Guest Blog: Sam's Story. "Just Adopt"? It Isn't That Easy.

A lot of people wonder why Jim and I don't "just adopt", especially after 4 years of trying to have a baby through infertility treatments and 2 losses.

We have explored adoption in our quest to have a child. Adoption is a beautiful, and it is ALSO not nearly as easy as a lot people think it is. There is no "just adopt".

My friend Samantha (Sam) Blanco shared her story with me recently and it brought me heartache and chills. Please read, consider, learn and share. 

It’s been five years since my husband and I first started trying to have a child. We had a plan from the beginning: we’d have three children, the first two would be biological children, and then we’d adopt a third. But if we didn’t get pregnant within a year, we would go ahead and start the adoption process. What’s laughable now is not that we had this clear plan and thought it would work, but that we thought any plan we made would be easy.

After two years of trying to conceive, we finally started the adoption process.  (At this point, we hadn’t even looked into fertility treatments; it wasn’t until later that we would learn we would not be able to conceive without significant, expensive medical intervention). We carefully selected an adoption agency, went to a two-day training for adoptive parents, and became part of a network of other people trying to adopt. We were optimistic and excited. We waited for two more years. In that time period, our lives were busy while my husband worked on a huge project for work and I pursued my PhD. I imagined that I would graduate and our lives would slow down, then magically a birth mother would call us at the perfect time.  Then on January 31 of this year, we got a mass e-mail from our agency that stated they were declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy and were closing effective immediately. With that e-mail, thousands of dollars, two years of our time, and our hope disappeared into thin air. People often ask us if we’ll ever get our money back (which is highly unlikely), but the loss of time and trust has been far more devastating.

My husband and I made some immediate decisions. I took a semester off of school. We spent more time together, focusing on helping each other get through each day. We were fortunate to have a family member who works in adoption who told us, “You need to mourn this.” So we mourned. Slowly life has returned to normal, except now we’re back to square one.

Suddenly, we’re in a place we never expected to be. We’re both 35. We’re both uncertain what path we want to pursue to parenthood. We’re uncertain if the decisions we made a few years ago are still the right decisions. And we’re processing the emotions and experiences of the past five years while still trying to move forward.

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on our experience. I have a greater understanding of the impact of infertility than I ever could have had as the woman making decisions about parenthood several years ago. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

Your family and friends may not be ready for your decision. Once we decided to adopt, we spent a lot of time explaining the process to our families and friends. Some of our loved ones were very excited. One of my favorite memories is telling my husband’s cousin, and seeing her immediate joy. Others asked many questions, which we were happy to answer. And while I understood it came from a place of love, some of our loved ones frequently questioned our decision. Don’t you want to at least try IVF? What if you change your mind and want to try it but you’re too old? Are you sure you’ve made this a priority, what if you took some time off work and reduced your stress? Often, these comments were expressions of their own fears, not responses to our excitement about starting a family. These questions also made me feel as if choosing to adopt was somehow equivalent to giving up.

You and your spouse will likely have very different experiences with infertility. There was a point in time where I felt anger and envy towards my husband because our friends and family focused so much of their attention on me when it came to infertility, as if it were something only I was experiencing. Often, we would walk into a party and infertility would be the first thing I was asked about, and I’d look over to see my husband cracking up with friends about the latest episode of whatever show they were watching.  My husband, on the other hand, was feeling his own levels of insecurity about infertility that often he would keep from me.  

When you can’t get pregnant, every option available to you is expensive and invasive. This seems to be the one thing that very few people understand about infertility. Fertility treatments are expensive. Adoption is expensive. Fertility treatments are physically invasive. Adoption and foster care are personally invasive, with requirements to provide great amounts of financial and health information, along with several home visits. Any path a person chooses toward parenthood is complex and carefully thought out. There is not “Why don’t you just do IVF or adopt?” There is no “just.” It’s a long and difficult path.

Feelings of loss related to infertility aren’t what I expected. Not being able to have a biological child was difficult emotionally, but it was not a tragedy in my life. I had always envisioned myself adopting a child, so it was not a big shift for me. I was completely blindsided by the adoption agency declaring bankruptcy. After years of feeling confident in my decisions about becoming a parent, I was suddenly plunged into a depression.  There is no script for explaining to people the loss I was feeling as a result of the agency going bankrupt: a loss of money, time, and most importantly, my trust in systems built for adoption. When you have a baby biologically, you don’t have to second-guess the way you have a child. But with the agency bankruptcy, my husband and I were second-guessing every single decision we had made in our quest to be parents.  

We haven’t decided what we’ll do next. We know so much more than we did when we started this process, but that knowledge hasn’t necessarily better prepared us for making a decision. We’ve been very open about this with our friends and families from the beginning, and value that openness. But one of the negative aspects of that openness is that we are getting a ton of unasked for advice, advice that comes from a place of love and concern, but assumes that they have an answer for us. And perhaps that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned, that there simply is no right answer. My husband and I will be parents one day, but there’s no one right way for us to get there.

Sam Blanco lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two dogs.