Thursday, March 10, 2011

An analogy

We've all heard it. "You can't get pregnant - well, just adopt!" The "easy" solution offered to us by fertiles that is meant to be helpful but always makes me feel angry and frustrated. My immediate thoughts center on just how NOT easy adoption is: the money, the paperwork, the waiting, the potential failed adoptions, and the uncertainties are just some of the things that I want to scream back at them, but instead I calmly smile and say something benign like, "Well, adoption is not that easy...."

However, when I look more closely at my reaction, I don't think my frustration stems as much from the fact that adoption can be difficult, but that it feels entirely inappropriate to tell me that when I am hurting and grieving.

I was talking to a friend last week, and that's when the analogy came to me. She didn't say, "Just adopt," but I was trying to explain to her that we can see ourselves moving towards adoption in the future, but it's not so simple to get there from this place of grief that I am in.

I told her that it is a little like somebody losing a spouse. In the initial grieving period, one would never say, "Oh don't worry - you can remarry!" And, I imagine, the widow would generally not think about remarriage, but would perhaps have moments where the thought would cross her mind and she would wonder if, indeed, she would ever find love again. And at some point in the grieving process there may even be some hope in that, but it would be difficult to feel that hope.

But then, down the road, perhaps she does find love again and marry. And everyone would rejoice with her, perhaps more than they do for a first time marriage because it is a beautiful gift that has come after so much suffering. That marriage would in no way be "second-best" - it is something different, joyful, amazing, and separate from the first marriage, but also inexplicably linked. Because how could she have not met her second husband if the first had never died?

And this made-up story sounds so similar to my own thoughts on this infertility journey. Replace "death" with "barren," and "remarriage" with "adoption"....and it feels like what my story may be. This analogy has helped me so much this last week. First of all, it helped me explain to a friend where I am at. Because I don't think the "just adopt" people are trying to be insensitive, but I think the world simply does not recognize infertility for the loss that it is. If they could see it in comparison to a loss that is more universally recognized - like the death of a spouse - then perhaps they will understand the grief process we go through.

Secondly, this has given me a little more breathing room in my own grief. I constantly struggle with guilt that I am not "ready" to adopt, which must mean I am selfish - so am I ever qualified to adopt? But with this comparison in mind, I can give myself the freedom to grieve AND still pursue adoption and the joy that comes with it in the future. And that adoption is not "second best," but it is linked to grief - and that is ok.

And third, it helped me to understand the deeper reason behind my anger and frustration when people say, "Just adopt." It is not really because adoption is actually quite difficult, but it is more because I feel like my grief is completely unacknowledged and unimportant.

I have to add that like many analogies, this one is not perfect. There are similarities to death and infertility that I am attempting to point out, but if you examine closely there will certainly be aspects of each that are very different. Please know I am using this as a (hopefully) helpful comparison, but I am not saying they are equal or the same - they just have some similarities. And I am in no way saying infertility is as difficult as losing a spouse - in fact, I would think it would be much, much more painful. If you are reading this and you have lost a spouse, I hope my analogy did not hurt you in any way. I think we share the bond of a suffering a loss, but I know our losses are not the same. My heart goes out to you.

22 comments:

Rachel DeBell said...

This is interesting, because I just had the same experience recently when a friend said "Don't worry. Things aren't that bad....its not like anyone has passed away in your life." While I agree with her plan to remind me that I have numerous blessings in my life, I felt hurt by her dismissal of my grief. I didn't feel any anger, knowing her motives behind the statement. But I realized how important it is to feel that your grief is acknowledged. Its kind of hard to be encouraged by someone to move forward, if you don't feel comforted in the losses first.

eggsandsperm.com said...

Great post and a very good way of looking at it. I'm definitely going to use this one. It's almost exactly the same thing.

Jummy said...

You are such a skilled writer, Hillary, and I think this analogy is about the best you could have come up with. I appreciate your sensitivity to those who have lost a spouse too.

I actually started reading the blogs of women who were trying to conceive by accident a few years back, and I related strongly to their journey because I could see some parallels between their journey and my own single journey as I watched all my friends marry and move on to have kids while I struggled to even get a date.

Funny enough, I didn't come across your blog because I was looking for a TTC blog to relate to, but because a friend who was TTC found your blog a comfort and wanted me to experience your writing.

Amber said...

Great analogy! I've always compared the grief of IF to finding out you have cancer, your future is unknown, but I really think your analogy makes sense and can help others understand the grief and the pain of some comments. Thanks for sharing!

Mellow said...

Hillary, this is so well said. It's so very true that sometimes the words just come without thinking about how it must make that person feel. After we lost our son last year, I began to see loss in a very different way...I was always sensitive to it, but I realized one day that no matter what the loss is, whether it's death, the loss of a job, being infertile, foreclosure, or whatever...that loss is big to that person. We can't discount how hurts are hurts, and there are no easy answers that will make it all better. Every one of us are going through something, and that something to each of us is big. Sometimes we say things in a hope that it justifies to help others pain. The one I found the hardest was, "At least he is in a better place" That is a big fat thumbs down...we cannot justify loss in any way, but I think some of us feel we have to say something, when being quiet and offering a listening ear and hug is all the hurting person needs. Sending you that right now, with a Big Hug. Praying for you.

Jem said...

I just forwarded this post over to my husband. This weekend we plan on having a talk about what we do next.. pursue more treatment (not likely) or adopt. Your analogy and sentiment sums up exactly how I feel about the mourning process from IF. I look in the mirror and see the face of a woman who has lost.

Missy said...

You are so right. The problem with "just adopt" is not that people think it is simple (in fact in my telling people we are adopting most do have some idea that it is a complex process even if they don't know the details). The problem is the lack of acknowledge of the pain we feel.

The Swann's said...

Hillary- I love reading your posts. So open and passion filled. This analogy is beautiful. I had never thought of it and while I agree that they are different they are similar in many ways as well just how you point out.

I am still praying for you and DH and your journey to parenthood will be a clear path and just as you have felt all this grief and sorrow during infertility, I pray that joy will fill all those holes and your love will overflow for your child(ren) from them!

Michele said...

So well said. ((hugs))

Jamie said...

This is beautiful and your thoughts are so well written. I found myself following along while nodding my head in agreement.
My husband and I ttc for 7 years....it then and ONLY then that I was able to move my heart to adoption. I had endured too much pain and my mind, my body and my heart were ready for a different path. If we had been "told" to "just adopt" before that moment....it would have been the wrong time and I would have resisted the process so much more. I was the person that was bound and determined to do whatever it took to get pregnant and have a bio child. Little did I know that no matter how hard I tried that just wouldn't happen. ;) I can now say that 3 years from that moment that my heart turned to adoption I am the proud mother to the most amazing and beautiful little boy on earth (i'm his mom of COURSE i think that ;)) and there is no way that I would want to be the mother of anyone else. :) Take your time and grief....don't move onto anything else until YOU feel ready...you will know when that time is. :)

Sarah said...

Beautifully written. My husband and I saw a counselor last year for our infertility struggles. I was in a valley and needed someone of sound mind to help me up. She said that infertility is very much like losing a loved on. She said that we were experiencing the loss of a dream, loss of our future dreams that involved children. Loss of self-worth, loss of hope, loss of a God-given ache to have a child yet not be able to have the dream fulfilled. It's a loss and grief goes hand in hand with that feeling. Thanks for being so sensitive and real.

cowgirltn said...

You are in my thoughts and prayers on a regular basis. I know god is going to shine the light on you so bright you will have to wear shades.

Rebecca said...

Well very written. I was in that very place of grief last summer not knowing if I'd ever even be able to adopt. And then God started working on my heart, and it's been a rollercoaster but a beautiful journey. Everyone has the right to grief that loss. Infertility is so much harder than anyone who hasn't experienced it thinks it is!

Thank you for such a great analogy. It's one I'll keep filed away for sure.

Praying for you!

Angie said...

Great analogy, this makes total sense to me. I think it's a good thing that you are giving yourself time to grieve and not pushing yourself somewhere you aren't ready to go. Thank you for sharing so honestly.

Rosie said...

Oh My Gosh! This is the best analogy ever, and so true. You would never say something like that to a grieving widow. It is very helpful. Thinking of you!

Laurie said...

Hillary-
I agree that this is the best analogy I have heard, and i think it actually is quite similar. Just because those of us who are barren never had an actual child to grieve the loss of, the loss is there none the less. The difference between us and someone who has lost a loved one to death, is that the world acknowledges their loss as "real" and ours is not seen in the same way and therefor does not get the same amount of tenderness and compassion.

I can tell you from my persepective- we only tried to conceive for about 2 years, and have been married now for 8 never having conceived. What helped us to "get there" with adoption is that I said to myself and my husband, "Fertility treatments have NO guarantee. I don't want to try for 5 years or 10 years and in the end still not be a Mom. I would rather spend the next 10 years as a parent." We are the joyful parents to 3 children and 1 on the way all through the miracle of adoption. I am 8 years infertile, but I quit counting a LONG time ago.

Kakunaa said...

I think this is a fantastic analogy...wishing I had thought of it for all of those "just adopt" moments. Thank you for sharing this with us, Hillary!

Coffeegrljp said...

I found this to be so helpful. For a long time, I wondered why people wouldn't "just adopt". This was before my husband and I started TTC and realized it might not be as easy as we had initially thought. Before he and I ever met, I had always thought that adoption suited my personality for lots of reasons. But my husband didn't feel the same way. So we started TTC and when it wasn't panning out and we faced IF, I started to see things differently. There really is a grieving process I think - regardless of whether you're open to adoption (like me) or not quite there (like my husband). Thanks for sharing this insight as it has really given me a new understanding of an very difficult and complex situation that so many people face. Your honesty with yourself, and with others, is a gift.

lifebytheday said...

I LOVE this post, the analogy is perfect. And thank you once again for your openness and thoughtfulness. Sending you my love and prayers.

gringa78 said...

I like your analogy too. Last night DH and I were talking about how it's impossible for people who have not gone through IF to understand anything about it...and when you find someone that has, there is this immediate understanding where you don't have to say anything - they just understand your pain. There's no way people will truly understand what it is to move from having a biological child to adoption...what that feels like, how you get there - what that journey is actually like - not just what they perceive it to be. It's just not simple - and it's irritating when people simplify it.

I'm always, always hopeful for you. Sending you a big hug.

foxy said...

WOW - You are an incredible writer and this is an incredibly well thought thru post. I can so totally relate to what you are explaining. I've wondered how it could be possible that when I am in such emotional pain that anyone could see beyond my grief and offer suggestions that completely ignored the loss that I was experiencing. This has been my experience at every step of the journey, when we first learned that we would need ART i grieved over the loss of a natural conception, the then when we learned that we had no sperm production I grieved over the loss of a genetic connection with my husband. So much of this journey is dealign with the grief and loss of dreams and expectations and hopes, and then being able to lovingly accept the path that is ours.

Thank you for this beautiful and insightful post Hillary.

xoxo - Foxy

Hope said...

What an amazing and apt analogy. It cuts right to the heart of things, and why the transition from treatments to adoption is such a difficult one. Thank you so much for sharing this. In writing about yourself, you helped me understand some of the struggles I'm going through in a different light. Thanks!