The Choice of a Lifetime

A close friend and I were talking about something that affects many of us who have experienced infertility. She has moved from infertility into adoption. There have been some calls about babies that she could adopt. They had some potentially serious medical problems. She and her husband had to make immediate decisions…

I shared with her what my husband and I experienced. We used an egg donor to try to build our family. I remember sitting at a table spreading out a pile of papers with information on potential donors. I pulled the first application and read aloud to my husband. This donor had a high school diploma. She worked as a bartender. Her grandfather had a history of alcoholism. She wanted to be a donor to help a family have the opportunity to become parents.

What my friend and I agreed upon was how uncomfortable we felt about making "the choice." I remember saying to my husband how I hated having to make judgments about the limited information that we had and use it to pick our donor. Did our donor choose not to go to college or maybe she couldn't afford it? Should we care that she does not have a college degree? Should I worry about alcoholism based on her job and her grandfather's history?

Those of us who adopt or use donors are often in the position of having limited information. People who use international adoptions frequently have even less reliable information. There is no guarantee that the information we are given is totally accurate. Yet, we must make the most important decision of our lives based on this information. The donor on the application I was looking at was offering the most precious gift a person can give. I remember holding the donor information in my hand and thinking what we decide at this moment could affect us for the rest of our lives. My friend and her husband experience this with every phone call from their adoption agency.

The reality is no parent has any guarantees that the biological child they have will be a happy and healthy child. There are adoptive families that happily choose to adopt children with medical, physical, or psychological challenges. None of us knows what the future will bring. We all have different ideas about our family constellation.

So how do we walk this tightrope balancing our passion to build our family, and trusting the agencies and biological parents that make this dream possible? It involves a leap of faith. You also can identify the right people to join with you in making this important decision. My friend has a doctor who she calls to share the medical information she has and her doctor advises her about any potential medical concerns the history presents. There are doctors that specialize in adoption medicine that are knowledgeable. For example, if you are adopting a child from a specific country the doctor may be aware that children from that country usually have a vitamin deficiency and are immediately prepared to treat it. Talk to your reproductive endocrinologists about any questions or concerns that arise during your infertility treatment process.

In the end the decisions about building your family are ultimately yours. My friend chose to wait for another child after conferring with her doctor. We chose another donor. You must trust your heart, ask questions, talk to your partner if you have one, and get as much information as you can from agency and medical experts. In some cases you can speak directly with your donor or the biological parent of a child up for adoption. A mixture of emotions like excitement, happiness, disappointment, and anxiety are a part of all infertility journeys. There will be a number of emotional roller coaster moments whether you are engaging in infertility treatment or choosing an adoption path. Don't be afraid to say no if the situation doesn't feel right for you. It sounds easy but it is not after you have been waiting so long to welcome a child into your family. Good luck with your family building efforts. I hope the choices that you do make bring you the family and future that you dreamed of.

Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW, has a Master's Degree in Social Work and has been a licensed clinical social worker for over 30 years. She has done workshops, individual, and group counseling with people experiencing infertility. Ms. Waichler is the author of Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire. She currently writes freelance infertility and health related articles.

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