April 21 – 27 is Infertility Awareness Week. 1 in 8 struggle to conceive a child of their own.
“Anyone can be challenged to have a family. No matter what race, religion, sexuality or economic status you are, infertility doesn’t discriminate.” –infertilityawareness.org
Last spring I had the privilege of photographing a special baby. She was adopted by loving parents after their own infertility battle. The love in the room during that session was overwhelming! Tears of joy shared by all! When I asked if they would share their story, they jumped at the opportunity. They have a passion to help others, and hope that sharing their story will give others hope. So here’s their Q&A
- How long did you try to have a baby? Can you tell us about your experience?
We tried to have a baby for about 3 years. I had known prior to our marriage that I would have trouble getting pregnant, so we went to see a specialist a little sooner than most would have. We did Clomid first, multiple IUI’s and 4 rounds of IVF. The entire process was emotionally, physically, and financially draining. The specialist stated that our issues were “unexplained,” meaning there was no medical reason for the issues we were having. Not only did the process cost a lot, but I was injecting medications into my abdomen for pretty much 2 years. They claim there are no long-term side effects, but you can never be sure, especially since you are giving yourself hormone injections. There was a lot of heartache, false hope, anxiety and stress with the process. It has been the worst thing I have ever gone through. Most things in life you can eventually work through, even if it takes time. With this, it always just lingers. It seemed like there was no end in sight. I was not content until I tried every option. Everyone would tell us, why don’t you just adopt? I wasn’t ready until I tried all the options. Even once those bases were covered, I still wondered, “what if we tried one more time?” My body had been through enough, and I needed to take a step back and focus on myself and my marriage. You will know when it’s time to move past it. It’s very easy for people to give advice on something that they have never experienced. They have no clue what it does to a person and the money it takes to do all of these things. I still get the response that I will get pregnant now that we adopted.
- When you decided to adopt, did you have difficulties finding resources? What was your biggest obstacle?
When we considered adoption, we were in the middle of our fertility treatments. We wanted to weigh out our options, but they recommended that we wait until we were completely done with those before we took the steps to adopt. All of the agencies we contacted said the same thing. When we decided to adopt, we googled adoption agencies in the Pittsburgh area. We came across a few that we contacted. A few are actually local, Bethany Christian Services and Adoption Connection. There is also The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center. We called them all and they sent out some information. They were very willing to answer any questions we had, but just starting out it was hard to come up with questions. I guess our main concern was unfortunately the cost. It is very frustrating to have to come up with a large sum of money with what could be a very short amount of time.
I also contacted the social worker at the local hospital. A friend of ours has a sister that is adopted. Her mom adopted her through the hospital by telling the social worker she was interested in adopting a baby. However, they apparently don’t do this anymore. The baby goes to the care of CYS most of the time. When I talked to the social worker, she did put me in contact with a friend of hers whose son adopted. She told me about a place in Texas called Gladney Center for Adoption. We checked into them as well, but the cost was even more, not including travel and hotel stay.
It was a friend of ours that saw an ad in the City Paper that there was a seminar in New Castle at the library with Adoptions from the Heart. We figured we would check it out just to see what we were dealing with financially. The class was very informative. It opened our eyes to a lot of things. All of the states have different laws for adopting, and PA’s law is not appealing. The birth mother has 30 days to change her mind. Some states are 24 hours. Also, the agency does not do a private adoption. You have to stay in contact with the birth parents/mother by sending pictures of the baby and meeting with them once a year. We had a very hard time with this. We were very fortunate to be able to have a private adoption since we did not use an agency.
If we did choose to adopt through an agency, we would have used Adoptions from the Heart. The class we took provided us with a packet of all the questions we may have had, and the woman that gave the class was more than willing to talk with you if you had any questions. We ended up working with the woman that gave the class from Adoptions from the Heart to do our home study because the cost was a little cheaper, and we trusted that they would be a good agency to work with. Throughout our process, I would text her with random questions, and she was always there with an answer. The home study was probably the most annoying thing. Some of the things that we had to answer or provide was insane. From our high school diplomas, any and all debt, personal questions about our life (prior relationships, family, strengths and weaknesses, etc. etc. etc.), a full autobiography of ourselves, in addition to many other things. There was a large check off list we had to provide for them before they even came to our house. I was very nervous about the home study, but the woman we worked with was very open and told us not to worry. They don’t go over it with a white glove. It’s more just to see that you live in a safe home to care for a child.
- Were you able to prepare for the baby’s arrival or was the baby a quick surprise?
We had no time to prepare for our daughter!! A friend of my husbands reached out to us saying that they knew of a couple that planned to give their child up for adoption. At the time, the estimated due date was 13 days from the phone call! We contacted a lawyer to see what needed to be done. Things happened very quickly, but our friends and family came together and helped us tremendously. We had everything we needed by the due date, but she was born about a month from the day of the phone call. Within a month we were parents. I don’t know how people wait 9 months!! When she was later than expected it was painful to wait! We were so anxious waiting for that phone call that the baby was born! It was definitely an adjustment but even if we had 9 months to prepare, are you ever really ready?
Our family and friends threw us a baby shower about a month after she was born to help us with the things we needed, plus it gave them a chance to meet her. It was nice to actually have her there. We didn’t let anyone hold her because she was so young, but she was there nonetheless. I’ve seen a lot of couples get a nursery ready when they chose to adopt, but it’s not necessary. I would be too nervous to do that until I was sure it was happening regardless.
- What was it like meeting your little one for the first time?
It was such an emotional experience. You wait your whole life to have a child, but our situation was so different that it almost felt surreal at times. Heck it still does and she is a year old!!! We went through so many hoops to get to this point that you are afraid of what will happen. I was afraid of how I would feel since I didn’t give birth to her. Would we bond? Would I know what to do? I was so anxious waiting for the “ok” to see her, but the second we saw her in the hospital, the first thing I remember saying was “look how tiny she is.” We both instantly got teary eyed. It is a day I will never forget. From the day we met her, there was no question that she was ours. She just seemed so content when we were with her. There was another couple that we met when we would go visit our baby, and they told us she was a completely different baby when we were with her. She knew she was safe.
- What advice would you give a couple considering adoption?
The best advice I can give is to make sure you are ready to adopt. I had to go through a period of grieving. It was hard to accept that I would never be pregnant. Never feel a baby kick. Never have the experience of birthing a child. As a woman, you feel like it is your “job” in a sense to have children. When I found out that I was unable to, I felt like a failure as a wife. I felt so guilty, but I had no control over it. That is the worst part of it all. The lack of control over the situation. My husband was so supportive. He would say I married you for you, kids would just be a bonus, but I still felt so guilty. I tell you what though, I would adopt more. It is such a rewarding experience. This child will grow up knowing that she was wanted. She was never an accident. We fought for her and prayed to have her in our lives.
Also, as hard as it is, open up about your story. The more people that know, the better chance of someone knowing of someone that knows someone that wants to give their child up for adoption. My husband asked if I was willing to go public with our story, and I was a little uneasy about it at first. However, enough people helped to spread the word, and that is how we got our baby girl. It’s a hard thing to talk about, but the more you discuss your issues or hopes, the more people you connect with. I was shocked by how many people had to undergo fertility treatments. I connected with a lot of people because of our common ground. No one understands what you are feeling except for those that have also gone through it, and in one way or another, everyone feels the same way. The same goes for adoption. There is going to be someone that you will connect with that has gone through the same thing. Everyone’s story is different, but in the end you all want the same thing.
Never give up on your dreams. I never thought I would have to go through so much to have a child. I insisted that I would never be a mother. My husband and I would question why is this happening to us. What did we do to deserve this? We thought, “we aren’t bad people,” but God had a plan for my husband and I, and I wouldn’t change anything. He knew that this child needed loving parents, and she is loved beyond measure. Everything really does happen for a reason. As annoying as the saying is, it is very fitting for our story. You never know what that reason is, but always believe that there is plan for you. Stay strong and stay true to your faith. Our support system was so strong through our whole struggle that when we told everyone about our chance to adopt, it was like they were all adopting her too. It was such an emotional, rewarding and fulfilling experience for everyone, not just us.
- Do you have any helpful tips for moms?
People will try to give you “advice.” Try to ignore it unless you ask for it. The way those people did things may not work for you. Do what you feel is best for your child.
Get a baby carrier/sling. It’ll help you accomplish what you need to when the baby is fussy or only wants to be held.
Try not to be a hero. Ask for help if you need it, even if just for a breather. You’re allowed to have time to yourself, it won’t make you any less of a parent if you do. ***need to take my own advice
Don’t compare your child to someone else’s. All children grow up and develop differently. If your pediatrician feels that your child is doing well and developing adequately, then that’s all that matters.
Be sure to capture every moment. Pictures are the only way to remember how small your baby used to be or how much their hair has grown or how they filled out. Try to print them out too or at least upload them to a computer. You never know when your phone will break or lose its data.
As for resources, the only resource we really used was from Adoptions from the Heart. I can’t say one bad thing about the information and help they provided us. www.afth.org.