Bridging the gap between ending IVF treatment and adoption

To say it is utterly devastating, when IVF treatment does not work is a massive understatement. The grief can feel immeasurable, but the hope that it might work next time keeps us going.

However, the tragic reality is that for many, the decision to stop treatment completely has to be thought about, either following the guidance of a doctor or because of financial reasons. This decision, which will always be just yours, to give up on the dream of having your own biological child is unbelievably difficult.

Many people will grieve for a long time, not really knowing what their next step will be, just like Carly, who shared her story with us

“After our third and final unsuccessful round of IVF, life had to move on. To where or how I don’t know. But it does. I know I want to do something different with my life if I’m not going to be a mummy, but what??? The life I am living now – before coronavirus took over, is not one I want to go back to. That life was meant to have children in it, to try and continue to live that life is never going to work. But what else do I want to do? I honestly do not know”

Others have managed to find ways to move on with life, as  Becca, shared with us following the decision to end her treatment

“Ultimately we were devastated that this was it, the end of our journey and we both said we couldn’t go through it again, at least no time soon.

We needed to heal, physically, emotionally and financially. In every way possible, and we needed to remember who we were, separately and as a couple!

Life was hard to begin with, there was a gaping hole where IVF used to be, it was odd, and I felt like I didn’t have much to talk about with friends and family. It was as if the most important part of my life was over now, so what could I possibly have to talk about?

But we decided to face life head on. We don’t have children, but we are very driven people and we really wanted to make the most of what life has thrown at us. So we set up our own business, we moved house and we filled our life with as many things that make us as happy as possible!”.

For some, the journey takes on a new direction as they explore alternative options such as adoption, which can be a welcome coping mechanism; giving a sense of hope and fulfilment

Leading fertility charity, Fertility Network UK (FNUK), is working on helping people bridge that gap between ending IVF treatment and adoption.

We spoke to FNUK’s Anya Sizer on the subject and how the charity is supporting those who may decide to choose that route. Anya is the charity’s regional coordinator for the London area and works closely with clinics. She has a lot of experience in the adoption field, as she has adopted a child.

Once you have decided to stop treatment, Anya recommends a total break

“I would encourage a little time out of the fertility rollercoaster, a holiday or a break and then doing anything that helps you reconnect with who you are holistically,” she says. “Our helpline is there to support and listen, our support groups provide peer support from people who understand – we provide information and help for any stage of the journey.

“So much of this process is grieving, so it can be helpful to realise that you will deal with the ending of treatment in many ways, with a variety of emotions.”

How long should you wait before looking at other options?

“There is no set time and many people will have started this process anyway. It can be quite a useful coping tool to start to look at other options and to give yourself the time to re-imagine another way forward.”

Anya suggests several organisations that might help, More To Life, the Donor Conception Network and Adoption UK, are a few that can help with initial investigations.

“If looking specifically at adoption most agencies will ask for at least six months to a year after treatment before starting the adoption process. This can seem a long time at first, but you can still use it to be moving forwards and exploring the realities of adoption,” she said.

What are some of the things not to say to anyone who has completed their fertility journey?

“People often develop what I call compassion fatigue where they just run out of things to say or no longer know how best to help. Stopping treatment can really test people with this so for anyone trying to support someone at the end of treatment it’s really important to not be trying to rush them on to the next stage.

“One of my pet hates is the phrase ‘just adopt’ there is no just in such a complex situation and ‘just’ demeans both the parent and the child, so please don’t say that.

“Give people space and time, ask how you can best support them through this next chapter and take the lead from the people in the middle of it all.”

A lot of people may feel they are unsure of what is involved in the adoption process, what is the best way forward for them?

“I would look at First4Adoption and Adoption UK and read one or two books on adoption to help give a realistic view of what to expect. Adoption is an amazing route to parenting, but different from raising your biological child and this needs time to explore. If possible speak to adoptive parents and try to start thinking what type of a child you could imagine in your life , what support structures you have around you and what you might need practically to proceed .

Anya is also keen to point out that adoption is not for everyone, if you complete treatment and don’t feel it is for you, that is okay.

“I think it’s a fantastic route to parenthood but it’s not for everyone and has to be focused on the child and their needs first. I would encourage everyone to look at the realities and be honest with themselves about pros and cons of adoption,” she said.

If you are interested in finding out more about future workshops, the work of Fertility Network UK or would like support and advice on your next steps, visit here

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