Infertility is a journey. Very rarely, unless medically required, does a couple battling infertility go from trying to conceive naturally straight into the big guns of IVF. Usually there is a process of elimination, of trying various forms of treatment before resorting to IVF.
It’s not just a physical journey, but an emotional journey too. Before taking the next step on ones infertility journey, there is a mourning period, whether it be mourning the loss of ones ability to conceive naturally or mourning the loss of the use of one’s own eggs or sperm or even of one’s own uterus when exploring surrogacy.
Adoption requires the same process for most people. Most infertile couples will not just wake up one morning and decide they’re going to adopt. There is a process that one has to go through, a time of grieving the loss of ones own genetics, of making peace with ones current circumstance before being able to take the next step. It’s a time of deep inner reflection, of searching for answers and ensuring that you really are up for the challenge of raising an adopted child.
For many people, this is often a stumbling block. I had been ready to adopt from early on in our infertility journey. I had this gut feel that I would never carry a pregnancy to term and that adoption was the right path for us. For me, the journey to parenthood had never been about pregnancy, it had never been about a continuation of my own genetics, call me crazy, but that just wasn’t a concern for me. I knew I wanted to be a mother, I knew I wanted to love and nurture a child into adulthood. And adoption seemed the obvious choice for me.
This was not true for Walter. Initially he was dead against adopting, he had many concerns, most notably, would he be able to love a child that wasn’t genetically his own? He really struggled with this issue for years. And obviously I could not push him in any direction, I just had to wait patiently, hoping and believing that in time we’d find ourselves on the same page and ready to pursue the next step.
The confirmation he had been searching for, the confidence in his ability to love came from the most unlikely source.
Penelope was a rescue dog of a very special kind. She was one of the tragic stories that touched the hearts of so many, rescued off an invaded farm in Zimbabwe and flown on a mercy flight into South Africa to be treated and hopefully re-homed. She came to us starved, burnt and beaten with a panga, full of stitches and sores and so desperate for TLC and food. We loved her from the moment we adopted her. With lots of love and care she made an almost full recovery.
She was our devoted pet for 5 years when the long term effects of her trauma started to take their toll on her. Plagued by stomach problems and bone issues, both as a resulted of extended starvation, we eventually had to make the very painful decision to have her euthenized.
In the lead up to that painful decision both Walter and I struggled emotionally. And one night, I found Walter, sitting on the floor next to Penelope’s bed, big crocodile tears rolling down his cheeks. And I’ll never forget it, he looked at me and said:
“Ok, I’m ready to adopt”
He explained that he knew in that quiet moment with Penelope, a dog he had not wanted but one whom he had loved so deeply that the pain of saying goodbye to her was too much for him to bare, he knew that if he could feel like that about a dog that his main concern about not loving an adopted child enough, was unfounded. He knew that the way he would feel about a child, our child, an adopted child, would far exceed any love he had for our adopted pet. And that was his defining moment, it was in that moment that he knew he was ready to take the next step.
When he told our SW this story during our screening process, I expected her to laugh or chase us away but she told us that it’s often the love we have for our pets that helps give clarity to couples who are contemplating adoption.
And of course, today, there is absolutely no questioning Walter’s love for our daughter.