It’s a joy to introduce you to Caroline who’s sharing her unique journey through infertility as part of our month-long guest post series, Special Mamas. Caroline is not a mama yet, but I can assure you she’s on her way to becoming one! Caroline and her husband, Mike, tried for years, met with fertility specialists, tried infertility treatments, and experienced more than one miscarriage. It’s been one roller coaster of a very long journey. Caroline and Mike have now decided to grow their family through adoption. Caroline’s words are thought provoking and heart warming, and prove that if we’re able to look beyond our circumstances, God is faithful to weave a beautiful story through our lives. Caroline is a very special woman, and will undoubtedly be one very special mama. Please extend a warm welcome to Caroline and her husband, Mike. (And be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post so you can follow their adoption Facebook page!)
Our story began in graduate school. We dated for a year and married six months later. During our engagement, we chatted about our future plans as a couple – what we wanted our family to look like, where we might live, etc. We were both pretty independent and wanted to have a solid foundation of at least two years of marriage before growing our family. We agreed that at least three children would be nice and that a warmer climate, like here in Virginia was ideal. The two year mark came and went – after another couple years it was time to face the facts, we needed to get some help. I remember the first appointment with the fertility specialist. Wow. That was something. The doctor asked us, “Why do you think you are here?” As we began to share about the challenges we faced trying to conceive, he interrupted us by stating, “You are here because you are infertile and you want me to help you have a baby.” That was the first time we were told we are infertile. It was a hard diagnosis to stomach. At the time I was working for an adoption agency and was very familiar with “unexplained infertility.” It seemed to be the diagnosis for many whose adoption journey began with infertility. Although I was familiar with it, I never thought it would be something that we would have to deal with.
It was somewhat of a relief to get the ball rolling and start the testing process to better understand our “unexplained infertility.” The testing revealed some minor deficiencies that were easily corrected and we felt optimistic moving forward with medications and IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) procedures. We attempted several IUIs, all unsuccessful. We decided to take a break from infertility treatments and went to California to connect with good friends – time to relax. To our surprise, I became pregnant shortly thereafter. I was in complete disbelief (I think I took about four tests to make sure each indicated a positive result). We were so excited, but a little skeptical because it had been so long and we weren’t sure what to expect. We only told close immediate family members because we were so early in the pregnancy. Since I was a high risk pregnancy situation, they asked me to get blood drawn every other day. Unfortunately my hCG levels began to drop and they indicated I should expect a miscarriage. I remember the day well. I was at work in the middle of typing up an adoptive home study when my phone rang. It was the nurse who told me the news. I don’t believe I ever felt such instant, gut wrenching grief. I instantly began to weep. My colleague heard me and approached my office. I could not even speak or communicate I just continued to sob. I called Mike and tried to get out the words and eventually did. He was calm and collected, but also very disappointed. One minute we were on cloud nine and the next we were in complete despair. How was this possible and where was God?
We decided to take a break and grieve and process before moving forward with an IUI procedure as previously planned. There were days we felt sadness, other days we felt anger, and some days we distracted ourselves in an effort to not feel. Thankfully, we are both trained clinicians and held each other accountable to communicate and deal with the loss and grief individually and together as a couple. Many conversations and prayers later, we felt it was a good time to move forward again. The IUIs and medications began and continued, to no avail. Each unsuccessful attempt began with a glimpse of hope and ended with many questions, doubts, and frustrations. It had been about five years of trying now and not only had I become older, but my body had taken a toll from all the medications and procedures. I was emotionally and physically worn out. So again, we decided to take a break from actively trying.
One day, I was reading Facebook and an ad popped up on the screen that indicated the early signs of pregnancy. Most days I would roll my eyes and ignore it, but for some reason, I opened the link. My cycle was a bit atypical so I thought maybe there is a possibility that I could be pregnant given I experienced some of the minor symptoms the article described. Sure enough, the pregnancy test was positive. I was in complete disbelief. How could this be? I wasn’t on any medications nor had we sought any treatment that month. I called my sister to share the news and my doubts that it was accurate. She suggested I get another test. I took four more tests and all indicated I was pregnant. I didn’t know whether to feel excited or to brace for grief. I shared the news with Mike who responded very excitedly, which was not typical of his personality. He is usually very relaxed and laid back, but he was overjoyed. We called the doctor and again went through blood testing. It was interesting timing given we were headed to a family beach vacation the following week. My hCG levels were increasing. I was so grateful. Then came the third test – the levels had dropped. We knew what to expect and it could not have been worse timing given the planned vacation. I was disappointed, but I think in the back of my mind, I had doubts from the beginning and thought it may end as the previous pregnancy – in a miscarriage. Mike, on the other hand, felt immense grief and sobbed. This was the first time I had seen him really grieve on a deep level. It was awful. We felt completely helpless.
Soon after, Mike brought up the option of growing our family through adoption. I was ecstatic! Adoption has always been on my heart. At a young age, I watched the commercials for child sponsorship and would dream about adopting one day. During high school and college, I nannied for two children who were adopted. After graduate school, I worked with adoptive, expectant, and birth parents through my work as an adoption specialist. Adoption has always been an important part of my life. Although this was something Mike and I chatted about early on in our relationship, I knew first-hand the importance of both Mike and I approaching adoption as a viable option together. Mike’s suggestion was confirmation we were both ready to begin the adoption journey.
We were drawn to the beauty of adoption because it reflects the acceptance we both feel through the Gospel. However, the emotional cost associated with beginning a new journey came with new uncertainties. It came in waves, questioning if we had set out on another path with no answers – would we ever complete our family? We had many conversations together and with friends and family about our anxieties. So many prayers. It felt like we were leaving something we knew – albeit something that was unsuccessful – and venturing into new ground. God has been faithful to remind us of his goodness regardless of the outcome. We are excited and hopeful that at the right time God will bless us in the way He sees fit.
We wanted to share this story not as a therapy session for ourselves (maybe a little), but to hopefully help someone else feel normal. One of the challenging things during this process has been feeling “different” – having to deflect questions about why you don’t have any kids but you’ve been married for 8 years. It can play on your mind and lead to some untrue conclusions about your purpose. We hope that through our story we can help expose some lies about what it means to be “infertile” and offer hope that God is good regardless of that diagnosis.
We have created Facebook and Instagram pages to document our journey and help spread the word. If you or someone you know is considering adoption please message or email us with any questions or comments.
This post is part of a month-long guest post series titled Special Mamas. The series runs all May and is in honor of moms who have unique journeys to and through motherhood. To read all 10 posts in the Special Mamas series, CLICK HERE and you’ll be directed to the introductory post. There, you’ll find all guest posts listed and linked for easy reading!