Once you are diagnosed with infertility the next question is “Now what?”
For many, the next step is visiting an infertility specialist. This series of appointments will include testing for you and your partner to determine an explanation for the delay in pregnancy or repeated pregnancy loss. This workup should involve both of you, as infertility affects men and women equally. Once you have completed all the testing, your physician should explain the options available to you based on your individual test results. Infertility can be caused by a number of factors and the course of treatment varies widely.
The treatment options available to you may include Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) including the familiar procedure of In Vitro Fertilization (known as IVF). This is the big dog of infertility treatments and involves stimulating egg production in the ovaries, surgical removal of the eggs, combining the egg with sperm to achieve fertilization and then reinserting the fertilized eggs into the woman. Another common and less invasive (surgery free) treatment is Intrauterine Insemination (known as IUI). In this procedure, the sperm is inserted into the woman at the optimal time for conception. Medications, including injections, are prescribed in many infertility treatment procedures. Medications may also be used alone to assist with conception.
Depending on the specific infertility issue other treatment options include using donor sperm and/or donor eggs. This process involves screening candidates and selecting donors based on non-identifying information. If both sperm and egg donation is used the conceived child will have no genetic relation to the parents, even though the woman will carry and give birth to the child. If only donor sperm is used, the child will share a genetic relation to the mother only, and if only donor eggs are used, the child will share a genetic relation to the father only. Regardless of genetic connection the child will be legally born to the parents as if fully biologically related.
Surrogacy is also an option if the woman’s body is unable to carry an infant to term and can be done using the couple’s sperm and egg or donor sperm and/or eggs.
If you are just learning about an infertility diagnosis, adoption may be the very last thing you want to think about right now. And that’s ok! Surrendering the dream to conceive, carry, birth and breastfeed your biologically related child is not an easy thing to do. It takes time, grieving and eventually healing before you can choose to walk in a different direction towards parenthood.
I know because I needed time to grieve and for healing to take place.
Adoption is the legal transfer of parental rights of a child to parents that did not conceive and give birth to the child. The adopting parents legally and permanently become the child’s mother and father as if they had given birth to her and the child assumes all rights of a biological child to her adoptive parents. The child does not return to her first family once an adoption is finalized properly. Adoption can be a blessing to a child in need of a loving family and to a family in need of a child to love. Both the child and the couple have a deficiency in their lives. Together they form a family and in turn those needs are met in a beautiful way. I have experienced the blessing of personally choosing this route to become a mother and the outcome has been incredibly amazing.
Although adoption is a miraculous way to form a family, it does not come without expense to the child and the adopting family. There may be painful issues that will surface as the child examines her adoption and conversations that must be explored that the parents may be uncomfortable with. These are issues to carefully consider when thinking about adoption. Yes, it’s a beautiful blending of a family, but it doesn’t come without loss to all involved.
If you decide that adoption may be an option for your family, there are many avenues to consider. These options include domestic newborn adoption, international adoption and adoption from foster care or foster to adopt. To learn more about each of these avenues to adoption check out my section on Adoption and the different Types of Adoption. The questions that arise when considering adoption are many and may evoke sensitivities from your infertility struggles. Adoption also requires you to make difficult choices along the way and creates an environment of emotional ups and downs. As an adoptive mother twice over I have asked myself those tough questions, made those difficult choices and have ridden the emotional rollercoasters along the way. I have also learned so much about adoption and the different ways adoptive families are formed and would love to answer any questions you may have about adoption or the process! Please do not hesitate to Contact Me with questions; I would love to hear from you!
Foster Care may not always be the best option for couples still grieving their infertility. It requires a stable, healthy couple to support a child in the foster care system. However, it is an option and it can be done if you are emotionally ready for the challenges it may bring.
Children who enter foster care are there due to abuse, neglect or because their first families are not able to provide for them the care and support they need at that time. Foster care is different from adoption because when children enter the foster care system it begins as a temporary situation and usually the plan is to return the children to their home once the situation has been improved. The foster parents’ role is to provide a safe, stable environment for the children to live in while their parents remediate their issues and work to provide that safe, stable environment for their children in their own home. Once this is accomplished the children will hopefully return home. Sometimes foster care placements do result in adoption when the children cannot return home, however this is not the goal of foster care and becoming a foster parent does not guarantee an adoption will result. Being a foster parent is taxing and rewarding all in the same day. I have welcomed several children into my home on a temporary basis as a foster parent and would love to answer any questions you may have about the process. Check out my section on Foster Care to learn more.
Embryo adoption is something that most people have never heard of or may not fully understand because it is a fairly new concept. It can be included in both the infertility treatment and the adoption category because it involves both, but is unique from each.
An embryo is the result of a sperm fertilizing an egg in an in vitro setting (the lab) and forming a baby in the earliest stages of development. Sometimes, when a couple pursues Assisted Reproductive Technologies and produces embryos, extra embryos are created that are not able to be used right away. The unused embryos are frozen in the event that they are needed for future treatments. If the couple decides not to use the frozen embryos for any number of reasons, there are questions that arise about what to do with them. Embryo adoption is one answer.
Essentially, the embryo is fully biologically related to the first set of parents pursing infertility treatments and then adopted by the next set of parents. The embryos are inserted into the adopting woman’s body using some of the ART support measures in hopes that a pregnancy and a baby will result. The adoptive mother gets to carry birth and even breastfeed her adopted child. This process is unique from traditional infertility treatments because the embryo is adopted and unique from traditional adoption because the child is birthed by the adoptive mother. For more information about Embryo Adoption check out NightLight Adoptions.
Embryo adoption, donor options and other infertility treatments raise ethical concerns and decisions to be made. I don’t particularly support or oppose any of the available alternatives to natural conception. I do feel that each person should prayerfully consider their options and choose wisely before pursuing them.
Child Free Living
Have you ever considered the opportunities you could have to impact children’s lives in a positive way that would not otherwise be possible if you were occupied raising children?
Choosing to live child free does not mean you will never have an impact on a child’s life. On the contrary, you could have valuable opportunities to reach children in your community, neighborhood, church or even your own family. Without the responsibility and time consuming demands of parenthood, you could help children who need a person in their lives in ways their own families are not willing or able to.
Another thing to consider is the lifestyle that may be possible if you opt not to bring children into your family. The cost of raising a child is well over $200,000 in the current economy and that’s a lot of money that could be used elsewhere, whether it’s raising your own living standards or to help others. There would be more time to pursue hobbies and interests. Travel would be more convenient. The opportunity to sleep in on weekends and go out to restaurants on your own time, lingering over a meal, would be possible. And you would have more time and energy to spend with your partner, having uninterrupted conversations and intimacy.
Choosing to live child free is not the same as being childless. It’s a choice you willingly make. It’s not simply accepting the fact that you can’t have children; it’s embracing the fact and refusing to let that reality ruin your life. It’s freedom in your thinking and living to make the most of your days, even when the plan has been changed.
To the person facing infertility, it is my desire that you will find hope in the options available to you. This diagnosis is not the end of a dream. It may be the beginning of a journey towards a miracle.
Interested in the choices we made on our Infertility journey?
This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Please see a medical professional if you think you are dealing with infertility or a medical condition that could be causing infertility.