Can they be done at the same time? Is it a good idea?
Traditionally, those with fertility problems have been told to move past the stage of TTC (trying to conceive, generally via assisted reproduction) and mourn the loss of biological children they would not have before starting the adoption process.
Today, however, some experts say this doesn’t have to be a hard and fast rule. They believe that there are instances where TTC and pursuing adoption can go hand in hand. But - and there is a "but".
To learn more, we talked with Lisa Schuman, CSW, CASAC. Ms. Schuman is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City and is a partner in an adoption consulting group called Adoption Network Consultants. She is a support group leader and sits on the board of the American Infertility Association. She is an active member of the Mental Health Group of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Adoptive Parents Committee. She is a parent through adoption.
We asked her:
if it’s always best for fertility treatments to stop and losses to be mourned before starting the adoption process;
if no, why/when not?
why many agencies require that their clients "resolve" fertility issues and stop TTC before starting the adoption process;
why some hide the fact that they are TTC from an agency;
if there are particular problems we should be aware of where TTC and adopting might collide
Q: "Traditional wisdom" seems to say that those actively involved in fertility treatments should not begin the adoption process - that they should wait until treatments prove ineffective or until they make a conscious decision to stop - until they mourn the loss of biological children they won’t have. Is this always best? A: Not always.
Q: When or why not? A: First of all, I don’t believe that feelings can simply dissapear or be shut off. I think mourning for any loss, including infertility, happens over time. If we waited for everyone to be fully "recovered" from the pain of infertility, most people could not adopt. I think it’s ok to be sad. Even to be sad when you have adopted children. For example, it may be sad that you didn’t give birth to them. Everyone in the adoptive family has experienced a loss and to deny that is to deny our feelings. Having said that, I think it is also important to be self aware and to know when you are ready to bring a child into your home. If you are feeling drained and in need of nurturning, it may be wise to recoil and heal your wounds a bit before you adopt. Children need to be taken care of, not to get the message that they are there to make their parents happy. Couples, individual or group therapy with someone who specializes in this area can help to identify potential problems.
Q: Why do many agencies require that prospective adoptive parents resolve fertility issues and not be in the process of TTC when they start the adoption process? A: I think some social workers believe that the couple will not be committed to adoption, will be actively grieving when they bring a child into their home, will back out of the adoption if they get pregnant, etc. I have heard many reasons. I don’t think that any of us knows what people are thinking or feeling until we talk to them. Once we do we can have an idea of how they feel, not before.
Q: Why do some hide the fact that they are TTC from adoption agencies? A: They may be afraid they won’t be approved by the agency.
Q: Are there particular problems families should be made aware of where TTC and adoption collide? A: Of course, there are many potential problems. I come from a background in IVF counseling. Over the years I have done a good deal of donor egg and donor sperm screening as well. The myriad issues involved in these procedures are too numerous for a couple to consider on their own. For that reason, it is imperative that they be counseled on the consequences of their decisions. I believe the world of adoption can learn a lot from the IVF world. Couples should not be quickly excluded from agencies but instead interviewed and counseled before any decisions are made. I think it would be more helpful for all involved.
Q: Any final comments? A: I would encourage everyone to be counseled and assisted in their quest for a baby so they don’t feel desperate, alone and eager to ’break the rules’. I also hope that the agencies wake up to the fact that people need to be treated as individuals and spoken with in a kind and humane way. The whole infertiltiy treatment process is so depressing and de-humanizing that the last thing people need is more of that when they look to adopt.
[Ms. Schuman can be reached for questions at ]
Placing a Child... Does It Matter if Hopeful Parents Are Still Trying to Conceive?
On the other side of the infant adoption equation are expectant or placing parents who participate in the process. How do they feel about prospective adoptive parents who are TTC and pursuing adoption at the same time? Here’s one view.
To find community and resources regarding fertility issues, infertility diagnosis, causes, and costs, for those trying to conceive, visit InfertilityCentral.com. When getting pregnant isn't as easy as anticipated, this is the place to find information and support.