“‘Are you alright?’
I must have looked flush, my eyes glazed over at the news.
‘Oh yeah, I am fine. No problem.’
I slipped off the exam table and as I stepped toward the waiting room; suddenly time slowed to a crawl and my knees give way. Heaving sobs came next like I had never experienced before. The nurse grabbed my arm and picked me up off the industrial carpet into a stiff arm chair. If I had the inclination to be embarrassed or ashamed, it was vastly overpowered by my spirit wailing with grief.
‘Oh honey,’ she whispered. ‘I am so sorry. It’s going to be OK.’
At age 24, I had been married to Peter less than a year and we were eager to start a family. Perhaps my mother’s cancer diagnosis contributed to the feeling of urgency, or maybe it was my dramatic, often traumatic menstrual cycles that were driving the train. Whatever the cause, learning that I was unable to conceive a baby through natural means struck me like a profound seismic event.
A few months and several excruciating procedures later (if you have never been subjected to a hysterosalpingogram, count your lucky stars – it’s as awful as it sounds), I went in for surgery to have my fallopian tubes repaired. They had been damaged, irreparably it turns out, by an infection that I contracted from a previous boyfriend who apparently didn’t see fit to disclose his ‘extracurricular’ activities. In an effort to clear the way for a healthy pregnancy, the surgeon ran what amounted to a plumbing snake through my insides. Without medical insurance or family around for support (we had recently moved to a new city), we were left haggard and anxious as we returned to our tiny apartment. It was our first wedding anniversary. Though this was not the romantic date we envisioned, we ate our frozen wedding cake and held tight to each other with the faith that we were one step closer to our first child.
What followed was a devastating roller coaster. One day we applied the proverbial (medical) turkey baster while laughing uncontrollably at the bizarreness of the scene, the next, we were consoling each other when yet another period came, bringing with it my undeniable insufficiency as a child bearer (and a woman, I thought to myself). The first surgery proved ultimately ineffective, and so a new set of questions had to be considered. IVF? More surgery? Give up? Each of those options came with an enormous price, and we were ill equipped to pay any of them.
After trial upon heartbreaking trial, we finally had enough. No specialist could help us find a reasonable solution within our means, and no well-meaning comfort filled the black hole that seemed to reside in my chest. Had I let Peter down? How had I been so naive that I didn’t recognize the signs of infection sooner? Was I not meant to be a mother? Did that make me defective? Why was it so easy for others? And on and on. Diaper commercials made me weep. I would follow women with infants around the mall a little too closely. My grief turned into an obsession I couldn’t shake, and yet it appeared we had no remaining recourse.
And then, about three years following that initial appointment, something shifted. While working with a school community service program, I connected with Kinship Center, an amazing foster care and adoption agency in Salinas, CA, about setting up a project. A light went on in my psyche. Of course! We had always planned to adopt but had put the biological process first. Now, like some sort of magic, it all became clear.
‘Tell me a little bit more about what it takes to become an adoptive parent,’ I inquired as we wrapped up a business call.
‘We have an information session once a month for prospective parents,’ Suzanne, the social worker on the other end, replied. ‘This month’s session is tonight.’
‘See you there,’ I responded. And so we did.
Peter and I filed our papers officially on Valentine’s Day 2004. We went through rigorous, deeply reflective training about how to parent an adopted child; we learned that loss is the core issue of all adoptions, that open adoptions are by far the best approach so long as all parties are safe and agreeable, and that concerns we had never considered such as potential long-term psychological repercussions, attachment disorders, and other challenges were often par for the course. Perhaps the most meaningful lesson from that process, and one I still carry with me today, is that ‘monsters live in the dark;’ we fear what we don’t understand, and when we shed light on that fear, solutions begin to appear.
Eight and ½ months later, we got the call that changed everything. ‘You are going to be a mommy,’ Suzanne said with a twinkle in her voice. Once again, my body was overcome with sobbing. I cried with joy at the news, at the relief of a dream fulfilled, in mourning for the children I would never bear, and most of all, in complete gratitude for the angel carrying our baby – her’s, mine, and Peter’s – who had chosen us as a forever family. Time slowed again as I ran to my husband and exclaimed, ‘they found our baby! They found our baby!’ We collapsed together on the ground, holding each other until we could collect ourselves in celebration. We had gotten out of the way and let the Universe do its work, and what miraculous work it was.
Elijah Paul was born nine months and two weeks after we initially filed for adoption, followed a few years later by adopted twin brothers. Though I still sometimes wonder what it would have been like to carry a biological child, I no longer mourn it. Instead, I celebrate the benefits like creating the family entirely of my choosing, embracing differences both seen and unseen, and knowing that my guys, with all our ups and downs, are irrefutably mine. When Peter died in 2012, as difficult as it was, I took tremendous pride in being the single mom of my boys. Now, with my husband Tom who adopted all 3 in 2017, we are acutely aware that we are creating something unique and beautiful together as a family. We belong to each other 100%, and I would not change that for the world.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Merritt Minnemeyer of New Paltz, New York. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read Merritt’s powerful backstory of adopting 3 sons, and losing her husband:
‘An elderly woman behind us said, ‘he’s beautiful.’ We both responded with a resounding, ‘Thank you!’: Adoptive mom says her son’s 17-year-old birth mother was her ‘saving grace,’ she’ll forever ‘be in awe’ of her
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