So, why didn’t we just adopt?

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of a gloved hand holding a glass ball with a sunset & dry flowers showing through on Why didn't we just adopt? Infertility/Childless Blog on Not So Mommy...

For many, there is a very simple solution to both infertility and childlessness.  Just adopt.  Honestly, before we went through our infertility struggle, these were my exact thoughts, too.

From the time I was 14-years-old, I told my mom that I wanted to have one of my kids and I wanted to adopt the other one.  My mom was a bit worried about this plan, but I was sure that it was right for me.  Funny thing is, I never discussed this with Dane before we got married.  Not once did I ask him about his feelings on adoption.

As we began to start trying to have a baby, I said that if we couldn’t get pregnant, I’d just adopt.  Again, I didn’t discuss this with my husband.  And I had no idea what “just adopt” really meant.

As we trudged further along into our infertility battle, those two words—just adopt—began to change meaning for me.  You can only use them so flippantly when you haven’t been in the trenches…

During World Childless Week, I wrote about why you should never say, “Just adopt,” to someone struggling with infertility.  (You can read that entire post here.)  But there is more to it than I shared previously.  Even me, who talks openly about our struggle, worries about discussing some of the reasons we didn’t just adopt for fear of judgment, and worse, harsh criticisms.

Some (perhaps most) believe that if you wanted a baby badly enough, you would do anything to have one.  If that means you need to adopt a child, you would move Heaven and earth to make that happen.  And if you don’t, then you gave up and can’t really say that you truly wanted a child.  (I’m not speaking hypothetically here.  I’ve read comments such as these on social media when childlessness is being discussed.)

Here’s the problems with such judgments (at least for my husband and me).

Some people do not have a heart for adoption.

This is a scary one to put out there.  But it’s true.  Adoption is not right for everyone.  It takes a very special person to bring a child that they are not biologically related to into their home and love that child unconditionally as their own.  A child should never feel that they were a second choice, a back-up option, a plan B because the couple couldn’t have kids of their own.  If you adopt a child, you must be absolutely certain that this kid will be yours and that you will fully invest in your parenting roles.

While Dane and I are both more than capable of loving children who we are not biologically related to, my husband’s heart was never fully committed to adoption.  To be fair, my heart was never fully committed to IVF.  He did not push me to pursue treatments that I was unsure about.  And I could not push him to pursue adoption when he simply wasn’t sure….

Adoption is scary.

Because adoption is scary.  We attended several adoption meetings and even went so far as to complete the paperwork to be considered as adoptive parents by the Department of Child Services.  We researched domestic, international, and embryo adoption.  But the more research we did, the more worried we became about the process…

How would we ever have enough money to adopt internationally or nationally?  What if the mother had used drugs and the baby had mental and/or physical deficits?  And the scariest thought…  What if the biological mom changed her mind and they took the baby away?

The last one was the deal-breaker for my hubby.  He knew this would devastate me.  But what he never shared until years later is that he knew it would break him, too.  And he simply wasn’t sure that he could put both of us back together again. He just wasn’t willing to risk our marriage…

It takes two.

And having a baby when you are married…  Well, it takes two.  It takes two to decide to start trying to get pregnant.  It takes two (and a couple nurses and some doctors) to decide to go through infertility treatments.  And it takes two (and a lawyer, some caseworkers, and birth parents) to adopt.

Now, you may disagree.  Single women can adopt.  I know this.  In fact, I personally know a single lady who never found Mr. Right and adopted her son.  She is incredible, and I am in awe of her strength, love, and generosity.

But I am not single.  I am married to a wonderful, kind-hearted, loving, hard-working, smart, funny, handsome man.  A man that I love with all my heart.  A man that I vowed to love until death do us part.  A man that I promised, “What God hath brought together, let no man put asunder.”

And because of that, I knew that it would take two to adopt.  I couldn’t do it alone.  And I wouldn’t force my hubby to do something that he was so unsure about.

So, why didn’t we just adopt?

So, we didn’t just adopt because it wasn’t the right path for us.  Yet, to this day, there are still people who judge us for this decision.  People who think I gave up.  People who believe that I allowed my husband to force me into abandoning my true desire.

But those people are wrong.  Yes, I made a choice.  And yes, I chose my husband.  But I didn’t give up or get bullied into anything.  I chose the path that was right for me…  For us.

I’m no longer the 14-year-old girl who doesn’t understand what infertility or adoption really means.  I’m not even the 26-year-old young woman who is married and thinks that adoption is simply an easy alternative.  No, I am a 40-year-old woman who struggled for ten years to have a baby and finally decided (with some urging from my incredible husband) to simply embrace my life as it is.  A childless life that is full of love and joy and adventure.  A life that is ours.  The life that God gave us…

 

For more on adoption, read “Not So Helpful Advice: Just Adopt

Read more about our Infertility Journey…

Get to know more About Me…

Photo Credit: Dawid Zawila on StockSnap.io

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30 comments

A comrade. May 12, 2020 - 11:32 pm

This post means the world to me. Thank you! I’ve longed to adopt since childhood. Before marriage I thought my soon to be husband was on board. But that was before we knew anything about infertility. Strange how infertility changes things. And it hurts so deeply when people ask “Why don’t you just adopt?” because I don’t want to throw my husband under the bus – and I won’t. I don’t know how to answer that question. It is sooo full of judgment and it bites at a deep place of pain for me. Yet, I am blessed, as it sounds like you are, with an incredible husband. I am so grateful for our marriage!

I also really appreciate the comments on here. The father who is a pastor learning so he can show compassion towards his adult daughter. Even your incredibly gracious reply to the person who wrote in judgment.

Thank you for writing this post. It is truly valuable!

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Brandi Lytle May 13, 2020 - 12:08 pm

Despite the circumstances, I am so grateful that you are part of this community and that this blog post (and the comments) resonated with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response to this post. You are correct that the “Why don’t you just adopt” question causes intense pain for those of us who realized adoption was not our path–for a variety of reasons. I hope that if (when) this question is asked of you in the future, you can respond with insights from this post or even direct the person asking to read the blog. The more we speak up, the more we will educate and raise awareness about what it truly means to be childless not by choice. Sending you so many hugs…

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James R. M. Young December 13, 2019 - 3:53 pm

Brandi, thank you for your very wise words and excellent writing. Im an old guy with a daughter who is working to embrace her childlessness after three invitro attempts. As she said to me, I’ve put my life on ‘hold’ long enough, and i’m ready to live again. Your blog helps, and she referred you to me, and others. Your writing helps so many! So please, keep on doing this. Now, the reason I’m commenting here is that, so far, I’ve read nothing about the potentiality of emerging destructive behavior arising in adopted children. This is something that concerns me more and more. I’m a pastor, mainline denomination, approaching retirement in a few years, and over the years I have encountered a number of families/couples who have adopted and embraced their children with amazing love and support. Only to then experience a world of pain, even horror, when these same children begin exploding with amazingly destructive behavior. Most often it begins with the onset of puberty and racing hormones. Something is triggered, something that controls/affects behavior. Research scientists in the field of Behavior Genetics have yielded more and more studies that show our personalities and behaviors are tied far more to our genetics than we ever thought. The bottom line is that in adopting , now thanks to mandated confidentiality issues, potential parents face great difficulty in discovering the background and behavior of the child’s parents. This is scary. Because the dark truth here is that this baby/toddler/child, who is so sweet and innocent now, has a high probability of, starting in puberty, duplicating the destructive behavior of that child’s parents/grandparents, etc. What makes this so scary is that no matter how much we love, support, change the home environment, there is a high probability that this will make little difference in that child exploding in destructive behavior as puberty develops. Please understand: all adolescents engage in struggling for independence, for exerting their will, some more, some less. All of us do that. What I’m talking about is behavior that goes beyond what would be labeled ‘normal’ adolescent rebellion into something much, much darker. This seems to be the hidden, not-talked-about, almost secret info connected to adoption. I think it is so because when the adopted teenager begins to behave anti-social ways, we all tend to believe that this is what all teens do. But for so many families who have adopted children, their much loved adopted child gets more destructive, gets more rebellious. I have yet to find a study that deals with this. Hopefully, some good research team will eventually do so. In the meantime, I caution all couples who are seriously (and I mean, like you–and you write about this so very, very well, and wisely) considering adoption, find out what you can about the background/family of origin of the child and any trauma anyone in that family may have experienced (for trauma–war, abuse, physical deprivation,etc–affects generations, most often the grandchildren and great-great grandchildren). They need to discover what they can about the parents behavior, with the understanding that such just may begin to emerge from the child as well. Will this stop most couples from adopting? Probably. But it won’t stop all. And that’s precisely what encourages me, for those who DO then proceed will be those very special couples who just might be able to break whole generational cycles of destruction by being willing to deal with this in informed, effective, loving ways.

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Brielle July 9, 2019 - 8:43 pm

It’s a shame your husband is so cold towards adoption. How many wonderful kids are waiting for loving homes and because someone believes themselves genetically superior they remain without parents? Deep down you must really resent your husband.

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Brandi Lytle July 9, 2019 - 11:43 pm

Your comment saddens my heart, Brielle. I absolutely do not resent my husband in any way. And he absolutely does not think himself “genetically superior.” Our reasons for deciding that adoption was not our path were complex… Our journey lasted for ten years. We researched all different types of adoption. Ultimately, my husband never felt fully comfortable with any of the adoption options. I was not going to force something like that on him. He didn’t force IVF on me when I wasn’t comfortable with it. We supported one another because we love one another. My husband is the most amazing man with the most amazing heart. I am blessed beyond measure that God brought him to me.

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Michele February 25, 2019 - 9:44 am

I struggled with infertility (have now had a hysterectomy), had a failed embryo adoption, had multiple failed private adoption matches, and recently had a failed international adoption. I’m trying one last international adoption (different country) and then I’m done. I’m out of money and energy. People seem to think that adoption is a sure thing. Adoption was my plan A but trying to get pregnant was suppose to be “cheaper and easier” and I just wanted to be a mom. In between the failed private adoption and the failed international adoption I did try again because I wasn’t ready to go back to adoption. I thought I would never quit fighting to become a mom, but here I am reading blogs about being childless and it gives me hope that there is life after. That deciding to let go of this dream isn’t the end. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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Brandi Lytle February 25, 2019 - 9:54 am

Michele, I am so sorry that you are struggling. My heart breaks for you. I agree that those who don’t truly understand adoption believe it is a “sure thing.” In reality, it is far from it. I do pray this final adoption works and you get the little your heart desires. If it doesn’t, however, I am grateful that you found Not So Mommy… and know that being childless “isn’t the end.” There is joy to be found in a childless not by choice life, and there is a wonderful, loving, and encouraging community here to support you, if you ultimately find yourself on the CNBC path. Hugs…

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Shazzie May 8, 2018 - 4:39 pm

Hi Brandi, your story is so similar to mine. I’m 40, have been through an awful IVF journey which led to miscarriage and depression but like yourself have an amazing husband who was my rock and got me through it. I had discussed adoption with him too and to begin with he was not convinced it would be right for us (I think he was so worried it would not work out as planned and I would be totally broken) so we decided to give ourselves a break from trying for a baby and get back to enjoying our lives and each other and it was wonderful, nearly like a sense of relief as we had both been totally consumed by trying for a baby. A few years later we decided to look back into IVF and adoption and after weighing everything up and getting a lot of info on both we decided that adoption was now the route we both wanted to pursue so that’s what we did. We were blessed last year with the most wonderful little girl and we both love her hugely however it is definitely not an easy option taking into consideration her past but we are both certain this was the right decision for us. I think you are so brave for taking the decision to say adoption is not for you and your husband though as I know it is not an easy decision. It comes with a lot of fear and judgement from others and you know yourself that you made a decision that was best for you and your husband so that took a lot of strength. I can feel from what you have written that you are happy and extremely grateful for what you have in your life and I wish you all the happiness in your future. We all take different paths but the goal we all want to achieve is happiness and I think we have both got there now x

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Brandi Lytle May 8, 2018 - 4:58 pm

Thank you for sharing your story, Shazzie! I smiled when you said you were “blessed last year with the most wonderful little girl.” I’m so grateful that the adoption path worked for you! And I am also grateful that you realized my heart, choosing the path that was best for my husband and me. You are right that there are different paths to happiness, but I also believe we have both found it! Hugs to you!

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Vivienne April 25, 2018 - 9:50 am

I love this post and I love all the comments. This is a much-needed conversation and the respect and love you have for your husband oozes from the page Brandi. Thank you for sharing this. I went through a similar process and I, too, chose my wonderful, handsome, strong, caring and beloved husband, and have never for a moment regretted that decision. LOVE!

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Brandi Lytle April 25, 2018 - 10:05 am

Thank you for your sweet words, Vivenne.

I definitely love my husband, and it always makes me smile when others see it. 🙂 Your amazing description of your husband radiates your love for him, as well!

And, like you, I am so glad that we are talking openly about adoption so that others understand that it is much more complex than “just adopt.”

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Leah April 11, 2018 - 10:51 pm

Brandi, Your blog entry was shared on Facebook and as an adoptive (single) parent, former CPS worker, former licensing worker and former foster care worker (I am still working in child welfare) I was curious about your perspective “against” adoption. However, after reading it, I would say your perspective is PRO child and PRO adoption. PRO – doing it the right way for the right reasons. I highly commend you for realizing that your decision is a joint one as a married couple. Despite a blight of foster homes and over 300 children in Michigan currently looking for permanent families, the last thing these children need is a family not united in their decision. It really is a tough decision – TONS of rewards, but TONS of challenges along the way; but it is also a tough decision to really take an honest look at yourself and your abilities/limitations and not be selfish. Those that judge you as not doing everything – well they are wrong, Those that “just” adopt are not really thinking about the child, but themselves. Adoption cannot be just to meet your own needs/wants or it becomes too hard to really be available and committed to help the child work through all that comes with the them (even the babies!). Kudos for your self-honesty, your commitment to your marriage and knowingly or not knowingly – for being PRO child. And I would tell folks interested in adoption from the child welfare system that it is an emotional roller coaster for the adults – we take on the emotional struggle to hopefully make it a little easier on the child. It is important to know you can handle it or have the supports around you to make it through. Kudos. Be proud of your decision, the process and what this says about the strength of your relationship and love in your marriage, <3

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Brandi Lytle April 12, 2018 - 9:31 am

Leah, I simply cannot express how much your words mean to me! At first, I was a bit taken aback at your wondering why I was “against” adoption. But as I kept reading, I quickly realized that you did see my true heart and true intentions. And even better, you understand and validate them. That is truly amazing, and I thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!

I am most definitely PRO child and PRO adoption. But I did have to take my husband’s feelings, our family dynamic, and our marriage into consideration when making my decision. And ultimately, adoption wasn’t the right path for us. I am in awe of those, like you, who pursue this route to build their families, though. You are strong indeed!

Praying that children who need homes find loving homes with the right parents. Also praying for the social workers who help with this process. Hugs to all!

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LEAH HIGGINS April 12, 2018 - 3:15 pm

Brandi it is the very fact that you did “take my husband’s feelings, our family dynamic, and our marriage into consideration when making my decision” that makes you PRO adoption and PRO child and not selfish. ?❤️❤️❤️❤️

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Brandi Lytle April 13, 2018 - 8:54 am

Thank you so much, Leah! 🙂

It is wonderful that we are having these conversations so that, hopefully, people understand that not adopting doesn’t mean you didn’t want a kid. It’s more complicated than that…

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Sophie December 17, 2017 - 5:10 pm

This post speaks to me so much. My circumstance is not infertility but it does mean my husband and I are childless not by choice. And everyone is saying just adopt. We have been to 1 adoption meeting and they are terrifying. But honestly for me I am not emotionally ready to adopt and honestly I don’t know if I will ever be. I am trying to find comfort in my nephew and my goddaughter. In the future I’d like a fur baby. But telling my family and friends this, its so hard. I haven’t yet to be honest. And they will think I’ve given up which hurts because in my heart the best job I know I can do is be a mother. Thankyou for this post. The words mean so much.

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Brandi Lytle December 17, 2017 - 6:27 pm

Sophie, my heart aches for you. I’m so sorry that you are having to go through this! It sounds like you are being gentle with yourself and making the best decisions for you and your hubby. When the time is right, you will have the words to say to family and friends. Until then, you have a safe place here! Hugs to you!

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melissa December 15, 2017 - 4:51 pm

Amen sister!. So very true. It is so nice to find something written that you can relate to, it reminds you that you are visible somewhere.

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Brandi Lytle December 16, 2017 - 1:15 am

You are definitely visible here!

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dubliner in deutschland November 24, 2017 - 12:36 pm

This all makes total sense. I hate when people suggest adoption like it’s such an easy thing. I have followed enough blogs to see that the adoption path is a long hard one that has no guarantee of a happy ending. It makes sense for a couple to think it though and only pursue it if it is really right for them.

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Jess November 24, 2017 - 12:36 pm

I love this post for its truth and honesty, and the strength of the love been you and your husband. Adoption is certainly far more complicated and difficult than the “just adopt” set would have people believe (particularly unfair because they rarely have been through the process). We entered the adoption process for a couple years and were unsuccessful, and left without a baby. It is painful to have people who don’t understand think you “gave up” or didn’t want a baby enough to continue. I don’t understand when people judge very well thought out decisions based on two people’s love and commitment and capacity for emotional suffering. Lovely post, should be widely read!

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Brandi Lytle November 24, 2017 - 12:58 pm

Thank you for your kind words. I’m so sorry that your adoption journey did not end with a baby. I pray you have found your path and joy!

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Leanne November 22, 2017 - 3:28 pm

YES! This sounds almost exactly like my story. What hurts the most is that only one person in my life has confirmed my decision. My decision was that I chose my husband. When we said our vows, I didn’t commit to him only if we could have children together, or only if he would agree to adopt if we were infertile. Yet with the exception of that one friend, everyone else seems to think that I would be better off to force my husband into adopting – when he doesn’t have the heart for it. Or it would be better to kick my husband to the curb and go and adopt on my own. But I don’t want to trade in my husband for a child. Does it hurt that I don’t have a child? Yes. For sure! But I do have the love of my life!!!!!

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Brandi Lytle November 24, 2017 - 1:00 pm

I love it when we find “Me too!” moments with other people. I’m so glad that you and your husband chose each other and didn’t allow infertility to tear apart your love for one another.

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Mali November 19, 2017 - 6:20 pm

It’s never easy to write this post, so well done! I waited for over four years before writing my “why we didn’t adopt” post. http://nokiddinginnz.blogspot.co.nz/2015/03/why-we-didnt-adopt.html – in the link you’ll find links to other bloggers’ posts too.

I particularly liked these sentences. “He did not push me to pursue treatments that I was unsure about. And I could not push him to pursue adoption when he simply wasn’t sure …” That’s called being a couple and being considerate of each other’s feelings, and I applaud you both for it.

Lovely post.

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Brandi Lytle November 19, 2017 - 7:30 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words, Mali! I so appreciate your comments and look forward to reading your blog!

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Amanda November 17, 2017 - 8:31 pm

As an adoptee, I say thank you. I’ve seen someone with special needs adopted into a family that probably should not have adopted. I’m not sure they were both on the same page. However, when the woman could not have children, they jumped to adoption. Then divorce within 2 years.

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Brandi Lytle November 18, 2017 - 12:06 pm

Thank you for your perspective, Amanda. I think it is often difficult for couples to navigate all the emotions when they are trying to have a child and infertility stops their dreams. But they should definitely be “on the same page” before moving forward with anything.

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loribeth November 17, 2017 - 4:58 pm

Very well said, thanks for this, Brandi!

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Brandi Lytle November 18, 2017 - 12:07 pm

You are welcome 🙂

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