Shortly after starting to date, my future husband, Ryan, opened up and told me about all of his cancer treatments. He asked me how I felt about adoption. He’d had a lot of radiation, chemo, and a stem cell transplant. Ryan told me that he had banked some sperm, but it was after his first chemotherapy treatment, so the doctor was unsure of its viability. The chances of him having biological children were probably impossible. We would be facing infertility if we moved forward with our relationship, and he wanted me to know all of the facts beforehand. I cared about him and adoption didn’t scare me. I had always been open to the idea of adoption, especially after seeing multiple aunts and uncles adopt my cousins.
After we were married for about six months, we both individually felt like it was time to add to our family. We knew that in vitro fertilization (IVF) would be a long shot but we had to try it. We had hope that it would work and that is why we felt like we needed to do it then. Once we made up our minds, we wanted to get started as soon as possible. We met with a reproductive endocrinologist and started the process. Within hours, we had already set up the schedule for the blood work, ultrasounds, medication classes, shipment of the frozen sperm, and retrieval of the eggs. I was 25 and looking forward to being pregnant. Two of my sisters had just announced that they were pregnant, and two of my sisters-in-law had recently had babies. It seemed to be a perfect time. I gave myself shots every day to stimulate my eggs. I drove to the clinic every other day for bloodwork and ultrasounds.
The day of the egg retrieval came and it went smoothly. The specialist was going to give the sperm what he called a shot of caffeine and then inject them into the eggs. They would call us the next day to let us know how many eggs had been fertilized. We were very hopeful that we would get good news that next day, but it was not good news. When the nurse told me none of the eggs had been fertilized, I choked back a sob, said goodbye, and then delivered the news to my husband. To say we were heartbroken was an understatement. We had so many questions and not many answers. Why had we felt like we were supposed to go through with fertility treatments? What did this mean for our marriage? What did infertility mean for our family? How were we going to find the way out of this dark tunnel?
We needed to take time to process our feelings about infertility. We had to grieve the loss of the child that we would never have. I would never be pregnant and we would not have biological children. Our timeline to becoming parents would change. It was a struggle to get through this trial. We were covered by a cloud for several months. We eventually felt blessed that we knew that we could close the door to fertility treatments and pursue adoption. We wouldn’t have to hope every month for a positive pregnancy test. The pain of infertility has never quite left me even after 13 years but stays in the back of my mind. Several months ago my period was six days late and I told myself that if it didn’t come the next day, I would buy a pregnancy test because maybe—just maybe—I was pregnant. Unfortunately, I didn’t need to go buy that pregnancy test. The pain of infertility reared its ugly head the worst when so many family members and friends were having multiple children and we hadn’t even managed to have one because of infertility.
Hoping to Adopt
Ryan and I still knew that we could be parents and we turned our hearts toward adoption. Just like with IVF, we wanted to jump right in. We talked to an agency and they explained that they could work with us once we had been married for two years; there was no exception made for us. After considering foster to adopt, we started on the pile of paperwork and hours of classes that were required to become licensed. Our hearts were not in it and we dropped out. We did not feel like that was the path for us at the time. So, we waited; waiting seemed to be the only constant thing.
Right after celebrating our second anniversary, we downloaded another stack of paperwork and worked on it every night after work for weeks. We met with and were interviewed by a caseworker. During this process, we were trying to sell our house and didn’t want to have two home studies done. We waited until we sold our house and moved into the next house to finish our home study. Finally, we were licensed and ready to move forward with adoption. When we asked what the average timeline was, no one would give us a definitive answer. It could happen soon or we could be waiting for a long time. We prayed that it would be soon. Sunday nights were always the hardest for me because after a weekend together, I would have to go to work the next day when all I wanted was to stay at home with my child.
There was a greater chance that we would be matched with an expectant mother if we told everyone we knew. We sent cards with our adoption profile, email, and website to our family and friends across the country. We asked them to keep one in their wallet, and if they came across someone considering adoption to give it to that person. We waited some more. My husband and I had a room in our home for a baby if it happened quickly. Through a friend of a friend, we were connected to a woman who was pregnant. We met with her and thought that we could adopt her baby. We felt pressured by some family members to say yes because they said it could be our only chance. Saying yes was not really our decision but the expectant mother’s decision. We tried to convince ourselves that we should continue to wait and hope for her decision, but in the back of our minds, we knew that it was not right. We were so desperate for a baby that we would do anything to get to that point. The baby was born and we were not called or chosen to parent that baby. Other expectant parents reached out to us and we chatted about our favorite books, how we were raised, and what we thought about an open relationship. Communication fizzled out and we felt disappointed. Feelings of inadequacy filled us with depression, grief, and worry that we would never be chosen. We felt like we were not cute enough, not rich enough, or not skinny enough for someone to like. It was hard not to compare ourselves to others we saw who were chosen to be adoptive parents.
One night in July, over a year after we had been licensed, we received a phone call from my aunt who lived several states away. This was surprising because I was not particularly close with her and had not seen her in a few years. After pleasantries, she asked if we were still wanting to adopt. I said, yes, of course. She explained that she had been talking with a friend. The friend had a 20-year-old daughter, Julie, who was pregnant and considering placing her son for adoption. My aunt immediately thought of my husband and me. She shared our adoption profile and blog with Julie, who looked through them and felt like we were supposed to be the parents of her sweet baby.
Days later, we received an email from Julie that said, “I’ve read your blog and it really touched me. Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I never felt much like the baby was supposed to be mine. Please let me know if you can consider adopting my son. I know you will be a great choice.” We immediately felt peace and so much joy upon reading those words. We started emailing back and forth and built a relationship. We knew that we wanted to meet her, so a few weeks after the initial contact we flew to her state and met her and her family. It felt so right, more right than anything we had felt with the previous expectant mother.
About three months after she had first contacted us, she called me and said that the doctor wanted her to go to the hospital to be induced right then. Immediately I called Ryan to come home so that we could go get our baby. We changed our plane tickets and jumped on the next available plane. After landing, I turned on my cell phone and found a voicemail telling me that a 5-pound, 13-ounce baby boy had been born. We quickly got a rental car and got to the hospital a couple of hours after he was born. When Julie placed him in my arms, I felt so much joy and peace. The next day, we met the birth father. He was a great young man and we had a good connection with him. They were no longer together and we have been able to have relationships with both of them. Together we decided on the name Lucas.
A few days later, we were the witnesses while they signed the adoption papers. It was a happy and sad day. We had grown close to both of them and knew that it was a hard day for them. When Lucas was 11 days old, we flew home to meet our families. When he was two months old, we were able to finalize the adoption. It was a beautiful day.
Adoption: Take Two and Take Three through Foster to Adopt
When Lucas turned a year old, we started feeling the pull to adopt again. We filled out the paperwork and had our home study done. And then we waited—and waited some more. A couple of expectant parents reached out, but nothing that went beyond a few emails. After waiting about two years, we decided that it was time to try foster to adopt again. After attending the classes, completing our interviews and home study, and becoming licensed, we immediately started to receive phone calls from the state. We knew that this might happen and prayed that we would be able to make the right decision about what child or children we should take in. It was sad to hear about so many children that needed homes and we knew that we could not help everyone.
One of the first phone calls was about a little boy who was almost a year old and his younger brother who would be born within weeks. They would both need a permanent home with the potential for adoption. We chose to say yes to them. Isaac came into our home days later. It was exciting to have a baby in our home again. About two weeks later, Isaac became a big brother just after his first birthday. We picked him up from the hospital and went from a family of three to a family of five within a few weeks. After lots of ups and downs with foster care and the state, we were able to adopt them more than three years later. It was a long road and our family was so happy to all share the same last name.
As I have heard numerous times, adoption is not a cure for infertility. Adoption didn’t make the pain of infertility go away, but it did make me a mother three times. Infertility, as well as adoption, can be a roller coaster of emotions. It is important to feel those emotions, have a support system that can help you, and find hobbies or activities that will help keep you occupied during these roller coasters. Infertility can be one of the hardest things to endure and adoption can be one of the greatest joys of life.