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Changing Expectations

Why our adoption wasn't a second-best choice

by Dawn Friedman  |  4114 views  |  2 comments  |        Rate this now! 

We came to adoption after struggling with secondary infertility. This is true of a lot of adoptive parents and, like many of them, I struggle with how to talk about this with Madison someday.

Although we tried to create a baby from scratch first, it's not true that adoption was a second-best choice or that Madison was a second-best baby. But how do I convey that to her when she asks us about our journey to adoption?

To tell you the truth, my first reaction is to downplay the infertility that came before. This is partly because, looking back now in the context of parenting this amazing little girl, I don't feel as emotionally attached to my infertility experiences. When her first mom, Jessica, asked us how we came to adoption I found myself at a loss.

"Well, we tried to have another baby," I said. "And we had some miscarriages... anyway, it didn't work out."

I felt embarrassed because the treatment we went through now seems like blundering; like some misguided bumbling we had to do before we realized we were headed the wrong way.

Infertility is what brought us to adoption but now it seems totally disconnected. There was a time when I was unhappy and missing a baby and so focused on my cycles that my entire life was broken up into two-week chunks, and then there was a time when I was waiting to adopt and it seemed like the sun was out all the time. Because once we decided to adopt? I got happy. The joy came back into my life. (Not that the wait was always easy but it was always interesting.)

I think now that this is what I will tell Madison: We expected to create another baby and when that didn't happen I realized that my expectations were wrong. It took us some time to understand that. It's pretty reasonable to expect that you will get pregnant and birth a baby (or, as in our case, another baby) because that's the general default way we think people's lives play out. But that doesn't make it the right way or the best way -- it just makes it the most expected way and sometimes it's hard to reorient our expectations. Sometimes we have to grieve the way we thought things might be to get happy about how things really are. Changing our expectations -- as any child disappointed by a rescheduled play date knows -- can be hard.

It reminds me of when I was a kid and we moved around a lot. By the time I was 8, I was facing my fifth move to a new state. I was sad about leaving my house and my friends because I was expecting a longer stay in our latest new house. That was hard. But I looked forward to our next house with excited anticipation. I thought I would stay so I was sad but once I knew I would go, I was happy. Likewise, I thought I would give birth again and felt sad when I found out that I wouldn't but once I knew for certain that I wouldn't, I was awfully happy to adopt.

About the Author

Dawn lives and writes from her home in Columbus, OH. Her work appears in magazines including Wondertime, Utne and Brain Child; she has been blogging at This Woman's Work since 2001, and also blogs for Anti-Racist Parent and manages

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2 comments so far...

  • Dawn this is a great article. I love the idea of presenting it as an expectations issue. A lot of the reading I've done for my masters project (some of which I think you referred me to, now I think of it), is about narrative theory, and how infertile women manage their autobiographical narratives (or don't) to accommodate that very change in expectations you refer to.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kirsten on 30th May 2008

  • That's a really beautiful way to put it.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by mamajama on 28th May 2008