Many people have lots to say about infertility. Some sentiments are of comfort while others are shallow and insincere. Soon after my hysterectomy in 1983 (at the age of eleven), I lost count early on regarding the number of times someone said to me, “You can always adopt.” “She can always adopt” were also words that my parents heard regarding my illness and subsequent hysterectomy. This statement was definitely a running theme in my life.
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that people tried to encourage us. However, in the early to mid-1980’s and subsequent years, the topics of barrenness, infertility, and adoption were often whispered, and not spoken out loud. Adoption was also in the far off distance of my life. Sure, I thought about it. I knew that if parenthood would come, it would do so through adoption. However, telling me that I could always adopt did very little to help in my understanding of the strong and complex emotions I was feeling.
The reasons why these words fall flat on the ears of people dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss are just as varied as the emotions people feel when facing the issues. For some people, adoption is not even on their radar. Others may fear being rejected or not matched for an adoption. The time it takes, the waiting, the approval, expenses, the desire to adopt, and heartache are all factors that one must take into consideration.
For me, the reason why I never appreciated the words “You can always adopt” is simple:
These words negated the grief and loss I felt about losing the ability to have a biological child.
I suspect others may feel the same way.
Although adoption seems like an instant resolution to barrenness and infertility, it is not. It is a separate experience in life, and should be considered so. Telling someone they can always adopt (in reference to infertility) ignores the importance of grieving over the loss of having a biological child, and minimizes adoption as a second choice.
With any great loss in life, there is a process to recovery. Infertility, barrenness, and pregnancy loss are no different, and yet, so many suffer in silence. When we are comforting someone who is grieving over the loss of a significant person in their lives, we do not offer that they find someone else who is of equal importance. The same should be considered when supporting a friend or loved one who is infertile, or has miscarried.
Instead, know that you will never understand their experience and emotions unless you have gone through a similar experience. Realize that while you are offering quick answers, they are still in the process of asking a multitude of questions. Some may be in shock or confusion about their situation. Life is different from what they once thought it would be. It is important to recognize this. Understand that infertility is a big deal, and should never be minimized. It is a life-changer.
“You can alway adopt” are well-meaning words, but they are ones that are better left unsaid.