For us, the transition from trying to have a biological child to starting the adoption process took several months. I’m sure that others move from plan A to plan B faster and for others it may take years to make that transition.
I think a key part of it for us was we had already started talking about adoption long before we even started fertility treatments. I understand that not everyone who adopts struggled with fertility, but we did. However, being adopted, it was always something close to my heart and a conversation my husband and I had early on in our relationship. The conversation went “let’s have a few of our own and adopt one or two, and have one huge, loving family”.
After doing several rounds of fertility treatments, we were emotionally exhausted and I felt like my body was close to done. With each treatment, after 10-12 days of doing injectable hormones, I would skip a day after trigger and then start taking an injectable blood thinner during my two-week wait. Eventually, I would get a positive pregnancy test, they would take betas, the numbers would rise, then the numbers would fall, and I would miscarry. We called this point in the process “Beta Hell”. Then, we would start the whole process over. The only time during the months that I wasn't injecting something in my body was while I was waiting to miscarry through cycle day 3 when we would start the new round.
In December 2009, we were in the midst of our fifth cycle. Between the hustle and bustle of the holidays and being in beta hell, my husband and I decided that after this cycle was done, we could only go through beta hell one more time. If that meant I got pregnant next cycle, then it would be our last, or if it took 3 more cycles to get pregnant, that’s when we would call it quits. As we were getting dressed up to go out and celebrate our 5th anniversary with dinner and tickets to the Nutcracker (my favorite part of the holidays), we got the call that the beta they had drawn that morning had fallen. This pregnancy was over. Needless to say, I enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner that night as we put on our brave faces, ignored the pain, and celebrated our five years together.
After the new year we started what we knew could be our last cycle. Just like my body had done the last 4 cycles, my two-week wait ended with rising betas…and then falling betas. When we went in to meet with the reproductive endocrinologist I explained, through tears, that I just couldn't do it again. I couldn't go on the rollercoaster ride. We had such a kind doctor who understood our decision.
For several months, we didn't talk about babies. We each had to deal internally with the new knowledge that we would not have biological children of our own. I grieved the fact that I would never know what it would feel like to have a baby move inside of me, or to look in my child’s face and see pieces of my husband and me combined.
Slowly, during those months, we stopped thinking about the treatments that had failed and started remembering how good it was to be ‘us’. Us before the treatments; before the monitoring appointments, injections before bedtime, and timed intercourse. We started laughing together again, and my husband started being silly. For so many months, he had walked on eggshells around our house, not knowing what he might say that would turn his hormone-infused wife into a blubbering mess of tears. Those days were past us and we could enjoy each other. I remember that spring being extra warm so the pool in our neighborhood opened up a few weeks earlier than normal. We decided to go up and swim. It was that day that in my mind, we were back to ‘us’. I will forever remember laying on the lounge chairs next to Travis, both with our eyes closed, enjoying the sun shining on us. He reached over and grabbed my hand and said, “I love our life”. For me, that was the defining moment. No matter what we had gone through, no matter how we were going to build our family, he was with me, holding my hand for the long haul. That was what I needed to hear.
Within a week or so we started talking about the next steps we wanted to take. We got information from several adoption agencies and met with a social worker from one of them. We started filling out that agency’s short application in early May. It only took us about 4 months to be able to move from our plan A to plan B, but that was very valuable time to us. We needed those months, free of the stress of fertility treatments and absent of the stress that would come with the adoption process in the coming months.
If I have any advice for couples thinking about adoption, particularly after they have been doing fertility treatments, is to take some time. It doesn't have to be a whole lot of time, but you and your spouse probably would benefit from putting some distance between the end of fertility treatments and the beginning of the adoption process. I believe that many agencies (like ours) feel this way too, because they often request that couples either do treatments, or pursue adoption, but not simultaneously. Both events are so taxing on your emotions, so don’t make either one any harder than then it needs to be!