the myth, aka “just” think again

We’ve been starting to share the news, and as I said before the reactions have been interesting. Definitely a lot of “it happens so often!” (i.e., becoming mysteriously pregnant after adoption). But it’s just not true. It is actually quite rare. You know why? Because adoption in no way cures infertility. That misconception diminishes both adoption and infertility. It mistakenly relegates a very real disease and all of its pain and anguish to a mere matter of the mind. It diminishes every aspect of the way in which we’ve built our family, including our very daughter. It’s insulting to everyone, as well as ignorant.

Yet people don’t realize that or care to think about it. I assume they just want to chalk it up to another case of “just relax and it will happen.” Which is maddening, on so many levels. Of course it doesn’t matter to these people that it’s been more than three years since we shifted our focus to adoption and stopped trying to conceive. Rather, that probably only confirms their belief that all we infertiles really need is a vacation, or something. As if caring for a toddler, buying a home and uprooting our lives are “relaxing.” In fact, I must have inadvertently conceived during one of the most stressful times imaginable.

After some gentle prodding from a friend, I wrote an email to the moms in our adoption group, cautiously sharing our news. In the past I’ve always felt very “safe” with these women, in part due to our shared experience with both infertility and adoption. Yet I didn’t know what response to anticipate. I wondered how I would react to similar news, and I wasn’t entirely sure. I explained the circumstances, the shock, the risks and uncertainty. I was so overwhelmed that I received such a warm response from every single woman. Surprise, yes, but also support and genuine care. I was moved. Perhaps most interesting was the reply from our adoption counselor, who indeed confirmed how truly rare this is. In more than 30 years in practice, she says the best estimate is that just 3% of women become pregnant after adopting. The cliche is more of a myth.

When confronted with these statements I still struggle how to respond. The angry infertile in me wants to scream and rip heads off. The tolerant persistent advocate in me wants to seriously educate. And my snarky sarcastic self just wants to scoff and retort with something equally witty and insulting.

It’s just plain misinformation and ignorance that causes people to make such outrageous assumptions and statements. Some people are well meaning. Some may even know a family that fits the cliche. Some may have heard about a friend of a friend. For others, though, I think they really believe that infertility is merely a matter of the mind. So I try to think about where the it’s coming from before responding.

Sometimes I offer an unwelcome lecture about the biological causes of infertility. Sometimes I correct them and say actually it is quite rare, that only maybe 3% of women actually conceive after adopting. Sometimes I offer specifics about my situation to show how unlikely it really is, explaining that most infertile women my age wouldn’t be able to conceive even with assistance. Sometimes I joke that its not that “everyone knows someone,” but that everyone knows the same two people. And sometimes I just silently seethe as I brush it off, because honestly I’m too exhausted to intelligently engage certain people.

Two people suggested that maybe I was able to conceive not because we adopted, but because we had a baby in the house — i.e., surrounded by baby energy, becoming a mother, opening and embracing parenthood, etc. At first I was just relieved they hadn’t said it was because we adopted our daughter. Yet while I realize it’s intended as a harmless statement, it still rubs me the wrong way. As if that would be enough. As if years of giving everything — blood, sweat, tears, energy, love, prayers, faith, dedication, etc. — were not enough. As if it were that simple.

I’m still at a loss about how to respond when faced with these comments. I’ve grown a thick skin over the years, so it’s not that I take it personally so much as how insulting it is to infertiles and families affected by adoption. I feel obligated on several levels to bust the myth and the ignorance behind it.

So what would you say?

I still have no good words to describe our situation at all. The doctors call it “spontaneous.” I call it miraculous. Against every odd. There is absolutely nothing “so common” about it.


~ by luna on July 22, 2011.

26 Responses to “the myth, aka “just” think again”

  1. i agree that it is miraculous, and i think that people will never understand what it means and how you feel being an infertile and loss survivor.

  2. As someone who tried and failed to conceive, then adopted, then (2+years after bringing our son home, and some 5+ years after starting to TTC) I too became ‘spontaneously pregnant’. I heard and still hear the same exact thing every time someone hears of our circumstance. I try to tell them , no it’s not just because I adopted or that I was suddenly more relaxed after adopting (huh?), but that I did, indeed have medical and physical reasons that prevented me from conceiving. But they don’t want to hear it. They want to believe the fairy tale. It somehow makes them happier. Grace is a year and 3 months old and I still don’t k ow how to respond to the “oh it happens all the time, doesn’t it?” comments…I guess I tend to shrug it off because frankly, I’m usually chasing both kids around and don’t have the time or energy to try and change minds and dispel the myths. But I am really, really grateful I have these two kids. BOTH miracles….(and I am beyond thrilled for you and your husband and daughter) xoxoxox

  3. I’ve been dealing with this a lot recently, as I’ve started to “come out” at work about my pregnancy. Our HR VP said “well, sometimes these things just happen after people adopt.” I hadn’t been planning to tell her the details of how we conceived, but as soon as she said that, I replied, “well, this certainly didn’t ‘just happen.’ This was the result of a lot of time, money, effort and science.” And then I explained about donated embryos. She was supportive, but you could tell I’d kind of burst her bubble. Same with my boss — he practically leapt across the table to shake my hand, and I know him well enough to know that he was thrilled that we’d become pregnant on our own, which is silly of him because he knows darn well how old I am. He didn’t raise the myth of adoption curing infertility, but I set him straight anyway. Again, I could see that this news wasn’t as happy for him as the possibility of the fairy tale.

    It’s really important to me that people don’t use my situation to add to the “adoption cures infertility” myth, and I sure as heck don’t want to let them start the rumor that a 46-year-old woman can magically become pregnant after years of infertility without some serious scientific intervention. My desire to educate, as it turns out, is infinitely stronger than my desire for personal privacy. (Which, I guess, makes sense after all the years of blogging about this stuff, and all the medical personnel who have seen me half-naked!)

  4. you and I have discussed this a bunch and you know that, girl, I Have had EVERY dumb thing possible said to me. And I do mean every.

    I didn’t like when it was said to me (with a beaming smile, yes, fairytale expression) that Peanut was “a miracle.” To me, it smacked of the implication that my other daughter (who was adopted as a toddler) somehow was not?! I would usually snap back “ALL children are miracles.” A miracle, to me, implied that Peanut was somehow more special than Lil Pumpkin. And obviously that is not the case. I hope that doesn’t sound harsh … Only sharing how I was hypersensitive about it.

    The women in my adoption world were so supportive of my pregnancy…I was “safe” to them. Not an “oops, hee hee” pregnant woman but someone who they could relate to. My pregnancy didn’t hurt them, whereas others’ had.

    You know where to find me when more dumb stuff is said 😉

  5. I would (and have when it has randomly come up) quoted the 3% statistic, which I believe is the same as infertiles who don’t adopt. I always hope I can educate people. At least that is productive.

  6. I’m one of the ignorant idiots that actually gave the “just relax” advice to a friend 3+ years ago. She now has a newborn baby boy. All I can say, is that stupidity came from a kind place.

  7. As someone who–against all the odds–conceived without medical intervention after 2 cancelled cycles of IVF and a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve, I too have had to deal with just about every insensitive/ignorant comment in the book. And I still don’t know how best to deal with them. Like you, I try to bust the myth that sometimes all you need to do is to relax/go on holiday/adopt, to emphasise that I was very, very lucky and that my story is an unusual one. But it isn’t easy to deal with–particularly when you are at the same time doing your best to process your own complex range of emotions surrounding this pregnancy. Thinking of you, and feeling sure that you will find a way of responding to these remarks with your usual grace and sensitivity.

  8. People just say stupid things that’s all I can chalk it up to. I hate the just relax statement.

  9. I think this would be one of the most difficult situations. I’ve had so many people around me already act ignorantly by saying we’ll get pregnant (because that happened to a mutual friend while they were waiting for placement) that it’s the last thing I want to happen to me. I’d probably end up going the insulting and snarky route with a touch of rage 😉 Kudos to you for thinking it through more thoroughly!

  10. If it were me, because I am all about facts, I would immediately start with the 3% figure and then proceed to lecture them about confirmation bias. I might whip out some paper and draw them a contingency table to illustrate.

    There is no better buzz kill than science. I can literally see the fairy tale sparkle go out of their eyes when I whip out the science. Mwaaa haa haa.

  11. In the comments I’ve gotten over the past couple of years, I tend to maintain my snarky attitude. I’ve had people tell me that now that we’ve adopted, we’ll get pregnant or even better “have one of your own”. I do throw out the 3% stat. I almost also say “that’s really doubtful because adoption certainly hasn’t caused my fallopian tubes to grow back”.

    (Look! I can actually comment on your blog and not just respond back offline. It takes a lot to get me back to blogs in general but you’re doing it!).

  12. Even though its been 4.5 years since Maya was born, and after a rough adoption home the last 3 years. Now that we have adopted again, as soon as we came home with Benjamin I started hearing all that garbage about how i could become pregnant, yadda yadday yadda. It is infuriating, annoying and so many other things. Now that he’s 4 months old and everyone has had their say I think its over, well unless there’s was an opps pregnancy and then of course they would all be right! yeah thats right after 8 years of infertility they would be right.
    Actually I am for once on the other side of things we have our 2 kids,I don’twant anymore we are happy and content, no need to prove them all right, (in their eye’s)
    Hang in there, even if its annoying its pretty cool for you if all goes well to have a maybe baby this fall!

  13. it’s amazing to me that a 3% occurrence rate will maintain the “just” advice. I think it reflects that idea that many cling to that we cause our own infertility, that we can control everything, even our bodies. It allows those who are fertile, perhaps, to feel as if they have children because they are doing something right in the universe and/or even deserve those children because of what they do or because of their attitude.

    I can imagine the internal conflict — you articulate it well.

  14. I’ve had a friend or two that said the same thing after we adopted or when I told them we were adopting – oh, just wait, you’ll probably get pregnant! Ha! Annoying.

  15. Clearly you’re fielding a lot of responses here but there are three little sub comments I’d like to add.

    1) “Because adoption in no way cures infertility.” You’re awesome. Have I mentioned lately that you’re one of my favorite people?

    2) “. . . becoming a mother, opening and embracing parenthood” Allow me to paraphrase this. “It’s YOUR fault for not wanting it enough!” You struggle[d] with infertility because you weren’t open enough to being a mom? Pardon me for cursing but FUCK whoever said that.

    3) My suggested response – Look the person dead in the eye, pause, “No,” as reprimanding a child. Firm, unwavering, with no possibility for recourse. I believe people who make these comments are doing so out of ignorance, not just factual vacuum. I wouldn’t bother convincing or arguing. Let the emotional communication do its work.

  16. I’ve spent the last 18 years saying exactly what Esperanza said. I quote the statistic, along with that of people who choose to stop infertility treatments. I say it with a smile and move on to explaining why my daughter’s birth family is not going to come back and “steal” her- which is usually the next question.

  17. I had not checked since April. I am thrilled, thrilled for you and your family. I am always moved by this blog, today I share your joy and your struggle. We just celebrated our daughter’s 14th birthday with her bio mom present for her special day for only the second time in her life. It was exciting for Sophie, she years for a connection with her bio mom who is stuck in grief. She is grateful we have raised Sophia beautifully, but her pain at all that she has missed was written in her body language. Powerful. Poignant. Emotional.
    We celebrated a beautiful sunset as tears streaming down bio mom’s face and we watched Sophia gently comforrt her. Powerful. Poignant. Emotional. My wounded child who has struggled with abandonement (bio mom kept older daughter 15 and younger daughter 8) most of her young life became the gentle healer. It was a grace-filled moment and glorious moment for me. This amazing young girl is full of promise and her energy is soothing, healing and life givng. We feel immensely BLESSED.

    To those of you who wonder if open adoption is worth the risk and emotional struggle, I say YES!

    I will check in more often to check on your journey. Grace be with you!

  18. Just want to lend my support and love. I hope you can block them out and enjoy your less than 3% miracle. And I will add my story: we conceived easily & lost the baby (SO common, miscarriage is heartbreakingly common). I focused on our always present hope to adopt in my pain. We conceived again three months later & delivered a healthy baby & also adopted. I conceived twice more easily.

    People assume 1) that I struggled w/infertility for years, decided to adopt and then conceived. Because who would adopt w/o trying for their “own” for years, right? BLECH.

    2) That is just always happens like that. Sickly sweet smile. BLECH.

    So many assumptions & misconceptions. But, I do know that I made many, many of my own before experience taught me my ignorance. xo.

  19. Wow! I check in every now and then to see what is new as I really enjoyed following your story while we were waiting to adopt our first child and then I saw your good news!!! SO exciting – congratulations! Sending you good thoughts for a healthy pregnancy and baby!

  20. I guess there is always a little mystery in pregnancy and even adoption for that matter. A complex mix of timing, hormones all sorts of random reasons. I personally don’t subscribe to reasons such as “the universe wanted it to be so” or “you were just ready” but people like to believe there is a force larger than us that makes good things happen. They just don’t subscribe the same to bad things happen for random reasons.

    Underlying the, you adopted and now your pregnant thing is the belief that giving birth is better than adopting, that’s the thing I dislike.

    The reality is in almost all cases of birth or adoption, a congratulations is always welcome. I also like when people say “it couldn’t happen to nicer people.” (Even though it could; I still like it!)

    Anyway, congratulations, it couldn’t happen to nicer people 😉

  21. I love how you so beautifully put so many difficult-to-articulate things into just the right words. It also made me a little sad to think about my own poor mom (who adopted me at birth), who I know wished and prayed and suffered through many miscarriages after I came along trying to have a bio-baby — but nope, she was not in the 3% (very interesting stat, by the way).

    If only I had a dime for every person who has said proclaimed, with great certainty, that now after we had our first son after multiple IVFs and losses, by having a baby finally I am “cured” and we will be popping out babies left and right now just by winking at each other — that would pretty much pay for our upcoming FET.

    Sending lots of love your way! Thinking about your family, and this new addition to come, makes me feel very happy.

  22. […] been faced with a number of questions. Not just “how could you not know?” or “isn’t that so common!?” No, these questions get more to the heart of what it means to have another child in a blended […]

  23. My most common retort these days is “Most people are not INfertile but SUBfertile so the possibility isn’t zero, it is near zero. There is always a chance and if someone gets lucky, it is just that – luck.”

    That said, I suspect there are cases where a woman’s hormones are messed up and getting pregnant once can help straighten things / reset things. Like the person who needed ovulation induction the first time but then went on to have 3 more kids easily. Not the same scenario, I know, but perhaps it helps foster the ‘just relax’ or ‘baby energy’ thing.

    I got the ‘just relax’ after our second IVF DE baby implanted. I would tell people, “We were so lucky! Our odds were < 10%! Wohoo!!" and they would say, "See what happens when you just relax?" Grrrr

  24. […] at 7.5 months. It all still seems so surreal and bizarre and yes, unbelievable. Call it fairytale, myth, urban legend, whatever. Honestly I don’t know what to call […]

  25. […] her personal story, though that is paramount. I also want to avoid using our story as evidence of the annoying myth that once you adopt, you will get pregnant — or any ridiculous variation of “just […]

  26. […] specialists and frequent monitoring over an hour away. I had to begin sharing the news and fielding inappropriate comments and loaded questions. Then after a spotting incident at 28 weeks last July, I was placed on […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: