The killer question of adoption: how to stop asking it and dare to chose vulnerability

Every time I tell someone that I can’t have children because I’m infertile, it’s automatic. They ask me the killer question: Have you thought about adoption?

At the beginning of my mourning for motherhood, this irritated me to no end. I just wanted to respond in anger, “But clearly that was the first thing I thought of!!!”

But for me, the answer to that question is highly personal and every woman has an answer that comes in different shades.

In my journey, that answer came very clearly and quickly at the age of my diagnosis at 14: I will never adopt. I will mourn motherhood.

And here is why.

My entire childhood was marked by my parents’ observations of my personality and abilities that resembled those of my maternal grandmother.

“You remind me so much of your grandmother! You look like her physically, you have her natural talent for music, you love to teach like her and you have her artistic temperament.

It became obvious to me that the family gene pool had been passed down from one generation to the next.

And it struck me: if I can’t pass on her inherent strengths to my biological children, I will never have children. Because if I am really honest with myself, I wanted my children to be like me in some ways. I wanted to be able to recognize myself in them. As I write these words, I feel uneasy: am I a bit narcissistic? Maybe… And at the same time, I want to accept myself as I am and above all to be transparent and complete because maybe other women will recognize themselves in my testimony.

So, undeniably, my voice would not be to pass on my genetics but to share from it, to a larger number, and not in the vase of the biological or adopted family.

I quickly felt like opening the circle of people to whom I give: my time, my resources, my passions, my listening, my empathy and my love. Because I believe that talents and strengths are not only transmitted to children. I give from my resources, acquired or not, to my family, to my friends, to my work and to the childless women who read me.

I dare to say that I believe that behind the question Have you thought about adoption there is an integrated societal pronatalism, a discomfort with life outside the norm, different, without children. It becomes an automatic question that is asked without realizing that it obscures, as soon as it is said, any other type of experience in the adult world.

I wanted to share with you some ideas to explore on how to interact in a more empathetic way when a woman tells you that she has no children out of circumstance:

1-When a woman confides in you that she can’t have a child by circumstance, it’s safe to assume that she’s moving beyond those emotions to tell you about her experience:

-her deep sadness
-her lacks
-her fears
-her shame
-her grief
-her loneliness

2- Simply ,show your empathy by saying for example

-I’m sorry.

-This can’t be a simple grief.

-You have my empathy.

2- It is usually at this stage that things get difficult and people:

a)ask questions that may feel intrusive to the childless woman:


-Have you thought about adoption?

-What about fertility treatments?

b) talk about people around them who have overcome infertility:


-When my sister-in-law stopped thinking about it she got pregnant!

– My friend did 2 in vitro and had twins: don’t give up!

c) bring the conversation back to them


-I don’t know what I would do without my children…

-But  I would be nothing without my children!

The best thing to do in step 2 would be to simply ask if the woman is comfortable talking about it further. If she says no, respect her silence and her pace. This may not be the right time or place to talk about it.

If she responds positively to you:

Listen. This sounds simple, but it is the hardest thing to do but the most beautiful thing to offer a childless woman. Keep in mind that if an #NOMO ( non- mother) confides in you, she is indirectly telling you that she feels safe with you, that she feels you will be welcoming and non-judgmental.

Did you know that it is not uncommon for me to meet #NOMO’S who have been repressing their infertility story for years? So when they find the courage to share their story, you have to be ready to welcome them and you will probably experience an emotional and intense moment with them.

3- Thank her for the time you spent with her. You may not realize it at the time, but it will bring you closer to this person because you will have witnessed and had access to her vulnerability.

4- Deal with your experiences following this confession with another person (friend, therapist, colleague). This type of confession can trigger all sorts of emotions that are very normal: sadness, questioning, discomfort and helplessness.

I hope with all my heart that you will find these insights enlightening and that the next time a #NOMO tells you about her experience, you will think twice before asking the killer question…

Catherine-Emmanuelle Delisle

TRA, Therapist for Relationship Assistance and creator of


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