“Everything happens for a reason. I remember various occasions where I have said this to myself or others years before I confronted infertility. I have always been able to find a way to look on the bright side, and ‘everything happens for a reason’ was a go-to for me. But I don’t think I ever really knew what that meant until recently.
I met my husband in my early 30s, and we got married at the end of 2016 when I was 36. I never once thought about my fertility, or lack of, until after we got married and started trying to conceive (TTC). But month after month, I didn’t get pregnant. And my usually optimistic, sunny disposition slowly started to harden. I stopped telling my husband when I took a test and got another negative result, because that became the most painful part of it all, to have to say it out loud, ‘I’m not pregnant (again).’
After 6 months of trying, I saw my gynecologist for a series of tests to see what was going on, although in my heart I felt it was going to be fine (remnants of that sunny disposition), it was just taking a bit longer than I thought it would. I waited for the results, with the assumption that the tests would prove there’s nothing to worry about. While at lunch with coworkers, my doctor called and I answered the phone at the table. ‘The numbers are lower than I would like Jen. I want you to see a fertility specialist.’ It felt like the chair and ground below it were falling out from under me. I stood up from the table and walked outside, holding back tears but still trying to remain optimistic. She told me that my AMH levels were below a 1. ‘Below a 1? What’s below a 1? My levels are 0?’ I had no idea at that point what AMH levels even were, nevermind what the numbers meant. She went on to explain that these tests are not always conclusive and that people with the same levels are sometimes still able to get pregnant and that it would be best for me to see a specialist who could explain in more detail. My coworkers had joined me outside the restaurant by this point, so I hung up and tried to remain calm. I did not want anyone to know, or even ask, what was wrong or I would burst into tears. We walked back to the office and I felt like I was floating above my body. I had not prepared myself for this kind of news and had absolutely no idea what to do next. The thing I quickly realized about infertility is, people don’t talk about it. People don’t admit when they are going through it and most times suffer in silence. So when it happens to you, you have no idea where to start.
The first fertility appointment I ever went to would be a huge turning point in my life, triggering a whole lot of fear. The office was cold, with no decor, and there were filing cabinets everywhere. It reminded me of the DMV. The doctor brought me into his office and within 5 minutes of meeting me, looked at my paperwork and told me, ‘You’ll probably never have children naturally.’ The fear and loss of control started seeping in. Along with the fear came the tears. I managed to hold them in until the doctor left the room, but they remained constant throughout my drive home, the walk through my front door and throughout the heartbroken conversation with my husband. I will never forget how calm and composed he was in that moment, in the midst of how broken I felt. He assured me that ‘we will become parents, one way or another.’ I didn’t really think about the meaning behind his words, because in that moment, I felt I needed to be pregnant to become a mom.
Almost immediately, I went into overdrive, researching and trying every option I could find to try and become pregnant including diet after diet, and treatment after treatment, which became a puzzle of epic proportions considering my hectic 6-day a week job as a TV producer. I didn’t want to share this part of my life with my co-workers, or anyone for that matter, because of the shame and fear that surrounded it. I thought of every excuse in the book for why I had to miss a meeting, or show up late to work. Anything but the truth.
Throughout the year to follow, in addition to seeing a few different fertility doctors and trying various fertility drugs and treatments, I also tried everything else under the sun to get pregnant including acupuncture, Qigong, Chinese herbal tea, Mayan abdominal massage and reiki and changed my diet many times, eliminated coffee and alcohol and tried supplements like maca, prenatal vitamins and royal jelly. You name it – I tried it. We would eventually try two unmedicated IUI’s and one medicated IUI which included shots at home and a triggered ovulation, all unsuccessful.
The battle between work and fertility treatments began to take a toll. I pulled away from friends and family, stopped returning phone calls. I felt worn down, like I was constantly fighting a battle I could not win. With the monthly reminder that my efforts were not working. After one of the many appointments for another unsuccessful treatment, another turning point came. My husband said – ‘Babe, how many more of these things are you going to try?’ Again, in the moment I didn’t fully think about the meaning behind his words, but it made me realize that I was resisting and fighting so hard, against something that I had no control over. I realized then that I wanted to take a break from all the work of infertility treatments. Little did I know that in the process of doing so, I would also confront the fear that had taken hold of my life. Instead of trying to control the things that were completely out of my control, I started doing the things that made me feel good again. I meditated more, I cooked dinners, I took walks, I turned to countless books and teachers who offered lessons I needed to hear, I observed, I practiced gratitude instead of focusing on lack, I became vulnerable, I opened up about my infertility only to find that so many others around me had gone through it too and I found a community that I drew support from. I tried to surrender a little more each day, to whatever the path was in front of me and experienced freedom from fear and of the unknown.
My husband and I didn’t discuss adoption until about a year into trying to conceive, but once we did bring it up, we realized we were both very drawn to the idea. I have been lucky to see the blessing of adoption throughout my life – in my own family and with several of my close friends who were adopted themselves or are adoptive parents. I have never had any doubts that the love between parents and children does not have to be biological to be deep, real and unconditional. So when I realized my husband was so open to it, I found a renewed sense of hope that had long been missing.
In August of 2018, very soon after we initially discussed adoption, we began conversations with an adoption agency about beginning the process of a domestic newborn adoption. It took a couple of months to create our ‘profile’ and to complete the paperwork and home study. By October 2018, the agency began sending our profile out to expectant mothers considering adoption. Seven months later on a Tuesday afternoon, while we were doing laundry at home, our lives changed forever. Our agency rep called and said ‘So, I have some news. I want to setup a call with you guys to speak to the young woman who has just chosen you to parent her baby that’s due in July.’ We both sat down immediately. I remember vividly her then saying, ‘It’s a boy.’ I grabbed my husband’s hand and cried.
We had been given very little information about our son’s birth parents when we had to make the decision to move forward with the adoption, other than what we learned in the very brief initial phone conversation we had with his birth mom. It would have been easy for me to fall back into fear, to let the unknowns and what-if’s take over. But we didn’t. We chose to believe in the path in front of us and to choose love over fear. We felt a connection with our son’s birth mom, even in the one brief conversation with her. We called our agency the same day we spoke to her to let them know we wanted to move forward with the adoption plan and arranged to fly out to meet our son’s birth mom.
On the day we met, I felt so nervous as we waited outside the restaurant. I wanted so much for her to like us and feel comfortable with us. We had breakfast, spent the day with her and learned about her family, her job, what her childhood was like and most importantly, what she hoped for her baby. We saw her for breakfast the next day before leaving to fly home, just to get a little more time with her. By spending time with her and learning more about what a caring and special woman she is, it felt like we were getting to know our son a bit, too. From that point on, I felt immediately connected to her and fiercely protective of her.
Our son was born in August 2019 and we were lucky to be in the hospital room to watch him enter the world. When the nurses laid him on my chest and he turned his head up to look at me with his big blue eyes, I felt immeasurable love I never knew could exist. It would be impossible to love him any more if I had given birth to him myself. The photos and videos we have of that day and of our time getting to know our son’s birth mom in the months before he was born – Mexican food, burgers, brunch, toy store shopping, family BBQ’s, game nights – all live at the beginning of his baby book, as a reminder of the strong and courageous woman that his first mom is.
Much of the process of adoption was a surprise to us. One thing I was unprepared for was the wide range of emotions involved, the feeling of deep grief and empathy I felt as I watched her leave the hospital without her baby, leaving him in my arms. There is both so much sadness and so much joy all wrapped up into adoption, and at times, it feels like my heart might break at the thought of what she is giving up. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and what she has given us. She is woven into all my ‘I love you’s,’ all my hugs and kisses, all my out-of-tune nursery rhymes. I am his mom, because she chose me to be, and I love him with all my heart, for the both of us.
The adoption journey is not about me, my infertility, or my desire to be a mom. It’s now about this little being who we’ve been entrusted with. As a new mom, I am always learning how to be a parent and continuing to learn about myself in the process, by being vulnerable and honest with my own aspects of our story, but protecting his story so that he can eventually share it the way he wants to. I know one thing: infertility was a part of my life, not to cause pain or grief, but to prepare me for what I believe I was always meant for – adoption. And when the challenging times come, or the questions arise that I may not have the answers to, I will remember the lessons I’ve learned about fear and choose love instead.
I’ve also found a sense of purpose along the way – to share our story to help encourage others who are considering adoption or foster care and to try to help erase the stigma and secrecy that often exists. Adoption is not a last resort. It is a complicated bond with unanswered questions and unknown futures, but is also filled with so much hope and love.
I continue to draw support from the adoption community, and continue to learn from people who have already walked this path, who offer their lessons and guidance along the way and I feel a deep responsibility to educate myself about the perspectives of all sides of the adoption triad, not only the blessings and love that birth parents feel for their children, but also about the trauma and loss that can be felt by adoptees and birth parents, that rarely gets discussed.
One of the teachers who has helped me immensely is Eckhart Tolle who says, ‘Whatever the present moment is, accept it as if you had chosen it.’ So now, instead of, ‘everything happens for a reason,’ my words of advice these days are – whatever you are going through, accept it as if you had chosen it. Your path may be bumpy, but it’s yours. Surrender to what’s coming your way, look for moments of gratitude and gain the lessons the most difficult hardships are meant to teach you.”
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