“Don’t let your struggle become your identity”
Before we get any further into this adventure, I feel like it is imperative to address the identity crisis that infertile and/or adoptive families face. I am writing this post as a reminder to myself, as much as anyone else.
Here are some tedious statistics to start out with, but bear with me, I have a point in listing all of this, I promise. According to a report from CBS News based on the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, “Six percent of married women aged 15 to 44, about 1.5 million women, were considered infertile at some point from 2006 through 2010.” and, “About 9 percent of men aged 15 through 44 had some form of infertility or non-surgical sterility during 2006 to 2010.” From the research I did, statistics ranged from 50% to 67% of couples who pursue infertility treatment will go on to conceive. According to Census 2000, only 2% of American families have only adopted children and another 4% have both biological and adopted children. Have I bored you enough yet?
What does all this mean? Roughly translated, 90+ percent of couples will not face infertility and 94% of families are not grown through adoption. In my experience, this leaves a vast number of people who are not able to understand the complex issues we face as a barren, adoptive family.
I have been on the uncomfortable end of more conversations than I care to remember. With two children under our belt, the conversations have become fewer, but just last night we were at a Fantasy Football Draft with friends from my husband’s former place of employment. One of the guys came up to us and said, “I was going to ask if you guys were planning on any more children, but I see she’s (referring to me) is having a drink, so I guess not, right now.” Enter awkward silence. Do we explain I can’t have children? Do we let it slide and glide over the answer? Do we explain that our children are adopted? Just how much does the average acquaintance in our lives have the right to know??? (Eventually, my husband slid in a comment that we were an adoptive family and that no, right now we are not actively pursuing any more children.)
On the other hand, we also have been the subject of much curiosity and a source of information for those seeking out understanding, whether it is about infertility or adoption. And, I try to privately talk with women I know who are struggling and let them know if they need someone who understands to talk to, I am would be more than happy to listen.
I have become guarded around strangers due to unwelcome comments and conversation; focused on supporting families who are wrestling with these difficulties; and feel the need to educate lay people when the need arises. This has become very much a PART of my identity.
I emphasize the word “part” because it is hard for me to remember that it is only part of who I am. I don’t believe I am alone in that struggle. I think that when you live with a situation where so few people can relate, its focus becomes lopsided, as it becomes both a crusade and something you spend undue energy building a wall of protection around. The remaining parts that make up our full identity risk becoming underdeveloped or completely forgotten.
I am also a child of God, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. I love sports, reading and listening to Christian music. I am a nerd who prefers a documentary to a sitcom. And, I am a mom, yes, an adoptive mom, but my primary focus is mothering. Sometimes, I have to pause and remember to cultivate these other parts.
I encourage you to write out all of the parts that make up who you are and take time to focus on how you can nourish these other roles that you have. It’s important to balance our unique circumstances with the general make-up of ourselves. I love the opening quote because it is so true. You are so much more than what you struggle with!