The great majority of parents who come to adoption have some degree of infertility. And, depending on the circumstances, they may go through a real grieving process prior to moving wholly into adoption as a means to become parents. Does every family do this? No. Does it make a difference in their adoption journey if they do? Absolutely!
As little girls, we play with dolls and pretend to be mommies. It is assumed that we get married and have a baby, but when our body doesn’t cooperate, it can be a very deep wound, that cycles through stages of grief, like any other major loss.
It is good to understand that this is absolutely normal and that parents typically encounter the five stages of grief seen with most any loss. Here are some examples of what may be seen with fertility grief in each step.
Denial – It may be hard to come to terms with a diagnosis and it may be denied. “I need to see another, this one is wrong,” might be one response or a flat our denial that the diagnosis could be accurate, “He must be wrong, I know I don’t have that.”
Anger – “Why can I not have a baby when everyone else can,” is a common thought. This stage can also involve anger toward a spouse who may be the one with the diagnosis, “Maybe if I married someone else.” People may also seem angry with those trying to help them, such as specialists, counselors, and family members.
Bargaining – We see this in couples trying every old wives’ tale in the book to conceive. Such as lying on a slanted board, considering moon phases in conception, and eating sweet potatoes every day. They may also try to bargain with God, “If only you will help me get pregnant, I promise to…”
Depression – Once arriving at this stage, much time may be spent crying and truly grieving the loss. Things may seem dark, like “I’m never going to be a mommy.” They may avoid pregnant friends or those with babies, and there may be changes in eating or sleeping. Too much time in the phase should be consulted with a physician or counselor.
Acceptance – In this stage, they begin to move forward, with a newfound understanding and acknowledgement that a biological pregnancy likely will not happen, but other dreams can. Parenthood through adoption or choosing to remain childless by choice. They may re-plan their lives and look into alternate routes to parenthood, such as advanced fertility treatments or adoption.
Once someone arrives at acceptance, they are likely ready to move forward in a healthy manner. That doesn’t mean that someone who gets an infertility diagnosis and begins planning for adoption the next day has arrived at this stage literally overnight. It takes some time and a good deal of emotion, and it is good to remember that we all process things differently. However skipping grieving your loss may show up in your adoption journey as feelings of entitlement, such as “I deserve a baby.” This is not a healthy place either.
Consider a counselor if you are having challenges or are stuck. Do a quick self-exam if needed to identify if this is something you went through and emerged on the other side ready to begin your adoption journey with joy and acceptance, as the way to build your family.