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Adoption Blog: My Paperwork Pregnancies

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.
Once I became a parent through domestic newborn adoption, I figured I'd be just like any other "fertile"' mother. Why would infertility rear its ugly head in my lovely world of parenthood? That is certainly what the outside world expected from me. So why could I not accept any invitation to a baby shower? Why would I cry on the way home from playdates during which the other moms would discuss when they'd have their next baby with such confidence? Was it because I was unhappy that I had adopted? Absolutely not. I knew then, and now, that adoption is the route I was meant to take.
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.
Does ending treatment mean you are no longer infertile? Not at all. So why should the feelings instantly go away once you choose to adopt? Is it because someone always has heard of someone who filled out her adoption paperwork and then, BAM got pregnant? Is that why infertile couples hear, "Just adopt. Then you'll get pregnant!" Of course, there are people who this happens to. I know some myself and they still consider themselves infertile women who just happened to miraculously get pregnant.
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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Wow…this is so moving it took me a while to wipe away the tears and write this.  I often wonder why people think someone just “moves on” from the idea of going through pregnancy once they make the decision to adopt.  I often think that I should be able to “move on” but find “triggers” that remind me that I have not….that’s when the “what’s wrong with me” thoughts kick in.  Why?  Becauase I wonder “what’s wrong with me?  I have a beautiful 4 year old daughter that has been in my arms since she was 12 days old and shouldn’t that be enough for my husband and I?”  Well, should it?

I don’t know the right answer, but I know it is my answer to choose and this article reinforces that for me.  I get to decide that it is still okay to cry on significant dates like the 4th of July and the day after Thanksgiving when I go shopping because those dates are significant in my “infertility story”...I lost an Angel each of those days and that will never change.  I have many other dates that are significant for various reasons and three other losses that I have memories of, but I once thought that the minute we had a baby in our lives through adoption that…“POOF”....all those memories would subside…Nope, didn’t happen.  I still remember seeing those U/S pics with the little “baby” on them and then “POOF” its over…again…and seeing the strong heartbeat for a while….and then “POOF”...its over…again. 

So, while we move on with life day to day and we love and love and love our daughter unconditionally and wholly, the reality of never completing a pregnancy is always in the background and I can’t give up the memories that go with that reality because as someone else has said….it is what makes me…me…and what makes me fully believe that good things come those who wait….and Great things come to those who wait patiently and endure trials and tribulations along the way.

By WIFEY2DEE-MOMMY2JAE on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 7:40 am.

As someone who did the whole infertility gamut (told never)  then did our twin adoption then got pregnant & carried to term twice. I do have a different perspective. For me, fertility became about having a child to love, not so much their origin. That was when we chose to adopt. IT was second best in my mind, but it was life. With medical knowledge,  I focused on the positives of not having pregnancy changes. I got past wanting that bio child.  I actually cried when I learned I was 11 wks pregnant. I was done with that journey. I cried when I gave birth because I felt my baby twins would be cheated out of their babyhood by this new baby. I cried it was unfair that I would be given this child when I was done having children. This isn’t something someone can understand if they haven’t been in my shoes (and it sounds selfish), but there are still days I still mourn for my twins. Their life would have been different without their younger sibs. Before I had the bio kids, it rarely dawned on me the twins were adopted. It certainly wasn’t something I thought about daily.  I would be talking to someone about how she had blue eyes like me or he had a cleft in his chin like his dad- then I would stop and think . “Oh yeah. That’s not really possible.”  With bio kids in the mix it has become grossly apparent how different they are- in body type, personality, intelligence, etc. No one would ever guess they are adopted, but to then it is apparent.  Those wouldn’t have been such a deal without the bios. 
Like I mentioned in my previous post, we all react & grieve differently. I guess for me I grieved very deeply after the loss of my IVF baby. I didn’t go back to work for three weeks. THen I accepted it. I moved onto adoption with the knowledge I would never, ever have a bio. and that was that. Life is what it is & I am blessed to have been chosen to be the parents to my twins.
When one of my bios points out that she is a bio & they are not. I quickly point out I chose them, not her. smile So goes life.  smile
Infertility was traumatic because of the uncertainties that come with it. If we were told at age 5,6,7,8 that we would never have bio children, I wonder if it would be a huge issue later in life. It would simply be a fact. For me, it was that unknown & loss of expectation for life that was difficult.
As for being pregnant & birthing a child, I wanted those things desperately. I expected those things. I Would’ve given anything for those things.  I was also humbled by not getting those things. Money couldn’t buy what I desired most. It messed up my life plan. But coming from a point where I ran down every avenue of infertility (minus low sperm count and including autoimmune factors),  adopted then had bio & now have come full circle & am preventing any more children, I have to say that the whole pregnancy & birthing thing wasn’t this romantic thing it is cracked up to be.  Also, having bio children really wasn’t a big deal. From whom they were born is simply a means to an end. With that end being parenthood.  I don’t mean to sound harsh and I know some of you wish to be in my shoes (fertility wise). I am just trying convey that being a birth parent was not nearly as glamourous or fulfilling as I once dreamt it to be… I know you are thinking, “yes, but you’ve experienced it & I never will” and that perceived void can’t be filled. I just want to share the knowledge that my life/heart isn’t any more full because #3 & #4 were bios. It frankly made little difference when it is all said & done.

mom to twins adopted from Armenia at 4 months in 2003, unassisted bios 2004, 2007
PCOS, mild endometriosis, DQ alpha sharing, APA+, ANA+, heterozygous MTHFR, anti-paternal antibodies, hostile cm, normal sperm count. multiple early m/cs & one late m/c

By Lymbo4y on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 8:20 am.

I am so delighted to read your post and the following comments. I thought I was the only woman in the world who felt that way. My BEAUTIFUL daughter is now 4 and I agree that the feeling of loss from the inability to become pregnant for whatever reason does ease with the passage of time. I guess that I have concluded that it is ok to have these emotions. I am on cloud 9 with my beautiful daughter. My husband and I were married for 12 years before we were blessed by adoption. We struggled through 6 failed/painful/expensive IVF treatments. I can honestly say that I do not reflect on the past failures because I am too busy living my dream. My daughter is a blessing. I know that God hand picked our daughter just for us:)

By on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm.

I am so glad you wrote this article.  I think this is one of those things I’ve always been worried to talk about because it seems like a betrayal of the path we took to our handsome son through domestic adoption.  When he was two weeks old, I remember looking at him and feeling so happy but so sad at the same time because I wished this perfect little man could have come from me and his dad.  It worried me that I had that thought but as my husband told me, the grieving process doesn’t have an end date and he saw it as me knowing our little one is a product of the love we have for each other.

By roscoe0811 on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm.

I feel very different. All I wanted was the end result, a child. We have two grown Korean children. I have never looked back. We wanted children to raise and love. Perhaps some therapy would help those of you who cannot let go of infertility. What is it that you are grieving, images of yourselves?

By ljherlehy on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm.

thank you so much for posting this. we have a beautiful 2 month old daughter through domestic adoption. my heart is so full of love her and I am thankful for infertility because it led me to her.

At the same time, several of my closest friends and family members are pregnant, and as they talk about their pregnancies and the babies growing inside them, I feel a pain of envy. Why didnt I get to experience that with my daughter? I wish I could have felt her kick inside me and felt my body grow and change as she did. As an infertile woman, I have missed out on that part of creating a family. I wouldnt want anyone BUT my daughter, and its not so much having a biological child but experiencing pregnancy that I feel like I missed out on.

As everyone is so excited for us and our new daughter, I feel guilty for having a slight pang of sadness. thats why I am so grateful for this post. there are other women who have, and are experiencing similar emotions, emotions that are very NORMAL and REAL. So thank you for your openness and candor. I’m glad that I am not alone.

By Liv on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 2:29 am.

Great article and window into a world I often feel like I am on the outside looking in.  I do feel like I am the “one” that infertility didn’t change.  Nothing in our infertility was “unfixable” with the right shots and procedures, but VERY early on, we knew God had plans for 4 amazing children to be born in our hearts.  After our first adoption, the thought of getting pregnant on accident terrified us as we knew that it would be one less child we would adopt.  I have never considered us infertile, because to be infertile, you would have to have a desire to be fertile in the first place, what we are is amazingly blessed

By cknbus on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm.

Thank you for your story. I’m going to share it with my family to help them understand feelings of grief, inferiority, hope & resiliency and how infertility can change you, but doesn’t have to define you. As you have stated, allowing yourself to accept the situation seems the best way to gain strength to keep going so I appreciate your putting your story out there to show that you don’t have to have closure to move forward. Your story is more eloquently expressed than I would be able to do so thank you again for sharing.

By Molly76DC on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 6:39 pm.

Hi- great article. I think my advice to people who are dealing with infertility and considering adoption is this 1) adoption doesn’t cure infertility, just childlessness I think infertility affects some people more deeply than others 2) When we adopted my daughter, I was taken aback at how much the feelings about infertility had crept back. I really didn’t think I pushed them down. I think I mostly had anger at how much inconvenience and work there was for us, compared to bio parents.  I think the infertility issue doesn’t have to go away totally, just gets diluted or shrunk down.
19 months after we adopted my daughter I have birth to a (premature) son..I remember feeling really cheesed by the Labor and Delivery nurses who said “Your first child..” or “One of your own.”  Ladies——I took care of my daughter from day one…yes, its a miracle to grow a life in your body, but so is adopting. I can assure you (I wanted to say) this is the EASY way.

By mpbslp on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 2:29 am.

There is a lot of support for becoming a parent biologically or through adoption on the Fertile Heart website.  There is a lot of support for the emotional issues involved both before and after the child arrives.  That helps everyone to be better parents.


By RobinE on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm.
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Meet the Author

Danielle Pennel

Danielle Pennel


I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
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