Sometimes Clarity Comes From The Most Unlikely Sources

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.

Our dog!

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.

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  • Reply Robyn

    I have tears in my eyes. I dont know how you do it, but you touch my heart so often with your words. What a journey we have all been on. Sending you all much love as always. xxx

    May 22, 2012 at 8:51 am
  • Reply Tracy

    I also have tears in my eyes reading this. I so relate to you saying that it was not important to continue your genetics. I felt the same way and I just knew I really wanted to be a mum. Thank goodness for Penelope for opening Walter’s heart to adoption.

    May 22, 2012 at 9:25 am
  • Reply cat@jugglingact

    Oh my gosh, this is beautiful! Funny enough, having our dogs also helped me to overcome my reluctance (yes, can you believe it – I think you must think I am ungrateful) to have children at all. BTW 0- only had a chance today to come over and subscribe to the new one and remove the old from my reader. Congratulations!

    May 22, 2012 at 9:34 am
    • Reply Sharon

      I don’t think you’re ungrateful at all. While having children is not always a choice for everyone, I get that some people would choose not to have and that’s fine too.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm
  • Reply Sian

    I was very much like you, I never had any huge objections to adoption. DJ was exactly like Walter. What touched my heart this Christmas was when he told our family how he could never ever have imagined a baby as perfect for us as J is. He said if given the option he wouldn’t change a thing. These are the types of things that make adoption so special.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Sian, I’d love to hear what was DJ’s defining moment, what was the exact moment when he realized that he could and would do this?

      May 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    Isn’t it particularly amazing that his daughter looks so much like him!

    May 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm
  • Reply Kathy

    Aaah I also have tears in my eyes!! I think that us infertiles (and possibly also those who choose not to have children) have an extra special place in our hearts for our pets…they really are more than just pets, they often become our everything.

    On Friday a week ago we fetched our little Suzy, a Saint Bernard puppy, from the airport. She arrived in a box from Jhb and although I work fairly close the the airport and my hubby far away, we had to both be there…It was just such a special moment. Something we had waited ages for and dreamt about for weeks since she was born. I did get a chance to see her once at 3wks, but hubby had not.

    I kept on thinking how special it is going to be when we fetch our child, but at the same time I tried not to draw parallels…I just know adoption is right for us. And the more I’m getting towards that day, the more special this whole thing is becoming!!

    And in the mean time, our little Suzy is bringing a much needed distraction, excitement and joy to our lives! She’s such a clever little (read: monstrous) puppy and we love her dearly!

    May 22, 2012 at 10:34 pm
  • Reply TJ

    I never thought about it that way before!

    May 23, 2012 at 10:25 am
  • Reply Lisa-Marie

    *snot en trane*
    I have seen his love for her firsthand and it is a BEAUTIFUL sight. A love shared between a daddy and his little girl is a sight to behold.
    I love how soft your beefy man is. He really is just so precious.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm
  • Reply Hayley

    Oh wow….that is so awesome, and makes so much sense…

    May 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm
  • Reply Ailsa Jean Loudon

    Such a sad story but what a beautiful ending. RIP doggie!!

    November 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm
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