We Adopted Our Daughter 8 Years After An Unexplained Infertility Diagnosis

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History: Growing up, in a large Catholic family, I was told that getting pregnant would be easy and was cautioned by maternal figures to be careful as I started to get serious with my now-husband. My mom and dad even had a “whoops” baby of their own when I was 18 and getting ready to start college. As the eldest of six, and married to a man who was the eldest of four, we thought getting pregnant would be an (enjoyable) walk in the park. Ha! We were dead wrong. 
Age: 34
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Occupation: Professor 
Household income: $210,000
Summer 2010
We start trying
I’m 23, and my fiancé and I decide that I should go off the pill, just to see what happens. We’re a few months away from our wedding and rationalize that our Catholic families wouldn’t overthink the proximity of our due date and first wedding anniversary. At our wedding, we relish in our secret that we may be pregnant as we chat with friends and family. 
Cost: $0.
August 2010
The honeymoon
A few months have passed since we “officially” began attempting to conceive, and I’m still not pregnant. That doesn’t bother us, though, and we are still enjoying our new love. 
Cost: $0.
December 2010
Getting settled
We buy our first house. It is the perfect little “starter” home. It has two big bedrooms, and we feel like all it needs now is a crib in what we’re calling the “guest bedroom” for now. We haven’t gotten pregnant and at this point, I’m starting to get a little nervous. We decide to do some research. I start Googling ovulation and the best times to get pregnant. 
Cost: $15 for a pregnancy test. 
Winter 2011
I buy an ovulation kit.
I pee on an ovulation test every day right when I wake up. I record when I’m ovulating in a dated journal, just to make sure that this is happening every month. Based on this home method, my cycles seem fine. My periods are normal, and we have sex when my ovulation is peak. Yet, still, there’s still no pregnancy. The neighbors have started to ask when we are going to have kids. They mean well enough, but I want to say,We’re trying.” I don’t; I’m polite and offer up a “Hopefully soon!” Inside, I feel like screaming.
Cost: $120 for ovulation kits.
September 2011
Homework and the OB/GYN 
I enroll in graduate school and, busy working toward a degree, I’m thinking less and less about our future baby. Still, I find the weekends are hard. I see moms and dads pushing strollers up and down our street as I have my head buried in books. My husband suggests that we meet with a doctor to see if there’s anything to be concerned about. I agree and we set up an appointment with my OB/GYN.
The doctor runs some tests on me and suggests my husband do a semen analysis. We do that and the result is: unexplained infertility. We’re 25 years old. The doctor suggests we see a fertility specialist.
Cost: $15 co-pay for the appointment.
October 2011
Working toward answers 
We book a consultation with the specialist and leave feeling completely overwhelmed. Before they even run any tests, they rattle off statistics and the likelihood of getting pregnant at our age via intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Then, they start to talk about costs. Out of pocket, IUI would be $600, with insurance covering some of it. The specialist clarifies, though, that even though IUI may be more “affordable” we may need to do it more than once. Just one round of IVF would cost us about $11,000 out of pocket. They’d be creating embryos, so of course it’s more pricey. After hearing these numbers, the rest of the meeting is a bit of a blur.
We walk to the car after the consultation in silence. Driving home, there’s a moment when we look at each other and we both know: no, not right now. We aren’t ready to give up on the idea that we could still “magically” become pregnant. My God, my mom was pregnant at 45, we joke! So, we wait.
Cost: $0. We went to a free open house event at the clinic, which got us a free consultation.
Winter 2012 – Summer 2017
We spend five years (and nearly all of our 20s) waiting and not making a decision. We decide to make our relationship as strong as possible so that if we ever would decide to do treatment, we would survive. This is not always easy. We have moments when we think and talk openly about separation and divorce. But we decide to wait it out together. We even begin to talk about how our decision to wait makes us think that we maybe don’t need to have a baby. Maybe, we say, we can be a family of two?
During this time, the thought of fertility never really leaves me. I actually end up writing my dissertation about infertility. We run a peer-led fertility support group in our area. I even sign up to have a reading done by a “spirit baby” medium (yes, those exist). She tells me that she sees a daughter in my future. She tells me that I’m going to be a parent. I silently question that. I’m pretty happy with my life right now. 
Cost: $0.
September 2017
Fast-forward, I graduate with my MA and my PhD. My husband also went back to school, and now has his MS. We both get good jobs, and move to a new state. 
The semester I start my first tenure-track job as a professor, I feel as if my distraction from thinking about having a baby — graduate school — has disappeared. I suddenly find myself time to think about my future. 
My husband and I start asking the hard questions again. Are we okay being just us? 
Cost: $0.
October 2017
A big decision
My husband’s new insurance plan covers one round of IVF. If we decide to take that route, we should consider it while I’m under 35, he adds. I shake my head and say, “I don’t need to be pregnant to parent.” I ask if he’d consider adoption. He looks at me and says “I just want to be a dad. However we can make that happen.” 
We begin to look at agencies. We avoid religious agencies, which seem to cost more, use really "savior-y" language about adoption, and sometimes exclude LGBTQ+ families, all of which doesn’t feel right to us. Private and international adoption aren’t for us either. Ultimately, we find a great public, domestic, state-run agency that seems really ethical, encourages open adoptions, and provides a lot of support — not just to the adoptive parents but the birth parents too. We email them to set up a consultation.
Cost: $0, the consultation is free.
January 2018 to September 2018
Paperwork & Mandatory Education
We meet with the agency, and they seem great. After deciding we’re really “ready” to start the process we spend my winter break filling out paperwork to get on the “inactive list,” which means you haven’t yet had an approved home study but that you’re working on completing the steps required to adopt. Getting on this list costs $1,500. The agency only allowed 10 couples to be on the "active list" at a time. That way, there’s less competition and more specific support for the prospective adoptive parents. We begin the online parental education, which covers how to be a successful parent and how to talk to your child about what it means to be adopted. In the spring and summer, we attend some in-person adoption support group sessions, which count towards our educational credits, and wait until there is a space on the “active list" for us.
Cost: $2,000 for the training and to get on the inactive list.
October 2018
Creating our profile and the home study
We receive an email from our adoption social worker that there is a space for us on the “active list,” which means we’ll have more regular check-ins with our social worker and must complete our home study, which involves medical exams, interviews with social workers, and a home visit. There’s a $1,500 payment to get on the active list, and a $3,000 charge for the home study. 
We also create our adoption book, which functions as a profile to tell birth parents a bit about ourselves, our families, and friends, and how we plan to parent. This is the part that I enjoy the most about the process. Honestly, I get a bit emotional just writing up our story. We get the book done shortly after the home study is approved and then we wait. Again.
Cost: $4,500 total: $1,500 for the active list fee, and $3,000 for the home study. 
November 2018 to February 2019
Waiting (again)
We're still waiting. We're told by the social worker that some birth parents have looked at our profile book, but nothing has really come from it. We see on the agency’s social media pages that some families have been placed, while we’re still waiting. But we don’t obsess over it. We are both busy with work — I’m looking for a new job — and that distracts us again.
Cost: $0.
March 13, 2019
The email
I’m about ready to get on a plane to go to a big national conference. I get a call from the Dean from a university where I just interviewed. She tells me that I got the job. I’m ecstatic. 
Once I land in Pittsburgh I check my email. And then I see it: a note from the social worker. It says that there is a family that wants to meet us and says that they are pregnant with a baby girl. They are hoping to meet us soon. I squeal — I cannot believe that both of these major life events have happened in one day. I call my husband; we are so happy, and can’t wait until I get back and we can meet the birth parents.
Cost: $0.
March 18, 2019
Meeting the birth parents
We drive the 90 minutes it takes to visit the birth parents, and the birth mom’s sister and mom. We’re nervous and excited, but we both agree on the drive over to just be ourselves. The birth mom tells us she chose us because we had our two dogs on the cover of our profile book. She says that she loves pups (we can tell because there are multiple hounds at the house), and that she wants the baby to be placed with a family that loves animals too. We tell her a bit about our springer spaniel and black lab, and how we also have a cabin up north and want to raise our kid around nature.
On the drive home we remark on how natural the conversation seemed to go. How was there no awkwardness? We wonder when we will hear from them again and if they will pick us.
Cost: $30 for gas for the visit. 
April 2019
We match!
We receive an email from the social worker that the birth parents have picked us. They actually didn’t meet with any other families. We are thrilled and then we do more paperwork. We pay the $5,000 match fee, essentially securing us with the birth parents. 
The social worker encourages us to begin developing a relationship with the birth parents, so we start texting. The birth mom even invites us to come to some of her prenatal appointments. We are surprised by her openness, but we're appreciative to be included during these very intimate moments.
We go to an appointment and hear the heartbeat. I am so happy. But I’m reading the room. I want to be sensitive to the birth mom and how she may feel in that moment. She appears less attached to it and says, “That’s your baby’s heartbeat!” I smile and let the doctor continue with the exam. We go out for ice cream with her afterwards, and talk about baby names.  We’re feeling good about the adoption, but my husband and I know in the back of our minds that this could all change at a moment’s notice. Still, we try to embrace the moments that seem good and positive. 
Cost: $5,030 total. $5,000 for the match fee, and $30 for gas to get to the appointment.
May 2019
The baby arrives. 
It’s the end of May, and we get a text from the birth mom. She is going to the hospital and thinks she is in labor. We get our stuff together and drive to the hospital, as the birth mom asked us to be there during the birth. 
We walk into the room and there are nine other bodies there: friends and family supporting the birth mom as well as the birth dad. We all help support the birth mom. My husband holds one of her legs. I take off my shirt; the birth mom’s birth plan calls for me to do the first skin-to-skin contact with the baby.
Honestly, the whole labor is quick. We arrive by 6 p.m. and the baby comes by 8:45 p.m. It’s a whirlwind of emotions. But when I hold the baby, I immediately lose it. Tears begin rolling uncontrollably down my face. I hold her so tightly and close to my chest. She’s screaming and I’m “bad crying” as my body releases intangible joy. The little girl that spirit baby medium said was coming is finally here. And she is perfect.
We spend the next two days in the hospital, where we’re given our own room. The baby stays with us. We feed her, change her diapers, and meet with the pediatrician. During the day we wheel our little one into the birth mom’s room to visit with her and her family. We told our families to wait and stay home. This time is for saying hello and ultimately goodbye. 
At the end of the two days, everyone has met the baby and told her that they love her. They also tell us that they love us. We feel the same. We hug and agree to stay in touch: to text at least once a month, and see where things go from there. 
Cost: $130. There are no hospital costs. Wisconsin's health insurance paid for it all — even our meals which was nice. Gas was $30, and small gifts for the birth mom and dad were $50 each. Legally in Wisconsin, you can’t gift birth parents with anything that costs more than $100 total. 
November 2019
Court date
Fast-forward six months and another $22,500 later, our little girl officially becomes ours. The adoption is finalized. After six months of monthly social worker check-ins, the state lets us become her official parents. I feel such relief. From the moment we were matched, she was always ours in our hearts. 
Cost: $22,500 includes $17,000 for the agency outreach program, which lets us use the agency and its resources, and got us connected to birth parents in the first place. It also pays for our social worker and a social worker for the birth mom. We also pay $5,500 for legal fees — all of the filing plus we pay for the birth mom to be represented in court when giving up her rights
Total Cost: $34,340
Reflection: I’ve been a parent for just over 18 months now. And while I’ve been (barely) managing to parent a toddler during a pandemic, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. She’s the best thing that ever happened to us, and while she may not be biologically related, she’s 100% my kid. I know that some people wonder about the nature vs. nurture thing. I did too. But I really find that after you go through everything and hold your baby for the first time, none of it matters. Sure, she may not look like me or my husband. But her quirky personality matches mine to a tee. Her curiosity in how things work resembles my husband’s. 
I look back on the 10-ish years that it has taken to transform into a family of three, and I see that it was all part of the plan. It may not be easy, but it has made us so appreciative of what we have now. And I think in many ways, we had to wait until she was ready to join our family. We had to work on our relationship. We also had to save money. We were broke in graduate school and couldn’t have afforded the thousands of dollars it cost to adopt our daughter. We also had to wait to meet the right birth parents. They had to be comfortable and brave enough to first choose adoption and then choose us to be her parents. For that, I’m beyond grateful. 
You might be thinking, “Are you serious? You are telling me that I should be grateful to wait 10 years?!” To that, I say, “I get that you may be frustrated and frankly pissed off. I was too. But we are stronger people, and stronger parents, for what infertility made us face. A lot of the time, it sucked. But it makes us who we are. Now, our family is rooted in love.” 

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