An Infertile Adoptive Mom
Is there really such a thing as "closure"? People like to use that word when talking about experiencing a loss. For example, when you and your boyfriend break up, you may feel like you need answers as to why it happened so you can get "closure" on your relationship. Or someone close to you dies. People allow you to grieve, but eventually they feel as if you need to move on and get "closure."
The word itself suggests closing something. Like shutting a door to keep the bad thing away. Or lowering the lid on a chest that holds your hurt feelings. If people expect you to find "closure" in order to be happy, then you must unhappy if you leave the door or lid open. Right?
What would happen if you were given permission to not find "closure" but to instead accept the pain of your loss? I think it would be freeing. You would not feel like you had to force yourself to be happy before you were ready. Your life would not have to be put on hold until you chose to "close" that painful chapter.
When I chose to adopt
, I was also choosing to no longer pursue a biological child. It was not simple to turn off my brain and heart from wanting a pregnancy. For the three years prior, it was all I worked toward with doctor appointments, tons of medicine, minor surgeries, and anxious waits for positive test results.
I dove right into the world of adoption
and attempted to push my infertility feelings aside. I tried not to get upset when talking with a potential birthmother about her pregnancy. But it was very difficult. I tried not to break down in the hospital after our son, whom we adopted domestically, was born. His delivery day was two days before what would have been my due date for a failed pregnancy. I knew I was walking out of that hospital with a baby in my arms
, but I still thought it was unfair that it wasn't me in the hospital bed. Part of me knew my feelings were irrational, but I couldn't keep them away.
It took a few years for me to accept that I never got "closure" on my infertility. This surprised me. I was still active in a local infertility support group
for those struggling to form their families. I comforted women who were currently in infertility treatments, because I could empathize with their pain. Yet it had not occurred to me that I was still grieving myself
Infertility is life changing
. It's not just a medical condition that you mark in a box on a medical questionnaire. You are not the same person once you are labeled as "infertile." For most women, this label brings months or years of tears, questioning, and pain. It makes you question your relationships with your friends and family. You view the world differently. Stories of abandoned babies and teenage pregnancies enrage you like never before. You may begin to doubt yourself and your marriage
. Some people stray from their faith, which they believe has failed them in their greatest time of need. I have yet to meet a woman who faced infertility and believes she was the same person once she ended treatments.
My infertility stems from a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
, which causes amenorrhea (no periods). Without a period, obviously there is no ovulation and therefore no chance of a pregnancy. Still, even 10 years after my last fertility treatment cycle, I have a tiny bit of hope that it may happen. I'm thrilled with my family formed through adoption and don't regret any of our decisions. But my infertile mind is always there hoping for the slightest chance that my body would work as a normal woman's should.
This doesn't sound like I have found "closure" on infertility, does it? I'd say the door or lid is about 90 percent closed. It's not as painful as it was when I was in the midst of monthly fertility treatments. Still, I don't think it will ever close, as infertility has made me the person who I am today. And I like myself.
Recently, I spoke to a room of about 100 people who were struggling with infertility. My topic was when to consider ending fertility treatments, choosing adoption, and adoptive parenting. I chose not to bog down the audience with all the vocabulary and steps in the process, which could be found in any adoption book. Instead I focused on the emotions involved at each step.
The main thing I wanted to get across to the audience was that they did not have to "get over" their infertility in order to choose adoption. I felt like this was the best gift I could give them. It was permission for them to still be grieving their biological child while rejoicing their child who would be theirs through adoption. I told them it was OK if they still didn't want to attend baby showers, baptisms, certain family functions, or to be around pregnant women. That didn't mean that they shouldn't adopt. It means that they are infertile and always will be. That is what they have to accept.
I also urged them to share this information with their loved ones, who aren't going to understand how infertility stays with you like a shadow over the years. Once you tell family about your decision to adopt
, they may stop all of their attempts to protect you from your pregnant cousin or your niece's upcoming birthday party. In their eyes, you chose adoption over a pregnancy, so why are you still sad?
After my talk, I had many women approach me with teary eyes thanking me for my words. They said that they didn't realize that infertility and adoption could overlap so much. They had thought it was one or the other. But hearing my voice crack when I was describing how much my infertility still affects me to this day opened their eyes.
I wish I had heard words like this when I first chose adoption. It would have saved me a lot of anxiety as I tried to hide my feelings over the years. I didn't think people would accept that I was a happy new adoptive mother if I still cried when I received a birth announcement in the mail. Now I have finally given myself permission to feel these feelings out in the open. I am a proud adoptive mother. No one who sees me with my children could question my love for them. I am also proud to wear the label of "infertile" and accept the pain that comes along with it
. So why find "closure" on something that led me to the amazing family I worked so hard to create?
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