Make up your own clever title. I'm busy being sincere.
One thing any infertile person has to do, when considering whether or how to proceed, is to ask, "Am I ready?" Am I ready to take more serious medical measures? Am I ready to adopt? Am I ready to live without children? Am I ready to move on, change course, take on a new gamut of obstacles? Can I handle the repercussions of whatever the next step might be? That's what I am asking myself, both here on my blog and in my mind, a thousand times a day.
Sometimes the answers come easily. It was no surprise to hear back in 2002 that IVF represented our best chance for pregnancy and birth. Because I'd been diagnosed with extensive endometriosis, I'd already known my fertility might be compromised. Because I was already a seasoned veteran of the pelvic wars, I had no fear of the process. Because I was relatively young — 31 — I had a reasonable expectation of success. There was very little to come to terms with. Having a plan, especially one that seemed so promising, was a relief. Easy. Even exciting, something I felt good about. I was ready.
Sometimes the answers come hard. Five years later, here we are, with exponentially more knowledge, experience, pain, and joy to complicate what once felt like such a clear-cut issue. Am I ready for the realization that my body has given up on itself? No, but there it is anyway. Am I ready to abandon the notion of pregnancy, given how very, very badly I do it? Apparently not, because damned if there aren't four information packets on egg donation sitting on my desk right now. But am I ready to tell my liver, my pancreas, and my inherited hypercoagulability to go fuck themselves and each other — go on, I'll wait while you work out that visual — and try? I guess I'm not, because there those packets sit, mostly unread.
The same is true of adoption. For me, the answers aren't coming easily. I have been trying to feel ready — probably even trying to force it, because it is clear to my rational mind that when one objectively considers the facts, adoption is obviously the best choice for us. The trouble is, there is more to any of us than just a rational mind and a neatly ranked list of pros and cons. In me, there's a sad and uncertain heart terrified of courting more loss. I am well aware that there are no guarantees about anything, ever. But how on earth do you decide which particular flavor of loss you're most comfortable inviting in?
What I hoped to consider in my last post was the question of whether I could proceed despite the worry that I am not yet ready for adoption, and count on time spent waiting and the prospect of an as-yet-unknown child to make me ready, to make me receptive to the magic I know adoptive families feel. I wanted to know whether others had faced that same question, whether others had continued with adoption despite lingering concerns. No one, of course, can answer my question for me, but I learn a great deal from what you all tell me about your own lives, and am always heartened to be reminded that whatever we go through, we are never the only ones. I'm grateful to each of you who shared your stories.
That's not to say, however, that some of the comments didn't bother me. I try very hard to be precise when I write, especially when dealing with sensitive subjects like this one. When something I've written causes controversy, I first examine my writing to see whether I've expressed myself badly. That's far easier than examining my conscience, which is the necessary next step if I've said what I truly meant to say, and far more productive than wondering how the hell an acknowledgement of "the love I don't doubt" earned a long string of both assurances that I would love an adopted child, as if I'd seemed to need them, and cautionary tales of adoptive families where that love was not a given. Because I don't really know what to do with those, except to throw my hands up in exasperation. And when my liver, pancreas, and inherited hypercoagulability are already getting restive, making sudden moves could well do me in entirely, so go easy on that, huh?
Anyway, I did, in one respect, express myself badly — or revealed all too much, I'm not sure which. I said, " It's that certainty I envy, the knowledge that [adoption], at last, is what you truly want instead of what you're merely settling for." That was clumsy, and I regret it. I do not believe I accused any adoptive parent of having settled for anything; I meant to acknowledge, in fact, that I know they didn't, and to lament my own disappointing limitations. But by even typing the word "settle," I needlessly clouded the point I hoped to make, and I wish I hadn't done that.
The point, which most of you understood, was that adoption still does feel to me like an uneasy compromise. What I am coming to understand, and what your comments have helped to clarify for me, is that I am not yet ready. My reservations are so numerous and dense that I can hardly untangle them in my own mind, much less detail them here, but in general they have to do with loss: my own loss of any biological connection to a child, which still seems to matter a great deal to me; the loss inherent in abandoning my own body's reproductive potential, no matter how feeble that is; the loss of yet another layer of privacy and autonomy; and, most troubling to me, the loss both a child and his birth parents may experience even in the happiest adoption scenarios. To be sure, loss is part of the human condition, but it is proving difficult for me to believe I could help ease someone else's while I am still so wrapped up in my own.
It is altogether too easy to come at this from the wrong direction. When every available option feels like it has serious drawbacks, it's tempting to decide based on which one seems least unpalatable. I can stew for months — have done already — about why adoption doesn't feel right for us just now, and I can try very hard to overcome those objections by force-feeding myself information and anecdotes. It can become an endless mental exercise, one that's encouraged by every well-meaning friend and relative who's ever said, "Why not just adopt?" But it's ultimately a pointless one. Some of you said so gently, with great kindness, and I thank you for your compassion and patience as I work through what should have been obvious: Building a family isn't Getting to Yes. I don't want to adopt, don't want to do anything, in fact, unless and until I feel actively good about it.