I come across this question a lot. Why not just adopt?

It’s not a simple question, and for us, there isn’t a simple answer.

The way I see it is adoption is not a consolation prize for childless couples. Adoption is a special privilege; a gift. But, not all infertile couples are meant to adopt. Just as not all fertile couples are meant to have children. I wish there weren’t such assumptions. There would be a lot less people becoming parents for the wrong reasons. I also wish people put more thought and consideration into the questions they asked, but that’s another post for another time.

I have grappled with how to answer the adoption question for awhile. Up until now, I have always said, “We are discussing it,” and left it at that. But lately, when asked, “Have you considered adoption?” or “Why not just adopt?” I feel like I am being called out. Should I be submitting adoption applications while we are knee deep in dealing with infertility? Are we bad people for considering fertility treatments before adoption? Are we selfish people for wanting a biological child? Should I tell people we want to adopt, even when we don’t really know what we want to do, just to make us look better? These are just some of the questions that swirl around in my head, often times leaving me feeling angry and confused.

Because let’s face it – the question of “Why not just adopt?” comes with a certain level of judgment to it. People are indirectly saying, “If I were you, I would adopt! Why wouldn’t you?”

It is during these times of self-doubt that I try to remember that I don’t owe anyone anything. The honest answer is that adoption may or may not be for us. That is a bridge I cross together with my husband, and not with anyone else but him. We don’t know at this point, because we are overwhelmed. We haven’t done the research. We haven’t talked enough about it. I often think about how amazing it would be to adopt a child, but that’s a daydream at this point. I refuse to tell people we would definitely adopt just to paint myself in a better light. That’s bullshit.

People can go on for days about what they would do if they were in our situation, but until they actually are in this situation, their “what ifs” don’t really mean anything. We have to live with the decisions we make. When it comes to the manner in which we bring children into this family, it doesn’t have to make logical sense to the average Joe. It doesn’t have to neatly fit into a box stamped with the approval of society. It’s much more complex than any adoption application or fertility treatment cycle. It is about what is the best choice for us. And for that, there is no universal right or wrong answer.

Your thoughts on this are welcomed.

October 28, 2011



  1. Layla

    October 26, 2011

    I just love the fact that people always assume that it's a groundbreaking idea that they thought up and that you haven't even considered. I always want to say, what IS this adoption you speak of? Tell me more!"

  2. Amber

    October 26, 2011

    I think a lot of people assume that adoption is a straightforward or easy process (like, fill out an application and, when it's your turn, someone will call you with a baby you can adopt), as if it were somehow a simpler or less painful solution than treating infertility.

    A lot of people are stupid.

  3. A Long Far View

    October 26, 2011

    I feel like if people actually understood the adoption process and all that it entails, they would never say "why don't you JUST adopt" ever, ever again. As you say, it's its own process, one that people come to by many avenues, sure, but it's certainly not something that you JUST decide on a whim.

  4. Heidi

    October 26, 2011

    I feel the same way when people ask us when we're having kids. Really, it's none of their business. I never ask people that question anymore or assume that what I think is right for me, would be right for them.

    I don't have any advice, but just feel the same about people asking questions/providing advice that isn't warrented. In your case I assume that people are just trying to be helpful, but I'm sure it gets old!

  5. melinda

    October 26, 2011

    I may have an unpopular thought here, but I try to think the best of people asking me these questions. If they're strangers or acquaintances, they're asking to make conversation and get to you know you better. If they're friends or family, they're interested in your life and your thinking process. A simple response like, "We're wading through the process now and have lots to talk about" is totally sufficient. I think it's natural to feel defensive when you're going through it, but I also think that having a prepped answer is good way to diffuse any discomfort on your part. People not familiar with the intricacies of the semantics or the details of your particular situation will ask because it's a natural topic to bring up in conversation and one of the more basic data points that tells people who you are. Maybe some people are judging, but but if you're doing what you think is right and you have a prepped answer, I think you'll feel better in those unavoidable interactions.

  6. Jen

    October 26, 2011

    We've been TTC for 8 months and are now on our second round of Clomid. My mom asked me if I should already be looking into adoption as well. It sort of frustrated me because even as much as I feel like that might be an option for us, I feel like I haven't exhausted all of the fertility treatment options we are willing to try. I know she's just looking out since I'm upset a lot of the time about the situation, but I feel like actually starting the research into adoption somehow makes me feel like I'm giving up on having a biological child.

  7. Anonymous

    October 26, 2011

    I apologize in advance for the length of my post, but I have a lot of feelings on this subject.

    I'm pregnant with my second IVF baby. (Both are from the same cycle.) Before we conceived, I found that many people were indeed well-meaning with the suggestion to adopt. But I agree that others carry a tone of judgment. The vast majority of these people have no adopted children of their own, but I think it soothes them in some small way to suggest that infertile couples adopt. You know … "There are so many parent-less children in this world. You're infertile, so the pieces fit together perfectly!" It becomes our responsibility to save these (very deserving) children.

    Often times it just doesn't work this way though. For us, one cycle of IVF was partially covered by insurance, amounting to about $4500 spent out-of-pocket. Compare this to the tens of thousands of dollars that adopting an infant usually entails. Not to mention the waiting, the uncertainty, the endless hoops a couple must jump through.

    Having a biological child is one of the strongest drives human beings have, and it sometimes seems that those who struggle to conceive are expected to apologize for it. I don't think it is an infertile couple's responsibility to adopt, however sad the state of foster care may be. (For the record, someday we hope to adopt, but we are nowhere near financially able at this time.)

    I read this response from an anonymous poster recently as I perused a mom board. The OP had asked why infertile couples don't "just adopt."

    "Adoption is a conscious decision to bring a child into your family. Adopted children are very much wanted children. There are no accidents in adoption. And, it can be a very expensive, lengthy, stressful, heart-breaking experience.

    There are social workers poking and prodding into every corner of your life. There are endless questions. There are follow-up social worker visits for years. There are court dates where you have to explain your motivations. Birth moms can and do change their minds. If you choose international adoption, there's travel to countries where cultures, languages, and even food are totally different and unfamiliar. There are "miscarriages" where prospective parents lose children to other adoptions or are denied adoptions. There's little or no background on the child, no way to know if she's healthy or been abused or what her medical background is."


    I wish you well on your journey to have a family! My heart goes out to you as I know the pain and loneliness of infertility.

  8. thelessthandomesticgoddess

    October 26, 2011

    @melinda: I don't think you raise an unpopular thought at all. I wondered if writing about this might make people not going through infertility or not TTC roll their eyes at the thought of walking on eggshells in front of the infertile lady. (Not suggesting you rolled your eyes, just saying that in a general sense.) But, I felt like I wanted to write it anyway to show people who don't know much about infertility what it's like for me to field questions about adoption.

    You're right, most people are innocently asking questions. Most people don't have ill intentions. I really like your suggestion about having a prepped answer for questions like this. I'm going to work on that.

  9. Britny

    October 26, 2011

    I do not have children and have not started TTC, so I cannot imagine the frustration you are going through. I can tell you that my husband and I have discussed that if we were unable to have our own biological children, we would not adopt. It seems somewhat selfish; however, we've just decided that we want to be parents to OUR children (if having biological children is ever a possibility).

    Long story short….You have every right to feel frustrated with questions about adoption. You have every right to decide that adoption is not the route for you. You are not alone in this desire to have YOUR own biological babies, and should never feel guilty about doing whatever is best for your family!!

    I wish you all the best on your journey and appreciate your openness with the good, bad, and ugly. You are an extremely strong woman, and I know things will turn out in the end.

  10. Molly

    October 26, 2011

    I have mixed feelings about this. My mother was adopted after my grandparents tried to conceive for several years, so part of me wants to champion adoption as a wonderful choice that benefits all involved. On the other hand, I crave *being pregnant*, and I think I would try for a long time to achieve that before considering adoption myself.

  11. @EndoJourney

    October 26, 2011

    Couple things:

    1) This is a really tough issue that we've come across as well. For me it's the "Just" that really adds judgment. It's as if there is a really easy answer and we're being so stupid as to not take it. As everyone has said adoption is not easy by any means so a "just" is not at all justified.

    Related to that, I don't think couples who choose not to adopt (or not to have kids ever) are selfish at all. What would be selfish is raising a child you did not fully want in the first place.

    2) And to share a story: recently a good family friend of ours became very concerned with our reality regarding fertility & my health. So they suggested, "Why don't you just harvest your eggs and then think about this later?" Before I could answer, they changed their minds and said, "No what's better is to just have a test tube baby. Then it is still your biological child but it will grow in a test tube and not in your body so your health doesn't become an issue." Ha!

    The point I'm trying to make is, people will say ALL kinds of things. Many of them mean well but almost all of them who aren't infertile have NO idea what they're talking about because this is so far from their reality. Sometimes having a pre-set answer and walking away is the best we can do as impossible as that is sometimes.

  12. Jodi

    October 26, 2011

    Well said. This is all very personal and what is right for someone else may or may not be right for you. You may one day want to adopt but for now you want to do fertility treatments and that is great for you! I think whatever is right for you is the right way to build your family. I hope that someday soon you will be a mom.

  13. melinda

    October 27, 2011

    I just wanted to add a quick note – This is YOUR journey and you shouldn't feel any pressure to look into steps or directions that you aren't ready for yet! I don't you're wrong for feeling frustrated by the questions, I think it's totally natural. I think you're also totally right to write about it and give people insights – the blog is a forum for educating people too. Lots of love to you as you continue on your journey!

  14. Geek in Heels

    October 27, 2011

    Like others have said before me, adoption is a very personal choice and oftentimes more difficult than fertility treatments. And while it is a very admirable route, it certainly isn't for everyone, and I strongly believe "why don't you just adopt?" should be up there with "so when are you going to have kids?" in terms of questions most people don't have any business asking.

    You've already been dealt a difficult hand, and you've been handling it very, very well. I don't think you should feel any pressure or guilt — let alone further frustrations — for taking things one step at a time, at a pace and in a direction that you believe is the best for you and your family. Stay strong!

  15. -J.Darling

    October 27, 2011

    Gotta agree with Geek in Heels and other posters.

    You hit the nail on the head:
    "not all infertile couples are meant to adopt. Just as not all fertile couples are meant to have children."

    As an adoptee (who has long accepted that having kids may not be in the cards for me) I have a deep down burning desire to adopt, probably similar to your desire to have a bio kid. I KNOW that even if I have a bio kid, I will be adopting at some point probably within the next 5 years.

    Some people believe that adopting a kid is like buying a car. You go into the social worker's office, write a check, and say "I want that one." But having had 1 failed paper pregnancy before, it's MUCH more invasive and deeply heartbreaking when it doesn't work out. It was very much like greiving a death, even though I trust it was all for the best. Even 7 years later, there is a dull ache in my heart when I think of her smiling face. But I digress…

    On the upside, adopting isn't as 'scary' today as it once was. For example, medical records on domestic adoptions MUST be included now. It's the law. My parents (who adopted in the 1970's and 1980's) were flying blind w/ closed adoptions on both my bro and I. And yes, there is a history on us – even in a closed adoption, the social worker works with the bio parents to include a document about their history. I'm not sure how optional this report is, but both my brother and I have one. There are also lots of loans and tax incentives available that aren't offered for infertility treatments to ease the burden significantly.

    But, like most things in life, I feel it should be done by those who have a passion for us (adopted kids) when the timing is right for them. I'd encourage adoption any day and I'm glad to be an example that it's not always the horror story people see on Jerry Springer. 😉 It's just those of us who had a good experience aren't as interesting on TV and books. 😉

    I like you're "we're discussing it" answer is gracious and fair.

    I have faith that you'll have the family you want when everything is right – no matter how that family is obtained. Hang in there.

  16. honey my heart

    October 27, 2011

    i agree that adoption is a privilege and for those who make that choice. just because a couple is going through infertility treatments doesn't mean that adoption is the answer. i wish for you and l the best 🙂

  17. Msimon

    October 27, 2011

    I'm sorry that you're frustrated by these seemingly well-meaning comments, obviously you and your husband know what is best for you both as a family and you are absolutely within your right to want to have a child biologically…

    My husband and his brother were both adopted at birth and grew up loved, supported and completely comfortable with the fact that their birth moms were unable to care for them in the way that their "parents" did…I also know that my desire to raise children far outweighs my desire to have a biological child, so if my body won't cooperate then we will most certainly adopt or take in foster children.

  18. shutterbugwife

    October 27, 2011

    Man these are some awesome comments! I agree with so much of what others have said. I feel like I since I am having trouble getting pregnant, people expect me to adopt. Like it's my responsibility to help a child that needs a home. Do people that aren't infertile realize that they too can adopt?

    The previous commenters are right when they say that people don't realize how much time and energy adopting takes. It's not an "easy" way to have children. I incredibly admire anyone who adopts and we are considering it as well but it amazes me how nonchalant people are about that option.

    Also, Lol at Layla. "what IS this adoption you speak of?" Perfect.

  19. Michael & Virginia

    October 27, 2011

    Kind of a long story – but there is a point, I promise.

    My husband and I spent years TTC, and finally after finding the perfect mix of drugs and procedures – we were pregnant! Us (and the rest of our bubble world) were ecstatic. We had a complicated pregnancy, our son was born early and passed away a few months after he was born. Almost immediately after he passed away, well meaning people started telling us not to worry – that we would have another one, as though having another one could replace him. Still more well meaning people encouraged us to adopt.

    We went to an adoption class, and it just didn't feel right at the time – and we eventually spent another year TTC. Beautiful baby boy #2 comes around, early but healthy and happy. He wasn't 4 months old before people started asking us when we were going to have our next one!

    Fast forward a year – we live in a new part of the country where are insurance benefits aren't the same and the same procedures we used to get pregnant are not financially an option for us. We have been asked millions of times when we are going to have another child and our responses have been both ends of the extreme depending on the day. What they don't realize is that we started on the adoption road once again, 5 months ago — 5 months of parenting classes and in home meetings and social workers invading every aspect of our lives and who keep giving us the run around. We have to keep reminding ourselves that the end result WILL be worth it. And to be honest, it feels no different than spending years injecting myself with hormones and having countless doctors invading every aspect of my body. The hormones still run rampant, the stress is still there, and the outcome is still the same.

    If I tell someone that we are adopting, they ask why I don't try to have another child of "your own" — and when we are going through the gruelling infertility processes, people ask why we don't "just adopt". Half a dozen one way, six another.

    My point? If you want a child, get a child, however you have to get one. If you spend your time taking into consideration other people, you will live your lives as closet parents with no children to love. Your only responsibility is to build the life that you have always dreamed of having!

    My dream? Dirty dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, constant laundry, giggling coming from a child in another room, and the smacking sound that a child's feet make as they plow across the floor – heading straight for you. Whose business is it how I turn MY dream into a reality, anyway?

  20. thelessthandomesticgoddess

    October 27, 2011

    @Geek in Heels: Jenny, I agree with everything you wrote. Very well said. And thank you for the constant love and kind words. xo

    @J. Darling: Thanks, J. It means a lot to get your perspective on this. I think part of me is scared of adoption. We don't know enough about it yet, and I'm frightened of being let down more than we have already been let down. You and your husband will be amazing parents one day!

  21. Anonymous

    October 28, 2011

    Long time reader (since Weddingbee!), first time commenter here. I just want to say THANK YOU for posts like these. My husband and I have been struggling with IF. We've slowly told our friends and family what we've been going through, and have received many pieces of well-meaning, but sometimes frustrating, unsolicited advice: "just relax," "just adopt," etc. While my husband and I are in this together, IF is very isolating.

    Truthful, eloquent posts like these make me feel like we're not alone. And for that, I'm grateful for talented people like you who give us a voice. Thank you.

  22. hemborgwife

    October 28, 2011

    At this point of my marriage my husband and I are not sure when or if we will have a child but did discuss our views on adoption before we were married. I think that adoption is something you feel compelled to do for various personal reasons and should be treated as such not as a last ditch choice as should conceiving a child be done for the right reasons. People saying that you should just adopt I am sure as others have said are doing it to be supportive or maybe since they do not know what else to say but they should really think that it is a persons life they are talking about.

  23. Krista

    October 30, 2011

    I think some people are ignorant of what adoption entails.

    But I think that if you want to have a child, you have to ask yourself: do I want a biological child of my own, or do I just want to become a parent? Adopting is fulfilling the goal of being a parent to a child, whereas fertility treatments are about becoming a parent of a biological child.

    I am not passing judgement. I'm just saying that's what I see it as. Neither is more right, it's just what it is for you.

    On another note, I know two people who were adopted. And I know a friend who adopted an older child. For the adopted people, I don't know why their parents adopted them, but they are just slightly younger than me. At that time, fertility treatments were not as accessible, not as successful, and more costly than even now. For the parent who adopted, they just always wanted to adopt an older child who needed a home. It took them 15 months to process the adoption of a 9-year-old.

    But it sounds like you need an answer to deflect the question for now. Try saying "we're also considering that option, which is also costly and time consuming". Or if you're not considering it, say something like "we'll consider that option down the road". You need to get out of that conversation ASAP because it sounds like you know some people who do not understand how loaded that question is.

  24. thelessthandomesticgoddess

    October 30, 2011

    @Anonymous: THANK YOU. Seriously, thank you. You may never know how much your comment means to me. My husband and I actually teared up reading it.

  25. Grace

    October 31, 2011

    I think adoption is a much more sticky issue than most people realize. In a domestic adoption, chances are good that you will be getting a child with issues: perhaps removed from their home for abuse/neglect, perhaps just with a much higher risk of genetic problems (since in general the functional keep their children).

    International adoptions are even more problematic: I wrote a post about why I am opposed to them (at least from poor countries) here: http://opinionationblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-international-adoption-is-wicked.html

    In general, while adoption can be a wonderful thing, it is ultimately founded on tragedy and suffering, which may cause repercussions later. Having a biological child is in most ways simpler.

    Please don't let people's ignorance bother you: you should do whatever you feel most comfortable with. I am sorry you are having a hard time.

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