‘I started preparing for another childless Christmas. I got a text. ‘Are you still interested in adopting?’ My heart stopped.’: Couple adopts after infertility battle, ‘It felt like a dream’

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“Our journey began in 2015, shortly after getting married. We knew we wanted to start trying to build our family pretty soon. I was almost 30 and we knew we wanted two to three children, so we didn’t want to wait long. After about a year of trying with no success, we began to seek out the help of a fertility specialist. My husband and I did 9 months of fertility treatments that resulted in one pregnancy early on that ultimately ended in miscarriage. I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I began miscarrying. I remember being so excited to see those two pink lines, even though I knew it was fleeting. Part of me hoped maybe it was a mistake, maybe everything would be okay, but most of me feared I would never be able to get pregnant again.

Angela Cox Photography

At the time, I was teaching elementary school and the stress of managing a classroom of 7-year-olds and weekly doctor’s appointments began to feel like too much for me. There were injections, scans, ultrasounds, hormones, and it finally got to the point I didn’t understand why I was doing it anymore. There was no longer any joy or excitement in trying (which was supposed to be the fun part) and any remaining hope I had was quickly slipping away. Trying to get pregnant became a job, a very stressful, very emotional, and so far, unrewarding job. So after that school year, my husband and I decided to walk away from fertility treatments and begin pursuing adoption.

Courtesy of Carey Shofner

In all honesty, at the time, fertility treatments never felt right. Each stage just felt a little off, but I thought that was normal. Most people don’t grow up imagining all the fertility appointments they are going to have before they get pregnant. When we finally decided to stop the fertility treatments, I felt this huge weight lifted off of me. I could relax and breathe. Peace replaced the anxiety I was feeling and our path finally felt clear.

I’m glad things worked out the way they did because the timing of everything led our son’s birth mother to us, but I wish I had listened to my gut and my heart in the beginning. I think I felt like fertility treatments were what you HAD to do before pursuing adoption. Like there was one path and one path only. I know now that isn’t true and people adopt for different reasons under different circumstances all the time.

I began looking seriously into adoption during the last cycle or two of our fertility treatments. As school came to an end in the spring of 2017, we chose an adoption agency. After months of phone calls and emails, we decided on a local adoption agency and began our wait. The process of adopting was nothing like I expected. After choosing an agency, we had to complete interviews, fill out paperwork, and pay a lot of various fees. We also had to attend training, which I think is really important. Adoption education prior to adopting should be required by every agency, attorney, and consultant. You’d be shocked at how little education on adoption some adoption professionals require. Adoption education is so important because adoptees face a unique kind of trauma adoptive parents really need to be prepared for before they bring a child into their home. Even adoptions that occur in infancy can cause lifelong trauma. The more we, as parents, are prepared for that, the better we can care for our children.

There was a lot about adoption we had to learn on our own, much of it after our son was placed with us. I wish we would have sought out more of that info earlier on in our journey or it would have been provided to us by the adoption professionals we worked with. We definitely went into adoption with a sunshine and rainbows mindset and that’s oftentimes just not the reality.

Courtesy of Carey Shofner

During our 7 month wait, we were presented around 30 times to different expectant women who were considering adoption. With each ‘no’ we felt a tiny bit of heartache. With the benefit of hindsight, I know it wasn’t personal, but when you’re in the thick of it, it feels deeply personal. So often I wondered, ‘Why am I not good enough? What is wrong with me? What do I need to change about myself?’ My insecurities took over and I began to blame myself for us not being chosen yet. As someone who has a lot of body image issues, I even blamed my weight for the reason we weren’t being chosen. Again, with hindsight, I know this likely wasn’t the case, but I think a lot of us hopeful adoptive parents pick apart the parts of us that don’t seem ‘likable’ to explain the wait.

Now, something you should know about me is I’m a huge fan of manifestation. When we began our adoption journey that spring, I told everyone a little one would join our family before Christmas. It was just a feeling I had. I tried to remind myself of that when I was feeling low or like things were dragging on or getting too quiet. However, as leaves changed and the temperature began to drop, I started to doubt my ability to manifest something so big. Thanksgiving came and as I sat around the table with family, it hit me I might just be wrong. Christmas was less than a month away and we hadn’t been chosen, or even presented lately. Everyone else was trying to ignore the elephant in the room, but it’s all I could think about. I told myself to start preparing for another childless Christmas. It would be okay, everything would work out in the end, but I needed to start preparing my heart.

The next morning, we packed our bags to head home from visiting with family. I was feeling down, so it felt good to be heading home. I was standing in the kitchen with my family, saying our goodbyes when I got a text message from our adoption agency. My heart stopped.

‘So we’ve been in touch with someone for a few days…’

Now my heart was beating faster than ever. I was tingly and a little shaky. I couldn’t read fast enough. A mother who had considered us as adoptive parents in the past, but ultimately chose to parent, was now considering adoption again and had reached out to our agency to ask if we were still interested in possibly adopting her infant son. Our agency didn’t want to get our hopes up, but things were starting to get serious and if we were still on board, we needed to make some decisions, quickly! Obviously, it was a resounding ‘yes’ from us and our families. That ‘yes’ led us on a 2-week whirlwind that brought us to the love of our lives.

The next day, we packed up our car and drove for 2 days halfway across the country. While I’ll preserve a lot of the details of our first meeting, I will say, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever walked through. Meeting our son’s birth mother and sitting with her that evening as she made the choice to place her son with us will be seared into my brain forever. Those memories are sacred and I hold them close. I loved this woman the moment I saw her, and I’m fiercely protective of her and her story. Our journey together isn’t always easy, like any relationship there are ups and downs, but I care for her in a way I never imagined I possibly would.

Courtesy of Carey Shofner

We spent 2 weeks as a family of three in a hotel room waiting for all the paperwork to clear so we could head home. The hotel staff was amazing. Once they knew why we were there, they spoiled us, running out in the middle of the night to get us supplies and giving us gifts for our new baby boy. It was magic. Once we got our clearance it was another 2-day drive home… this time with an infant. It was a long few days, but pulling onto our street with our son in our car brought tears to my eyes once again. We were finally home. The previous 2 weeks felt like a dream. We were halfway across the country living in a hotel room, with a baby! I spent those 14 days waiting to wake up and watch this beautiful dream slip away from me, but that moment never came. We walked into our home and held our new son and everything felt right.

Courtesy of Carey Shofner

Despite what we are told, adoption is not always beautiful. It can be ugly, messy, and incredibly hard. Adoption is born out of trauma. Its foundation is in separation. Even under the best of circumstances, trauma exists. I wish we were better educated before adopting, but we have since sought out education from adoptees, birth mothers, and fellow adoptive parents about how to best serve our son. We’ve read books, listened to podcasts, and watched documentaries about parenting adoptees, especially when it comes to parenting a child of color as a white couple.

Whitney Wysong Photography & Cinema

Yes, adoption can be ugly… and I know that’s not a popular thing to say. Our son lost a relationship with his birth mother (the woman who carried him for 9 months and then cared for him the first few weeks of his life) and biological siblings. That’s trauma that cannot be ignored. There is a dark and seedy history to adoption. Adoption ethics have improved a lot over the last few years, but there is still a lot of room for improvement, and advocacy work is so important. With all that said, there is beauty to be found in adoption. Adoption gave us our son, and for that, we are forever grateful. We are grateful for the extended family we got out of his adoption. We are grateful for our growth as individuals and as a married couple over the past few years. Learning to decenter ourselves from the narrative and focus on the experiences of others (adoptees and birth families), has been beautiful and deeply life-altering.

Courtesy of Carey Shofner

If you are interested in or considering adoption, I highly recommend heading to your favorite social media platform and finding birth mothers and adoptees who are out there educating adoptive and hopeful adoptive parents. There are a ton of men and women doing the work, you just have to seek them out. Sit and listen to them, even when it’s hard or uncomfortable, especially when it’s hard and uncomfortable. Find and support agencies, attorneys, and consultants who are ethical and provide quality adoptive parent education. Lifelong services for community and support resources for birth families is equally important. If your agency doesn’t provide these services, ask why. Adoption can be beautiful when all sides are treated with love, dignity, and respect.”

BeStill Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Carey Shofner from Columbia, SC. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here. 

Read more inspiring stories about open adoption:

‘The nurse came in and said, ‘Her new parents are ready for her.’ Only 15, I kissed her soft baby cheek, and placed her into the arms of her mama.’: Teen mom embarks on ‘beautiful’ open adoption journey, ‘I couldn’t have picked better parents’

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