Many people in America think that life can be planned to perfection. They envision getting that college degree, finding a good job, marrying, buying a home, and having children. It seems a standard part of the American Dream to believe in the possibility of a home where children with your eyes and your husband's dimples run around in the backyard chasing the dog. It comes as quite a shock then for many couples and singles-by-choice, when most of these items line-up perfectly in the plan, except the children just don't come.
The inability to create life naturally remains a struggle, a dream that may be lost. Infertility; almost never expected or anticipated, can be a shocking blow to any marriage or individual. A deep sense of loss accompanies a proclamation by family doctors that one of the couple is infertile. With this loss comes normal grief and its stages: denial, anger, bargaining depression, and acceptance. After the initial shock, it may be deemed by the couple to be a poor diagnosis and other specialists may be sought out. Thus begins a long journey to find the way to resolve the infertility dilemma. This journey can take one from infertility treatments, surrogate mothers, to eventually adoption.
Adoption usually only occurs after the couple has had time to resolve the feelings of loss associated with being infertile. Most of the options that infertile couples initially seek out are medical solutions like fertility drugs, surgery, artificial insemination, or donor eggs. Some procedures mix the sperm and egg outside the mother-to-be's body and then implant the egg back in the uterus. These procedures can be invasive and embarrassing for both the male and the female, especially if the male must produce a sperm sample on demand to use in the procedure. The costs are usually high in finances, time, and emotional fortitude as well. Some procedures are painful. The success rate may be low: between 20 to 60%. The risks of medical procedures are multiple births or miscarriages. But, the medical procedures remain very popular options for infertile couples that still seek to reproduce their own lineage.
Only later, after a few years of trying the medical methods and failing, might a couple seek other options that require either surrogate mothers or adoption agencies. Another reason people explore this option is that the mother of the couple seeking surrogacy may have a medical condition that does not allow her to carry a baby safely to term. Non-traditional families may also seek surrogacy.
Surrogate mothers are females who agree to carry a baby for term and give birth to it with the intention of turning it over to adoptive parents. This type of assisted reproduction can have legal ramifications, if not done properly, and lawyers are often involved to write up a contract that the surrogate mother must sign. This arrangement is sometimes referred to as "contracted motherhood." The mother will usually receive a fee for carrying a baby and delivering it to the new parents.
Finally, many couples opt for adoption. Once a couple has come to terms with their infertility and have faced the loss of reproducing their own offspring, they may start focusing on their goal of having a family rather than creating a child. This generally opens their minds to the possibility that there is a child out there for them, just not their own biological offspring. With many agencies advocating open adoption these days, both couples seeking children and birth mothers have a chance to meet and get to know one another. This allows prospective parents the ability to receive information on the genetic pool that the child comes from. It gives birth mothers some peace of mind knowing their children are being placed with the parents of their choosing, and often, the adoptive parents are willing to help the birth mother in paying for and obtaining prenatal and postnatal medical care.
Although being told that one is infertile is a devastating loss that may seem unbearable at times, there is hope for infertile couples to achieve their dreams of having a family of their own. It's important to be knowledgeable of all the options out there and find the one that is right for your situation, and to allow yourself the time to work through each emotional stage in the journey. With determination and focus, a family may be ‘born' in many ways.
Martha Osborne is an adoption advocate, adoptive mom and adoptee. In 2005, Martha was awarded the Congressional Angel in Adoption award for her tireless work in advocating for older, special needs and waiting children. She is also the editor of the online adoption publication, RainbowKids.com , the leading online resource for international adoption and waiting children, now in its second decade of online advocacy. http://www.rainbowkids.com