Saturday, November 17, 2012

Talking to my Adoptive Mother about Infertility and Adoption

Today's writing prompt from Lost Daughters is about adoptee connections. I've written about that topic here and here, so today I've decided to use one of the prompts suggested by Megan of Earth Stains:
Adoptive parent narratives about infertility: If you were adopted because your parents couldn't conceive a child: How did your a-parents discuss their fertility issues with you? What do you know about their medical diagnosis? Do you even know which parent had the fertility problem? How do you think your parents felt about not being able to conceive? How did your parents' dialogue about fertility make you feel? If you parents could conceive but chose to adopt anyway, how do you feel about that?
I was aware of my adoptive mother's infertility issues from a young age. When I was 3-years-old I spent a week at my grandparents' house while my mother was in the hospital for an operation. I had a young child's understanding of the purpose of that operation. I understood that if it was successful I might eventually get a brother or a sister out of it.

I very much wanted that brother or sister, and I spent the next few years hoping and praying for his or her arrival. My mother is a praying woman, but also a practical one. Another way of putting that is to say that she believes God hears all prayers, but there are no guarantees about how He will answer them. I was encourage to pray, but I was also told not to get my hopes up.

And yet, when I was 6-years old I became a sister, and I couldn't have been more thrilled. It was not at all significant to me at the time that the baby, my brother, was my parents' biological child and I was not. My parents treated us equally, and it wasn't until adulthood that I began to notice that he is simply more "like" them than I am.

As a young adult, home for the weekend from graduate school, I sat with my mother in the town's musty movie theater waiting for a local charity auction to begin. I don't know how the subject came up, but for the first time we talked in depth about her years of infertility before adopting me. What I remember most about the conversation was that she shared how difficult it had been for her to deal with the intrusive questions and advice from people in her life. (Her mother had apparently suggested quite a few folk remedies that she was absolutely certain would help.) She also spoke about the many doctors visits, the temperature taking, and the meticulous recording of every detail of her physical life in a journal. I came to understand that it had been a huge relief for her to move on from all of that once they shifted to the adoption path. I felt close to my mother during this conversation. I appreciated that we were talking, woman to woman, about a challenging time in her life.

Interestingly (put perhaps not surprisingly), two other times that I recall feeling especially close to my adoptive mother involve open, honest conversations about my adoptive situation. In contrast, a time when I felt especially distanced from her was when I tried to start a conversation about some of my struggles with post-adoption issues and she shut me down (or at least, that was my interpretation of her response).


  1. Those sound like great bonding conversations with your Mom and I'm glad you had those moments with her.

  2. Maybe that conversation will come later on. After all, it took my mother more than 30 years to be able to talk to me about MY post-(and pre-)adoption issues!

    PS. God answers all of our prayers, but sometimes the answer is "no". (My favorite line from years of watching M.A.S.H.)


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