Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care

Coming to Terms with Infertility Grief Before You Adopt or Foster

August 30, 2023 Creating a Family Season 17 Episode 39
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
Coming to Terms with Infertility Grief Before You Adopt or Foster
Show Notes Transcript

Are you thinking about stopping infertility treatment and trying to adopt or foster? Join us to talk with Carole LieberWilkins,a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has specialized in reproductive medicine, adoption, and family-building options since 1986, and is the co-author of the book, Let’s Talk About Egg Donation. Carole serves on the Advisory Board of the US Donor Conceived Council, and is an active member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine Mental Health Professional Group. She is also a mom through adoption and egg donation.

In this episode, we cover:

  • Adoptive parenting is the same as, and very different from, genetic parenting. Ways in which raising adopted children is different. Ways in which it is the same.
  • Fostering has some significant differences from genetic parenting, including adopting from foster care.
  • What are the losses of infertility?
  • How to know when you are ready to stop fertility treatments and move to adoption or fostering? What are the signs of readiness?
  • The myth of needing to do everything that you can to become pregnant before moving to adoption or third-party reproduction. 
  • How have the advances in infertility medicine changed the landscape of moving to adoption or fostering?
  • Accepting Plan B without making the child feel like second best.
  • How to know when you are ready to foster or adopt from foster care.
  • How to grieve the loss of the biological child that you never had? 
  • Tips for coping with the losses of infertility.
  • Coping with the unknowns of adoption or fostering and lack of control.
  • Adopting while staying in treatment.
  • Should you go back into infertility treatment after having adopted a child?
  • How to find a mental health professional that specializes in infertility.

This podcast is produced  by We are a national non-profit with the mission to strengthen and inspire adoptive, foster & kinship parents and the professionals who support them. Creating a Family brings you the following trauma-informed, expert-based content:

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Please pardon any errors, this is an automated transcript.
Dawn Davenport  0:00  
Welcome everyone to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I'm the host of this show as well as the director of the nonprofit creating a Today we're going to be talking about coming to terms with infertility grief before you adopt or foster. We will be talking with Carol LieberWilkins. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice licensed in California, Idaho and Nevada providing individual and couples counseling. She has specialized in reproductive medicine, adoption and family building options. Since 1986. As the co author of the book, let's talk about egg donation, real stories from real people. Carol also serves on the advisory board of the US donor conceive Council, and is an active member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, mental health professional group. She's also a mom through adoption and egg donation. Welcome Carol liberal Wilkins to creating a family.

Unknown Speaker  1:04  
Well, thank you so much, Dawn, it's great to be back.

Dawn Davenport  1:06  
All right. So we're talking about people who have been in treatment to infertility treatment, and are coming to the point where they're making decisions about whether to stay in treatment or to move to adoption or foster care. So we say that adoptive parenting is the same as and yet very different from genetic parenting. What are some ways in which raising adopted kids in your opinion is different, and then share some ways in which it's the same? Well, the every day,

Speaker 2  1:39  
day to day, parenting, loving, caring for providing for is exactly the same no matter how you came to be a family, feeding, clothing, kissing, hugging, choosing preschools,

Dawn Davenport  1:56  
setting limits, let's go ahead, put it in there setting,

Speaker 2  2:00  
setting limits, cloth or disposable, those things are all the same, no matter how you became a family, but Brunning throughout the vein of that family, when they come together, non genetically, are a number of differences. One, helping the child or children understand their origin story is a huge difference that we have when our families are formed differently, helping them understand perhaps where their original family was, or who or where their genetic family came from, in the case of donor conception, addressing how they feel about that story, addressing whatever their needs are in terms of where are they can I meet them? Who are they? Why did that happen? Those are significant differences.

Dawn Davenport  2:56  
What was it about me that my birth mom gave me away? That type of thing?

Speaker 2  3:01  
That type of thing? Yes, I think even understanding the answer to that question is addressing how they feel about the answer to that question. So I think kids do have an amazing ability to understand that for all the reasons that they're provided that their first family may not have been able to be full time parents to them, then there's how they feel about that fact. Right. So they may understand it, but they might have a lot of feelings about it.

Dawn Davenport  3:35  
And I should add that we prefer placing the child for adoption, not giving right away, but oftentimes children don't view you know, our politically correct way we say things.

Speaker 2  3:45  
Exactly. They Yeah, like that sounds all nice and flowery. But the bottom line is, you know, maybe the bottom line is she didn't want me maybe bottom line is just

Dawn Davenport  3:57  
was I a bad baby? You know, I was I was annoying. Yeah.

Speaker 2  4:01  
Or why didn't you just help her? Yeah, to take care of me if she was poor. Exactly.

Dawn Davenport  4:07  

Speaker 2  4:09  
So that's a significant difference is helping them understand their story, and helping them navigate however they feel about their story. And in fertility treatment and donor conception, which is really what we're talking about for non genetic parenting after infertility, if it's not adoption, and fostering the same things apply is from the beginning certainly is how we always recommend this story start is helping children to understand their origin story, the family's origin story, how did we become a family, as well as how they feel about that? And putting together and in both cases, putting together a healthy genetic identity, figuring out who they are, how Where do I belong? Who do I belong to. And in donor conception, unfortunately, too frequently, with a lot of unknowns with a lot of we don't know who you're connected to, we don't know who your genetic parent is, which is less true in adoption today, unless it's international. So all of those things make a very significant difference between our families and the families that conceive a child with her own gametes.

Dawn Davenport  5:32  
I always hold my breath a little when I hear somebody who is leaving infertility treatment and is going into fostering because I think that fostering has some even more significant difference from genetic parenting. And I include even adopting from foster care. But when you go into foster care, and you're going into becoming a foster parent, I mean, you're going in with the idea that your role is to help this child get back to their parents. That is the goal of foster care. Now, there are children who are legally free for adoption, they tend to be older children or children in large sibling groups or children with very significant special needs. So it is certainly possible. But it's hard thing to get your head around when what you really want to do is be a parent, and to go into something that is telling you that your goal is to help somebody else be able to raise their own child. So there are just some significant problems. And part of the issue for those who are coming from fertility treatment, is to recognize the many losses that are a part of infertility. And I think we often don't recognize all of them. And that makes it hard to resolve and come to terms with it. So what are some of the losses of infertility, so

Speaker 2  6:57  
numerous to name, the loss of agency, the loss of my body working the way it should, financial losses, the loss of hope, the loss of whatever relationship status there was when one set out to try to conceive with a partner, the disappointment together and navigating that together, the loss of enjoying recreational sex, the loss of identity, the loss of continuity of one's genetic line, the loss of imagining a child, that wouldn't be the perfection of the two of you. And of course, until the child does come into your life, the loss of being able to join that parenting community of pushing the stroller and taking them to preschool and mommy and me and all of those things that we imagine when we're struggling to conceive. Yeah,

Dawn Davenport  7:59  
well, and you know, the loss of control. Most people, I mean, people do accidentally get pregnant. But assuming that this was a couple or a person who was trying to control their fertility, and when they had, you lose that, and yet, you don't gain control, when you move to adoption, or fostering, there is very little control there as well. So it's exacerbating the loss. Creating a family has a resource that I am so proud of. And so want you to know about it is our interactive training, or support curriculum for foster adoptive and kinship families that grew out of a need for really good curriculum started off with support groups, but support groups are one of the most effective ways of skill building and skill enhancement. And so we know that this curriculum is being used for training, foster adoptive and kinship families. It's also being used in support groups. And sometimes the trainings are associated with support groups, and sometimes not. We have a library of curriculum 25 curriculum, each one on a specific topic that is directly relevant to parenting or foster adoptive and kinship parenting. Each curriculum comes with a video a facilitator guide, a handout and an additional resource sheet, and or certificate of attendance if you need that. So check it out at our website, which is creating a hover over the word training and click on Support Group curricula. I think you will really find it very helpful. So how do you know when you are ready to stop fertility treatment and move to adoption or fostering? What are the signs of readiness that you say?

Speaker 2  9:48  
Well, you know, as you said in your intro, I've been doing this work about 130 years and going all the way back 30 plus years ago, the quiet Question was when is enough enough? And there have been articles written about it and documentaries written about it. when is enough enough? How do you know when it's time to stop? It's really important to remember that alternative, non genetic or non gestational paths to parenthood, cure childlessness, it doesn't cure infertility. So those paths to parenthood make you a parent, which of course is hugely significant, but it does not necessarily make you fertile. It doesn't correct the problem. It corrects childlessness,

Dawn Davenport  10:39  
contrary to the common myth that you want to get pregnant. Just adopt, yeah, that drives me. It is such a, it's hurtful, it's hurtful. It's also incorrect. It right Oh, statistical, no researcher would indicate that.

Speaker 2  10:53  
Right. Right. So the question of when is enough enough, obviously is hard to answer. It's not a short answer. And it's going to vary for everyone. But I would say to the degree that it is possible, it is time to move forward. When losses have been grieved, many of the losses that we just talked about, have been acknowledged and grieved when one is educated about the meaning of creating a family differently, and what those differences are, and an acceptance that you're ready to take on all those things we talked about in the very beginning. Like are you somebody who can talk about genetic family members? Are you someone who can tolerate quote unquote, the other way we talk about the other?

Dawn Davenport  11:48  
The Other Mother? Yeah, it's because of adoption or foster? Yes. Well,

Speaker 2  11:53  
and it's true and donor conception as well, there is the other there's a genetic parent, there's an egg donor, there's a sperm donor. And, you know, oftentimes, because we're so desperate to become parents was, yeah, you know, I can do that all I'll talk to them about it. But these alternatives are not right for everybody. Not everyone is comfortable with difference. Not everyone is comfortable talking about or integrating the trauma that they've experienced during infertility. So when is enough enough is when your financial relationship, internal psychological resources are not yet so depleted, that there's nothing left for the children you will have. Because very often, what we see is that treatment can go on for so long, that people are depleted. And then this child comes along, and they're ecstatic. And they're joyous and all of that, but they don't want to go there. They don't want to address these differences that we talked about. It's like I've been through so much, and they're traumatized. So, you know, from a mental health perspective, I would also say, infertility is most definitely a trauma, that the experience of not being able to become a parent when and how you want to, is a traumatic event in life. And this includes all family, constellations, all genders, all sexual identity, it is a trauma not to be able to become apparent when and how you want to and with whom you want to be. And common sense tells us it's important to try to resolve trauma, certainly, before bringing another human into our family and needing to address what can potentially be their trauma.

Dawn Davenport  13:56  
Hmm, making room to address that getting patched your own. Before I ask a favor of you, I want to send out a warm thank you. Thank you to our listeners that are returning this week. And I also want to welcome our new listeners. No, we've got a number of new listeners, please know we are thrilled to have you here. Now I have to ask you about a favor. And that is I want you to subscribe to the creating a podcast and tell your friends about it. When you subscribe, you have access to our extensive archive of shows that we have done over the past almost 60 years. So check it out, subscribe and let your friends know about the creating a podcast. You know, it seems to me. I've also been in this field maybe not 130 years. But a while. It seems to me that the advances in infertility medicine, which are wonderful, but they've changed the landscape because when is enough enough is harder to define. Now, I often use the analogy of infertility treatment is being an escalator, because the next step is just coming right at you. And there's always a next step, or there always feels like it in fairness, a lot of reproductive endocrinologist say that they're trying to tell people that there really isn't a next step. And the patients themselves are not hearing it. But it's continual. So how do we know when to stop? Because there's always well, you can try this? Or you can try this. How do you know if you're the type of person who needs and I think there are people who need to feel like they have done everything, everything humanly possible, everything metrically possible in order to conceive a genetic child. But for other people, they don't need that. And as you say, they're simply just depleting themselves. How do you know which one you are?

Speaker 2  15:51  
It's a great question. And I love to hear that expression is I just need to feel like I did everything I could, because I love to dispel it and kind of pop that balloon, which is to say, you don't have to do everything that is possible. Because in today's world, that's not possible. There will always be another treatment, another procedure, you need to do what makes sense for you, what makes sense for your family, and there's never going to be an everything that I possibly could. So some people stop because they can't afford the next treatment. So finances are a huge part of it. Some people stop because they're psychologically depleted, some people stop because they're not in agreement with a partner about what the next step is. My answer to the question, when is enough, enough is when you still have that long list of resources available, to either be child free the rest of your life, and have that be an acceptable solution for moving forward, or have enough of those psychological financial relationship, resources available to parents to children, you will eventually have some other way. But this notion of I haven't done everything I could is a fallacy. Because honestly, in today's world, there's either another treatment or another procedure that you can try. And so it's important to look at what makes sense for us. We've put our lives on the whole, we haven't bought the house, we haven't taken a vacation we're fighting all the time. And so what do we need to move forward in a way that is healthy for us? Even if it isn't our first choice, or even sometimes second choice? That doesn't mean your children will not be first choice once you have them. But initially, those paths to parenthood are not your first choice.

Dawn Davenport  18:03  
Let's talk some about that. The accepting of plan B, is it easier to stomach but but the reality is, it isn't your first choice. If it was your first choice, you wouldn't have stayed in infertility when you've gone to infertility treatment to begin with. Right? But how do we make peace with the fact that we don't want a child to be second best? And yet, in fact, they weren't your first choice? And do you need to figure that out? Before you adopt? Or Foster? So I think

Speaker 2  18:33  
this might be a good time to talk about the exercise that I recommend to people who are moving forward with non genetic family building alternatives. Which is to say that one of the answers to your question is to make space for children to have will be different children in every way, shape, or form. No matter how much a donor looks like you or is like you to make space for children that are different than the ones you've been trying in many cases for years to bring into the world. Most people have a very concrete image of the children they're trying to have. And if one is in a partnership, and not a solo parent, that usually represents the perfect combination of the two of you. With all of your best qualities and only a few of your worse. Oh, none of the worst if Well, no, I tried to be honest.

Dawn Davenport  19:44  
Yeah, but we're at the stage where it's all fantasy, right? It's all fantasy and it's going to be the perfect combination. It is a

Speaker 2  19:51  
perfect it's going to have you know, your brain and his sense of humor. The kids going to have your grandmother errs cooking ability in the kitchen, you know somebody's musical ability. And we you know, especially with years and years of infertility and trying to conceive, we imbue this fantasy child with, you know, this perfection, maybe a couple of flaws thrown in just to make them human. And when we move into adoption, fostering or donor conception or some non genetic form of parenting, very often we we carry those fantasies with us into parenting, well, you know, I'm still the parent. So this child will be thus and such, because it's nurture over nature. I've been recommending an exercise for a very long time to help people really significantly grieve the loss of the child they've been trying to have. And the reason that's hard and it requires this very specific exercise is because it's all fantasy, right? There isn't a real person. But there's no question that reproductive loss in any form, whatever that means, reproductive loss, represents a death in the family. It is a death in the marriage, or the relationship, it's a death in your genetic line in your genetic family. It's certainly a death in the family in your heart for this child that you've been carrying with you, even if you didn't realize that that child was so specific. But unlike an actual death in the family, where we have ritual, we have ceremonies, we have church services, we get together and have wakes, and people tell funny stories about the deceased. And there's a birthdate and a death date. We all know funerals are for the living, right. And there's something about all of these rituals that allow us to recognize, oh, I can't call grandma tomorrow, she's really gone. I went to that funeral I, I saw the representation that she has really left us, right. But with fertility loss with the deaths per se, of a fantasy child, we don't have any of that. We don't even have you know, our employer saying I'm so sorry for your loss, please take as much time as you need. We don't have neighbors bringing us a casserole to say, you know, we just wanted to feed you and take care of you in your moment of grief. Because in many cases, nobody knows what you've been going through. And even if they know what you've been going through, they don't understand the magnitude of it. So we don't have any of that ritual. And as a result, it's very hard to say goodbye to somebody we never said hello to funerals and losses in our families can be grieved, because they were really there. We had a relationship with them, we call them whatever. But this child that we've been trying to bring into the world, in some cases for years lives only in our mind and heart. Right. So the question is, how do you say goodbye to someone you never said hello to? And the answer is very frequently, an exercise that came right out of miscarriage work, I didn't make it up, I just adapted it for a loss of something that never really was here. And that is to try to bring that child to life first. So that we can then say goodbye. And one of the ways that we do that. And the most common way is to write a letter to the child you'll never know. And it's incredibly sad. It's incredibly hard. People always cry when they do it. They often cry even when they hear the the exercise described. But that's right, because death is sad. And goodbyes are sad. And funerals are sad. And so it is a letter to the child you won't know this is who I thought you would be you'd have my grandmother's eyes, you'd have your your mom's artistic ability. And really imbuing the child with all the things that you've been carrying around in your head for years and your heart for years and putting them down on paper. Sometimes, you know, this is what we would have named you. And giving that child that you want know a name that perhaps you will not use when you ultimately do become a parent. This is what we would do with you even though we're going to do those things with any child we have. We're not going to be doing them with you. And then In this letter to say, but now I have to let you go. And I have to let you go because there isn't enough room in our hearts or our minds, and our home for the child that we thought we would have, and the child that we will have. And I often remind people, you know what happens to dead people who don't leave, they turn into ghosts. And when we don't resolve our infertility, and when we don't acknowledge the grief that we've been carrying around those fantasy children that we've been carrying in our hearts, and our heads hanging around like ghosts, and ghosts generally are not thought to be, you know, if it's not Casper, it's not friendly, right. They're not friendly ghosts, they are haunting individuals that never made it here that are saying, you know, if you would have the child that you originally wanted, they wouldn't be throwing this tantrum, they wouldn't be saying I hate you. They you know, so we want to get rid of those coasts. So this letter is an introduction, this is who you would be, this is how I imagined you now I have to let you go. And then to actually throw yourself a kind of funeral. And that means doing something with this letter, that really concretizes the loss concretizes the images that we had, and doing something with it, that gives yourselves the ritual that you didn't get, you may not get casseroles from your neighbor. But being able to say, yes, you were really here, I was carrying you around. And now I have to let you go. And so some of the examples of what people do with the letter and I always remind people like we don't keep dead people in our attic. So this isn't a letter that you want to put in a shoebox, and put it in your attic, it needs to go away, just like we do with a cremation or burial at a cemetery. So some examples of that are very, very common is to take the letter and plant a tree or a bush in your garden or your parents garden or a friend who owns a home that they're going to be in for a while. And to buy your favorite plant or bush or tree or whatever it is, dig the hole, put the letter in the hole, and then put the plant on top of it as a way of memorializing, you know, essentially you're throwing yourself a funeral. And the act of ticking a hole is very similar to a cemetery feels feels like a funeral. And then you get to watch this beautiful plant that you chose flourish and grow as a representation. Another example that a lot of people do is go to the ocean or a body of water, if you don't live in a coast. Oftentimes, people go to whatever the recreational lake is near them. And there's something about the water and the tide and the eternal nature of it coming in and out. And people will sit there and read the letter to each other very frequently, it's a couple. If you are a solo person trying to become a parent, I always recommend that you take like your best friend or a sibling that you're really close to somebody who gets it, somebody who can understand it just to be a witness, and read the letter to the wildlife, to you know, the birds flying overhead the fish in the sea and then rip it up and throw it in the water. And you can watch this letter kind of come in and out and in and out with the tide. Or simply make a hole in the sand and bury the letter in the sand knowing that it will get washed away. Sometimes people will if they're hikers or walking, whatever, they'll go to their favorite hiking trail. And they'll leave the letter in the crook of the shade tree where they always stop and have water. But the idea is to release it, not hold on to it. And you know, I always tell people, it's not a panacea. It's not magic. But it is pretty remarkable. You know, over decades of recommending this, how a space has been made. A space is made in your heart that wasn't there before. That recognizes in a very real way. I'm going to be a parent, but I'm not going to parent the children that we thought we would be parenting. And therefore this space is opened up for a different child a different one than the one you've saw. We're gonna have, again, in donor conception, you can pick a donor that looks exactly like you and has similar likes and all of that. And people fool themselves into thinking, Oh, well, it's just the same then because she looks just like me or her ethnicity is the same. It's not. And so this space has opened up. And I have found that people who really struggle, for example, if they're pursuing donor conception, and they're really having trouble matching with a gamete provider, you know, this one's too tall, too short, non educated enough, whatever it is, I have found that when they do this exercise, all of a sudden, there are a number of really good matching candidates, because they're not just looking to replace themselves, they have really opened up that space in their heart, for a child that's going to be different. And also helping to move forward into adoption, recognizing that nurture is important, but nature is to and then any child, any child, you parent through any path to parenthood, is not going to be the one that you just said goodbye to. Hmm.

Dawn Davenport  31:22  
I want to say thank you to our partners, the Jackie being family foundation for sponsoring, which allows us to provide you with 12 courses that are free, they come with a certificate of completion. So if you need that, for training purposes, you will have it, they are all about parenting, I think you will really enjoy them, you'll find them at Bitly slash J E F support, that's bi T dot L Y, slash JBf. Support. One of the things that is difficult about adoption and fostering is it mentioned it at the beginning, one of the losses of infertility is the loss of control, the control of time and the control of costs and control of everything. But you're stepping into, especially with adoption, another situation that is rife with lack of control, because you're not in control. So how can people who are moving from infertility into adoption, or fostering but especially adoption, how can they get their mind around the fact that out of the pot and into the fire type of thing? You know, you've got to be prepared for another journey? It's not going to be the ease and quick and with you making all the decisions?

Speaker 2  32:44  
Are you talking about the wait for a match? And how out of control? You are during that? Are you talking about the actual parenting once a child is in your home?

Dawn Davenport  32:53  
I'm talking about the journey to the child? What both I suppose it's a good, but the second part, I think that's just part of parenting. I'm talking about the weight and the fact that you're not the one selecting nowadays in domestic infant adoption. It is the birth parents are the birth mom. And if the dads involved the birth couple who are making the decision on who to choose. So you're not in control. You can do your and put your best foot forward do the best things you can but you're not in control someone else's making decisions. And that's hard. And I think it's particularly hard coming from infertility where you weren't in control. You wanted your body to do the right thing. Just wouldn't.

Speaker 2  33:39  
Right, exactly. It's like an extension of the torture. Right,

Dawn Davenport  33:43  
exactly. First of all, I

Speaker 2  33:45  
do want to say that while it may be true that first families or birth families are choosing, it's still a reciprocal process. It's still a process where through agency or attorney or whatever the facilitator is, there is a situation that is presented to you as pre adopters. And you take into consideration the entire situation and make a decision whether that is a right situation for you. So it's still mutual, it's still reciprocal. But it's certainly true that the initial introduction comes from a birth family saying we'd like to meet these people or pursue this. So I would say that as is also true in infertility treatment, it's important to find control where we can. That's also true in life. really true in life because it's also true in the parenting part, which is that we don't have control over the children that come to us. We can only have control over the choices that we make as their parents. Sometimes those are going to be the good choices. Sometimes they'll work, sometimes they don't work. And that's really true in any family. But I would say to find control where we can, in the sense of what do you do during the wait, which can sometimes be a few years long, and you've already been in fertility treatment for five or six years, right, so now you're approaching a decade of childlessness that you didn't want. So that means trying to maintain if you're in a relationship, trying to maintain the goodness in that relationship, taking vacations, finding time for each other, managing a home, managing social relationships, so you're not isolated, sharing the journey with people who may be able to be supportive to you making a financial plan. And most importantly, I think that time is very best spent. Even if you're not working with an agency where these things are required. It's extremely important that you use that time to educate yourself about what it means to be a family of adoption, or fostering, or in the case of donor conception. This is your, you know, school time, this is the college course that you never wanted to have to take. Right. But there's a lot to a lot to know, that you cannot know by talking to people who say, Oh, well, you know, you get everybody else's problems. And you know, all those stupid aphorisms that come with it. Yep. So that's one way to have control as well, once you're on this path to say, Okay, now we need to really understand what it means. Because oftentimes, even with the grief exercise, sometimes we go into adoption naively and think, Okay, now it's going to be the same, etc. And I think education is power, right? And is what we're looking for is power, we're looking for agency, we're looking for a way to feel like now at least I'm a little bit in the driver's seat, even if it's only a little bit,

Dawn Davenport  37:19  
but I'm doing something, I'm proactively doing something. So it feels like you're taking control. Let me say that creating a family as a nonprofit exists for that very reason. So, go to creating a, hover over the word adoption, click on adoption topics, click on any of those topics that seem interesting to you. And it's going to take you to a wealth of information, all sorts of Articles, audio, interviews, courses, tip sheets, fact sheets, videos, it will take you to them all. What are your thoughts about applying to adopt while staying in infertility? Treatment?

Speaker 2  38:01  
Tricky, tricky, tricky. So going back a couple of decades, it was the policy of most adoption agencies that they would not even accept you as a client, if you will,

Dawn Davenport  38:12  
that way, I think not attorneys, but I think for most agencies probably still have that policy, but not with attorneys and not with other private adoptions.

Speaker 2  38:21  
So the question is, why is that? I mean, why is there this rule, which, you know, is very frustrating to a lot of people who feel like, well, I just have to hedge my bets, because we've been trying this one pass for ever, and it may not work, it probably won't work. And so we want to have something in the wings. You know, I think there is some wisdom to that pro habituation, because there's no question that the pursuit of fertility treatment, especially with your own gametes, that is the first wished for a child, right? That is the one that you've been trying to have. That is the one that if you do the grief exercise you're saying goodbye to. So if you are pursuing adoption and fertility treatment, at the same time, you haven't let go. You haven't said goodbye sufficiently to say I'm really ready to parent a different child who comes to me in a different way. Now, where that's really, really important, and can be very harmful is when they both work. Now, there are lots of bio adoptive families and they're successful and people are happy and healthy. And many of us, myself included, have families where children have different origin stories, and that's okay, as long as that's addressed and understood what that means. But it really means if you're pursuing both at the same time you have not read The truly let go and said goodbye to the first child. Now, it may be that the fertility treatment that you're pursuing isn't with your own gametes. And so it's still true that you say goodbye to the initial wish for child. And even when fertility treatment is returned to after becoming an adoptive parent. The question is, how is your first child going to feel about the fact that you went back to have the actual child that you wanted? Like, why didn't you adopt? Again,

Dawn Davenport  40:36  
I was going to ask you that question. So in addition to adopting while staying in treatment, treatments have advanced. So yes, it is not uncommon for people to think you know, five years ago, I wasn't able to get pregnant, but I, now they've got a new treatment option. And maybe I can, yeah, it's

Speaker 2  40:56  
super tricky, because it certainly would be a true statement to help a child to understand that the process of adoption is not easy. It's expensive. But so as fertility treatment, it's a very long wait. And the weight is really significant. Because as we know, most of the people we see are already a little bit older than they wanted to be when they become parents. So explaining to a child that it could have been another very long way before they welcomed another child into their family through adoption. The reality is that they still had a desire to see themselves reflected in their children. And that is a normal and natural desire that almost everybody has some more than others. And I think children understand that I think they know that. And so like everything else that we talk about in parenting, and in these spaces, is to be somewhat honest, and validate whatever it is that child is feeling, which may be something like wasn't enough. Or, you know, why didn't you go back and get another child like me? You know, those kinds of things? And

Dawn Davenport  42:19  
it's tricky.

Speaker 2  42:20  
I don't think there's any good answer except to say we wanted to add to our family. And I always wanted to be pregnant. That might be one of the explanations. I always wanted to be pregnant. But the fact of we wanted a child that reflects our own genes is a really tough one to swallow, Don, and there's no easy way around it.

Dawn Davenport  42:43  
Yeah. Because we don't want children to feel second best. And yet, if you decide to go into treatment, now, the decision to get pregnant, I think a lot of people don't use birth control. They haven't used it for a long time. They haven't gotten pregnant. So continue. I think that's perhaps a easier would you agree, is that an easier explanation? Yes, it is. Yeah. We weren't expecting to get pregnant. And we did. So

Speaker 2  43:14  
yes. Which of course, then validates that myth that we talked about five minutes ago that that doesn't happen. Yeah, it happens very, very rarely

Dawn Davenport  43:23  
about as often as it does, where people you know about the statistics about the same as if people who are infertile, continue to try or have you know, especially having sex during time sex, it's about the same. And then there is something to say I imagine with when you are more relaxed, we do know that stress, but it's not a miracle, and every time you reduce your stress that you get pregnant, that just doesn't happen, you know, and,

Speaker 2  43:49  
and stress does not cause infertility. Let's just dispel that right here. And right now, that all of the data for decades validates the fact that infertility causes stress and in many cases, extreme stress. But stress does not cause infertility. Stress that causes infertility are extreme traumatic forms of stress that change your bodily function. But being stressed that you're not getting pregnant does not cause you to not get pregnant.

Dawn Davenport  44:29  
If that's the case, no one would get pregnant through fertility treatment, because that's correct.

Speaker 2  44:32  
And I always try to remind people that there were women in concentration camps who were emaciated and close to death who conceived in concentration camps. There are addicts who are unhealthy and you know, people who conceive during a rape. These are all the most extreme forms of trauma and stress that we can imagine and can conception does take place. So I just wanted to spell here for everybody who's blaming themselves that they're too stressed or their job is stressful or whatever it is, that is not causing the problem,

Dawn Davenport  45:13  
you have not caused your infertility. So how do you find a mental health professional that specializes in infertility? Because that's hard, because we're talking about needing to come to terms in before you if if you're struggling, and you're not sure whether you should move forward, therapy can be amazingly helpful. But not all therapists know anything around infertility treatment for adoption. Correct. So

Speaker 2  45:40  
one way and one of the best ways is to go on to the resolve website, And there are lists of mental health professionals that belong to resolve and are listed as appropriate professionals. Another is that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has a group of psychology professionals, it's a mental health professional group. And as a consumer, you can go on to the website and look for a mental health professional. Now, that means that they are a member of the group. So you know, paying membership, like most professional organizations, it doesn't mean they're going to be right for you. But it means that in some way, shape or form, they specialize in family building, or fertility processes, and they're not, you know, an eating disorders therapist or an addiction therapist, they specialize in that. So that's a really good source as well. And there are other organizations like parents via egg donation,

Dawn Davenport  46:54  
do they have a list of mental health professionals on their site? I don't think they do.

Speaker 2  46:59  
There isn't a list, but you can certainly contact the director. Yeah. And you know, another really practical good way is,

Dawn Davenport  47:08  
if you're coming out of treatment, ask your infertility treatment, who they recommend, because it's usually somebody local, and even if you haven't been in treatment, or you've moved in whatever, just calling up a clinic. That's one of the best ways because you know that they have

Speaker 2  47:24  
experienced specialist. Yeah, right. Yeah. That's a great suggestion. Yeah.

Dawn Davenport  47:28  
They're going to be local, which really helps. Well, thank you so much, Carol labor will are talking with us today about coming to terms with infertility, grief before you adopt or foster.

Speaker 2  47:42  
You're so welcome. Thank you for having me back. always enjoyed the conversation.

Dawn Davenport  47:47  
This show as well as all the resources that we provide at creating a would not happen without the support of our partners and our sponsors, one of which is this to Del Mar adoption, is through their support that we can provide you this show. Mr. del Mar is a licensed nonprofit adoption agency. With over 65 years of experience helping to create families. They offer home study only services as well as full service, infant adoption, international home studies and post adoption and they have a foster to adopt program. You can find them online at vista del

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