It’s not Always a “Choice”

This is going to be another one of those pieces where I hope it generates a productive conversation that leads to progress rather than take offense. It’s not that I care if I unintentionally upset people. I care more about being able to create positive change.
Each of our infertility stories is unique and different. No two infertility stories are exactly the same. With the reproduction of two or more people required to create a fetus leading up to 40+ weeks of gestation there are so many factors in each situation that could go wrong. Even when a diagnosis is the same for an infertile female in a couple you still have the male factor with many different possible reasons for lack of conception or potential for miscarriage. Also you have the being able to afford treatment factor. In taking a hard look at this, the options available for one couple might not be available for another couple when it comes to a couple either conceiving a child or third party reproduction.  In some cases there are no options to become a parent through some type of scientific intervention.
When it comes to becoming a parent via non biological or other scientific ways the ability to do so can vary as well. Depending upon where a person lives, their financial status and other personal circumstances (health, marital status, etc.) the ability to to become a parent via adopting isn’t available for every couple or person. For instance depending upon where a person/couple lives and what the laws are for adopting they maybe disqualified from adopting. You could also be in a financial situation where you are unable to afford the costs to adopt and lack the ability to raise funds to adopt. Lastly you could be disqualified from adopting due to a health condition you have.  In some cases a person/couple may not be able to adopt.
When you add in all of that the conclusion reached is that not everyone will be able to become a parent. I say this because personally I’ve been told by others that it’s my choice to be childless and there are options I’m choosing not to go through. They say this without knowing our full story. There are so many other factors in our story that I haven’t disclosed that are personal to us. I’ve also seen other people be told that if they want to become parents they shouldn’t give up in finding a way to become parents.  That is completely unfair to assume unless you know the person/couple’s entire story.
People mean well when they ask those going through infertility if they’ve considered adoption or tried a certain treatment.  If a person is curious about what the couple/person has tried instead they can ask what their options are. It’s a more broad question that gives the person going through infertility the ability to have control of the conversation. They may have options they are pursuing or may have exhausted all options. The only way to know is ask rather than go to one specific option that either worked for you or someone you know.
My point is infertility and our ability to become parents is extremely complicated.  We should recognize that we all have circumstances that give each couple different options. In some cases a person/couple may choose to pass on their options but in other cases the circumstances may take away any option a person/couple has to become a parent. We can’t assume that a person/couple is choosing to be childless unless we know their whole story.
I say all of this not to be bitter for those who have been able to become parents after infertility. I am grateful that people have been able to become parents because it gives those going through infertility hope that they one day can become parents.  It gives me hope that future generations don’t have to go through what so many of us have dealt with.  I say this to help others better connect with those going through infertility and those who never become parents.  Hopefully this piece can help us better communicate with one another.

40 thoughts on “It’s not Always a “Choice”

      1. Mama, Eden & Me

        Completely agree. Obviously I can’t completely understand as I haven’t been through it, but I feel a similar way about infertility. You can’t understand unless you’ve been there.

  1. differentshoresblog

    Personally I wish that people would understand that there are multiple factors in the ‘decision’ to not pursue one option or another; unfortunately they rarely understand anything unless they have direct personal experience of infertility. (I know you’re not saying this – it’s my subjective experience of it). I never refer to my infertility problems any more, even to family, because I sense a very strong air of ‘Well, why didn’t you try X, Y or Z?’. The sympathy or empathy or whatever dried up very quickly when people understood that I a) hadn’t pursued adoption; b) discounted donor egg; c) only had IVF once. The reasons are many: in short, there is hardly any adoption where I am (70 kids a year max), and my partner was dead against adopting anyway; donor egg is anonymous in the countries available and I don’t want that for a child; and I was given a 90% chance of failing very high-dose IVF, plus people assume it’s free and it isn’t here. It would be nice if people did ask broad questions and let you control the discussion. I find instead that people I know jump straight to adoption, for example. I hope that laying out our reasons helps people see that it is very complicated, like you yourself say.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      Where you live and what the culture and laws are exactly what I was referring to when talking about what’s available to each person/couple.

  2. journeyformybaby

    This is very insightful. People are quick to offer adoption as a cure-all or quick-fix when, first off, it’s not! And secondly there are so many factors that make adoption impossible/unavailable, as you explained. The same is true for fertility treatment and it’s just a shame people don’t get it.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      I don’t expect outsiders to know this but it is upsetting when it comes from people within the infertility community. They don’t do it intentionally to hurt someone they are always trying to help. I wish a piece like this can help them be more aware.

  3. Courtney

    There is nothing more upsetting than reading the birth story of an assisted reproduction baby and at the end, Mom writes, “keep trying, ladies. Keep fighting to be a mom because if you keep trying, like I did, it will happen.”. I have seen this time and time again. I roll my eyes, and click unfollow, every time.

    No, we cannot all be successful. The stats tell us that we all won’t become parents. The, “just adopt,” camp is my favorite. Because you know, there are all of those “unwanted” babies out there and adoption is cheap.

    1. ProsperityAndCalamities

      Adoption through foster care (at least in the US) is free but not a guarantee and not always babies. I do agree adoption is really expensive!

      1. gsmwc02 Post author

        Adoption through Foster Care isn’t an option for some people depending upon where they live. A couple maybe disqualified due to local laws or a health condition in one of the parties.

      2. ProsperityAndCalamities

        And it’s also pretty hard to do. I went through the classes for foster parenting but didn’t go on to become a foster parent. There are a lot of rules, restrictions, etc. It would be very rewarding but I definitely agree that it isn’t for everyone.

      3. Courtney

        (this is in response to gsm.. And not prosperity..) When people offered me “foster to adopt” because of all of those kids needing homes, my response always was, “then why don’t you foster them?”. I think it’s offensive that those who can have babies easily think that it’s the infertile people’s jobs to take on the kids with serious issues and who could easily be taken back by their birth families. Like It’s no big deal to put your heart out there with the very real possibility that the kid will go back to their family (which is almost always the goal of the foster system as stated in our fostering classes here in Iowa). I think fostering with the hope of adopting is for even fewer people than “traditional” adoption because of the histories of the children and the goal of reuniting with birth families.

        And I’ll be so bold to say this…. Why should I have to be the one to take on kids with serious issues (attachment disorders, histories of abuse, drugs, etc. which are rampant in the foster system) just because I can’t procreate easily? Why do people assume that I even have the temperament to handle such things just because i can’t make my own kids easily? I say if you think that fostering is so noble and wonderful, why don’t YOU do it yourself?

        I have a good friend who has difficult pregnancies. After her second, she actually said, “if we want a third, we’ll just adopt because there are so many kids who need homes.”. I flat out said, “then do foster to adopt, because with traditional adoption, NO there aren’t lots of babies who need homes. If you’re concerned about kids needing homes, then foster, but please don’t even think of taking a baby who is desperately wanted and needed by a childless couple through traditional adoption.”. The ignorance is AMAZING. I knew these things long before i was even married, how do people not understand?

      4. gsmwc02 Post author

        I think adoption and foster care are things the public doesn’t understand unless they have first hand experience with it or have had an interest to research deeply. As a teenager I had a close friend who was adopted who ended up having a teen pregnancy. Even with that I didn’t understand it.

        To me anyone who hasn’t been adopted, hasn’t lost a child to adoption or has adopted themselves have zero credibility when suggesting someone else adopt. 99 out of 100x’s the suggestion will come from someone not in the group I mentioned.

        As you said not everyone should adopt. People who are fit to adopt are ones that have the ability to handle the challenges that come with adopting. You are doing kids a disservice by suggesting people adopt who aren’t fit to adopt.

        And finally you’re right if people are that concerned about the “kids needing homes” there is nothing stopping them from stepping up to do something about it.

    2. gsmwc02 Post author

      Yes Yes Yes. People mean well but the keep trying crowd is unintentionally making the childless infertile person feel guilty if they do decide to stop treatments.

      Thank you for understanding what I was getting at.

  4. clwalchevill

    You bring up many excellent points. All of which I agree with. The problem lies in people attempting a quick fix vs truly wanting to understand the situation. Those who quickly throw out adoption or donor gamete or embryo adoption or surrogacy have zero (and I mean ZERO) idea of what is involved with each process. They’re not trival decisions. Just as I would never assume end of life decisions to be easy.

    I think the bigger issue is turning all of this on its head and asking people WHY they assume these things are options for all involved. Where are the holes in their knowledge? Would they honestly be able to make these decisions given their circumstances and, if so, do they also assume everyone is equal? What do they know about adoption or donor gametes or surrogacy? And why do they feel the need to be so flippant about this?

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      Exactly. The bigger issue is where I was getting at. There are so many unknowns that you can’t assume unless you know the full story.

  5. My Perfect Breakdown

    Never ever will I ever support the approach of “just adopt”. Whenever I hear it I still correct it. And for context i’ll note that we are already hear “when are you adopting your second” and I always respond with it is very highly unlikely we will ever adopt again for a number of reasons. Depending on the person and the circumstances I may elaborate, but I also may not. There simply is no quick fix and most people don’t get it.
    And I completely agree with Courtney. That comment kills me every time I read it! We all have our enough and sometimes trying more just isn’t an viable option and that’s okay.

  6. xavierandaliceanne

    People like a happy ending. People believe in “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” I don’t know why you personally cannot pursue certain avenues. You’ve only shared a portion of your journey. I think some people are just curious and want to know why your pathway to parenthood was thwarted. And ideas and options are thrown out there, well meaning I’m sure. Just because people want to see you “succeed.” The idea that life could give you a set of circumstances that could completely thwart someone’s pursuit of happiness and force them to walk a different path than they would’ve chosen doesn’t sit well with people. So we try to “fix” it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It’s always a refreshing perspective.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      Thanks for the feedback.

      I think people can have a happy ending with and without children. The problem is it’s assumed that the happy ending is with children and not without children.

  7. andthewindscreamsmary

    How very true. I had three pregnancy losses, and I was told once or twice “Why don’t you just do IVF?” As if it is so easy and cheap and you can just walk into a doctor’s office and make it happen. They said this without understanding what caused our losses (and to be honest, even our doctors can’t provide an explanation) or any of our medical history, doctor’s recommendations, etc. To be fair, I never really opened up to anyone about it because it was too painful for me to talk about, but IVF wouldn’t have helped us unless a specific set of circumstances could be confirmed (and they haven’t been confirmed even to this day.) As you pointed out, every couple has a different story and background and beliefs, and what works for one will not work for them all. It’s a highly personal decision and many factors go into that decision – it’s not just made on a whim, and I think people should be more respectful of people’s personal lives and situations and have some boundaries.

  8. Mali

    This equates very much to my recent writing about the “you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it” and the whole issue of privilege around infertility. I also bristle at the idea that we have chosen to live without children. Even those who think they know the detailed situations of someone who is living without children doesn’t know the intimate details, the issues that each individual and each couple has to deal with.

    I freely admit that I have chosen to be happy in my life without children, but it wasn’t my choice to be here in the first place.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      Hey there. Your work has been awesome lately (more awesome than it normally is). I’ve tried to respond but don’t think it’s gone through.

      I completely agree that there is a choice of how to live your life without kids but sometimes it’s not a choice to be childless. Your blogs lately have covered exactly what I’m talking about with where you live impacting what your options are.

  9. Dubliner in Deutschland

    I agree, it is often not a “choice” to remain childfree when other avenues are not for us for whatever reason. Some people are trying to be helpful presumably but their comments can just end up being more hurtful and can make you feel like you are not doing enough or trying hard enough.

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      My point was not so much when people make the decision not to pursue other options that aren’t for them. My point was more about situations where certain options aren’t available.

  10. foreverhopeful23

    I love this! People who have been blessed to have kids naturally and easy have NO idea how complicated making a baby actually is… And from getting that swimmer to connect to an egg- birth, there’s about 1,000,000,000,000 things that can go wrong. I just wish people would almost keep their comments to themselves. I know they mean well, but a lot of comments are hurtful and/or frustrating. I’m sure we all know about “well, if you could just relax and not be so stressed…..” Yeah, because stress has EVERYTHING to do with poor egg quality or flatheads for the swimmers. Eh. They just don’t understand

    1. gsmwc02 Post author

      It goes beyond people with no experience in infertility. Even people within the infertility who have either become parents or those who have not reached the stage of having to look at other options have been guilty of this. To me that hurts even more when it comes from someone who you hope would be more supportive and empathetic.

  11. Swimmingly OrNot

    Thank you for sharing. This is something I’ve often felt but never quite articulated. Getting this through to people is difficult, but I agree. The question should be “What are your options?” not “Why don’t you try this?”.


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