We went through the adoption process four times during our infertility journey.
(Note: we ended up only bringing two children home. You can read that whole story in my book, Counting Grains of Sand.)
I can tell you, without question or qualm, that adopting did not and could not fix our infertility. It wasn’t a cure or a correction.
Adoption is actually an entirely different everything from infertility. It has its own set of highs and lows, good and hard, beauty and trial.
So if you’re ever tempted to say to someone who is struggling with infertility, “Why don’t you just adopt?” I’m letting you know that’s like telling someone who lost their minivan in a car wreck, “Why don’t you just get a Mack truck?”
- Because that would move things from the 20-40K range to the 200-500K range.
- Just because you could drive a minivan doesn’t mean you can drive a semi-truck.
- In fact, you need classes and extra certifications to do that.
- They’re just not comparable.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go that route—it just means that if you’re going to learn to drive a semi-truck, that needs to be something separate from wanting to replace a smashed minivan.
Obviously, this isn’t a perfect illustration, but hopefully it gets the point across. Adoption and infertility are two different things, even if they have some similarities.
Now, I can tell you that there are some benefits to being infertile and adopting. There are some real reasons why God might lead you and your spouse to pursue adoption especially if you have been unable to have biological children.
There are also a few reasons why it’s extra hard to adopt if you can’t have bio kids.
Let’s talk about a few:
Pros to Adopting During Infertility
If you’re struggling with primary infertility, there obviously won’t be other children in the home and this is a very good thing for many adoptions.
There is actually a desperate need for homes without other children. Many adopted kids struggle with multiple areas of trauma and it’s not always safe for them to be around other young children without constant supervision.
(Also! There is a huge need for respite homes and couples willing to come alongside families who have already adopted to support and help with the kids—but the need is for childless homes because it can be too much to keep everyone safe with other young kids around.)
The fact that you don’t have other children in your home may actually make your family the very best option for some adoptions.
Having the opportunity to be the mother of someone who needs one is so healing.
This is actually a two-sided coin, which I’ll talk more about in the “cons” list. But for now—the good part is there is so much value in having the opportunity to love a child.
The process of adopting our oldest (who was 8 years old at the time), bringing her home, teaching her, loving her, providing for her—all of those things were so healing to my heart. And in the process, the Lord used that deep parental love to reveal so many things in my own life.
To be a mom is to experience a part of God’s heart. So it’s good. So, so good.
Walking through infertility gives you a unique perspective on loss, which is valuable in parenting adopted children.
The fact that I had lost family (through miscarriage, failed adoptions, lost hopes) was huge in relating to and hearing my adopted children when they struggle through the pain of everything they’ve lost.
It’s not exactly the same, so it’s important to not make unfair comparisons, but loss is also loss. Empathy came so easily for me because I remember the anguish and the sorrow of every baby (real or just hoped for) that I expected to bring home and instead was forced to mourn.
Even in the most ideal adoption situation—there is still loss. And who better to understand that than parents who have walked through years of infertility?
Cons to Adopting During Infertility
You may still be experiencing cycles and no babies.
The hardship of this may lighten for a little while after you bring a child home—especially if you adopt from infancy—but if your cycles were difficult for you before adoption, they’re still going to be hard after you adopt.
If infertility is connected to health issues that cause painful or difficult cycles, adoption isn’t going to change that. If you are experiencing the rise and crash of hopes through each menstrual cycle now, adopting isn’t going to change that.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt—but it does mean you should not pin your hopes on adoption as the cure for the cycle of grief you may experience each month or the physical toll that infertility may have on your body.
Being a mother to someone who has lost a mother can be emotionally devastating.
Here is the other-side to the coin of mothering someone who needs a mother that I mentioned. Yes, it can be healing to become a mother! Yes, it’s a part of God’s character and hugely influential in our relationship and understanding of who He is.
It can also be crushing.
Because no matter what you do—you’ll never, ever be the birth mom.
No matter how much you give or sacrifice.
No matter how deeply you love and how gently you listen.
No matter what you do—you won’t be her.
You can know this and it’s okay.
But if you’re expecting adoption to fix your infertility—those hopes are going to crash and burn right here. Because you’ll still be infertile and on really bad days, your child might remind you of that with a lot of passionate anger in their voice.
There is so much good and beautiful to be found in consistently, patiently, quietly loving someone and being there for them. You can (and hopefully will) be your child’s real mom.
But adoption won’t make you a birth mom and that needs to be understood before you ever bring a child home.
Adopting adds trauma to your home, it doesn’t take it away.
Losing babies, or struggling with the inability to get pregnant, can be incredibly traumatic. It can take time to process and heal.
You can overcome. God will meet you. It’s not a life-sentence of hardship.
But adoption isn’t going to suddenly make it better either.
(If you’re walking through this process—check out my book, Pain Redeemed or my latest resource: The Christian Woman’s Guide to Infertility: Finding Hope and Healing Even Without a Baby.)
Adoption carries trauma. Always. Every kind from infant to older child adoption. From international to domestic adoption. From closed to open adoption.
Adoption exists by definition because there was trauma.
Again, it can be overcome. God will meet you and your child. It’s not a life-sentence of hardship.
But it’s real.
And by adopting, you’re agreeing to bring a new set of trauma into your family. Which is an amazing opportunity and can become a beautiful story—but no matter what it will also be super, super hard at times.
Hard doesn’t equal bad.
But it’s also not something to gloss over. It’s real and can be life-changing.
Adoption is worth the trauma. God is working to heal and redeem and bring light and hope to darkness and fear and loss. But adding trauma to your home isn’t going to fix the trauma that’s already there.
I am 1000% in favor of adoption.
We live in a world where brokenness and loss mark up our lives. Adoption is needed and profound and beautiful. But it’s not a fix for infertility.
If God is leading your family toward adoption, make sure you acknowledge and recognize the separation between that and your infertility struggle. Make sure you’ve dealt with and are willing to continue dealing with your own loss—and don’t expect that bringing a child home will heal your pain.
But do know that God will.
He’ll meet you and work in you and walk with you.
Because that’s what He does.
If you’re interested in Adoption, you may also enjoy:
Dear Adoptive Mom (A series of letters)
Counting Grains of Sand: Learning to Delight in a Promise-Making God (the story of how God built our family from broken pieces)
If you’re working through the difficulties of infertility, you may also be encouraged by: