About a month ago, I wrote a post about our decision to adopt after losing our first baby. It was such a major decision that it warrants more than a single post.
Losing a baby is experienced differently by different people. Some women who have lost a full-term baby or have even had multiple miscarriages are able to bounce back surprisingly quickly, ready and hopeful to try again. Other women who have lost a baby spend months in therapy, wracked with grief and anxiety.
It is an intensely personal experience and there is no right or wrong reaction. It does appear that the later in pregnancy the loss occurs, possibly the more intense the grief. Few people who miscarry at eight weeks experience the prolonged, intense devastation of women who have a stillbirth at thirty-eight weeks. But it does not mean it is impossible. Grief is hard to quantify. It is even harder to compare.
After the memorial service for our baby, Andrew and I sat around in a haze for about five weeks. In an attempt to move on, we went to a prenatal death support group. It was a wake-up call to see eight other couples in our same situation. Everyone took turns telling a terrible story of pregnancy and loss.
As we walked out into the fluorescent lighting of the Evanston Hospital parking garage, I asked Andrew what he thought.
“I suppose it was beneficial to see that we are not alone in our pain. I don’t know. I don’t think I want to go back to that group. The collective grief in the room was just too much to bear. A room full of parents with pregnancy horror stories is a very depressing place to be,” he commented. “What do you think?”
I thought about it for a minute. “I do feel a heaviness after being in that room. God, could you believe that one girl, the one who lost a baby at twenty-two weeks and then got pregnant right away and lost the second baby at twenty weeks? And she already wants to try again! I don’t know how she can do that. I don’t know if I can ever try another pregnancy, much less right away. I think I’d rather look into adopting and get a healthy baby.”
It was after that support group session that we knew how much we needed
to go forward and adopt. Many people find great comfort in going to
support groups, through the catharsis of telling their story to people
However, Andrew and I were already in grief
counseling with a very effective therapist and we felt that our
emotional needs were being met.
We did not decide to adopt
because we were trying to replace Matthew, nor as a way to avoid
processing the grief. Some people gently asked if we were rushing into
adopting too soon, wondering were we still in shock and not able to
make good decisions. Perhaps so, but at that moment, we needed a
reason to get up each day; we needed a child to love, and we were ready
to be parents.
Since the adoption process is usually very
lengthy, we would likely have many additional months of healing time
before bringing home a baby. In the meantime, we would continue our
grief counseling, working to accept the loss of Matthew and continuing
to prepare our hearts for another child. Every Thursday night, we had
a phone therapy session with Susan Love, our counselor, and we talked
about our feelings of grief and hope.
Most people who decide
to adopt have experienced more traditional battles with infertility
than ours. They either cannot become pregnant or cannot carry the baby
to term. We represent a smaller population, a partnership where each
carries the same rare recessive gene for a deadly disease, making
reproduction a terrifying roll of the dice.
But regardless of
how infertility manifests itself, it has the same end result: people
want a child and cannot easily make one. For us, adoption was the next
logical step. Fortunately, Andrew and I and our families were
enthusiastic about the idea of adopting a child.
In the end,
the decision to adopt is a personal one, and if the adoptive parents
feel it is the right choice, it is irrelevant what everyone else
When a couple decides to create a baby the old
fashioned way, friends and relatives are not expected to weigh in with
their opinions. It should be the same when a couple or a single person
decides to adopt or undergo in vitro or sperm donation or fertility
drugs or surrogacy. There are so many ways to build a family, and the
end result is just that: a family.