Monday, June 24, 2013

Its the obligatory post about infertility

One of the jokes that Brian and I have is that I can meet someone in the bathroom at a restaurant or movie theater and come out knowing quite a bit more than you should know about a perfect stranger.  If I walk out with a woman and say, “Nice to meet you, have a good day,” Brian will whisper to me, “what’s her fertility situation?” It’s true though, I love talking about fertility. Thank goodness it’s part of my job (most of the time) but the truth is that it’s really interesting to me.

Oh, but it wasn’t always that way. When I was a young 22-year-old social worker and people started talking about their fertility or infertility for that matter, I was quickly squirming in my seat. Talking about sexual intercourse and IVF with this novice just about left me tied in knots. Thankfully, age has yielded wisdom on this topic and now I find it the height of importance and interest to be discussed during home study meetings. I spend quite a bit of time and effort talking about these things with clients during the home study process. I’ve learned a lot medically and relationshipey (note: I’m forever grateful to the family who taught me what a vas deferens was and its importance in the baby making. You know who you are and thank you.) Perhaps the most memorable families I’ve had are the families who know with whom the infertility originates. The closest I’ve ever come to crying at work was with the sweet man who was so frustrated about their Vietnam adoption process and called me one day in a panic. I told him although frustrating, he needed to be patient and it would all work out.  He started crying, “please, give my wife a baby, Nikki. I can’t.” So much love and emotion.  

But then there’s the other side – those of you who are not adopting due to infertility. I assume there are some of you who are trying darn hard not to get pregnant during the adoption process, and that’s ok. You don’t have to feel bad about this! It’s perfectly ok if you feel called to adopt without dealing with infertility. I work with people who seem to feel almost guilty that they want to adopt, and I quote, are “taking” a baby from someone who isn’t able to birth one. Do yourself a favor and work through that asap. Perhaps for some of you, this topic needs to find a place on your grief spectrum, and that’s fine. It’s like anything else you need to process and pray through, start early and resolve.

I recently read an article that stated the Duggars are considering adoption from China after a recent trip to a Chinese orphanage. No matter your feelings about this family, they apparently are taking the time to pray and consider adding to their family through adoption. Clearly they have not struggled with infertility but they might be feeling called to adopt, and good for them for giving time to consider that process. I’m not too sure about how getting that additional children waiver would work (China has a 6 children rule), but hey, it’s a nice thought.

As Brian and I share more about our adoption plans and embark upon this journey, one of the most interesting things has been talking with people who assume we’re only doing this because we have fertility problems. It’s been so sweet to see the people who come out of the woodwork to tell me their fertility woes and reach out to comfort me. But I’ve really been getting a lot of sweetness like “oh Nikki, I’m so sorry, we didn’t know you’ve been struggling about this in silence.” I’m learning a lot and seeing true compassion. Anytime you get to step out and see the raw, exposed layers of tender, human, compassion, that’s a boost for confidence in mankind. I’m always open to hear your stories about infertility and hopefully will be able to be a source of support for you as well.

But the idea that the only reason we would be adopting, adopting an older, special needs child from China no less, would be because of infertility is strange. For those of you who know Brian and me, I think this is a no-brainer. But more than that, it’s 2013. There’s no “rules” anymore for family building. How many people are helping raise their niece, or parenting stepchildren, or living with their parents to save on bills and have built in childcare, or taking a financial hit so one parent can stay home when the children are young? Lots of people! It’s simple, we felt called to adopt an older child from another country. We know the world has a global orphan problem. We do what we can. There are times when humanitarian aid efforts are not enough and children are still orphans. And sometimes we can adopt those kids and sometimes we can’t. But for the sometimes that we can, let’s open our hearts and homes to diversity and enriching lives because we truly want to…for whatever reason is right for you. I am happy to say that our little cousins will be forever enriched because of this adoption. Yes, they are also enriched by our cousin who has Aspergers, and our cousin in a wheelchair, and our Korean cousins, and our cousins who live on the reservation, and our mixed race cousin who was adopted domestically, etc., but we’ll gladly add our kiddo to the list too. Welcoming diversity = enriching lives. I’m glad we’ll be adding to the Pauls/DeSimone ball of crazy!      

But, you know that I so like talking about it, so here it is: we’re not adopting because of infertility. We might have the opportunity to birth a child as well someday but we wanted to start our family with this kiddo who had more significant needs so we would be able to focus 100% of our parenting efforts on her. We know attachment, English language acquisition, and her medical needs are going to be stressful and challenging and we wanted to be able to be all hands on deck for her. If you would have asked me if it was my dream to plan a family with an 11+ year gap between kids, of course I would have said no. But remember, it’s 2013…no rules. I’m calling Adoption Anarchy, and I’m happy to be participating.



  1. I LOVE everything about this post. We are slowly feeling God open us to more options and I really like the way you approached this here (all rules are out!--with deep thought and social worker input of course:)). We've not dealt with infertility (though recently our story has changed some) but are SO used to talking about it with people after 2+ years of being open about our adoption. Thanks for sharing your story and being truthful and graceful about this topic!

  2. You are awesome. That's all. So glad God put you in our life!

  3. LOL!!! Cracking me up! Okay, I know there was some very serious stuff in this post and some deep issues that families must deal with as they approach adoption. However, as the mama to my six kiddos - 4 homegrown and 2 made in China - we've had to deal with so much of this. Not infertile. Maybe crazy. Six special kiddos. Two adopted older. Tons of questions and odd looks! Love 'em all...even on the days when I'm at the end of myself. Thankful for great support networks - online, other adoptive parents, other parents of special kids, supportive teachers, friends, counselors, and an AMAZINGLY AWESOME SOCIAL WORKER!