infertility

The Journey to Adopting our Sweet Zachary

Our sweet Zachary is now 12 weeks old so I figured it’s about time to share the story of how we were lucky enough to be chosen to be parents for a 2nd time through adoption.  I always find writing about our adoption stories tough because although we are over the moon to welcome another son into our lives, for Zachary’s birth parents comes pain and sorrow over this loss.  We will be eternally grateful to them and admire them so much for putting Zachary first.

Without talking much about Zachary’s birth parents (that’s Zachary’s story to share if he wants down the road), here is the amazing journey that brought our sweet, sweet boy into our lives.  This story was definitely a rollercoaster ride filled with highs and lows.

We were told it was harder to adopt a second time since a lot of birth parents choose couples without kids and while Chris was anxious to put our names into the ring in the fall of 2014, I was a bit hesitant.  I was in a great place at work, I’d wanted to put savings aside for the process and life was great.  I did agree to start the adoption process with Chris in December as the paperwork takes a while.  By February we were adopt ready and I was getting the ‘itch’ to have a baby again – it amazes me how fast it can come on.  Too bad we were told it would take longer this time around.

At the end of February I received a phone call through our Canada Adopts online profile from a birth mother due in 2 weeks.  She lived in another province so I needed to call an adoption practitioner with experience adopting out of province.  To make a long story short, this adoption didn’t work out and while on the phone with the adoption practitioner to discuss it she asked if we had one of our adoption profiles we could send her.  She wanted to present us to a couple the next day.  We felt like it was a long shot and perhaps her just wanting us to feel hopeful again.  Normally birth couples pick an adoptive couple within a couple of days so after 2 weeks of not hearing anything we figured they had either changed their minds or chosen someone else.

The Highs

Fast forward to March 24th – I’m at a pub with my best friend enjoying a nice big glass of wine when at 10:00pm my phone rings.  It’s the adoption practitioner.  She asks if we’re really adopt ready and when we leave for Florida.  We were leaving that Friday (3 days away) to have one last trip before Jackson turned two.   The bizarre thing about it was that was exactly what had happened with Jackson’s adoption – we had a trip booked to Florida when we heard the news we’d been chosen.  She said the birth mom of the couple we were presented to was in labour and while we hadn’t been chosen officially, she was pretty sure we were the top choice.

I run home and wake Chris up to tell him.  Chris is pretty out of it when he’s woken up and didn’t really understand haha.  He had thought the birth couple had chosen a different route.  It wasn’t until the next morning that he started asking questions.

The official phone call came at 2pm on the 25th.  Zachary had been born on the 24th and we were officially chosen [insert happy dance combined with holy cow we are about to be parents of 2 boys, 23 months apart].  The next step was to drive to Ottawa on the Thursday to meet the birth parents and make sure they did want to move forward with us.  We were all set to cancel Florida but everyone wanted us to take the trip, especially since Jackson had asked ‘airplane day?’ every day that week.  Talk about a chaotic 10 hours – we had to find a sitter for Jackson, take the dog 40 minutes away to where he was staying while we were in Florida, finish the laundry, pack for Florida, tie up the loose ends at work so we could go on vacation, tell my boss our news that I could be leaving work in just a couple of weeks (gulp!) and think of baby boy names (the last one was the fun part!).  The good thing about the adoption process is the adrenaline you get and not needing to sleep. Plus, why not start to get ourselves prepared for little sleep with a baby right?!

The meeting with the birth parents went really well.  They’re amazing people and we instantly felt a connection to them.  It was definitely a nerve-wracking process still as you don’t want to say the wrong thing or do anything to have them change their minds and the whole time you’re worried they will.  The interesting thing we learned was one of the reasons they picked us was because we are in an open adoption with Jackson and they saw how happy he looked in our pictures.  They also liked that we travel.  We then drove back to Toronto Thursday night, Chris drove the babysitter across Toronto to her house and I finished packing.

Needless to say Florida was a much needed break and great to spend some last one-on-one time with Jackson before becoming a big brother but it was also a very nerve-wracking week.  Birth parents sign adoption consents 7 days after the baby is born and then have an additional 21 days to change their minds.  We were still in the early days with a long road ahead.

The Lows

This time the adoption waiting period was absolutely brutal.  I can’t imagine what the birth parents go through during this whole process and in our case some second thoughts on their end were happening.  Because of all the uncertainty and having Jackson at home, Zachary stayed in an extremely loving foster home in Ottawa until the waiting period was up.   We did get to go visit him and received email updates with pictures.

During this waiting period, our lowest low of our two adoptions happened.  We were going to see Zachary for a 2nd time when we were told it might be best to drive back to Toronto from Ottawa as things weren’t looking good.  Chris and I were devastated, especially as there had been a possibility we would bring Zachary home that day, had all our gear in the trunk and had told Jackson about ‘Baby Zack’ coming home so he’d be prepared (luckily he hadn’t come on any trips to Ottawa at this point).  We got into the car and started a somber drive home…….for about 20 minutes and then pumped the tunes and sang and danced (well I chair danced, Chris does air drums) and knew that if it’s meant to be, it will be.

Sure enough, after two more grueling weeks it was meant to be.  We drove to Ottawa the day the waiting period expired with our fingers and toes crossed that our phones would not ring with bad news and they didn’t (yippeeeeee!).  On Thursday, April 23rd, with Jackson, we went picked Zachary up and brought him home with us.

Having Zachary in our lives was worth every minute of the process and we couldn’t be more in love.  Jackson is the best big brother and we are so blessed to be lucky enough to have such two amazing boys so close in age.  Everything really does happen for a reason.

Crossroads – When to Move On from Fertility

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You’re at a crossroads; you’ve already sunk a lot of money into fertility treatments and can’t imagine moving on and sinking more money into other avenues such as adoption.  You’re probably thinking what’s a little bit more money if the next treatment works?  I’ve come all this way, do I really want to start over with something like adoption? I think most people who’ve gone through fertility have all stood at this crossroad at some point or another so in this post I’d like to share my crossroads experience.

Let me start off by saying that moving on from fertility is an extremely tough decision and one that comes with high emotions.  No one’s going to say going through the fertility or adoption process is fun. I still get angry thinking of the thousands of dollars we spent on fertility treatments and yet there’s no real reason we couldn’t get pregnant but then I look at my beautiful, happy, healthy, amazing son and know that everything happened for a reason.

Looking back I’d have to say I was never 100% on board with doing fertility treatments.  I disliked that we had unexplained fertility and there wasn’t a specific fertility issue the doctors could focus on; I disliked being late for work after having been at the clinic for 2-3 hours a few days a month and I disliked the costs of the treatments.  We had just upgraded our home and I had switched jobs – not the ideal time for increased expenses and missing work but then again, there’s never going to be an ideal time or extra money floating around.

From a young age, I’d always said I would adopt if I couldn’t have biological children.  Perhaps this is something a lot of people say but for me adoption was always a prominent option.  On my first date with my husband I asked him if he wanted kids.  He, thinking that was a pretty intense first date question, said yes.  I then asked him if he would adopt if he couldn’t have kids and he said that was a decision he’d have to make when the time came.  Well that time came.  After 3 failed rounds of IUI and 1 failed round of IVF, I had emotionally moved on to adoption.  I had Chris and I attend an information session and I was starting my research.  Chris on the other hand was still stuck on fertility.  Let’s do one more round of IVF with the frozen embryos – it costs less than a fresh cycle thereby balancing the costs of the two cycles, he thought.  It made sense and so we did it.  I wasn’t going to push him down another avenue, I wanted him to get there on his own.  When we got the negative test result that November, I was relieved.  I could say goodbye to fertility and pursue what I knew would guarantee us a family, adoption.  I knew the process wasn’t an easy one and still cost a lot of money but I felt more positive knowing we would become parents sooner or later.  Chris was also ready to move on.  Chris and I had a ‘goodbye fertility’ ceremony where we chucked all of our fertility stuff (including a fertility doll we got in New Orleans – hey, we were willing to try everything!) into the garbage and went to our favourite restaurant for a great meal and lots of wine.

Not everyone can move on so easily from fertility and that’s ok.  You have to move on when you’re ready to move on and pursue only the avenues you want to pursue.  Everything happens for a reason and unfortunately a lot of the time we don’t know the reason until we’re well down the path and at that point can then understand it.

Shhhhh Don’t Tell Anyone but We’re Getting Fertility Treatments. Infertility – the taboo subject!

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In my mom’s group today a woman asked for advice on what to say to someone who’s experiencing infertility which gave me the idea to write this blog.  While I can only speak from my point of view, I’m hoping some of the stuff in here may help you when talking to someone going through fertility treatments.

Since I’ve opened up about my struggles with infertility and our journey to adoption I’ve heard from quite a few people who admitted they’re seeking fertility help.  In fact, I think I know more people who are either trying to/or have conceived via fertility treatments than those who had natural conception.  So why does no one talk about it?  I’m sure there are many reasons people don’t talk about it but here’s what I could come up with (some of which applied to me in the beginning):

  • It’s very personal – not everyone is open to talking about what comes with fertility, including having sex, male and female reproductive parts and issues.
  • It’s embarrassing – people are supposed to procreate so when you can’t, you feel like something’s wrong with you.
  • You probably want to surprise people with your pregnancy – I recently found football bibs I’d bought over 4 years ago when Chris and I started trying as that’s what I was going to give to him when I found out we were pregnant.  Well, all my ideas for surprising Chris and our families went out the window after year 1 and people close to us knew every time we went for a treatment.
  • You don’t want people constantly asking how your treatments are going – especially since most people wait until they’re past the 12 week mark to make their announcement.
  • What if work treats you differently knowing you’re trying to have a kid?  What if they don’t put you on big projects because of it?
  • You don’t want to get other people’s hopes up – during our adoption journey, I finally asked our parents if they wanted to join us for our rollercoaster ride or wait to tell them anything until it was over, i.e., we had been matched.  In our case, they both wanted to join us for the ride but we were very clear there would be a lot of ups and downs along the way.

I’m sure there are a lot more reasons but that’s all I could come up with this afternoon.   In my instance, I’m probably too open and my husband is very private.  This resulted in me telling quite a few people and talking about it a lot and my husband telling less than a handful and rarely talking about it.

So what if you know someone going through fertility issues?  What can you say to them?  Again, this will vary depending on the person but below are what I found helpful (and what I didn’t find so helpful).

Helpful:

  • Just under a year ago I had a girls weekend with my mom and she admitted that she never knew what to say to Chris and I.  I think this was one of the best lines I could have heard.  The thought is there without trying to come up with the right piece of advice.
  • Be honest.  In my case, my worst fear was a friend/family member not telling me they were pregnant in case they hurt my feelings.  This never happened to me but I always feared it would or that I’d hear through the news through somebody else.
  • Acknowledge something like a baby shower might be hard on them but you’re really glad they came.  (Or if your friend finds it too painful to attend, let them know that’s ok too).
  • Ask how they’re doing and leave it up to them if they want to give you details.  Trust me, if someone wants to talk about what they’re going through, they will.

So, maybe not the best to say:

  • As soon as you stop thinking about it/trying, it will happen.  Guess what? Easier said than done! You NEVER stop thinking about it/trying – it will always be in the back of your mind.  Sometimes you think you’re not trying but it’s not until you’re at the stage where you finally have your bundle of joy that you realize how free you are from not trying anymore.
  • Those fertility drugs are making you crazy.  Definitely NEVER say this.  Ok, so this one’s more for those hubbies out there.
  • Oh you’re not drinking, are you pregnant?  Lots of people don’t drink when they’re trying to conceive, esp. when on fertility drugs.
  • Don’t assume things like a baby shower are hard for people going through infertility.  You both have the same goals in mind, some people’s just take longer to come true but seeing others around them become parents can provide hope and joy.
  • Have you tried……..?  The answer will usually be YES.  While you can share stories of friends conceiving through acupuncture, naturopaths, etc. the person going through it has probably already explored all the options they’re comfortable with and spent tons of money in the process.

Overall, everyone goes through something difficult in their life whether it be infertility, an illness, or some type of loss and in the end they’ll talk to those they’re close with and who will be positive supports.  All you can really do is listen, be supportive and stay positive and hopefully you’ll be one of the people getting the ‘good news’ call very soon!

Mastering Rejection – from trying to conceive to adoption

A while ago I added up all of the periods I’ve gotten since we started trying to have kids and said the following to Chris ‘do you know we’ve had to face rejection around 30 times for each cycle I went through trying to get pregnant?’  I wasn’t trying to be a downer.   30 sounds like a pretty big number but looking back I don’t feel like it was a big number.  I guess it got easier with each occurrence.  I’d be sad for a day or two and then move on focusing on the future and the great things to come.

We’ve been on our adoption journey for just over a year now and have had to experience the same highs and lows as we did in the fertility world.  We’ve had to face rejection a few times now with adoption.  We get contacted either by a birth mother online or through an adoption agency which results in some excitement – then we’ve made it through to the final stages which results in a really high moment –  then we don’t get picked which results in a really low moment but we learn something from each experience we go through and each time gets easier.  As I tell Chris, let me have these super high moments even if they’ll only last a day.  I’d rather relish in them than not have them at all.  Some people think it’s worse coming in 2nd but I’m just happy to make it as far as we do.  It gives me hope that one of these days will be our lucky one.  Facing rejection through adoption has been far more difficult than facing it with fertility treatments – I guess it’s because it’s the closest we’ve come to being parents.  I almost look at it as an early miscarriage.  We had a glimmer of hope but it wasn’t meant to be. 

Fast forward to just before New Years Eve 2012 and us deciding what to do.  We usually spend it with our friends and it’s always a blast but I also always find New Years overrated, especially because each year I think it will be our year to have kids and for 3 years we’ve seen that dream come and go.  I know it will happen and it’s always better to focus on the positive but I’m also trying to be realistic.  This New Years we approached midnight a bit differently.  We were content knowing we’ve done everything we can for our journey and it will happen.  Maybe not this year but definitely in the next few. Again, I’d rather be realistic and live life versus thinking it’s going to happen any day now.

The beginning – trying to conceive

‘I can’t play sports anymore; I must eat healthier; I should reduce my coffee and alcohol intake; I need to stress less; I can’t go in hot tubs or take hot baths; I shouldn’t buy any new clothes’……  Sound familiar?  These are just some of the thoughts that went through my head in the 3 years my husband and I spent trying to get pregnant.  On top of that I can’t even count the number of times I heard ‘once you stop trying, you’ll get pregnant’ or ‘you just need to relax and it will happen’ or ‘unexplained infertility means there’s nothing wrong with you so you’ll get pregnant.’  I know everyone means well but ARGGGHHHHHHH, some people are just not meant to be babymakers.

So let me back up – I’m Shannon and since I was little I have always wanted 4 kids.  Piece of cake right?  Wrong!  I remember how paranoid I was of getting pregnant before I was ready and how cautious I was thinking ‘I’m going to be so mad if it turns out I can’t get pregnant’ – ha!  Who knew trying to have one child would be so difficult, draining and costly so the likelihood of having 4 is now looking pretty slim.

Enough of being a Debbie downer though – I’m actually in a great place now which is why I wanted to share my story to help others going through the same thing.  If there’s one thing that has gotten me through this journey, it’s the people in my life and the people I’ve met along the way. Without them this would have been a horrible few years.  My husband’s and my marriage is also stronger than ever having gone through the numerous ups and downs of this rollercoaster ride called ‘making a family’.

Last fall after our 2nd failed IVF, my husband and I attended an adoption info session and I knew in that moment I wanted to adopt – luckily my husband agreed and we’ve never looked back!  Although diagnosed with unexplained fertility we figured we’d rather spend our money and emotions on a process where we know we will get the child meant for us, however long it takes.

I hope you enjoy this blog whether you have adopted or are considering adoption or even just curious.