When it comes to fertility treatments vs. adoption: is there a right choice? Some people seem to think so.
“Well, if you can’t get pregnant, you could always just adopt.” It’s the hurtful line every person struggling with fertility has heard a few too many times. To those who don’t struggle with fertility issues, a child is just a child. Adopting is the selfless way out of infertility, and spending endless money on fertility treatments is a selfish waste.
We understand. We’ve seen many patients go down that road. We know that well-meaning people may suggest adoption. We know that these suggestions may leave you feeling alternately guilty and angry. There’s no right choice when you struggle with fertility. Before you make the decision, or if you’re looking for a response to those well-meaning busybodies, consider the following.
Are Infertility Treatments Selfish?
If you’ve shared your infertility treatment plans with others, you might have been shocked to hear them respond that you are being selfish. After all, there are kids out there looking for homes. Shouldn’t you adopt one of them instead of bringing another child into this world?
If you’re looking for a quick response to shut the discussion down, consider responding that your fertility decisions are no one’s business but your own. If you want to go a little farther, consider a few key bullet points:
- Children are not puppies. It’s not easy or cheap to adopt, and adoption invites significant oversight into your personal life and choices.
- People never tell those who easily have children that it’s “selfish” to do so. Why is it that only infertile people hear this hurtful line?
- Adoption isn’t the pure and simple choice many people believe it is. It raises issues of cultural appropriation if you adopt abroad. Even if you adopt an American child, that decision is rife with challenges.
Infertility: A Road You Can’t Understand Till You’ve Walked It
It’s easy to judge people who invest thousands in fertility treatments. They’re selfish. They’re wasteful. They’re endangering their bodies. They’re prioritizing something that doesn’t matter -- genetics -- over something that does -- the love you can feel for any child you raise as your own.
We understand that these words are hurtful. We’re here to tell you they come from a place of ignorance. You are not selfish for considering infertility treatments. Reproduction is a hallmark of what makes us human. Evolution has programmed us to desperately desire our own children. If you want to have a genetic child, you deserve that opportunity.
What About Your Health?
People who dismiss fertility treatments as “selfish” may not realize something: infertility is more than just an inconvenience. It’s often the product of very real health concerns. You deserve to treat health problems, even if getting pregnant is a side effect of treatment. Some of the many health issues that can cause infertility include:
- Uterine polyps and uterine fibroids
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Low testosterone
- Endocrine disorders that disrupt hormone function
- Structural abnormalities
- Infections, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Autoimmune disorders
- Sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction
It’s no more selfish to treat fertility-related health issues than it is to treat cancer, the flu, or any other ailment.
Adoption as a Giving Option? Not Always
The notion that adoption is selfless is heavily misguided. We wholeheartedly support adoption when all parties are happy about it. But adoption is increasingly the subject of controversy. Some issues include:
- International adoption: Other countries have different laws governing adoption. Parents may not willingly give up their children. Sometimes children spend months in unhealthy conditions solely to ensure that Western parents can adopt a child. Some advocates also have expressed concern about the ethics of taking a child from one culture and raising him or her in another culture -- often without ever educating the child about his or her native culture.
- The difficulties of dealing with biological mothers: Many families choose open adoptions. That’s a wonderful choice, because it allows the woman who carried and birthed your child to still see him or her. It’s also a difficult choice that can trigger resentment, family conflict, and endless challenges. There’s no reason to think that taking a child from his or her biological family is always right.
- Some adoptees wish they weren’t adopted. So if you’re adopting because you think your child will one day be grateful and appreciate your sacrifice, your choice is heavily misguided.
- Some children are adopted from foster care. These children often come from abusive families, and have mixed feelings about leaving their families. Some foster children do not want to be adopted.
Adoption is never a simple matter of plucking a child from an abusive situation. The process takes months, and sometimes even years. And it’s not always clear that a child’s life is better after adoption.
The Cost of Adoption
It’s not legal to buy a child, but it sure can feel like it when you go through the adoption process. Adoption typically costs at least $30,000 in legal, home study, and other fees. Compared to the few hundred dollars that some fertility treatments cost -- such as ovulation-stimulating drugs -- adoption costs are exorbitant.
Not everyone can afford adoption. Even when they can, they might prefer to spend their money on creating a biological child, thereby avoiding the thorny ethical and legal issues adoption triggers.
Not Everyone Can Adopt
Adoption agencies work diligently to ensure that adoptive parents are fit to be parents. But they exclude many good parents. Each agency establishes its own values, and those values don’t necessarily comport with what ‘good parenting’ means. Some require parents to have a large home. Others won’t adopt to LGBT partners or single parents. Some require that parents not have any medical conditions or a history of mental health issues.
This means that many perfectly wonderful people who would be excellent parents cannot adopt. People who insist that you should adopt make a number of unfair assumptions about the ease with which you can do so. Adoption is not always the best option. For many, it’s not an option at all. If you decide to pursue adoption, we’ll support you. Until then, we’re happy to help you choose the right infertility treatment for your family.
And remember: that choice is not a mutually exclusive one. You can adopt and have a biological child!