“We are raising three children who’ve come from three different ‘methods.’ And yet they are each as much a part of us as the other. If you become parents at the end of the infertility rollercoester ride, the ride fades into the background and is no longer the focus of your life. Your focus becomes raising your children. It is the pureed vegetables, potty training, fevers and play dates; these acts of daily living are what forge the bond between parent and child. “
“I already had my son, Charlie naturally from a previous marriage.” Jodi explained. “However, after a divorce and remarriage at the age of 40, my new husband, Jay and I were confronted with secondary infertility. ” We continued trying, but a year passed, and after two miscarriages, we went to a fertility specialist. We pursued fertility treatments for several years. This included taking a drug called Clomid,” and then insemination to increase the odds of fertilization.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get pregnant. I underwent surgical procedures and then invitro fertilization (IVF). I can’t remember how many IVF cycles we underwent – all without success.”
“We were determined,” said Jodi. “For us, becoming parents was more important than becoming pregnant. We reached out to an adoption agency while still undergoing fertility treatments and ‘double tracked’. In other words, we sought adoption while still pursuing fertility.”
“In August of 1996, we adopted our infant daughter, Chloe. When Chloe was first put in my arms, I recall thinking there was no way this exquisite little girl could be mine. And then Chloe threw up on Jay’s back. Within days, the bond was forged. She was my child and there was not one scintilla of difference between Chloe and Charlie. Sometimes I forget Chloe is adopted, and on more than one occasion I have even caught myself wondering, did I have morning sickness with Chloe?”
“Yet still, our family did not feel complete. We were prepared to adopt again, but the idea of creating Jay’s genetic child was interesting to us. We had the wherewithal for one more attempt at fertility, and we investigated ovum donation. By using this method, donor eggs would be fertilized by Jay’s sperm and transferred to my uterus. We found a donor in California with whom we shared similar personality traits, values and interests. The process was a success, and we were able to conceive through ovum donation. Exactly two years after Chloe’s adoption day, Jack was born.
Today,Charlie is 19, Chloe is 11 and Jack is 9.
The story of this blended family is a unique one. It is a story of parents who opted to build their family in the face of infertility. It is also unique to note that fortunately for Jodi and Jay, for the most part they did not experience the strain commonly felt by couples dealing with infertility. According to Jodi, they were always on the same page. Jay was willing to pursue all available options, including fertility treatments, adoption and donor options, in order to become a parent. For many couples struggling with infertility, this is not always the case. Many couples experience a great deal of emotional stress and find it difficult to cope with alternate family-building options. In fact, Jodi herself has close friends who became ambivalent about parenting when confronted with infertility, and ultimately chose to remain child-free.
Within the United States, there are approximately 2.1 million infertile married couples. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), infertility is typically defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse. About 9.3 million women in the U.S. are using infertility services.’
According to the ASRM, “Infertility is a medical condition that touches all aspects of your life. It may affect your relationships with others, your perspective on life, and how you feel about yourself.”Joni Mantell, a psychotherapist specializing in infertility and adoption, recommends that couples sort out the different feelings of loss associated with infertility before making alternative family-building decisions, such as adoption. These feelings of loss may include:
- Loss of control over reproductive planning
- Loss of the genetic child
- Loss of a child conjoined between partners
- Loss of a physical pregnancy
- Loss of the emotional and social gratification of pregnancy
- Loss of self esteem, which may include shame and/or guilt about being infertile
- Loss of opportunity to parent
To manage the emotional stresses associated with infertility, it is recommended that infertile couples seek professional counseling.” Dr. Claudia Pascale, presently Director of Psychological & Support Services at The Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science (IRMS), finds the counseling component especially critical for couples undergoing fertility treatments. These couples are often overwhelmed by multiple failures, undergoing different treatment options and obtaining unpredictable success rates. Dr. Pascale and Joni Mantell address all of these issues with their clients and also provide alternative family-building options (including adoption and advanced reproductive technologies, such as egg donation). Joni Mantell’s Infertility and Adoption Counseling Center offers support groups for infertility and adoption and psycho-educational workshops for all issues related to these topics.
It is also important to note that the financial commitment of fertility treatments is another stress-inducing factor for couples. Often couples go to any length, such as taking a second mortgage on their home, to defray the cost of treatments that are not always covered by health insurance. At times, after fertility treatments fail, couples are forced to put adoption plans on hold due to financial strain.
Many infertile couples choose adoption instead of fertility treatments, or adopt a child after infertility treatments have failed.”Joni Mantell indicates that building the bridge from infertility to adoption may be difficult. Often it takes time for the couple to reach the point where they both agree to move on past their infertility issues towards parenthood. She points out that there is often talk about the “reluctant husband” who is ambivalent towards adoption. Interestingly, she believes a better term is the “reluctant spouse” because ambivalence towards adoption may affect either partner. According to Ms. Mantell, a spouse’s reluctance to adopt is typically the result of a lack of education about the adoption process (due to misinformation and preconceived notions about adoption); the need for time to grieve; and/or a spouse’s feeling of ambivalence towards parenting (due to increased age, the wear and tear of dealing with infertility issues and financial concerns.) Counseling with a specialist about these topics can usually help couples get back on the same page fairly quickly.
Should you adopt? Will you try alternative fertility procedures? Will you decide to remain childless? Ultimately, for every infertile couple, the family-building decision is strictly personal. There are many emotions and questions that each spouse must address and resolve. Reassuringly, there are professionals and advanced technologies available to help couples make the decisions that will help them become the unique family unit that is right for them.
Marni Denenberg is a Senior Adoption Coordinator at Adoption House, Inc., a nonprofit adoption agency specializing in the placement of domestic newborn infantsand infants and toddlersfrom China, Guatemala, Russia, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. She is also certified as an Adoption Options Counselor by the National Councilfor Adoption.
If you have any adoption-related questions that you would like answered in this column, or privately, please contact Marni at 973-689-4015 or firstname.lastname@example.org
IAC Center Director Joni Mantell’s comments about Should We Adopt?
When considering family building options, people often find the emotional decisions to be more difficult than figuring out the practical issues involved in pursuing adoption or donor or gestational carrier options. For people considering their family building options, the IAC Center Workshop Crossing the Bridge from Infertility to Adoption is a good place to learn about the emotions involved in making these decisions as well as about the life cycle issues involved in adoption that would be an important part of knowing whether adoption is right for you. In addition to hearing from a psychologist, adoptive parents, birth parents and adults and teens who were adopted will share their life cycle perspectives on adoption. This workshop will also be of great interest to people pursuing adoption who want to hear from the true experts being the members of the adoption triad: adoptive parents, birth parents and individuals who were adopted.