Written by Sheila Matthews
“Have you thought about adoption?”
This phrase has run through my head a lot in the past week. If I’m being completely honest, it runs through my head pretty regularly. I do think about it. I am thinking about it.
When Elis and I were coming to terms with what azoospermia meant for us (“You can use a donor or adopt” said the consultant), adoption was very much on our minds, and I’m pretty convinced that any couple who has faced infertility will have had this question asked of them.
The incredibly sarcastic battle axe who lives inside me would respond: ‘What is this thing you talk of? Ad-op-tion? It is a brand new idea! You mean they actually just give you a kid when you want it? You don’t have to go through the rigmarole of procreating? What a huge relief! Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention as I process the loss of hopes and dreams I had for producing children myself.’
Thankfully for the world (and my relationships) the sarcastic battle axe is occasionally filtered. A simple ‘hmmm’ or ‘yup’ will suffice and then we can all move on.
But really we shouldn’t move so swiftly past it. The intention behind that question is good, even when its timing may not be. You see, I really think we should be turning the question around.
“Have YOU thought about adoption?”
If you’re willing to ask the question of someone else, then perhaps you’d be willing to think about it for yourself. When people asked us if we were thinking about adoption, it felt more like a suggestion of how to solve our infertility. It didn’t really do justice to the pain we were experiencing. As if we could make it all better with this magic adoption cream.
But it also doesn’t do justice to the parents who adopt their children. To the lengthy process they go through. To the scrutiny their lives come under to become parents. To the calling they have.
And adoption isn’t a second choice. Adopted children deserve to be a first choice. An informed choice. A considered, planned for, prayed for, desired choice.
Lots of infertility survivors may feel called to adopt. Lots may not.
In my heyday as a teacher, I had the privilege of going on residentials. These weeks were always filled with seeing your kids be brave and try new things, but the annoying thing was that the instructors didn’t expect the teacher to watch. And it was great. Instead of telling them to be brave, I had to show them.
On one occasion, whilst caving, I got wedged in a tunnel. Cries of ‘Mrs Matthews is stuck!’, followed by enthusiastic laughter reverberated around the man-made cave. I won’t lie – I thought they were going to have to crack that cave open and winch me out. But they didn’t. I took deep breaths, stayed calm, tried to think myself thin and slowly got through the tunnel.
Much to the relief of the child stuck behind me who clearly thought her days were numbered and never came near me again when on activities.
I guess the point of all this is that we shouldn’t just be asking the childless and infertile if they have thought about adoption.
If you are willing to ask that question of someone else then you should be willing to ask yourself that question: have I thought about adoption?
Adoption is so fundamental to the Christian faith. We are adopted as God’s children. It is how we are welcomed into His family.
Sheila lives in East London with her trainee vicar husband, rambunctious son and stunning ginger tom. Head to www.saltwaterandhoney.org to find out more of her story of infertility.
This article has been adapted from its original publication on Saltwater and Honey in October 2016.