I wanted to be married, have a couple years alone with my husband, and then have a baby at age 30. That was the plan. Oddly, the priest who married us always brought up this quote in our marriage preparation: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” This can be applied to everyone, religious or not. It means you can have all the plans you want, but they may not work out. This is fact. In 2011 though, my plans had worked out so far: I was married, and I had a couple years alone with my husband.
We did not conceive right away. Then, we didn’t conceive after six months. Before we knew it, we hit the dreaded year mark by which most couples who will conceive have conceived. Our marriage’s best strength is communication. We talk about everything. I am honest, to a fault, sometimes. So it wasn’t like we only talked about fertility problems at the one-year mark and never before that. I always brought it up and worried as the months went by. My husband is, by nature, more optimistic, so he assumed it would happen eventually. I was not getting that feeling. I also was the one having to stare down the negative home pregnancy tests. I must’ve wasted $100 dollars over the years on those things.
I thought about not having children at all and what our life would look like. I had countless talks with my husband and with a relative of mine. This relative told me: “I don’t regret missing out on pregnancy; I regret not having children.” I decided I felt similarly. I wanted a family, but to be honest, I’ve never been a girl who looked forward to being pregnant or experiencing childbirth. I just never really saw that in my future, could never tangibly picture it. I also truly don’t care if I miss out on it. I know there are some great things I won’t experience, like a kicking baby inside of me, but that’s such a short blip on the radar. My husband and I want to have a family. Our goal was family, not feeling kicking or seeing a little bean on an ultrasound (not to downplay or disrespect those things, because those things are really freaking cool, but they’re not everything). Many women on the Internet like to convince you otherwise with comments like, “But you’ll miss out on feeling the baby move inside you; it’s so magical, and it bonds you to the baby!” and “Childbirth is a magical experience; you’ll really miss out on it!” They mean it too. It is magical for them, to feel the baby move. I’ll bet it is, but guess what? It’s okay.
Here’s my pizza analogy to give you a feel for my perspective: I’m allergic to dairy. I have never had cheese pizza. I’ve had people tell me, “Oh my. Aren’t you upset? You’re missing out on pizza?” But it doesn’t change or accomplish anything. I won’t ever have regular cheese pizza. I don’t miss it because I’ve never had it. Pretty simple. I’m sure it’s great for other people, but I do—on the other hand—have options. I can make my own pizza without cheese, or I can buy a Daiya brand pizza with imitation cheese. Similarly, with fertility problems, there are options. I can do fertility treatments, or I don’t have to give birth to have a child because there’s this beautiful thing called adoption.
It had been over a year at that point, so I went to the gynecologist to do some bloodwork. We checked my hormones, thyroid, egg reserve, etc. It all checked out fine. I am not a “go with the flow” type of girl, so I did what I do best. I planned. I planned a doctor’s visit for my husband. I wrote a post-it note with questions for him to ask and told him what tests to get done after Googling for hours. He went, got his blood tests, and we also did the semen analysis. Men, be thankful. Women have to get poked and prodded, but for your test, you get to fill a cup and hand it to a lab technician. We waited patiently (all right, I was not patient) and in typical fashion, the doctor didn’t call us back. I called the office, and they said half of the tests were back. The next day my husband got a call asking him to make a follow-up appointment. Angry, I threw up my hands while he scheduled the appointment. “That’s not good, you know,” I said. “That means there’s a problem.” I couldn’t wait another five days before his appointment to know what was going on, so I made my own plan.
I know from my medical experience that once medical records are in the doctor’s hand, you have a right to see them. You can go request them and pick them up yourself. While my husband was at work the next day, I went to the doctor’s office and told them I was there to pick up a copy of the records just for my own personal file because I like to keep all records. They complied but repeatedly told me that my husband needed to come in for the follow-up appointment. “Oh, yes, he is; he already scheduled it. I just had some time today to stop by,” I replied.
I remember I opened the envelope on the way to the car, trying to keep it dry underneath my umbrella on a particularly dreary, wet day. Once in the car, I read the results. I’m no genius, but I can do basic math and read numbers in a range. It was…bad. Really bad. His sperm count was way outside the normal range. Unbelievable, I thought. It’s him. I could not fathom that he was the problem (the problem being his sperm, not anything he did himself). It said a normal count was 20 million or above. His count was 1.6 million. Then there was the measurement of movement: how many moving (motile) cells there are. Sperm have to be moving, not lazy (unmoving or moving in circles in no particular direction like a drunkard) to get where they need to go. He also didn’t have a great number there. My mood matched the weather as I drove home, still surprised. This is probably something I shouldn’t call him at work about, I thought, so I waited to show him the papers when he got home.
He was disappointed like I was. But honestly, it was a relief to at least know. For a split second, he said he may have felt embarrassed, but that quickly passed when we both realized it’s nobody’s fault. At his follow-up appointment, the doctor confirmed this: some guys just don’t have a lot of sperm. It’s not any different than any other medical problem. It also wasn’t due to a hormonal problem; the testosterone was normal. There was nothing to be done about it. Hearing that was kind of good. We were glad he didn’t have to take some medicine with potential side effects or change anything about himself.
The doctor said conceiving for us was not impossible, but also not likely. For me, that was all I needed to hear. But my husband clung on to that “not impossible” part, and so we kept trying for a while longer. This is where our personality flaws really got their time in the limelight. I would be negative and dismal, and he would be excessively, unrealistically hopeful. Neither of those extremes is healthy. I told him one night, “You know, this is not helpful for us to keep trying. It’s the exact same situation we were in before. Before we even knew we had a fertility problem. We’re just trying and wondering and waiting. It’s the same! We need to move to plan B or C or whatever!” He agreed that we should look at researching IVF and adoption, but that we should also keep trying. I approved of that plan.
We decided we’d research both IVF and adoption and see what fit. We hoped to be led in one direction unequivocally, but that didn’t happen. Much time was spent on both in 2012. First, we visited a fertility clinic together and showed the doctor the sperm quality results. He explained that IVF was the only way to go for us. Inconveniently, that’s the most expensive option. We wrestled with the decision of whether to do IVF for a long time, way longer than we should have. I wish I had gotten started with researching adoption much sooner. It’s crazy how fast time can go by, and you realize you’re only pushing back your “being parents” date each day you are only thinking about what to do. We should have acted sooner and not agonized over things for so long.
It was late 2013, I believe, when we formally started the process of adoption. My husband was 30; I was 29. Most of our friends had their first babies or were pregnant by now. In the summer of 2014, we were home study approved. In December 2014 we entered our agency’s pool. To our surprise, we were matched in April 2015, only four months later. Our son was born in June.
To say that adoption has changed our lives is an understatement. I love adoption. Especially open adoption. I now write articles and a blog about adoption. We see our son’s birth family pretty regularly. I’ve met so many people in the adoption community, even just online. Here we are in 2018 going through another home study process and hoping for a second adoption. We would not have this any other way. All this to say, we were very lucky in our match. Some people go through as many failed matches as other couples do IVF rounds, so we are thankful. This second time, who knows what will happen. Maybe it won’t work out. I’m scared, but I feel far more prepared. It’s also humbling and an honor to potentially welcome another birth mother and her family as our extended family and get to know them. Adoption can be complicated, but it is so worth it.