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Thursday, April 7, 2011

The infertility answer: would you forgo IVF?

I have been blessed to have three children of my own, but as I've mentioned before, know quite a few people in my area who have adopted. Their stories are nothing short of miraculous and heartbreaking.

My neighbor MJ has had several miscarriages, and her adoption story began one day at the office, where someone knew a poor family who was pregnant with their seventh child. Drug and alcohol problems riddled them, and the parents knew they could not keep this new baby. Word got out that perhaps they would consider giving the child up for adoption, and that MJ and her then-husband were interested.

They set up a meeting with the mother, and followed her pregnancy throughout and were there at the delivery to take their new daughter home. It was nothing short of a miracle how they came together in the first place, just on a chance conversation about the friend of a friend.

Melissa, another woman in the neighborhood, has a biological son who was born nearly three months early. While he survived and is doing well, she and her husband decided adoption was the best answer for their second child, a biracial girl with the most beautiful crazy hair and eyes I've ever seen. Melissa has MS, and felt that another pregnancy might exacerbate her symptoms.

Acquaintances Barb and Pete also adopted three children. Their story began with the oldest, whose mother was a substance abuser. She lost custody of her son and then became pregnant again, and Barb and Pete attempted to adopt her daughter as well, in an effort to keep the two children together. The biological mother ignored a court order and took the child back, housing her at a rehab facility with her, and eventually the couple had to give up their painful fight to adopt the sister. Unfortunately, the journey took its toll on them emotionally and financially, and they ended up embroiled in a messy divorce.

Another couple we know, Gwen and John, are currently in the process of adopting twin boys, to join a 5-year-old son they adopted as a newborn. The process has been nothing short of exhausting and frustrating. When I first knew them, we talked a little about their struggles, and they revealed that they had decided to forgo IVF and adopt instead, because of Gwen's previous gynecological health concerns and what the emotional stress might do to her. In the process to adopt the twins, they waited patiently for months, only to find out the paperwork had been sitting on the case worker's desk the entire time. As the court date finally loomed to determine full custody, John was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening cancerous tumor, and who knows if that will jeopardize their chances once and for all.

I couldn't help but wonder, why not choose IVF? Most people who need help do go through with it, and often are successful. Although surely none of us is Celine Dion, who could afford numerous treatments until they produced not one, but two babies, it is natural to want your own offspring - who look like you and share your traits - that is just human nature. But I found it curious that this couple would not want to even try, considering the technology that is available to them.

Just the other day I heard from an old friend who said the same thing. Samantha and her husband have been trying to conceive for years, and finally decided to start the adoption process. They are attempting to set up an adoption with a teenager, something I find incredibly admirable. Most people want the baby instead - to love, cuddle, feed, all that stuff. Few people, it seems, want to start with someone who is already shaped and molded as a teenaged kid. They too, interestingly, decided not to go the route of IVF.

While admittedly I don't know all the ins and outs of either process, I know they are not easy. They are extremely expensive, and the stress of infertility, repeated IVF attempts and the adoption process can all take their toll on marriages and relationships with others. Knowing so many couples that have struggled through these trials, it drives me absolutely insane to hear people casually say, "Just adopt," as if it happens because you merely snap your fingers and declare it so.

I'm also curious if people like Samantha and Gwen ever regret their decision to not try IVF. Perhaps Gwen, who already has adopted children, is scared how a biological child would change the dynamics in the family - I know I would be. Yet, if it were me, part of me would always wonder - could I have my own child, with a little help? Would I easily get pregnant or would it take forever? I don't know if I could deal with not knowing.

What would you do? Jump at the chance for IVF, pouring your heart and soul (and money) into it, or bravely enter the adoption process?

More reading:
PETA tells people to "curb their reproductive habits" and consider adoption instead


The Deranged Housewife said...

Another interesting link:

I should add that I know someone who did pursue IVF successfully, and then went on to have a second child with no assistance.

Cassaundra said...

"Adoption used to be about finding homes for children, but now it's about finding children to fill the homes of infertile couples." this quote (from the site here: )illustrates exactly what is wrong with your piece. no couple should adopt because they want a child to fulfill their need to be parents. it is incredibly selfish and has created a vast industry that profits from stealing children from low income people and stealing the human right to one's own family and heritage from so many babies. adoption is a tragedy that should always be avoided, not the solution to another person's tragedy. everyone assumes, in a very classist, sexist and a lot of the time racist way that adoption is a good thing. those in the anti-adoption movement would beg to differ. i think anyone considering adoption needs to put a lot of time into researching why it is NOT such a good idea.
"Research into the effects of adoption on infants shows that the psychological cost of infant-maternal separation is so high that an adoption should only be done as a last resort. It is a well-documented fact that infants do suffer lifelong consequences as a result of separation from their first family, regardless of how joyous and successful their adoption eventually turns out to be. Experts in the field caution, therefore, that adoption should be done only if there is no other way for mother and baby to stay together. Unfortunately, this is not how adoption is commonly practiced. Agencies and private adoption "facilitators," which profit based on how many adoptions they can arrange, don't ask too many questions about why a mother-to-be is considering adoption."

certainly, those individuals who are selfless enough to do something like adopting a teenager or special needs child are a blessing to those children. but if some are so desperate to have a baby,why not adopt the teen mom herself? become adoptive grandparents and have the joy of a baby without causing a lifetime of damage to mother and baby?

Kate Rowan said...

I would not do IFV because I feel that if I cannot conceive on my own, maybe I am not meant to. My husband made a decision after having a miscarriage that if we could not do it ourselves, that we would adopt or not have children. I don't feel as thought this is a wrong choice, just a personal choice. I am currently 18 weeks pregnant, and hoping for a healthy baby. We will see!

The Deranged Housewife said...

In some situations, I think adoption is infinitely better - than abortion, say. So many troubled pregnant women don't even consider adoption because they don't want someone else raising their child. So they abort? Seriously?

I do know that the courts will often hesitate to separate the mother and baby when clearly they should - drug or alcohol abuse situations, physical abuse at the hands of a parent or boyfriend, etc. There is no clear answer but considering what other scenarios these children could have been placed in had they not been adopted, I think it's better choice, usually. Perhaps some of the problems they face are not so much from being adopted, but perhaps are hereditary traits from the parents themselves, who, if they are in a position to adopt their children out, may have a higher risk of depression, mental instability, drug or alcohol abuse, etc. Just a thought.

Rachel O. said...

What about a "snow flake adoption?" This is where a couple adopts a frozen embryo that the original parents decided not to use in their own IVF. I believe that life begins at conception and these tiny babies need adopting, too, not just discarded as medical waste. Maybe a good option for a couple with genetic factors that would keep them from having their own health children. I guess this scenerio is IVF and adoption in one.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I've never heard of that one, Rachel - that's interesting! And I too wonder about those discarded embryos - something about just throwing them out doesn't sound right to me at all.

Dana @ WhatWereWeThinking? said...

I have no interest in pursuing IVF myself. Our son has a genetic disorder that is autosomal recessive. My husband & I are both carriers. IVF would be an option for us if we wanted to make sure any future children did not have VLCADD like Klaw. However, I have had close friends & family members pursue IVF and it is not walk in the park. Klaw's disorder is manageable, although it is not curable. I'd rather take my chances with genetics than put my body through IVF.

I wouldn't mind adopting whether or not we decide to have more biological children, but that is a decision that my husband needs to be on board for and that is not currently the case. For the record, I'd rather adopt a child than a baby. Yes, there are people who go on a quest to find a child...but most, if not all, of the people I know who have adopted have felt called to provide a home to a baby or child in need. Most have also chosen to have "open" adoptions so that the birth mother can maintain contact with the child she gave life to. Adoption is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

No, because one of the most common reasons for infertility is low quality eggs and/or sperm. It's asking for trouble, from what I've seen in my circle of overeducated, older parents.

Think of it this way: if you wouldn't adopt because the child might have problems, why would you attempt IVF and accept a higher risk of problems? According to the CDC, IVF results in a higher rate of heart defects, cleft lip/palate, esophageal/anorectal defects, and of course multiple birth, which is itself associated with a higher rate of problems. Is IVF responsible? No, it's probably more likely infertility itself is responsible.

The Deranged Housewife said...

Aside from the one couple with three children that I mentioned, all the others have some form of contact/relationship with their birth mother (or in some cases, both parents). The one set of parents is quite communicative with the birth mother and has involved her as much as they can, despite living clear across the country, in "their" son's upbringing.