I don’t know the exact statistic–one study I came across says it could be as high as 80 percent–but it’s safe to say that most people who pursue an open adoption do so as a result of infertility. That’s what brought us to it, and it might be what led you there as well.
For many couples, infertility isn’t simply the starting point of their adoption journey. It’s the catalyst that sets the whole process in motion. It plays a huge role. The question is, how big a role should it play in your adoption profile?
Before I tell you my thoughts on the matter, let me share a few references to infertility that I’ve recently come across in waiting parents’ profiles.
“We’re an infertile couple.”
“We are adopting because we can’t have children.”
“We want to adopt because we’re incapable of having our own children.”
“Because we can’t have children naturally, we’re hoping to complete our family through adoption.”
“After experiencing several miscarriages and undergoing fertility treatments, we’ve decided that we’re ready to adopt. Your child would be a great gift to us.”
Creating an emotional connection in your adoption profile
On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with any these statements. Your adoption profile is, after all, the place where you’re supposed to share intimate details of your life with expectant parents. The idea being that those details will pull at their’ heartstrings and help you build an emotional connection with them. And the more honest and transparent you are, the better.
But where do you draw the line? How much weight should you give your infertility struggle and where does it belong in your letter? All too often I’ll find it somewhere near the top–in the prime real estate section–as part of a couple’s introduction.
But is that where it should go? If you were trying to make a strong impression on an expectant mother, is your inability to have a biological child really one of the first things you want her to know about you?
Probably not. Now I’m not saying that your fertility struggle should be glossed over or, even worse, swept under the carpet. Anyone who has experienced infertility knows the devastating and lingering effect it can have on your life. It changes nearly everything about you.
To deny its existence is to deny a key part of yourself. And therein lies the problem. By giving your infertility struggle prominence in your adoption letter and framing it in negative terms, you run the risk of sounding desperate, sad, bitter or entitled — all turn-offs for your reader.
The crisis of an unplanned pregnancy
Remember, an expectant mother is going through her own crisis. Hers is the flip side of yours: an unplanned pregnancy. What’s more, she doesn’t have the information and support that you have. So if she’s experiencing a problem, you have to be the solution.
Your infertility struggle may be a big deal to you. But the truth is it doesn’t mean a lot to her. Sure, she may be curious about why you’re adopting. And yet if you don’t have children or your children are adopted, she may have already figured it out. And if she hasn’t or if she asks you, you can always tell her yourself.
But first things first: you need to get your relationship off the ground. And dwelling on your pain won’t help you do that. If anything, it could bog it down and inspire pity within your reader–not exactly a compelling reason for anyone to choose you to be parents of their child. By contrast, showing how you can offer that child a better future is a much more effective approach.
When it comes right down to it, an expectant mother don’t really care how many times you’ve tried IVF or how many miscarriages you’ve had. Nor is the onus on her to place her baby with you in order to “give you a gift” or “make your life complete.”
You may think that your references to your fertility treatments illustrate how badly you want to become a parent. But by harping on them, what you’re really doing is making it sound like adoption was your second choice. And it may well have been. But unless you can communicate your excitement about being an adoptive parent in your letter, you don’t have a chance of becoming one.
Moving from infertility to open adoption
There’s still a debate about whether couples need to resolve their infertility before pursuing adoption. Infertility, of course, isn’t something that you suddenly get over. Some people spend years grieving the loss of a biological child—- even after they’ve become an adoptive parent.
But that’s not what this is about. This isn’t about hiding your true feelings from your social worker or expectant parents. Your social worker needs to know that you’ve dealt with your infertility and that you’re ready to move on to adoption. It’s a vital piece of information for your home study. Without it you can’t adopt, let alone start networking with prospective birth parents.
But not everything in your home study needs to end up in your parent profile. For starters, you’re dealing with a different audience and a different set of needs. While a social worker is obligated to ask you about your infertility and your reasons for adopting, a birth parent is not.
Again, her main concerns are: What can you do for me? What kind of parent will you be? Will you love my child as much as I do? What kind of relationship do you want to have with me after the placement?
Show how infertility has made you a stronger person
So yes, go ahead and mention your infertility in your profile. But leave the details for another time. And if you do mention it, try to do so it in a positive or inspiring way rather than just leaving it hanging.
Use it as an opportunity to demonstrate insights into your character. Explain what it’s taught you. Offer examples of how it’s made you a stronger person, strengthened your relationship with your partner or made you a better potential parent.
So many profiles sound too perfect for their own good. Talking honestly about the challenges you’ve experienced in starting your family is a great way to humanize your letter and show how you’ve dealt with adversity.
Nobody is telling you to hide your infertility or your feelings about it. But there’s a time and place for everything. And your parent profile, even though it deals with the most important and intimate details of your life, isn’t that place.
How have you dealt with infertility in your adoption profile? What tips do you have for others? Share your comments in the section below.
Photo credit: ToastyKen