Adoption vs childlessness?


Sharon Gove, MSW

"My husband and I have recently been diagnosed as infertile. Whereas I have come to see adoption as the best option for raising a family, my husband sees our infertility as an indication that we should remain childless. I’m at a loss, I love my husband, but I really want a family."

As I read your question, the word that seems significant to me is "recently." You and your husband may be entering the first stage of resolving the complex set of emotions and issues that arise when a diagnosis of infertility is received. Your distinctly different responses to the news are important, and should be heard and honoured. However, they may be preliminary viewpoints, indicative of your uniquenesses. Try not to take them as written in stone until you have explored them fully.

A diagnosis of infertility can immediately set off an extreme grief reaction because of the multiple losses involved. Different individuals experience loss in various intensities, and how one grieves depends on temperament, needs, desires, dreams, expectation, and life experiences. Although you and your husband hope to arrive at an acceptable shared resolution, your paths may be different.

The first powerful loss that infertile couples often feel is a loss of control over their life plans. You may have been looking forward to the sensations of the pregnancy and birth experience, and are finding this loss quite wrenching. You may see adoption as an avenue where you can regain control over your desire to parent a child.

Your husband, however, may be feeling powerless and "unmanly," not readily comfortable with a process that forfeits control yet again. He may feel quite strongly the loss of the ability to carry on his family’s genetic heritage, or be frightened that he may not be able to fall in love with and claim as his own a child which is not yours by birth. For him, regaining control may be to rethink what he wanted in the first place.

Take some time together to fully and honestly explore together the emotional issues you are each experiencing, and the advantages and disadvantages of your options. You might begin with a promise to one another to be honest, direct, and clear, and to be respectful of one another’s differences and pain. Agree to keep an open mind, not to reject anything out of hand, and to allow you to hear the other’s suggestions and "wear them" for a while. Together you can gather information, examine long-term implications, and prioritize desires. Your commitment to your life partnership may be discussed and reaffirmed.

Give this process lots of time and a generous sprinkling of patience. You will need to do a great deal of talking, questioning, and sharing. With new information and understanding, a viable and comfortable mutual decision can be made.