Having children is not easy for millions of women and their partners. The lifelong dream of the “picture perfect” family transitions to an ongoing, frustrating situation beyond the control of even the best infertility doctors. Wanting children and not being able to conceive or maintain a viable pregnancy creates an emotional phenomenon I call “ChildDrenched: Drowning in the Passionate Need for a Child”. Each passing month brings an excruciating blend of impatience and sadness. There is no doubt in my mind that infertility is a disease and sometimes requires seeking alternatives through scientific or legal methods.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that about 10% of women (more than 6 million) in the United States ages 18–44 years have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. This is an overwhelming number of frustrated women. The good news is that options available to those who choose to give up trying on their own have grown significantly. Infertility doctors are getting smarter and the technology is getting better. Many women turn to intrauterine insemination (IUI) often called artificial insemination or the more complicated assisted reproductive technology (ART). There are many different kinds of ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF) which is the most commonly known, and has been around for over 30 years. IVF works by removing eggs from a woman’s body. The eggs are then mixed with sperm to make embryos which are then put back in the woman’s body. The CDC reported in 2010 that over 60,000 infants were born using IVF. Success rates of IVF range from as high as 42% in women younger than 35 years of age all the way down to 5% in women aged 43–44 years. Unfortunately, by the time a woman truly understands her infertility problem, she is typically in her 30s and pregnancy success rates keep falling from there.
My fertility went haywire two years after the birth of our second child at 35 years old and striving for a third child was extremely frustrating. We tried IVF twice with no success. We also became pregnant “by accident” twice but neither pregnancy lasted beyond eight weeks. By the time I was 39 years old, I was truly ChildDrenched. We adopted “the best puppy in the whole wide world” hoping to quench my thirst for motherhood (again) but sadly, I still felt cheated out of my third child. We looked into surrogacy since our “reproductive mechanics” were still available to us. We worried about finding someone we could trust to carry our baby and how many embryos to implant. For many couples (particularly those with one or no children at all), it is an excellent solution to infertility. Making the choice between having multiple births vs. no pregnancy at all was a hefty decision we chose to avoid. So we opted out of surrogacy, despite its growing popularity at the time.
My husband and I settled on adoption. Adoption is not the best alternative for all couples facing infertility, but for us, it was the perfect answer to our prayers. There were no science-related decisions and aside from exerting some patience and emotional concern, the physical hardship was non-existent. Given my age, this was the big plus. My ability to carry a child had clearly come to an end and I was thrilled to let a younger woman enjoy that privilege, as long as she was willing to let us raise the baby.
Finding a birthmother with the qualities and background we were looking for, who would also choose us to be the parents of her child, was the challenge. Beyond that first hurdle, we were warned about the countless risks and possible outcomes (good and bad) after finding a birthmother. We knew early in the adoption process that emotionally, adoption was a challenge. But now, after ten years as an adoptive parent who also survived two pregnancies, adoption was, and still is, just as gratifying as giving birth and I love all my children equally.
I endorse and embrace all available alternatives to infertility. None of the alternatives are perfect for everyone and given the various circumstances of life, we should embrace all the solutions to infertility, scientific or not, as well as all children. We live in a time when there are excellent choices to avoid being ChildDrenched forever. I encourage all people who feel the pain I once felt to explore the possibilities and live their dream.