Trying To Conceive (TTC)
“Nine years. Nine years of infertility. Nine years of waiting, longing, trying, and praying for a blessing. Nine years of wanting to grow our family. Nine years of disappointment every month, tears, sadness, and frustration. During that time, I thought the wait was intense.
Little did I know, our adventure, or should I say our waiting adventure, would continue far beyond what I thought I was capable of.
Our story began when my now husband, Shane, and I started dating right after I graduated high school in 2007. That summer was full of hopes, dreams, and excitement for what the future was to hold. We both knew very early on we were destined to be together.
In 2009, we made it official by exchanging our wedding vows before our friends and family. We thought the world was at our feet, and our adventure would begin and be filled with bountiful blessings.
We both graduated from college with honors and were stronger in our marriage than ever. We were so excited to start growing our family and thought it would come easily, since we were both healthy and young at the time.
‘It can take up to a year of trying before becoming pregnant,’ my OBGYN said after 6 months of us trying to become pregnant. ‘Just relax, it will happen when you least expect it,’ she continued.
‘Should I get tested for something at least to make sure everything is ok?’ I questioned. ‘No, you are so young and healthy, I’m sure it will just take a bit more time,’ she concluded.
Disappointed after leaving that appointment, I turned to the internet to understand reproduction further. Since I was raised in the ‘purity culture’ of abstinence prior to marriage and general ‘how to have a baby’ discussions were limited to the basic function of intercourse, a lot of ‘how to actually become pregnant’ was a big question mark.
During my independent research following that initial doctor visit, I quickly found out there are a whole host of things to consider when trying to get pregnant. Understanding hormonal cycles, ovulation timing, and conception windows were now at the forefront of our daily discussions. The circus of infertility treatments began.
Foster Care Journey
It was around the 7th year of infertility when I started working in the NICU (Neonatal intensive care unit) as a registered nurse. It was there I met a foster parent for the first time. I was fascinated by the openness this foster parent had to this complete stranger of a baby they were about to take home.
I was humbled by their understanding and compassion they showed toward the biological family’s issues, and how they seemed to show no judgment for them. They truly had open arms for this child in need and were ready to face whatever that meant.
Maybe the baby would stay for a few months, maybe a year, or maybe forever. Whatever that baby needed, those foster parents were ready for it.
During that encounter, my heart unraveled its sorrow of infertility to the prospect of aiding a child in need. I was so focused on cycles, hormones, and timing life accordingly, I lost sight of what I actually wanted. That wasn’t just a pregnancy, it was to grow our family.
Reunification with the biological family in foster care is the number one goal. I knew this. I took the training for reunification, and I had, firsthand, witnessed how great reunification can be. However, I also saw the situations where the children needed a forever home and adoption.
This gave me hope that maybe we could be a forever family to a child in need. This was into our ninth year of infertility.
So, after nine years of infertility, surgeries, testing, medications, and heart-wrenching longing for a baby, Shane and I decided to become foster parents and open our hearts and home to any child who needed it. We officially stopped focusing on becoming pregnant and turned our focus into becoming a certified adoptive home for children in the foster care system.
Pregnancy was always in the back of our minds, and we would often say, ‘If it happens it happens!’ Or we would be told by friends and family, ‘Once you adopt, that’s when you will get pregnant!’ Secretly we hoped they were right… maybe we would be that couple with the miracle pregnancy AND adoptive children!
It took about 6 months from the start of the foster care certification process to when our first placement came. I will never forget the day we got our placement call. That day, we went to an afternoon movie showing of ‘Instant Family,’ and as we walked out of the theater, we both jokingly said, ‘Okay! Now we are ready!’ As if watching that heartwarming and realistic movie somehow prepared us for fostering.
To our surprise, later that evening is when we got the placement call.
Finding Our Foster Kids
‘Hey Sarah, we have two toddler boys that are in need of a placement. Would you consider this?’ Our case worker asked me over the phone. Shocked and unprepared of what to ask or how to answer, I looked at Shane and asked, ‘What do we do?’
‘I think these are our kids,’ he said confidently. My jaw dropped, my heart was racing, and I began to feel shaky. ‘Yes,’ I found the strength to say. ‘We will accept them!’ ‘Great!’ the caseworker exclaimed, and by 10 p.m. that night, we were officially foster parents to two adorable little boys.
I thought I would have felt overwhelmingly happy and fulfilled. Like God had finally answered my every prayer when the boys were placed with us, but I didn’t. I had always pictured and prayed for having a baby… a baby girl to be honest, not two toddler boys.
Why did I still feel longing for a baby when my arms were overflowing with these two beautiful boys who need a home? I felt guilty and ashamed for having these thoughts. After all, who says these boys would be able to be adopted? Who says we wouldn’t get our miracle pregnancy?
The following day, Shane discovered a rumor the biological mother to the boys was pregnant! I was shocked and didn’t believe him saying, ‘It is just gossip on social media. Besides, if she was pregnant, wouldn’t the caseworker have told us during the placement of the boys?’
After all, two children is a HUGE undertaking, let alone the thought of THREE! My heart leapt at the thought of a baby, but I quickly guarded those hopes. Could it be?
The Birth Of Another Foster Care Sibling
The next day, to our surprise, the caseworker confirmed the biological mother was indeed pregnant! ‘What?’ I exclaimed, completely in shock. The caseworker continued by asking, ‘Would you be willing to take that baby too?’ Shane and I just looked at each other in disbelief.
‘Yes of course we will. We want to keep the siblings together if we can!’
While we waited for their sibling to arrive, the boys were in our home and in the process of working through the severe neglect, abuse, and trauma they had experienced in their young lives.
The oldest started play therapy at the age of only three to work through what he had witnessed in his little life… more than most people would ever in their entirety. The younger boy had delays in development and would later be diagnosed with autism.
Both boys had no contact with their biological family or parents during their time in foster care by order of the court, due to the severity of the case. They remained in our care and participated in every available therapy or service they needed and qualified for.
Through this, we acquired a strong support system for the boys and felt confident we could navigate their struggles, as long as we had the means to do so safely.
Finally, after 8 months of waiting and praying, their baby sibling was placed in my arms. A beautiful baby girl. We took her home from the hospital and were able to introduce her to her older siblings the same day.
We were overjoyed with the thought of welcoming a new member into our family and hoped to keep this family of siblings together forever! My once empty arms were now overflowing with blessings I always dreamed of. I never imagined anything happening to these three beautiful children and was so hopeful for our future as a family.
Due to the behavioral needs of the boys, the arrival of the new baby, and the beginning of the pandemic, I decided to quit my nursing job in order to focus on the children and provide them with consistent care at home. Many of their services stopped completely due to the pandemic, or slowly switched to virtual only options.
At this time, we were approaching two years of the boys being with us, and nothing but delays in the court system due to the pandemic.
Sadly, throughout this time, the oldest continued to struggle with severe behavioral issues that were becoming a danger to the younger two siblings. After 19 months of loving him and attempting to work through his issues, it was determined by the foster care system he needed to be moved to a residential treatment center.
Journey To Adoption
When I say I was devastated to lose him, that phrase doesn’t even skim the surface of my feelings of loss. For 19 months, he was my little boy. For 19 months, he called me mommy. For 19 months, we tried to love him more than his trauma, and prayed love would be enough to overcome all of his pain and suffering he was enduring.
Despite how much I wanted him to remain with us and his siblings, I was powerless. When he was removed, I had no further say in what treatment he would receive. I was powerless in the decisions made for him. I have never felt more like a failure in my life. I had lost a child that was still alive, but very much removed from our family.
To this day, I still wonder if I could have done things differently, and would it have changed what happened?
The days and weeks after his removal were a blur for me. I was going through the motions of being a mother and trying to move through the fog of grief that had consumed me. I logically knew these other two children needed me, my husband needed me, but mentally and emotionally, I needed help.
I can only explain what I experienced as having a mental breakdown. I hit rock bottom; I was at the lowest point of my life, and I didn’t want to continue. Despite having two children remaining in my home and needing me to show up for them everyday, I was struggling to find the purpose to keep going.
I was selfish in my grief and couldn’t see a way out. Everything I had been through with infertility and the placement of this sibling group finally came to a head. I lost sight of my strength and felt I was nothing more than a failure. Thankfully, my stubborn fortitude fought a bit harder, and I made the call that changed my life. I called for help.
Throughout the next year, I spent every day choosing to show up. To stay alive. To be present for my family.
I chose to push through the grief I was facing and work through my own issues in order to better parent my kids. I chose to let go of the failure I felt in losing our oldest and focus on what I could do to better equip the kids I had for their futures.
Slowly, the fog began to lift. I learned to forgive myself and live everyday for what it was… a complete blessing and answer to prayer from God. He had placed beautiful children in our arms that needed us, and we were beyond blessed to have them.
So… after 13 years of marriage, 9 years of infertility, 3 years of fostering to adopt, and over a dozen caseworkers later, I humbly can say our waiting adventure is finally over, and we have our forever family!”
This article was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Buchanan of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can follow her on Instagram and TikTok. Submit your own story here.
Read more stories like this:
‘We got a call for an 8-month-old boy. There were no details. ‘If we’re going to do it, we might as well just do it!’: Woman details journey becoming foster parents
‘At the store, I opened a message about a pair of siblings in another city who needed a forever family.’: Mom shares journey to adopting siblings from foster care
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