To The Adoptive Mamas Who Struggled With Infertility

I’ve been thinking lately about what a truly extraordinary group of women you are!

The road to motherhood is a tough one for many people (to say nothing of motherhood itself). 

But, after struggling with infertility, the road to motherhood through adoption can be particularly hard. 
And the women who walk that road and arrive at its end with gratitude and joy are truly inspiring!

I remember so clearly the day I found myself staring down the path to adoption and realizing for the first time just how hard walking it would be. 

I’d recently learned that I had about a 25% chance of having a live birth. After three years of surgeries, procedures, and miscarriages, I didn’t feel very optimistic about that 25%. So, we began researching different ways to build a family. 

We were fortunate that adoption had been something we’d always thought would someday be a part of our lives. We’d figured we’d have a couple biological kids and then maybe adopt one or two more. But those imaginings had never really developed beyond the hypothetical. We’d just figured we’d have one kid first and then see where things went from there. 

So, when we found out that having biological kids might not be in the cards for us, while we were already very open to adoption, we were also very naïve about what it’d actually look like.

I’d spent a lot of time working in orphanages growing up, and I’d created this idyllic picture in my mind of how an adoption might go. I imagined meeting a child, falling in love with them, adopting them, and bringing them home.

But that utopian picture is so far removed from what modern adoptions are actually like.

And the adoption agency reps and foster care reps that we began meeting with made quick work of dispelling my fanciful notions and replacing them with reality. 

International adoptions to the US decreased by 82% in recent years (and that was before Covid).

As a result, the number of parents hoping to adopt an infant domestically had skyrocketed, outpacing the number of available children. This had made domestic adoptions extremely competitive and potential wait times long.

On top of that, domestic and international adoptions cost anywhere from 45-75k! (So much for saving up for that house…)

Adopting from the foster care system was a less expensive option. But, as a result, the number of parents-to-be hoping to adopt a young child from the system was staggering. And the lucky ones who did get placed with a child faced a lengthy process filled with uncertainty and potential goal changes. 

In fact, every path to adoption, international, domestic, or foster care, inherently involved the risk that the adoption you were pursuing might fall through, and you could find yourself back to square one.

As the reality of what modern adoptions actually look like slid into focus, and I saw that path for how challenging it truly was, I found myself wrestling with our infertility all over again. 

I was so jealous of my sisters and friends who were accidentally getting pregnant and popping out babies like it was nothing. Not just because their bodies could effortlessly do what mine hadn’t managed to do even with all the interventions and injections, but because building a family seemed so easy for them.

I envied that they could just decide to have a kid and boom, they would have one.

It wasn’t that I didn’t still think that adoption was beautiful or that I didn’t believe that one day I’d be so grateful for it. It wasn’t that if we had been able to have biological kids, I wouldn’t have still wanted to adopt. 

I just that I wished that adoption wasn’t our only option… I wished it could be something we pursued after we already had a family we couldn’t lose. 

In the end, we chose to foster and pursue domestic infant adoption at the same time (so that we could fully support reunification without feeling like it was costing us our ability to grow a family of our own).

But even as we began walking down those paths, I was surprised by all the feelings I kept struggling with. To be honest, how I was feeling embarrassed me.

I felt guilty, like I was hoping for some other family to fail. Like I was trying to steal another woman’s child.

I felt frustrated by having our home inspected and critiqued and then having to comply with a long list of regulations (like not being allowed to store cooking wine in the fridge, who knew).

I felt dirty when I imagined putting a family profile book together, feeling like we were trying to sell ourselves.

I felt scared financially, wondering if the number of children we’d end up having would depend more on how many adoptions we could afford instead of what our hearts believed was right.

I felt terrified that we could get almost all the way through an adoption with either system and then things could fall apart.

I felt angry, like we’d been backed into a corner by infertility.

And I felt embarrassed by the fact that though I fully believed in adoption, I wished I could also have a child that no one else had a right to. A child that I didn’t have to beg for, or pay for, or prove I could be a caretaker of, or live in fear of losing.

longed to have a child that was mine from day 1, with no caveat or catch.

And for the first time, I began looking at the women I knew who’d chosen to adopt after struggling with infertility, and I realized just how brave they were!

They’d walked that hard road and looked back on it now not with resentment but with gratitude and joy.

I started to see just how truly triumphant they were!

I realized that so often in the world of adoption, we focus on the courage and strength that birth moms and birth dads display. And for good reason! But when we look at adoptive moms, we often miss seeing their strength and think instead of how grateful they must be. 

I think part of the reason for this is because they are grateful! It’s what they focus on and the outlook they share with the world.

But as a result, we miss seeing that they are also victors!

They have walked through infertility, suffering the loss of a life-long dream. And then they took that broken dream and created a new one, courageously walking the road to adoption, risking their already broken heart again, all so they could offer their love to another woman’s child.

And they come to the end of that journey, not telling the world about all they overcame and all they lost but telling the world about how grateful they are.

If that’s not victory, I don’t know what is!

So, to all you adoptive mamas who have struggled with infertility, I just wanted to say that I see you, and you are truly exceptional!

To the Woman…

To the woman who longed to have biological children, to see those two pink lines, and tell her husband, and find out the gender, and pick out a name…

To the woman who dreamed of feeling her baby kick, and experiencing birth, and then watching her baby latch for the first time…

To the woman who wondered if a biological child would have her sandy hair and freckled nose or her husband’s brown eyes and dark complexion…

To the woman whose most precious dream was one that her body couldn’t give her, even after all the drugs, and injections, and treatments were tried…

To the woman who’s struggled with infertility, I say, I grieve with you!

To the woman who took those shattered dreams and used their pieces to create a new one…

To the woman who saved, and fundraised, and applied for grants, and pinched pennies, until at last, she had enough … 

To the woman who filled out applications, and created a profile book, and opened her home for inspection, and waited to be matched…

To the woman who held another woman’s child in her arms, knowing that for a time that woman could change her mind and take her baby back…

To the woman who took that risk, understanding that her heart could get broken, her hard-earned money lost, and she could find herself back at square one…

To the brave woman who chose domestic infant adoption, I say I admire you!

To the women who couldn’t afford that path or simply chose a different one…

To the woman who chose to fill out state applications, and take foster classes, and have her home inspected, and abide by government regulations…

To the woman who opened her home to the damaged and drug addicted, to the children not free to call her mama, but in desperate need of a mama just the same…

To the woman who spent her nights soothing nightmares and her days soothing trauma, never knowing how long that child would be with her or if they’d get to stay…

To the woman who drove the baby she’d dreamed of to parent visits, and supported the reunification of that family, while her dream of having one hung in the balance…

To the courageous woman who chose to foster, I say, I’m in awe of you!

To the woman who, after all the waiting and the wondering, agreed to an open adoption…

To the woman who let go of her childhood idea of what her family might look like and replaced it with a far more inclusive picture,

One with birth moms and birth dads, with siblings that live elsewhere, and relatives that aren’t her own…

To the woman who traded her desire to be a one-and-only mama for humility and hospitality…

To that selfless woman, I say, I want to be more like you!

To the woman who took life’s sourest lemons and turned them into lemonade, not only for herself, but for her child and his birth family and anyone else fortunate enough to know her remarkable story…

To that victorious woman, I say, thank you for inspiring all of us!

Welcome to Inkwell Heart

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Where the dreams we labeled unrealistic are chased anyway.

Where we embrace new-mom-life with arms wide open,

while aspiring to personal greatness in the midst the everyday shuffle.