Infertility is something that many couples face. Following is one woman’s story of infertility and the decision to adopt. If you would rather listen to this podcast click here.
Jennifer J.: Hi and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski and I’m a social work with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates’ premiere talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates and its staff are trusted leaders in adoption and we have placed well over 5,000 children into loving homes. Since 1990, we have advocated, supported, and nurtured both birth families and adoptive families and helping families and birth parents grow through the adoption process is very important to us. Our offices are located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills and Saginaw, and our pregnancy and adoption services are available throughout all of Michigan.
One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is to this weekly radio show. So thank you very much for listening in today. We do hope that you find this forum to be inspirational, educational, and thought provoking. Today we are talking about something that is experienced by many couples, and it’s the topic of infertility. I know that this is a quite personal topic for our guest today, and I’d like to welcome to the show Claire. Are you with us?
Claire: Hi, Jennifer. Yes I am.
Jennifer J.: Good morning. Thank you for being on the show.
Claire: Good morning. My pleasure.
Jennifer J.: I appreciate you coming on the podcast to talk about the topic of infertility because it is a very personal experience for many people as I know it was for you and your husband, as well. I’d like to, if we could, have you start back at the beginning of your journey to parenthood and share with us what that looked like, what that experience was for you and your husband.
Claire: Mm-hmm (affirmative), sure. Even before we got married, we talked about wanting a big family and wanting five or six children, and we were so excited and very hopeful, and I had it all planned out, like many people. I had it planned, and right on schedule, two years after we were married, we got pregnant for the first time. That was such an exciting time. We were just over the moon and couldn’t believe that it was already happening.
And then a couple months later we weren’t pregnant anymore. We had our first of several miscarriages, and it was a very challenging time over the next, close to almost 10 years. We just weren’t able to conceive.
Jennifer J.: That happened for several years it sounds like you said?
Claire: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep, it did.
Jennifer J.: Okay. Lead us through what that looked like for you guys. Obviously it sounds like you and your husband went through a great deal emotionally, as many couples do that are faced with infertility. What was this like for you emotionally and for your husband?
Claire: It was the most difficult thing we’ve ever faced. There were just so many different emotions. There was blame. There was blaming ourselves individually that it was our fault or it was something wrong with us, and then there was also unfortunately blaming each other, and it was a very difficult time in our marriage, in our relationship, and for me personally emotionally, I felt very incomplete and very out of touch and isolated.
Jennifer J.: In saying that you felt isolated, does that mean that you felt very limited in the people that you could talk to about this?
Claire: I did. And also it was very, very challenging to participate in baby showers and to put on that happy smile and be … of course, I was genuinely happy for my friends and my family who were getting pregnant and having children a lot during that timeframe. It was very, very challenging, though, to do those things, and for many years we distanced ourselves from couples with young kids. We just stayed away from that whole part of life which made us miss out on a lot of family gatherings and things. It was just very hard for us for quite some time.
Jennifer J.: Yeah, I was going to ask you what you felt the role of your extended family was in this. It sounds like you touched on that just a little bit. Is this something that you kept private or did you have individuals in your family that were supportive during this time?
Claire: We had individuals that were supportive. I think people just had varying degrees of knowledge. Our immediate parents knew more closely what was going on. But we got to the point where we were very cautious and we wouldn’t share our news as early on as maybe we did those first couple times.
Yeah, I had my mom and I had some close friends. It’s a challenging topic. What was interesting, though, it’s not as uncommon as you may feel as when you’re personally going through it. You feel like you’re the only person that’s ever had this happen, and especially if you talk to women with children or without children, you’ll find that it’s not uncommon as it feels, and that helps a lot.
Jennifer J.: And how did you learn that?
Claire: Just research, talking to our doctor, talking to my mom, some of my aunts, some of my older friends.
Jennifer J.: Did that serve, I guess is a better question, to alleviate a little bit of that feeling alone that you felt, even though you still struggled with the infertility? Now you recognized that you aren’t alone in this.
Claire: Mm-hmm (affirmative), it did. It did help a little. It was still very challenging, of course, because we wanted to start a family and wanted to share that love with a child and experience all of those moments and milestones, and it was really just strong in our hearts that this was meant for us. This was part of our plan, and when that wasn’t lining up with what was happening, it was very, very difficult.
Jennifer J.: Experiencing infertility is deeply personal for many men and women who’ve experienced this. They often find it to be, as you said, a lonely and isolative sort of place that lacks hope for the possibility of becoming parents. How did you and your husband process this? What did you do? And I guess my other question is how do you feel your struggles with infertility may have impacted your marriage?
Claire: Okay. We processed it, I think, in different ways. My husband stayed really busy. I got very isolated, was very introspective and spent a lot of time by myself which, in retrospect, was probably not the best plan. I also did talk to a counselor and talked to our ministry a little bit. What we found worked the best, though, was we confided and truly just trusted and were open with each other.
And especially since this started happening early in our marriage, that was kind of challenging. We were just figuring this out, but we just were very open and honest and I told him I feel like I failed. I feel like this is my fault and there’s something wrong with me, and we grieved together, and we acknowledged each of those pregnancies weren’t a mistake, weren’t … but that was a part of us, and that was something that we had to grieve, so that helped us.
It was a very challenging time for our marriage. I was not the nicest person. I think just your body is going through some things when you have increased your hormones and then now they’re gone, and so there’s emotional, physical, chemical things that are happening. And then the emotional side. I was angry. I lashed out. It was not the best time, but I think when we really turned to each other and focused a little bit more on our faith, that’s when we turned a corner and it made our marriage stronger in the long run.
Jennifer J.: Yeah, and that’s common for what we hear with couples who are struggling with infertility. They find themselves at the end of the process either not well connected in their marriage and having to deal with that or made stronger because of what they’ve been through together that has brought them closer. You kind of segued a little bit, Claire, into what I wanted to ask you next. You talked about turning that corner.
There was a point in time where the two of you were ready to consider becoming parents through adoption. It wasn’t the initial plan, but you were now ready to consider that. Can we talk about that a bit and you share what that was like for you?
Claire: Sure. We had just done a whole bunch of infertility treatments and had gone … we went the medical route first, and we were getting to a point where it was just very hard on my body and very challenging for us as a family, and we started to wonder if that was really ever part of our story, if that was going to be something that worked.
We just spent a lot of time … we actually had a road trip and we spent hours in the car just talking about all the options. We didn’t know a lot of people who had adopted, but we were thinking that maybe that’s a route for us because that’s what people say when they hear that you don’t have children, they say, well, you can always adopt, which it sounds so simple.
We just started kind of exploring it and my husband … one of his aunts, they’ve adopted both domestically and internationally, and on that same trip, we stopped to see them and hear their story, and hear personal things that we had never really learned about them. And I just started asking. I find that the adoption community is very, very open and welcoming and everyone wants to share their story and wants to help others with it.
I started asking the question and saying, “What does this look like? Where would start?” And we just started doing some research. We researched different options, different programs, both international and domestic, and just started thinking about it, and then spent that time together, really just connecting and talking about what that would look like for us. And ultimately we wanted to be able to share our passion for life and our love with a child, and I know through lots of my close relationships and family who are family that aren’t biologically related, that blood doesn’t make family, and then we decided that this was the right path for us.
Jennifer J.: And once you made that decision, the two of you together, what were the changes that occurred in your marriage and in you personally once you made this choice?
Claire: Well, a lot of things changed for us. The big thing was is when I talked with my husband, we agreed that we couldn’t think of it as, or think at all that adopting would, in any way, change the grief for the loss that we experienced. I think that was the really big thing for me, is that I had to come to terms with a biological child wasn’t part of our path, and I didn’t want to make it seem like I was just replacing one for another, and so we spent some more time just really focusing on ourselves, on our health, our mental health and our physical health, and just being in the best state of mind so that if we’re bringing a child into our family, that it can be the best beginning possible.
And then I allowed myself to get excited for the first time in a very long time. We had stopped buying baby things over all that time. We had a nursery. We packed it all up and put it away because we didn’t want that reminder, and when we started thinking about it and talking about adoption, we started … I remember one Sunday we just walked through the baby store, and it was just a different feeling. There was hope. There was definitely a lot of hope.
And then we embraced the process and we said, you know, we don’t if we have nine months or how long we have to wait. We might wait longer, but we’re going to enjoy every minute of this waiting and every minute of this experience that for so long we’ve not been able to partake in.
Jennifer J.: And so in that process, once you came to that decision that adoption was the route that you and your husband would take, how did you go about discussing which agency to use, which steps to move forward? You were coming from infertility, and even though you took the time to do your homework, it sounds like, physically and emotionally as you said, then you had to take those next steps with lots of decisions to be made there, as well. How did you walk through that process with your husband what did that look like for the two of you?
Claire: As you mentioned, we’re just big on information. I really feel like information is key in so many parts of this process. The first thing we did is there are several agencies that offer open sessions when you can go and just learn about a different program, and so we picked different agencies. We went to one to learn about international adoption. We went to another to learn about domestic adoption, and then we talked to our friends, family, extended networks that knew people who had adopted or who themselves were adoptive parents, and we got some recommendations. But we just absorbed all that information.
I went to an adoption retreat for waiting moms. Even though we weren’t yet waiting, I went, and it was a really great way to connect with the community and to better understand all different facets, all different kinds and scenarios and ways that the families come together. And so those were some of the things that we did.
Ultimately, we decided that for our family that a domestic infant program was the best fit, and so we pursued that with an agency.
Jennifer J.: The most exciting news in all of this, if you’d like to go ahead and share, is that you did subsequently adopt, you and your husband. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Claire: Sure, we did. We went through the process and we were waiting and we got that phone call. We got a phone call that a family wanted to talk to us and we got to meet them. We got to meet our son, and it has been an incredible experience ever since. There’s no words to describe that moment when we first held him and when he was part of our family, and it’s just been incredible.
I wouldn’t change any of it, even the pain, the loss, the grief. I wouldn’t change any of that for the blessing that our family has now, and really believe that those struggles and the time for reflection and the time for grieving, that all of that ultimately led us to a wonderful place where we would be able to open our hearts to this amazing little man.
Jennifer J.: Awesome. Claire, we often hear from couples who share how they have a fresh new perspective after moving on from infertility, and that timeframe is obviously different for everyone. Everyone comes to adoption with some different experiences, but what role do you believe infertility played in your life, and how do you feel that you have grown or changed through your experience with infertility?
Claire: It’s a great question, Jennifer. I think that probably the biggest thing that it taught us is that there is nothing that we can’t overcome. It made our marriage stronger. It made our relationship stronger. And whatever parenting or life throws at us, I know that we’ve been in a dark place, we’ve struggled, and we’ve come out of it better than ever.
The other thing that it’s made us do is appreciate all of the little moments with our son. When we were struggling, and especially many extended friends and family didn’t know we were struggling, and I would hear people talk about how they had to fill out a permission slip or they had to take their child to this appointment or that appointment, and they would get so frustrated in the day-to-day of parenting, and they would be venting and sharing this, and I would just sit back and think, we want that. We want that more than anything.
I would give up anything I had to to have that, and so I feel now that we … well, of course, we still have those day-to-day struggles and there are challenges with parenting. I try to remember ultimately what a great gift it is to be able to share that love with a child and leave them, teach them, watch them grow, and love them. We try to balance those two perspectives, just knowing how precious of a gift being a parent is.
Jennifer J.: You’re absolutely right. And you’ve done an excellent job, Claire, describing what this looked like from your perspective and the impacts on you personally, and then on your relationship with your husband, and we are shortly approaching the end of this show, but I wanted to take some extra time here to give you the opportunity to share some final thoughts. Anything that was important to you that you feel our listeners should hear about infertility and the road to adoption or your experience.
Claire: I thought a lot about this one, just in preparing to share with you, and I think the biggest thing that I took away from all of this is that infertility and loss will always be a part of our story. Just like any other grief or loss, it never goes away. It gets easier, for sure. I think, though, it will always be a part of our story, always a part of our journey, and we had to accept that. That was the big part.
And then when we came to an agency and we started the process, the biggest thing was is, I told my husband. I’m like, we can’t do this. We have to search our hearts. We cannot do this if we think for some reason that this is going to fix us or replace those losses or heal us. We can’t count on this child to success. We have to be whole so that we can give everything to him or her. And I think that’s my biggest piece of advice, is make sure that you’re whole and that you’re ready to love completely and without boundaries or restrictions before starting down this path. Because it’s an incredible journey. It’s an amazing experience. We wanted it to make sure that it was the best environment we could possibly bring a baby into.
Jennifer J.: Excellent. Excellent points, Claire. I’m grateful to you for opening up today and sharing your experiences, and for those of you that are listening that may be interested in connecting with Adoption Associates or getting more information, you can reach us at 800-677-2367. We are live every Tuesday at 11:00 on Adoption Focus, so we do hope that you’ll continue to be in support of our program. Next Tuesday we’ll be speaking with a mom by adoption about their family experience with open adoption. So do tune in for that show.
Claire, thank you so much again for today and for opening up about your personal experience.
Claire: I’m happy to, Jennifer. I really have enjoyed chatting with you today, and it’s been a great experience. So thank you.
Jennifer J.: And congratulations to you and your husband on the addition of your newest family member. We are happy for you.
Claire: Thank you.
Jennifer J.: Other ways for our listeners to connect with Adoption Associates are on the web at adoptionassociates.net or through the Adoption Associates Facebook page. For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. Have a great day everyone. Bye-bye.