About that crystal ball…

So we called a psychic. Not the 1.800.PSYCHIC type, but an astrologer and psychic counselor who came highly recommended by a good friend. I would quite possibly be expelled from the PhD program (and The Academe, to boot) if I said that opening line aloud, which is precisely why I write anonymously.

At first I felt silly for even considering this option, but then I realized the psychic counselor isn’t really so different from the three reproductive endocrinologists we’ve seen – each uses her set of tools to predict the best way forward. And let’s be honest, folks, the REs have been about 0 for 20, so perhaps it’s time for a game changer! R talked to the counselor first, and then tearfully handed me the phone about 25 minutes later. I don’t want to divulge the details of the conversation, because in spite of appearances, I do consider some things private. But a fair summary is that the counselor was eerily insightful and gently suggested that adoption is the better path for us. I could hear the reluctance in her voice, even as she tried to convince herself that we could be successful with IVF. But she kept circling back to adoption.

We were both quite sad after the phone call, and unsure how to weigh it against our desires and the advice of our doctors and the statistics for ART and the risks involved with any choice we make. I can’t say we’ve arrived at anything close to a decision, but a somewhat serendipitous series of events occurred over the weekend.

On Friday I stumbled upon the website of an adoption agency in the midwest and noticed that they accept applications from single females for one of their international adoption programs that interested us. I worked up the nerve to email them, admitting we are a same sex couple, but legally single and not keen on lying to prospective adoption agencies. (Side note: my aversion to lying is not some sort of moral high ground – I actually have great difficulty lying, and it causes me a lot of stress.) I expected the usual polite rejection email in return, but surprisingly the agency wrote back and asked me to call to discuss how they’ve handled “our situation” in the past. Of course the agency was already closed by the time I called, so we had to wait all weekend to hear if this really might be feasible.

In the meantime, I remembered that years ago my good friend C told me that she had two friends who adopted from central Africa and those friends live in the same state where the agency operates. I reached out to C, and she called me immediately (i.e. within seconds) and injected a huge ray of sunshine into my chilly Sunday morning. She connected me to her friends, and when I saw their names I realized that one of them is the executive director of the adoption agency. Isn’t it strange how all these seemingly unrelated pieces of information float around us and then when we reach for them, at the right time and place, they begin to fit together?

I called the adoption agency yesterday, and indeed they have worked with GLBT couples who’ve successfully adopted from central Africa. It would not be easy. And it would not be cheap. It would actually cost more than one cycle of IVF, but there’s a (theoretical) 100% chance of success. Of course there are a thousand ways the whole thing could go wrong. We’d have to present ourselves to everyone but the agency (i.e. a social worker who does our home study, and everyone else we meet along the way) as a single female with a single female roommate. I’m not whooped about that part of it, but I bet there are lots of aspects of this whole parenting gig that I won’t be whooped about, either.

We spent a lot of time this weekend talking and crying and being intermittently hopeful, angry, frustrated, and then hopeful again. We have no idea what the best next move is. I can think of a dozen reasons to adopt and a dozen reasons not to. I struggle with the ghosts of colonialism, racism, ethnocentrism when I think about adopting internationally. I think about how the tens of thousands of dollars we’d spend to bring home one child could be used to support an entire family for years-maybe even our child’s own family. So is it right  to extract her from her culture, her extended family (if she has any) to bring her here to live in a mostly white family in the crunchy granola Pacific Northwest? On the other hand, is it right to pay the same amount of money for the chance to create our own child, whose prenatal environment will be nurturing, whose birth will be attended, whose every need will be met from her very first day on Earth when we know we can adopt a child from an orphanage with 200 children and one pot of rice between them?

I know that when I stew in these juices I’m just preemptively answering the people I think will judge us for adopting internationally. I hear them shouting, “Self-indulgent American imperialists!” Or the people who will judge us for pursuing IVF. “Couldn’t you just adopt for crying out loud?”  Perhaps the best answer is that wise old saying Hatas gonna hate.

Those same critics probably have children of their own, and the time, money, and energy they’ve poured into their own progeny also could have been used to support a family or a small village in central Africa. Parenting is always selfish to some extent. It makes us less productive members of society while simultaneously draining the planet of resources. So I’m unconvinced the hatas hold the truth card. But I’m nonetheless thankful for the opportunity to pause and think about our motives for parenting and the ethics of our procreative choices. (For more on the importance of treating procreation as an ethical dilemma, see this article.)

So in this time of indecision (which makes me extremely uncomfortable, as you well know), I find myself googling IVF vs. adoption, as though Google (my own version of a crystal ball) will provide the sort of immediate clarification I’ve come to expect from it. No such luck.