Our pursuit of children began, as it does for so many couples, with a decision to go off birth control. A couple years passed by and we found ourselves faced with questions we never imagined we’d have to consider: Which infertility tests did we want me to have? Which tests did we want Ben to have? Did we want to begin treatment without a diagnosis? Which treatment facility did we want to go to for further evaluation? Did we want me to undergo more invasive testing and treatment? How would we pay for treatment not covered by insurance? With which of the different types of assisted reproductive technology were we morally comfortable?
We tabled some of those questions, and began to look at adoption. In that process we were confronted with even more choices: Did we want to go through the state for foster care and adoption or pursue expensive private adoption? Would we foster in hopes of adoption, even if we felt it was not a good fit for our family? How would we pay the high costs of private adopt? Which agency should we use? What age/race/gender/special needs children would we consider?
Not only were we overwhelmed by the options before us, but we had reservations concerning each. We saw a morally gray minefield we were unwilling to traverse. We were bluntly told by DHS it would not be possible to adopt the child we wanted through the state, we would have to settle. And lurking behind each step we took we saw our propensity to idolize parenthood, to let this one desire control our entire lives. We were lost and confused, and no idea how to proceed.
Yet, it seemed that because of our strong desire to have children, we had to choose one of the options in front of us. But there was still one course of action we had not considered.
A little while ago, Ben found an article entitled “Your Options in Infertility” by Dr. Megan Best. In it, she addresses the life-cherishing options available to Christian couples trying to have children, all of which we had considered. Except one: to do nothing.
It seems counter-intuitive; if we want children, why would we do nothing? Yet, having someone tell us that letting go of that dream is an acceptable option, while at the same time acknowledging the difficulty of that decision, is incredibly liberating. Realizing that we are not bound to pursue a course we felt uncomfortable with is a huge relief to us both. More importantly than the influence of this article, we have come to see in Scripture that we are free to choose not to pursue fulfillment of this desire because it is not our ultimate hope in life.
We have chosen to do nothing, for now. We have decided not to pursue further infertility testing or treatment. We have terminated our license for adoption through the state. We hope one day to be able to pursue adoption through a private agency, but realize that may be years down the road, if at all. It is a hope we hold loosely; due to our tendency to turn children into an idol, we constantly struggle against it becoming our ultimate hope.
I am not claiming to stop trying for children (whether naturally, with medical assistance, or through adoption) is what everyone faced with infertility should do. Our decision is based on various personal, moral, and practical reasons specific to our situation. All couples and circumstances are unique, and each available option involves its own difficulty: It is not easy to lay bare the most intimate aspects of your marriage for physicians to analyze and pick through. It is not easy to undergo invasive tests and treatments that disrupt your life, body, and emotions. It is not easy to get through the endless red tape and pay the exorbitant costs for adoption. It is not easy to surrender and grieve the loss of the dream of children.
I write about our choice because I hope that other couples in similar situations see that it is an acceptable option. And I hope that all of us – those dealing with infertility and those who are not – realize that having children is not essential for a married couple, and even our strongest desires do not change that. Because our ultimate hope is not in the fulfillment of these desires, but in the Lord.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”