It’s no secret that my husband and I have been walking through the process of building our family together with IVF. I’ve been fairly open about this on social media and on my blog here. In doing IVF I’ve been part of a large community of women (and men) who join support groups to walk through this very formidable process together and help each other out with information and validation.
One of the things that comes up over, and over, and over again — both for me as an individual and with others in my support groups, is what can only be termed a “microaggression” from people who seem to look down on people who turn to medical science for help with getting pregnant. It’s the statement, said sometimes gently, and other times harshly, “Why don’t you just adopt?”
From religious people in particular, I think this is based in a few misconceptions. The pro-life movement holds up adoption as a virtue, and it surely is. But many people I think get this misconception that there are literally thousands if not millions of babies just waiting for someone to step up and adopt them, and failure to adopt these ethereal babies results in rampant abortion. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.
The reality is that there are thousands of couples desperately trying to adopt a baby, and it is a very, very difficult road. For every baby that comes up for adoption, there are dozens of couples vying to be the chosen ones who get to take that baby home. Many couples will never fit the bill – preference will go to families that are well-off, with parents who are under a certain age, and have a certain level of education. The process is often heartbreaking (I have known many would-be adopted parents who are given babies to take home, only to have the birth mother change her mind at the last moment) and expensive (thousands and ten-thousands of dollars are used up on each attempt.)
Of course, one could adopt from the foster care system, although even there, there exists a lot of competition for babies and small children, and I’ve heard too many stories of well-meaning would-be adoptive parents praying and hoping that parental rights get terminated of some woman who they hope does NOT get off drugs in time or show up in court in time to keep her family together. I personally don’t want to be that person, as I came from a family where my mom had a very real risk of losing me due to her irresponsibility, and no matter how messed up my mom was, I’m very glad no one ever took me away from her. I’m a real bleeding heart for family reunification (except in the extremist of cases) and I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that fence.
But here’s the salient reality: Infertile couples (and singles looking to have children) have no more responsibility to take care of the world’s unwanted children than anyone else. Being infertile while yet desiring to reproduce, does not suddenly bestow a mandate upon a person that unwanted children are one’s assignment.
The fact is that all competent adults of the world share an equal responsibility towards unwanted children — both fertile couples, and infertile couples, both singles who want children, and singles who don’t want children. Every adult in our society has a responsibility to ask themselves what role they ought to play in helping the unwanted children of the world. Shirking off this responsibility the moment someone shares that they are doing IVF, to inform them subtly that THEY ought to adopt unwanted children simply because they are trying to get pregnant with medical help, is just a form of scape-goating of one’s own responsibility to the children of the world.
People have a natural desire to reproduce themselves. For some, this means biological reproduction. It is a privilege to be able to reproduce with ease, and for the privileged to look at those who have medical issues and inform them that they are judged for wanting the same privilege, is nothing short of a microagression towards a weaker party.
Adoption IS a beautiful choice, that every adult should consider if and how it might play a role in their lives. But this choice is just that — a choice. And as long as couples can freely reproduce naturally without being put down for having biological kids instead of adopting, no one should be judging those who reach out for medical assistance, either. Adoption ultimately is not the responsibility of the infertile; it is the responsibility in one way or another, of all.