young, I’ve had a soft spot for orphans. When I was little, I brought home countless stray animals and have always adopted rescue dogs. I would never think to go to a breeder for a dog–too many need homes. Obviously a baby is not a pet, but maybe that is just who I am, at the very core of my being. Maybe I am an adoptive mama by nature. Maybe some of us are put here to care for those who wouldn’t be cared for otherwise. Somebody has to be, I suppose, or imagine all of the motherless children we’d have in this world.
When Jamie and I made the decision to adopt, it was a decision to choose happiness over despair. It was choosing to enjoy our lives (which are short enough already) right now, while we are young and happy and newlywed, instead of spending countless more months or years worrying and analyzing every test and symptom only to wind up grieving in the end. It was making the conscious choice to not allow the quest for a pregnancy to define our lives, when all we wanted was a family. It was accepting our reality and path and opening ourselves up to whatever it is the universe has in store for us. It’s hard to convey in words the relief that washed over me when we made the choice to stop swimming upstream and flow with the natural current of our lives instead.
I’m sure part of me will always wonder what our biological child would have looked like or who he or she would have taken after. Who knows, maybe after many more months of drugs and doctor’s visits and crushing disappointments, we would have been able to find out. But we are simply not willing to exchange many more months of our lives. Neither of us feels the absolute need to be biological parents. We both believe adoption is a special and uniquely wonderful way to start a family and it has never seemed like a second choice, just a different one. Being children of divorce taught us both that family isn’t all about biology and that biology alone doesn’t equal emotional closeness or strong family bonds. Families are bound by love. We know we will love our adopted child every bit as much as if we had birthed him or her–and maybe even a little bit more.