Why You Should Never Say “You Can Always Adopt”

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. 

Momma-in-Waiting

photo taken when I was a momma-in-waiting
photo taken when I was a momma-in-waiting

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you…. You held your breath when the doctor walked in.  You lost his words after you heard, “I’m afraid I have some bad news…”  In that moment, you felt the weight of the world collapse onto your shoulders.  Your body went limp.  You became numb.  You had to shake yourself back out of the stupor you were in.  You were told that you would never carry a child in your womb, but what you thought was….

“I will never be a mother.”

You’ve gotten good at faking that shy smile when others ask how you are doing.  You’ve gotten even better at letting others think you are just fine.  “Fine”….that word is meaningless in your world, except for the fact that you are not fine.  That word has become the mask you wear.  Inside that mask though, you are devastated.  You are trying to keep it all together.  You are pretending to be okay with the news, so much so, that even those closest to you cannot hear the grief-stricken song your soul is singing.

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you….You carry on, and pretty soon days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and now, it has been years since you walked into the desert.  Out of courtesy, you join in with others while they celebrate the new arrivals of precious ones into their lives.  You are on the sidelines, sitting on the bench, and waiting…waiting to be the one who is celebrating a life with children.  You feel shame for your jealousy; and yet, you cannot help it.  You feel embarrassment for those long, tearful drive homes after baby showers.  You are exhausted from crying yourself to sleep.  You cannot be comforted, and, you don’t want to be.

You don’t look forward to opening up birth announcements because you know that with each tear of the envelope, a little more of your heart is being torn.  It pains you to buy the gifts, wrap them with a pretty bow, and walk through the doors to greet the one who is carrying what you cannot.  Anger sits by your side.  It has become your friend, but it doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t care about you, and it doesn’t fix your problem.  You are a jilted daughter.  You have been robbed of the very thing you want more than anything.  You are thinking….

“Why Lord? Why can’t I be a mother?  What did I do wrong?”

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you….Your life is different from what you thought.  There is great silence in your world.  The longing you feel is so deep that it feels as if it will consume you at any moment.  Your child, your baby, your dream….has vanished.  You think about your baby.  You visualize him.  He has your eyes, daddy’s chin, he is perfect, and he is wonderful.  He was perfect….He was wonderful….He was yours.  You feel haunted by a child who will never be born.

Pssst… Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you… You who have longed for years to have and to hold a child of your own, only to be told that it will not, it cannot, ever happen.  Your walk in this world feels heavy.  You know there are multitudes of others out there going through the same thing, but you feel like the loneliest person in the world.  You read the brochures about adoption that are sent to you, and you listen to the advice of others…but…you know this is a battle all to your own.  You are a soldier fighting in an army of one.

You are a momma-in-waiting.

Has anyone ever told you that it is okay to feel the way you do?  Has anyone told you that they too would be grieving if in your shoes?  Has anyone ever given you a true glimpse of hope for the future?

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you…The One who created you sat by you when the floor fell out from under your feet while in the doctor’s office.  The One who created you sees your half-hearted attempt to be happy for others.  He holds your hand when you walk into baby showers, He reads the announcements with you, and He catches the tears that tire out your weakened body.  He is in the silence.  He is right there with you,very step of the way, as you meander around with infertility as your shadow.  The One who created you hears the song of your grief-stricken soul.

He sees the baby you dream about.    He knows the baby you dream about.    He is creating the baby you dream about.

Pssst….Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you….Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  You are weak from your battle, but the One who created you is standing firm.  He did not forsake you as He hung on the cross, and He will not forsake you now.  You are thirsty walking through this desert, but He is there to quench your thirst.  You feel devoid of life, but He is life.

Has anyone ever told you that there is great worth in the wait?  Soon, yes, soon…the wait will be just a memory, the pain will perish, and your soul’s song will be one of joy.

Pssst….Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you….Lift your head and dry your eyes.

Soon, yes, soon….You will no longer be a momma-in-waiting.  You will be  a mother.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

**I wrote this piece in hopes of both validating and inspiring women who are struggling with infertility.  As I look at the picture taken of me years ago, I can see the hardship of the years in my eyes.  If you are not a regular reader of my blog, you may not know that I am a mother through the gift of adoption.  I can look back now and see that while I was in the despair of infertility, the Lord was writing the story of my life, and the lives of my children, to include each other. For that I am truly blessed!**