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LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Paths to Parenthood

When we couldn't conceive, our first instinct was to try treatments. It wasn't that adoption wasn't on our radar. We had even talked about adoption prior to ever trying to conceive. But when those first problems started cropping up, our choice was to sign over our bodies and hormone levels to the nearest fertility clinic rather than start the paperwork at one of the numerous adoption agencies. And if you asked me why, I don't really have a good answer.

Because I wanted to experience pregnancy?

Because I wanted control over pre-birth conditions?


Cultural expectations?

Really, I'm not entirely sure why we pointed our feet so firmly in the direction of our clinic. It certainly wasn't something we truly discussed. It was just something that naturally happened.

In Embryo Culture, Beth Kohl asks an interesting question: "But what are the essential differences between us? Do people with a Welsh ancestry carry an adoption impulse, while Germans favour ART? Is a left-brained gal more likely than a right-brained one to seek out technological treatments? Beyond issues of affordability and access, how can some people resign themselves so easily to one option or the other?" (p. 64).

In other words, is it something preprogrammed within us that sets our limits or chooses our paths to parenthood? Are we predestined, when facing infertility to try one path first over another? To walk away from treatments altogether or stay for a ninth round of IVF?

I've said it before, but I've never been one who put much meaning behind first choices vs. best choices. The first thing we try is not necessarily the best fit nor does first mean "most desired." There were plenty of men who came before Josh--a veritable parade of losers and mismatches--men I tried out because they seemed like a good idea at the time. But ultimately, the man who is the most important, the one who became my husband and became the most desired and most loved--was not my first choice. Or even my tenth choice or thirtieth choice. He was the end of a long twisty road of choices that brought us together. And I look at my children--present and future--in the same way. The first things we tried weren't the best, but the actions that brought us together were the most desired.

But it's an interesting thought that the paths we choose are somehow part of who we are starting at birth--starting before fertility is even on the table or choices need to be made. Your thoughts? I guess it boils down to whether our impulses, our gut decisions, are more nature or more nurture (since few things in life tend to be one and not the other).

Don't think that the irony is lost on me that I'm writing this one day after writing about race and ethnicity. It's always interesting when lines in the book that you're reading crash into things happening in real life.


Cece said...

Well. Let's see. I'm German/Swedish/Scotish and my DH is German/Jewish.

We both firmly are wanting our own bio childern, and honestly, at this point, adoption is a last resort. I've never actaully asked my DH why he is willing to go through these treatments (except to say that he supports me 100% in whatever I decide, you know, since most of this crap is affecting MY body). But for me? I love it that you can totally see that my mom is my mom. We look the same. We act the same. My DH is basically a clone of his father. I love to joke about his big head and how I should have measured it before I decided to say yes when he asked me to marry him.

Would I love someone else child as my own if I chose to adopt? I know I would. 100% sure. But my dream family has my DH's eyes, my hair and his smile.

I do know that his brother is in the process of adopting his wife's 5 year old daughter - and my MIL said that she couldn't call her Grandma, because she wasn't her 'real' Grandma. Sigh.

I don't even know if that helps answer your question.

Baby Steps to Baby Shoes said...

Lately I have been wondering if there is an element of difference in this choice that is attributable to gender as well. I don't know if it's how DH was raised or his genetics or if it's his gender that makes him much less focused on the desire for a biochild.

Dianne/Flutter said...

You know I started to answer and I started sharing all of my thoughts about adopting. So, I think I will need to share that on my own blog soon. Obviously this is not the spot to share them.

But, probably nurture if I am honest. Since I am my parents biological child, and they have raised me. How can you be completely 100% sure?

journey to junior said...

i went through this same exact thought process when i decided to marry DH. WHY was i getting married? WHY couldn't we just stay boyfriend/girlfriend? was it societal pressure? was it truly what i wanted?

i could never really answer it 100%. i certainly have not second guessed my decision, but aside from the fact that my DH was absolutely made for me, i'll never know 100% why i got married.

i have struggled with this same issue now during our IF journey. some days i want to throw it all out the window and move to adoption. other days i can't think about anything else but being pregnant. if i continue with fertility treatments in the hopes of becoming pregnant, is it because it is a biological drive, a societal drive, or what i TRULY want?

if i were to guess, i'd say my ongoing battle with IF is an 80% nurture thing, 20% nature thing.

Lori said...

For us, it came down to cold, hard risk analysis. And warm, touchy-feely intuitive guidance.

We started out wanting biological children. But the costs were high and the chances were slim.

We researched and found out that our chances were pretty good at becoming parents via adoption. It wasn't about numbers or a place in line -- it was about who we were and what we had to offer (and I don't mean material things and trips to Disneyland).

We had just enough money to take one more shot at parenthood. So we had to decide if it was more important to be bio parents or to be parents.

The way we perceive and deal with risk is probably both nature and nurture.

Ditto about us listening to and following our inner voice that led us the "right" way.

Starfish said...

All my life growing up I was TERRIFIED to be pregnant. Everyone said how beautiful it was and I just kept picturing the Alien movies. So when infertility raised it's ugly head, my mom commented that she thought maybe it was a subconcious self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe, who knows.

So why did I pursue treatments anyway? Because 1) I didn't want to let my husband down and 2)I don't like to fail. At anything.

Bea said...

It's interesting what babysteps says above. I was about to wonder whether guys were more attached to biology, as women have been conditioned/bred to nurture no matter what. Having said that, guys don't have to give up the pregnancy experience in the same way.

Perhaps it's more about how individuals face problems than about reproduction specifically? Some people "roll with it" more easily, or are more comfortable moving away from the norm, others will grab onto an idea terrier-like until the bitter end.

(I don't mean to make that sound unflattering to those who stick with treatments. I'm more of a terrier myself.)


Baby Step said...

My husband will not consider anything but a biological child.

He has one already from a prior relationship, and I am an active step-mom. Because she came into my life when she was 4 years old, there is a part of me that feels like I did already adopt...

I have such a strong desire to get pregnant, give birth, look into my new baby's eyes for the first time. I have envisioned it for SO LONG. So adoption probably isn't the option for us, although I never say never (if we have to go through several more years of IF, who knows what we will decide).

I was told 2 years ago that the reason I have never been pregnant is severe male factor. I was ready to go straight to donor sperm. My husband went into outer orbit, saying as long as he has ONE living sperm, we are not using some other guys sperm...he can't get passed the "other guy" involved. When I later found out that my egg quality may also be in question, I asked him if he would be willing to use donor eggs, and he said, NO WAY. He married me because he LOVES me and he wants his child to be 1/2 me, and 1/2 him and no other way. He wants his baby to be goofy like me, smart like me, pretty like me, blah, blah, blah (his words, not mine).

So at this point, IVF with my eggs and his sperm is our only option. Wish us luck!

Adrienne said...

I don't think I was pre-programmed, but maybe that's because I had a conscious experience that drove me to look at treatment first (although it didn't eliminate the thought of adoption should all not work out well).

My parents divorced when I was young and my father remarried. I was made VERY aware of my "step" relationship to both my stepmother and her family. A comment made by my stepmother: "I don't have to love you. You're not my blood." It left an indelible mark on me. Not that I would feel that way about an adopted child - I would love any child that I brought into my family, no matter the manner. But my fear was that other family members of mine would feel that way. And would hurt my adopted child in ways I couldn't prevent.

I haven't had to make a choice about adoption yet, so I don't know that my experience would ultimately turn me against it. Adoption seems like a beautiful thing to me, but not everyone sees it that way.

Grad3 said...

Excellent question... I think that I am going to have to think about it and post on my own blog. It's something I never really considered before. Hmmm...

Tina said...

I think, for me, my choices were made out of several things: wanting to do so right by my potential children (far better than my sister and brother have done), giving my DH and the entire family someone special to love, not wanting my inability to have children to be what won "the game"; etc. Some are more selfish reasons...others not.

We have always thought about adoption...but it never came to the fore-front since my first round of Clomid/IUI worked and the PG was uneventful. After the m/c's happened, the whole idea never came back to me because I just wasn't prepared for it. Now, I am not sure if it will ever be in the fore-front. Adoption can be a wonderful thing...and in some cases, a nightmare. If it comes to our minds, it needs to be for the right, we are taking our time. That decision would affect more than just us as a couple.

Erin said...

My husband is older than I am and had a vasectomy a long time ago (he has two grown daughters). When we got married I knew we wanted a child and I never thought about how complicated it would be. We started trying about 3 years ago and we decided to go the most cost effective route by doing IUI with donor sperm. There was nothing wrong with me fertility wise (that we knew of) so we thought it would be easy. My husband had no problem with donor sperm because he knew he would love the baby no matter what. Well 6 IUI's later, and a failed adoption 4 days after birth, we are now on the IVF roller coaster using his sperm that were surgically retrieved. We figured that if we are going to take it this far we are going to take it all the way. For us it has nothing to do with culture, just that we want to have a baby. After the failed adoption I knew I could never go through that again so this is our last chance and have agreed if it doesn’t happen through IVF then we don’t have the strength or resources to go any further.

Ellen K. said...

Timely topic. : )

DH and I have recently decided to try IVF a couple of times. If that doesn't work, we will find meaning in our lives without children.

I've never felt anything so strong as a "calling" to motherhood, but part of my wish to try IVF did come from a sort of internal calling. This summer I noticed that I was spending a lot more time thinking about my ancestors, tracing family resemblances, and feeling proud of my lineage and genes. D. is the "last of the line." I've also noticed, with a lot of sadness, that certain relatives are not exactly open to the notions of "non-blood" family, as seen recently in both divorces and adoptions. Those factors, combined with my very strong feelings about the importance of prenatal health and having a full medical background, contributed to our decision.

Tracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy said...

I've continued with fertility treatments far longer than I would have chosen for my inate desire to please... As a child, I did not suffer well under criticism, so now that I'm a grown up and married to a man that desperately wants to perpetuate his genes, I feel the need to do whatever it takes to make it happen. But now that I've forfeited a year, my body, and lots and lots of wasted moments, I've gotten to the end of the IF journey and remember that I need to please me, too.

I've always wanted to adopt. I've never really felt the desire to be pregnant or perpetuate my gene pool for any other reason than curiousity. Maybe it's because my parents were so screwed up (God love them), or because I had such a screwy childhood (Mom is on marriage #3, 2 older step siblings that I'm very close to, in spite of no blood relation and Dad is on marriage #4 with 3 half siblings, all of whom I'm close to.) I guess for me, the parenting is more important than the breeding.

Searching said...

We are still warily watching the roller coaster ride of baby-making in any and all forms from the far-away sidelines. The whole thing frankly scares me to death. I am afraid of what my body would do to a developing baby, losing a pregnancy, delivering early and dealing with all the preemie issues, having to make a choice as to resuscitate a 25 weeker, making the awful choice to remove life support, having a child die at any age, having an adoption fail, having the adoption go almost all the way through and at 6mo just before it's all legal having the bmom change her mind. That's not even counting all the scary parenting things, which I could deal with once there was a healthy-ish baby in my arms. But I do want a baby, very badly. Just kinda stuck in a paralyzed position for now.

I long for a little one that looks like my husband. He looks like his bro and his bro's baby looks like him, so in turn looks like my hubby. I love seeing her expressions and mannerisms that are like my husband. Those biological connections are amazing. I want that. But not sure that will happen. I'm pretty much hoping God drops a baby from the sky into my lap for me to cuddle and love to pieces. I will love any baby that is meant to be mine, I just don't know how to go about it.

It's interesting to see all the responses, esp since we're still on the fence (and no children ever is one of our heart-wrenching options as well. Makes me nauseated even thinking about it).

LJ said...

We just got that book, I'm looking forward to reading it.

Kami said...

I think most of who we are is programmed in our genes - at least the basic template. How those genes are expressed is a matter of nurture and that can have its impact too.

For me, once I decided now was the time to have children I always wanted to get pregnant, give birth, breast feed, etc. I started teach childbirth education classes about 2 years before I started TTC. After being pregnant for 7 months with the son that died, that desire was strengthened even more.

It has been heartbreaking to move to DE, but that still gives me the opportunity to be pg, give birth, breast feed etc.

Plus I am a control freak. IF treatment is a real test of that. I can't imagine adoption. Not that I am saying "never", you just never know the kind of compromises you would be willing to make until you are faced with them.