‘When will we hear the patter of tiny feet? ‘You don’t want to be OLD parents, do you?’: Family adopts 2 children after struggling for years with infertility

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“The phone call that changed our life. It was 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19, 1986. ‘Dallas’ was about to begin when the phone rang. I remember feeling a bit annoyed I was going to miss the start of my favorite TV program. (There was no way of recording shows in those far off days). The caller was Gill, our social worker. After asking how we both were, she said ‘how would you like to come and meet a baby boy? He’s almost six weeks old…’ My scream must have deafened her. We’d been waiting to adopt a child for two years and before that had spent five long, desperate years of infertility tests and treatments to try for one of our own.

The years we’d waited weren’t totally miserable. We’d enjoyed married life, been on several great vacations and when I realized I wasn’t going to get pregnant easily, I’d thrown myself into my career and gained two promotions along the way. But it wasn’t enough. We had a great deal of love to give and adoption seemed like the perfect answer. The process wasn’t difficult – a short course followed by interviews and references, but the waiting was excruciating. I decided to try a career change so that if all else failed I would at least have a more interesting job to in some way compensate. I went for an interview at a firm of local solicitors and explained my situation. They confirmed the job was mine if I wanted it, but that they hoped we wouldn’t meet again because that would mean my quest for motherhood had been successful. Twenty-two months after our initial inquiry, Gill called with the wonderful news.

Just a few days later, as we cradled our new baby son in our arms, we realized the significance of that phone call. It finally drew a line between our old life as a childless couple and our new one as the proud parents of a gorgeous little boy.

Husband and wife sit next to each other with adopted baby in wife's lap
Courtesy of Bridget Frew

Three years later our family was completed with the arrival of a baby sister. They are now both married and my daughter has presented us with a wonderful granddaughter. We also have three lovely step-grandchildren who we love dearly and know full well that blood isn’t always thicker than water. If you’re struggling with the fear that parenthood will always elude you, don’t ever give up. There are so many beautiful children out there waiting for a loving family.

Husband and wife stand smiling with adopted baby daughter and toddler son beside couple
Courtesy of Bridget Frew

And now to return to where it all began. I’m an only child so when my beloved dad died suddenly I returned home from London to help my mom and started work at a local government office. I enjoyed the work and was soon promoted to the next grade. Just before taking up my new position I met John, my future husband, and after a whirlwind romance, (six weeks), became engaged and married six months later. We lived in London at first, returning to my home town a year later. After a couple of years of married bliss when the thought of babies was very far from our minds, we nevertheless thought we’d better get going if we wished to complete our family by the time I reached my early 30s. I was by now 27 and already becoming weary of the usual inquiries from the baby Gestapo like ‘when will we hear the patter of tiny feet?’ and ‘you don’t want to be OLD parents do you?’

After a year or so and still no baby, we decided to seek medical advice. The doctor explained we just had to keep on trying as it was far too soon for fertility tests on an apparently healthy young couple. We were now 28 and 29 respectively. A year later we were back and after a little more earnest cajoling on our part, the doctor arranged for some basic tests. When I called for the results I was told that we both needed to re-take them as there were one or two small anomalies. While pleased that something had been found, it was nevertheless a little worrying as to what the problem might be.

When there was no further contact I phoned again only to be told that this time my blood test had been normal, but there was a question with John’s tests. A fresh appointment was made and we arrived fairly up-beat and positive only to suddenly have our whole world come crashing down around us. The female doctor delivering the bad news obviously hadn’t passed the sympathetic bedside manner course. ‘Well,’ she started, looking at me and completely ignoring John, ‘your husband has azoospermia, which means he will never father a child. Don’t bother with artificial insemination because he, (your husband), (still unable to look him in the eye), will eventually resent bringing up another man’s child and probably leave you and there are virtually no babies put up for adoption these days.’ That was the sum total of the ‘counseling’ we received. Phew…

How we got home in one piece that day is still a mystery, how we drove through the tears I don’t know. However, I’m a fighter and I wasn’t going to leave it there. We arranged for John to see a specialist and for a while kept going with the thought there may be treatment available. There might be one or two possibilities according to the sympathetic urologist. Unfortunately this proved to be a false hope and after a few unsuccessful attempts at artificial insemination we were about to give up, decided to get on with our lives and become very rich instead! I had to have some more tests when the first rounds of AID had failed. I was booked into a local semi private clinic and shared part of an open ward with another woman about to undergo the same tests. There were three or four other women in the beds on the other side of the room. The ward sister came to speak to us two and warned us we were not to think we were superior in any way to these girls. Though puzzled, she was a bit scary, so we heeded her warning and kept our mouths shut tight.

The next morning at breakfast it became crystal clear why we’d had our little chat. Our roommates were all discussing their reasons for terminating their pregnancies. Then they turned to the two of us inquiring about our stories. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop when we disclosed the reason for our stay. I didn’t judge them as everyone has their own reason for making such a difficult decision, but the irony wasn’t lost on any of us there that day.

The tests showed that fertility treatment in the form of a daily dose of clomiphene plus two monthly injections of human chorionic gonadatropin to promote ovulation was required. I reluctantly decided to give it a go but 6 months later when the specialist suggested IVF, we both felt this was a step too far, and I was becoming weary with the constant process of temperature charts and twice monthly trips to the clinic. Besides, it was 1984 and a relatively new disease called AIDS was on the horizon. There was a test for most diseases and STD’s but still no test for HIV on donated sperm samples and we feared the risk I was taking every month just wasn’t worth it. Also there were rumors in the medical world that over stimulation of the ovaries could cause ovarian cancer later in life, together with a small but significant risk of Creutzfeldt-Jacob, (or Mad Cow Disease), from the use of gonadotropins. We both felt I had played Russian roulette for long enough.

Meanwhile I had to keep quiet about all this at work. I had already been passed over for promotion as being a woman of child-bearing age i.e. between 18 and 40, it was expected that I would disappear at any time and they wouldn’t get their money’s worth by training me. (I successfully appealed and was eventually promoted by the way). Also by now time was running out, as most adoption agencies closed their lists to anyone over 32 if you were hoping for a baby. Ignoring, the doctor’s advice, we wrote to several adoption agencies and received a positive response from the Catholic Children’s Society as fortunately their cut off point was 35. A year later, when we were both 34, we were invited to join a training course for prospective adopters.

Needless to say, after the amazing phone call I skipped into work the next day with the news that I wouldn’t be returning to work on Monday morning as I would be collecting my new baby son instead. We met him the following day, (November 21st, which would have been my dear dad’s birthday), – it was love at first sight – and after a mad shopping spree totally wiping out the baby department of a local store, finally on Monday, November 24, 1986, we became a family at last.

Not a day goes by when John and I don’t think about and thank with all our hearts the two lovely, brave young women whose chose life for their precious babies and gave them to us to care for. We feel very privileged to have watched them grow into two such beautiful, hardworking and caring adults.”

Brother and sister who were adopted sit on zebra statue
Courtesy of Bridget Frew
Brother and sister who were adopted smile in front of book shelf
Courtesy of Bridget Frew
Mother and father stand with adopted daughter and her husband at their wedding on beach front
Courtesy of Bridget Frew
Adopted son on his wedding day with wife and her child beside his adopted parents, sister, and brother in law
Courtesy of Bridget Frew

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bridget Frew, 66, of West Sussex, South East England. Do you have a compelling adoption story to share? We’d love to hear your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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‘The judge looked at my husband and I. ‘Thank you for taking in a child in need.’ Without missing a beat, my husband replied, ‘We needed her more.’ Truer words have never been spoken.’

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