Adoption and Loss

I recently wrote about adopting after infertility. In the article, I focused mostly on the adoptive parents and the need to resolve the loss of the biological “would be child” in order to form a healthy relationship with an adoptive child. Certainly infertility and pregnancy loss are significant.

What I neglected to address are the two other primary losses in adoption. Adoption is “born” from loss. The baby or child loses their natural family, the family with whom they share blood, dna, appearance, personal traits, culture, etc. They miss the opportunity to grow up in their “rightful” place in the world, with their family of origin intact. That there may be some gains with their adoptive family is true. That original loss is still undeniable. (Ask any adoptee who has to do a “Family Tree” assignment for school, or needs crucial family health information during a medical crisis).

Regardless of circumstances, the Mother carrying the child loses a baby who is part of her. This is a gut-wrenching decision to have to make (and I have read quite a few accounts of women feeling they were coerced). Most mothers experience a range of emotions around this and are often judged, shamed, forgotten or worse. This starts when they are visibly pregnant and met with the usual barrage of oblivious pregnancy questions: When are you due, do you have a name picked out, is this your first, etc.

While pregnant, our daughter’s first mother frequently referred to our daughter as my and my husband’s child. I had a hard time with this. I couldn’t quite trust it was for real: we’d had so many losses. It wasn’t that we didn’t trust her words or intentions, it was that we found it hard to trust it would work out and we’d finally become parents. Looking back after 4.5 years, I think she was not only getting us ready to be parents, she was preparing herself to let go. Adoption is 3, 4, 5 layers deep. There’s no getting around it and it does everyone involved a disservice to even try.

I don’t presume to know what it’s like to place a child for adoption or be adopted. (I’m an adoptive mom). I do know I want what’s best for our daughter and have always felt that the more people in her life that genuinely love and care about her the better. We don’t “own” her and can’t claim her love simply by raising her as our “own” even though we love her wholeheartedly. Transracial adoption adds another layer and cuts through any pretense of being a “matching family”. The reality is our daughter has two mothers and yes, two fathers, which is a whole other topic for another time.

Disclaimer: The information in this article should not be used in lieu of professional medical advice, assessment, diagnosis or treatment. The use of this website does not imply or establish any type of therapeutic relationship. Further, any links in this article are for referential or informational purposes only.


Adopting After Infertility

adopting-after-infertility-imageby Raina Cowan on April 29, 2017

In the film Lion, there is a scene in which the main character “Saroo” ( really “Sheru”, meaning “lion” in Hindi, played by Dev Patel) about to embark on a trip back to India to find his biological family, tells his adoptive mom Sue (played by Nicole Kidman) that he’s sorry she wasn’t able to have “children of her own”. To this she replies that they could have had biological children but chose not to because she and her husband both believed there were already “enough people in the world”.

Most people pursuing adoption do not have such noble aims, although many may have thought positively about adoption prior to their own reproductive challenges. Most simply want to parent a child and didn’t realize the path to parenthood would be so complicated. This is not to say that some people don’t have difficult pregnancies or terrifying medical ordeals bringing a child into the world because some do. It’s more that adopting after medical treatments and/or assisted reproduction adds another “leg” onto an already weary journey.

Adoption agencies are well aware that many prospective parents have already endured a lot. While not insensitive to this, they need to know that you are able to move forward, that you have “resolved” the grief over the “would be” biological child or children so that you can form a healthy new relationship with an adopted child. This includes babies lost to miscarriage and stillbirth, although of course they will always be an unforgettable part of you. Adoption agencies may refer you for counseling if they feel you could use some assistance working through the grief and loss. Even if you are adopting without an agency, you may find the process itself brings up some feelings of otherness or loss that are beneficial to explore before moving forward. I specialize in helping people with this.

Here are some additional resources you can turn to if you are nearing the end of assisted reproduction or infertility treatment, or if you’ve already started pursuing adoption.

The book Adopting After Infertility by Patricia Irwin Johnston is specific to this subject:

Adopting After Infertility

Johnston also has a useful questionnaire and can be seen presenting here:

Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility

Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again

There are several articles and blogs on the topic. One is:

Disclaimer: The information in this article should not be used in lieu of professional medical advice, assessment, diagnosis or treatment. The use of this website does not imply or establish any type of therapeutic relationship. Further, any links in this article are for referential or informational purposes only.

A poem in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week


by Raina Cowan

The seeds were planted but not sown

Our hearts ache with never knowing,

our babies never growing.

As if time stopped, our lives stalled

Waiting for due dates that never arrive,

trying out names, looking at tiny clothes, socks & shoes,

waiting for you to materialize

but you never do.

Full of sadness, engulfed with rage,

A grief unnamed, difficult to describe.

Envy in waves

as pregnant bellies sway by

A virtual parade of everything denied

Learning to live again

in a world full of mommies & daddies, babies & tots,

those who have kids & those who do not.

Still hoping for a miracle,

but then again, not.

Stuck at a fork in the road,

Unable to cross

Wiser and stronger together,

rediscovering happiness,

cultivating joy

Learning to live again

without our baby girl or boy.

Looking in a new direction,

hoping to make another’s baby our own

Taking that step with many unknowns

Waiting to take you home.

National Infertility Awareness Week, Part 3

Great tips for taking care of yourself during infertility:

National Infertility Awareness Week, April 23-29, 2017, Part 2

Lots of useful links and poignant video