Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In which I stir up some controversy

It's National Infertility Awareness Week.

I don't believe infertility happens for a reason. I don't believe that G-d made me infertile so that we would adopt. I don't believe that G-d wants a family to adopt a specific child. And I have very good reasons for these things, but I know how they sound when I just say them like that.

So here we go:

1. Infertility is a medical condition, like any other medical condition. It affects a person physically, mentally, emotionally. Ever talked to a woman with endometriosis to see how she feels? How about a man with varicoceles who's been through surgery to try to correct them? What about an infertile couple with no diagnosis? There have been repeated studies that show the depression of infertility is on par with the depression experienced by cancer patients.

Have you ever really wanted something? I mean REALLY wanted something? A dream job, a dream college, a dream person. You allowed yourself to hope. You prayed. You maybe even got superstitious about it. And then you didn't get it--you were probably pretty devastated. It takes time to get over the disappointment and figure out the next step, because you were counting on that one.

Now imagine that happens every month. Imagine the emotional and mental toll of having a dream destroyed every month. Imagine knowing that you don't really have time to get over it because you've got to hop right back into dreaming and hoping, while simultaneously dealing with the crushing disappointment. And imagine that you can't even walk down the sidewalk without seeing someone else who has your dream in their grasp. You can't watch TV without being reminded that others have what you so desperately desire.

Infertility is its own living hell. Does that happen for a reason? I can't believe that G-d wanted me to go through all of that. Seriously, for what purpose?

2. Oh right, because we chose to adopt when we were infertile. Except that we were planning to adopt before I got pregnant with Patrick. Now granted, I was already infertile and we knew that. But we planned on adopting AFTER I got pregnant with Patrick also, when we thought that our fertility issues had a pretty quick fix--I got pregnant very soon after being diagnosed and put on medication for PCOS. During that time, we didn't know that we would ever have trouble again and we STILL wanted to adopt. So the years of recurring infertility after he was born? Not "necessary". We'd figured on giving birth to the second and adopting the other two. So there wasn't a reason there.

But it did speed up the timeline (maybe--if I'd gotten pregnant right away, we probably would have been ready to pursue adoption at about the same time), which MUST mean that we were MEANT to adopt Melkamu, that G-d chose him to be in our family. And this is really the one I have the biggest problem with.

3. If we were meant to adopt Melkamu, that means his first family was meant to relinquish him. Did G-d really make his first mom just a temporary caretaker for him so that he could join our family? Did G-d make her create and love this child, care for him, hug him, kiss him, just while we were waiting to figure out the next step to the plan? Did G-d want her to watch him starving to death, suffering through painful untreated ear infections? Did G-d want her to suffer the intense agony of saying goodbye to her firstborn child and possibly never seeing him again?

And that doesn't address Melkamu's pain. Did G-d want him to suffer from lack of food and ear infections? Did G-d want him to suffer the confusion and anguish of being left in a strange place, watching his firstmom walk away and not come back? Did G-d want him to lose everything he'd known? Did G-d want him to suffer the fear and confusion of having strange white people come and take him away from yet another place that he'd become comfortable? Does G-d want him to suffer the confusion and identity issues that will undoubtedly come along as a transracial and international adoptee?

Is G-d really that cruel, to put them both through that so that Melkamu could be in our family? I can't believe that.

It's easy to justify saying "everything happens for a reason" if you just look at our family superficially. On the outside, we're the luckiest people in the world: almost 10 years married, two great sons. Infertility didn't break us, so it's easy to say that "infertility happened for a reason".

But our great happiness has come with huge costs, and we aren't the ones who bear most of those costs. In reality, the cost of infertility (and I'm not talking money here) was huge but temporary. It doesn't ever go away but the cost decreases over time. After all, I'm mostly OK with surprise pregnancy announcements now, while those would have led to a spiral of depression lasting for days while we were going through infertility treatments. Compared to the cost of relinquishing your child, of having to say goodbye to everything you've ever known--our cost doesn't matter. It doesn't even count.

We don't live our lives mired in the sadness of what Melkamu and his first mom have experienced, but we don't forget it either. Saying that "everything happens for a reason" is saying that there is a reason that they went through that--almost saying that they deserved it. I can't fathom a G-d that cruel, to put a family through something like that just so that we could have another child in ours. It's like saying that our suffering was more "worthy" and therefore we "deserved" a child while she "deserved" to have to say goodbye to hers.

There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for Melkamu, for how could someone fail to love this child beyond reason? And I am glad that there are families who have opened their hearts to children who need families, whatever the circumstances. But I cannot believe that G-d is out there saying, "Hmm, THIS is the child which belongs to that family. I just need to break up the first family so that this other one can have that child."



The Stephensons said...

I don't think God causes people to have infertility or for families to make adoption plans for their children. I think he set nature in motion and he allows nature to take its course. I do think he intervenes sometimes though. For example, a baby that I know who was born with a birth defect that meant certain death. THis baby has defied all odds, and will live a normal productive life. We are also free moral agents and make our own decisions. If you would have asked me 4 years ago my opinion on this would have been different. But now I will say whatever the reason I have infertility issues, it has been a blessing in disguise. There is only one way for our daughter to become part of our family, and that was through adoption. I can't imagine life without her!

Jess said...

I think that definitely God does not "cause" bad things to happen in this world...unless you are arguing that He "caused" the world to be fallen by casting Adam and Eve out of the perfect Garden of Eden. Then, yes. But it's important to remember that the world we live in IS FALLEN and that WE HAVE CHOICE. And also that sometimes the devil is at work as well.

I think of "God's plan" as more of an overall plan...a plan for salvation and compassion and forgiveness...not a plan for if I adopt or not. However, with a little faith and awareness, you might find direction from God and make good out of bad circumstances. This includes infertiles, people with crisis pregancies, people with cancer, etc, etc.

I think that God might sometimes have a hand in helping people get together when they do...that is, I believe very much that God had a hand in the way our adoption and IVF all came to a head at the same time...a couple days on anyone's part...ours, the doctors, the social workers, Ava's bio family...and we would have only had one or the other of our children. Add to that the fact that we get along SO FABULOUSLY with Ava's bio family and I think it's too incredible to say that God had no part in it. However, at LEAST we were praying for the right things to happen, and probably Ava's bio family, too. With an open mind (and a ton of money, ha) it all did come together in a pretty unbelievable way.

Perhaps God answered our prayers that Ava's bio family be receptive to our pregnancy...or perhaps their prayers that their daughter have a family who would include them...or perhaps our prayers that we'd get to experience a pregnancy.

Furthermore, I'm certain that God knows what will happen....but that doens't exclude us having CHOICES...just that He knows what we will choose. If He made all the decisions, why in the Bible would He have ever been disappointed in our actions? What's the point of trying to do anything for yourself if it'll happen anyway?

stephanie said...

My thoughts are short because naptime is winding down, but here it is - BRAVO, Erin!!!! I couldn't have agreed with you or said it any better myself. Amen.

Wendy said...

Wow! Erin, just wow. So much to think about. I have always thought that our infertility happened for a reason and that our Russian adoption did not happen for a reason because I feel so lucky to have Wodajo. I am ashamed and embarassed to say I did not look at the other side of it (from the birth familys side of things). And because Wodajo has always been such a happy child, it's easy to forget all that he went through in the almost 4 years before we met him. Thanks so much for the thought provoking post. I can really identify with so much of it!

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing all these thoughts Erin. I'm on the Ethiopia forum and took a look at your blog. My husband and I are still in "the waiting" and have been for 4 years. We've been through a lot of pain and loss and I definitely think you captured a lot of what that is like for infertile couples. I do have to say that through our faith in a loving God, we have made it through this period of life with a lot of hope.
I see God as One that cries for the birthfamily and the adoptee, for all the losses that they have had to bear. I see God as One that was holding me month by month as I cried for another loss. I see God as One that gives us (adoptive parents) the wisdom and love to care for our adopted kids. There is a lot of sadness in this world, sadness that our God cries over because it was not what he wanted for us.
My husband and I feel blessed to be able to experience the joy of adoption. I can't say that we would've adopted if we were able get pregnant. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say "it sure would be nice if we didn't have to go through all the infertility", but because we did go through it, God has changed our hearts and our whole family's hearts toward adoption, we've been given opportunities to support others dealing with infertility, we've been able to share the incredible Hope we have in our Lord because He has helped us through this. He didn't make any of us go through it, but He surely helps us through it if we ask Him to.
Thanks again for sharing. I didn't realize in was National Infertility Week last week.