Nothing kills a conversation quite like the topic of infertility, at least in my experience. Well-meaning but nosy older relative: “So why are you putting off having kids?” Me: “Actually, I had surgery for an ovarian cyst a couple months ago and…” Result: silence.
I learned pretty quickly to substitute this response: “Well, Ron and I haven’t quite figured out that sex thing yet.”
The experience of infertility lets you know, in no uncertain terms, that you don’t always get to choose how your life unfolds. Choices that you took for granted might not be options at all. When it became clear that several thousand dollars and at least two surgeries stood between us and a possible pregnancy, we decided to pursue adoption instead.
Far from being a final choice, that was just the start of a whole labyrinth of further decisions. Domestic or international? If domestic, foster or private? If private, which agency—or no agency? Infant or older? Single or siblings? Open or closed? Interracial? Disabled?
Some of these decisions were easy: either one of us had a firm opinion that the other didn’t oppose, or we somehow already agreed. Ron very much wanted an infant, as close to birth as possible, and that desire made other choices for us. Primarily, it determined that we should go with a domestic adoption. Another easy decision for us was which genders and races we would consider. Ron and I were on the same page here—the answer was any! It didn’t seem right to us to judge a baby based on either of these factors. (Looking back, I realize that we were naïve, and deeply privileged, to think that it didn’t matter, because we can’t fully comprehend what our kids experience in growing up non-white and with relatively clueless white parents to boot. But that understanding wouldn’t have changed our response.)
Other choices caused days of debate and soul-searching. I was hurt by Ron’s refusal to consider a disabled child, for example, given the fact that I was a disabled child myself and that disability can happen anytime to anyone. For his part, Ron didn’t understand why I wanted an open adoption. He hadn’t talked to as many adoptees, nor did he have that felt sense that a mother should be allowed to see her child, no matter the circumstances. Fortunately, he came around on that one.
But, again, we weren’t really in the driver’s seat. Our choices would only get us so far. At the time—namely, 2007—domestic infant adoption was expensive and unpredictable. We did our part: medical and psychological evaluations, background checks, parent trainings, home inspections. We put together a portfolio with about a dozen pages of pictures and a page where we tried to sound exciting and full of adventure, rather than old and desperate.
And we waited. Our fate was out of our hands—which is a totally dramatic overstatement, but one that is somehow totally accurate, too.