Infertility or Relinquishment: Chasing the Adoption Chicken or Egg

The infertile chicken really wants it's own egg, but will adopt an egg if the chicken doctor fails it

Did the Demand of Adoptable Children Come First?

The  infertile chicken really wants it's own egg, but will adopt an egg if the chicken doctor fails itOne of the common discussions in AdoptionLand is how many birthmothers are encouraged to relinquish their children to adoption to meet the needs of the usually older, more wealthy people who suffer from infertility issues and cannot have children on their own.  It can be said that there is a “demand” for adoptable children based on the needs of people who are infertile.

There have been infertility adoption discussions where it has been said that it’s not just people with infertility issues that adopt and I will agree; this is true. It has been said  to me that only a small number of people who have infertility issues consider adoption; I don’t claim to be a  infertility expert and don’t feel like researching tons of numbers, so I will just have to say I don’t know for sure. It has also been suggested that it’s unfair to somehow “blame” people who are infertile for wanting babies and that instead, the full responsibility should be on the birthmothers;  if they stop relinquishing then the demand side would dry up. I don’t believe that. For one, I do not blame anyone for WANTING to be a parent, I find fault on how anyone, infertile or not, chooses to do so.

Anyway, we can go round and round with this; does the demand for the babies create the adoption  industry or does the situation that creates the babies create a need for homes that couples, including those with infertility, are happy to open and accept these poor “unwanted” children.

Supply Demand.. Chicken Eggs..I was dizzy.

Who Really Does Adopt Children?

So I was thrilled to see an actual research study that looked into the characteristics that predict whether women ever consider adoption as a pathway to motherhood published in the Journal of Family Issues.  I mean I love a good debate as much as the next person, maybe even more, but oh give me facts!  While of course, one study is never the end all and be all on a topic, any additional insight regarding adoption is always most welcome.

So when I saw I did my usual frantic call out to anyone who had a subscription and could get me the full study: Is Adoption an Option? The Role of Importance of Motherhood and Fertility Help-Seeking in Considering Adoption.  Hat’s off to @granolasusan who came to my aid! How could I pass this up when the authors Nicholas K. Park and Patricia Wonch Hill  were asking:

Why do some women consider adoption and others do not? What factors or personal characteristics are associated with whether or not women will ever consider adoption? It is unclear if the propensity to consider adoption differs systematically among childless women in the general population.

Yes! I wanted to know that too!

So how did they figure it out?

Researching Women Who Want to Become Mothers

They  use the National Survey of Fertility Barriers (NSFB), a nationally representative sample of reproductive-aged women, to assess what characteristics differentiate women who consider adoption from women who do not.

So 876 women who were not mothers at all, but wanted to be mothers were questioned. Data was collected between 2004 and 2007. If they had step children or other children in their household, then they were eliminated . Women who were voluntarily child free because they did not intend to have children were also not considered in the sample. So the study only included women who would like to be mothers at some point, but who are not currently biological, social, or adoptive mothers. Only women of reproductive age, 25-45, were surveyed in the NSFB; the mean age for the sample of nonmothers was 33.

Out of that number approximately:

  • 12% of the women in the sample were currently considering adoption
  • 52% had considered adoption
  • 36% had never considered adoption.

Factor in Infertility

Twelve percent of women (7.3 million) in the United States aged 15 to 44 suffer from some form of infertility (Chandra, Martinez, Mosher, Abma, & Jones, 2005), and approximately 35% of women will experience a period of infertility at some point during their lifetime (J. McQuillan, Greil, White, & Jacob, 2003).

  • Subfecund/infertility: Women were categorized as subfecund if they reported 12 months of unprotected intercourse and did not conceive, whether they were trying to get pregnant or not.
  • Self-identified subfecund/infertility: Women were also classified by whether they felt they had a fertility barrier.  if women answered yes, they were included as self-identified infertile.
  • Medical help for infertility:  Women were asked if they had ever been to a doctor to talk about ways of getting pregnant. Thirty-one percent of the women in the sample were subfecund, 20% self-identified as having infertility, and 18% had visited a doctor for infertility.

In general, these variables were related to each other—61% of women who self-identified as infertile were also subfecund. Similarly, 40% of the self-identified as infertile and 73% who were subfecund went to a fertility doctor.

Results of the Infertility Adoption Study

“Women who held higher levels of importance of motherhood and engaged in medical help-seeking for infertility were more likely to consider adoption.”

In other words; if being a mother was very important to a woman and she really wanted to have many children and she was experiencing infertility issues, she is more likely to first try to resolve her barriers to motherhood though assisted reproduction so she could have a child naturally, and then look into adoption.

  • Those who currently considered adoption were almost four times more likely to have seen a doctor for infertility than those who never considered adoption.
  • Similarly, those who had formerly considered adoption were twice as likely to have seen a doctor for medical help-seeking as those who never considered adoption.
  • Women who reported they were currently considering adoption had, on average, a higher number of ideal children.

My deduction? Women want to have their own babies and turn to adoption when the path to motherhood seems impossible.

Therefore, despite infertility being the most common reason for adoption (Hollingsworth, 2000), encountering fertility barriers may not necessarily increase the likelihood that women will consider adopting a child if reproductive technologies are available.

Other Factors that Go Into the Adoption Option:


Using data from the National Survey of Family Growth, Hollingsworth (2000) finds White women who report that religion is very important do report higher intentions of adoption but that it does not hold true for Black or Hispanic women.


Education was measured using the question, “How many years of schooling have you completed?” Responses were dichotomized into college graduates and noncollege graduates (68%). This is a larger proportion of women who are college graduates than in the population as a whole.


Age was positively associated with currently seeking adoption, with older women being more likely to currently consider adoption than younger women. This could indicate that as women approach the end of their reproductive years without having children, adoption becomes a possible avenue to motherhood, especially as they seek out medical advice for getting pregnant.

Interestingly enough, I found household income did not factor in, but the study also reports that  this subsample is more highly educated and has a higher income than the general population, so perhaps that’s a given.

Now before I start getting the comments that “a study and can be twisted to say anything, ” I have to say that I found this research paper to be quite sympathetic to those who wished to adopt and to adoption overall.  There were actual more stats about the consequences and pressures that infertility does put upon a woman as well as the research reporting why more people do NOT look into adoption. I will tip my hat that they do put the increased need to adoption emphasis on children already needing homes.

Of course, you are more than welcome to  read the whole thing: Is Adoption an Option? The Role of Importance of Motherhood and Fertility Help-Seeking in Considering Adoption; Nicholas K. Park and Patricia Wonch Hill. I’m not holding back!

 Oh the Irony: Distress from Relinquished Fertility Intentions

“Previous research has indicated relinquishing intentions for children can lead to psychological distress (White & McQuillan, 2006). Making adoption more of an option might reduce the possibility that such distress from relinquished fertility intentions would occur.”

Case in point to the study being more sympatric to those Subfecund and my final criticism:

Here, I find this statement to just be completely erroneous. While I have previously stated that I fully support and empathize as much personally possible to those who face fertility issues, adoption will NOT solve the issues of fertility; IE “cure” the infertility. It can provide a person with the opportunity to parent a child, but the infertility will still be there.  Hence; “relinquished fertility intentions” MUST occur and any distress, mourning and healthy processing of that should be worked through before adoption is considered least one have unexpressed expectations placed upon a child.

Not saying that I wish people to be “distressed” but it is a pet peeve of mine that we seem to think we can mitigate all these “negative” feelings in life. We can’t.. sometimes we just have to deal with what we get.

Anyway, the point is that I read that YES, wanting to become a mother and being infertile IS a path to adoption, though interestingly, often not the first path to resolving the “childless” issue. The chicken really wants an egg, preferably their own egg.

Share on Facebook

About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine,, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

14 Comments on "Infertility or Relinquishment: Chasing the Adoption Chicken or Egg"

  1. Interesting! I’m now pregnant, so I wouldn’t qualify, but I am one of those who have considered/are considering adoption. I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which is the leading cause of infertility, though getting it doesn’t mean you are infertile. I was diagnosed at 16 and told I might have trouble conceiving someday, though I certainly wasn’t trying then. One of my first cousins is also adopted (older child international adoption). Additionally my sister has other health concerns that have her think she wouldn’t be able to handle pregnancy physically, so she’s planning on being a foster mom and adopting through foster care. So all this added together, I definitely considered adoption, and still want to adopt. I’ve fallen in love with adoption in many ways, but I would rather adopt through foster care or internationally from somewhere than do a domestic infant adoption, though those babies that are being relinquished still need moms so I don’t condemn anyone, I just think with ten moms waiting for every infant.. that’s awful. But I think the best way to care for orphans (I’m a Christian) is to prevent them from becoming orphans in the first place, which includes supporting birth mothers that truly desire to keep their babies but just feel powerless and pressure to relinquish. Anyway, my point is one reason I find this interesting is obviously I’m pregnant now, I’m not infertile. (I got married in February, got pregnant just 6 months later.) But I still hope to adopt someday. My husband and I want 4 kids, and we wanted at least one biological and at least 1 adopted, so I’m not sure how it’ll end up, but we have at least once biological one on the way. I think my heart is saying maybe a sibling group from foster care, but it’ll just depend on what happens in our lives between now and then. But so I’m not like the women in the study, who mainly seem to have infertility issues or just aren’t there yet, but I do think I was definitely influenced by being told when I was 16 I may never be able to have a child biologically. It really impacted the way I thought and I think opened my heart more to adoption, though also seeing family members consider adoption/adopt also added to it.

  2. As someone who never tried to get pregnant before adopting, I find this really interesting. Thanks for the heads up. I’m heading over to read the whole thing.
    (I guess I am socially infertile as a lesbian. We chose adoption over other means to become parents via third parties and medical interventions. But we had no angst about “missing out” on pregnancy/birth.)

  3. I promised Claudia I would behave myself so I am going to 🙂

    Interesting study though I think it’s missing some information from the picture (not you Claudia the study). First of all are these single women or heterosexual married women? If the latter then we also need to factor in the couples who can’t conceive due to male infertility. Despite some myths male infertility is just as common as female infertility. I would question whether those couples dealing with male infertility more likely to consider using a sperm donor than pursuing adoption because they want to experience a pregnancy? Also are there commonalities in couples who choose third party reproduction over adoption? Another question I have are there certain types of infertilty that make couples more likely to pursue adoption? To me this is an incomplete study because infertility the factors that go beyond what’s just on the surface but I applaud Claudia for sharing it.

    As for the demand in adoption, I think it has to do with the demand for children in general. The childless especially in America are looked down upon. They are asked to take on more of the workload in the workforce. And they are outcast from mainstream society. I think it goes beyond adoption. Third party reproduction will become more common than adoption if it isn’t already as it’s sold more often by the infertilty industry. Just as societal pressures drove the supply in adoption in the BSE, societal pressures are driving infertile couples to become parents because it’s a lonely place being infertile in a fertile world.

    • Greg. You will never have your own child. I enjoy tellling you that, mostly becasue you like being here so much and you had to make a promise to “behave yourself” just to do so.

  4. Maybe we need to start hammering hard on the notion that adoption is “having a baby.” Maybe that would finally get it through their heads and we’d see the demand for adoption cut way back. Because I don’t think they have quite gotten to the point of understanding yet. You are NOT “having a child.” You are TAKING SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILD. Always always always always always.

    • Wow. That is such a simple way to describe thought process that is infected, not right, off somehow.

  5. Also, not that I’ll probably come back to face the disappointment because I know better, I hope anyone else who comes here thinking this is a pro-adoption blog setting out to justify those who are “hoping to adopt” for whatever reason will take half an hour of their precious time and read other stuff on this blog. Google is both wonderful and terrible in that it can take you directly to where you want to go information-wise–unfortunately, people start shooting off their big mouths before they really know where they are and what they’re doing.

    Yes, that sounds brutal. So does listening to someone pretty much going “Tee-hee! I either want to adopt internationally or adopt from foster care. I haven’t really decided yet. And those poor mothers all waiting to adopt a bay-bee.” *twirl hair* If you’d read even a tenth of this blog you’d know that both international and domestic infant adoption are VERY BAD IDEAS. You’d ALSO know that expectant mothers are chosen for adoption BEFORE THEY EVER RELINQUISH A BABY WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU.

    There are NO new mothers “creating a demand for adoption” by “giving their babies up” except for the odd, really stressed-out mother who opts to use a baby drop box rather than be bullied by an agency. They are GROOMED into “making an adoption plan.” Change the law so that potential adopters and new mothers must be matched AFTER the birth and watch the relinquishment rate go bye-bye. You think ten to one is a bad ratio now? You just wait.

    OK. Enough ranting. GOD it feels like NONE of them will EVER get it. And I know better, but the constant blind privileged complacency is wearing after a while.

  6. Eileen Burke | November 13, 2013 at 8:56 am |

    I wonder how it feels as an adoptee to hear your AP’s tell the whole drawn out story about how they came to adopt you, starting with, “We struggled with infertility for years, trying IVF X amount of times, before we decided to adopt.” That has got to scream second best to some. Breaks my heart reading statements like that on the interwebs.

    Having met up with Greg a few times before, he is devoted to this idea that people are forced to have a child by any means necessary. That those without children are slaves to the fertile and child-rich. I’ve read this point of view a number of times and it is just utter nonsense. People want children and babies because they want children and babies, not because they fear being outcast for not having children and babies. So, following that logic, it is really the fertile people of earth who are driving the adoption industry, since we are the ones outcasting all the childless and forcing them to become slaves to our offspring. It isn’t the infertile people who are desperate to have a baby at all costs who drive the adoption industry, no sir. What a load of hooey.

    • Eileen,

      I don’t think I have ever said people are forced to have children at all costs in any of the discussions I’ve had with you on this blog. All I have said is that societal pressures/stigmas drive people to pursue parenthood at all costs. Even taking infertility out of the picture there are many people who have children to fit in and end up becoming poor parents. But when you factor in infertility and you have people that are expected to take on larger workloads in the workplace and not included in familial and social gatherings it leads these people to go all out to have children.

      It’s not so much fertile people as it is our culture that caters to those who have children and outcasts the childless.

      I say that from personal experience as well as reading others experiences who are going through infertility. As I said in my post it goes beyond just adoption. There are children created via third party reproduction that are a product of it.

      Let me be clear I am not blaming you or anyone else on this blog. I also don’t blame you for not understanding or even recognizing it. Unless you are someone who experiences it’s hard to understand.

      • Eileen Burke | November 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm |

        You keep repeating that our society outcasts those who are childless and that the childless are excluded from family and social gatherings. Now, I am willing to see that depending on your chosen career, that in some cases the childless are expected to work longer hours. However, in many cases, women who have children have suffered career consequences for not being able to commit to longer hours in their careers (lawyers and doctors come to mind). I wouldn’t call those women slaves to the childless.

        I have never heard of anyone being excluded from a family gathering (i.e. birthday, holiday, family reunion) simply because they don’t have children. What kind of social gatherings are you referring to? I have friends who don’t have children so I suppose I wouldn’t invite them to a non-family kids Chuckie Cheese birthday party, but most of my friends are pretty thankful for that.

        I was childless until I was in my late twenties and I never felt outcast. Plenty of my friends had children by then, too. If anything, I think our society outcasts both men and women who are not married more than people who don’t have children.

        I think (if my condescending, housewife mind is understanding you correctly) that you are attempting to inform others about specific issues that infertile people may have so that we can have a deeper understanding of why someone may seek adoption and better educate them. However, the consistent tone of your posts about the put-upon by society infertiles makes it impossible to take you seriously.

        • Eileen,

          If you are referring to our discussion on Claudia’s piece back in September, I apologize. Afterwards I felt guilty for getting out of line with yourself, Myst and others that participated in that discussion. It was eye opening for me in how I should engage on here.

          It’s funny that you mention those careers because my wife happens to be an attorney. It is a very unfriendly family environment. She is stuck at a dead end firm that IMO is completely sexist. But she put off finding a new job until after we had children (we started trying 2.5 years ago when we were 31/30). Well earlier this year when we found that wasn’t possible that put a monkey wrench into things. She essentially wasted two years in a dead end job that she could have been actively job searching. Now she is stuck there and is miserable. It’s left me feeling extremely guilty since I am the reason we don’t even have a chance to conceive a child. It breaks my heart to see someone I care about more than anything in the world be so unhappy because of my body not functioning properly.

          For me in my job, I have been asked to travel more often next year while a colleague of mine who has children isn’t being asked to do so. It was assumed by one of my bosses that because I am young (never thought 33 was that young) and don’t have children that I could take on the extra travel. That’s the kind of discrimination that is faced by people who are childless. It’s as if because I don’t have children that its not important for me to be home, that I don’t miss my wife and dog when I travel. Plus I hate flying as I have high anxiety when I do.

          I also think there is a big difference between being childless in your late twenties, compared to being childless in your early to mid 30’s as friends and family members have almost all taken that next step in their lives. We got married at 26/27 and I had some friends that had children and didn’t really feel the outcasting until about 2 years ago even before we got our infertility diagnosis. In fact of our friends that are married there is just one couple that doesn’t have children and they just got married a little over a year ago. We’ve been invited to fewer engagements (even ones that aren’t “Chuck E Cheese type parties”) with our friends as we don’t have children. I’m not the only one. I follow many blogs with people who have similar experiences. And I think it’s different when you make the choice to be childless than when the choice is taken away from you. When you make the choice to live a ChildFree life you are choosing to live a certain life style.

          What I am attempting to do is inform others about the societal factors that those who suffer from infertility face so that you have a better understanding/recognition of them. Yes, I realize I need to be better about not ranting like a lunatic as its hard to take someone like that seriously. I had been hoping to do so moving forward to Claudia’s September post on Infertility. I just don’t believe those who are able to have children would understand how different things are when you aren’t able to have children. I don’t believe they will every fully understand how society outcasts them. Nor should I expect them to from their perspective. Again, I don’t blame you or others on this blog for not understanding.

          I am not sure where the “condescending, housewife mind” comment is coming from. I know you had children (and relinquished one of them) but I don’t believe you mentioned what you did for a living in our exchange back in September. You’ll have to fill me in on that one.

  7. In response to Dana’s comment of:
    “Maybe we need to start hammering hard on the notion that adoption is “having a baby.” Maybe that would finally get it through their heads and we’d see the demand for adoption cut way back. Because I don’t think they have quite gotten to the point of understanding yet. You are NOT “having a child.” You are TAKING SOMEONE ELSE’S CHILD. Always always always always always.”

    I have to echo that with a resounding YES YES YES! I am so sick to death of seeing these two pictures I could LITERALLY vomit:

  8. Ah yes and I almost forgot this one: the ultimate example of denial and delusional behavior:

  9. interesting….Actually, adoption was our first choice, well, mine. but the process, even through foster care was time consuming and invasive. So we did the TTC thing, and like Greg, we are a male infertile family, at least as far we can tell. We skipped IF treatments, mainly because I wouldn’t consider donor sperm. The being pregnant was more important to him, than to me. I was raised by my bio parents, 2.2 kids and the picket fence….but I was never expected to be anything other than who I was. And, I grew up knowing that my kids would be who they are, and not necessarily like me. They both are and aren’t.

    I hate any article that attempts to generalize. Not all women who reliquished are like Claudia, this is her story, her reality. I have 3 children through adoption – my relationship with their birthparents run from zero contact to being friends on FB……

    Each story is different, and etropic, I’ll tell you the same “story” will tell my kids they are my life. I would not trade them for any number (from ZERO to whatever) of bio kids.

    I really dislike people discounting my love for my kids. I don’t discount their birthparents’ love. They aren’t 2nd choice, for us, they are our 1st choice.

Comments are closed.

Want to Change the World?

Sign Up for the Adoption Army! "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead