It is odd to find yourself in a place you never expected to be in. That’s how I felt last June when my husband Alex and I sat waiting in the lobby of a Portland fertility clinic. To be clear, I never thought childbirth or pregnancy would be easy for me, but I guess I never imagined it would be this difficult to get pregnant. After all, isn’t conception supposed to be the fun part?
We have what the experts call “secondary infertility.” That means you have had at least one baby but have been unable to conceive or successfully carry another. Our fertility journey began more than five years ago. I had reached my late-20s, had completed graduate school, and knew I best not wait any longer. I began the baby quest with eagerness to conceive right away. It did not happen.
Finally, after a year of trying, we conceived and were absolutely elated, but I miscarried at about ten weeks along. It was heartbreaking to see our emerging baby on ultrasound, only to have the doctor tell us there was no heartbeat. When that baby’s due date rolls around each April, I still feel the pain of that loss.
By the grace of God, I was pregnant just two months later. Nine months after that, on his due date, we welcomed our son Owen. To say I have soaked up the joy of this sweet, stubborn, funny little child every day of his life is such an understatement. He IS my joy.
Two years ago, when Owen turned one, we knew we wanted another baby. Remarkably, after it taking so long the first time, I became pregnant right away, but I miscarried very early. We were shocked to learn it had been twins. After my Obgyn handed me a brochure called “Repeat Miscarriage,” describing a number of tests we could have done to see what the problem was, I unraveled into a long period of sadness. I could not talk about that miscarriage; I was skinny, pale and depleted. Holding and loving my boy made it impossible for me to be completely miserable during this time, but it took me several months to recover.
We started trying again. I had lots of tests done, including two invasive procedures, which revealed what I had feared: There were absolutely no known reasons for our fertility problems or for my miscarriages. I wanted there to be a reason. I wanted them to fix it.
We continued trying to conceive with growing frustration. After more than a year of trying, we made the phone call and had our first consultation with our fertility doctor. He reviewed our case, went through our options, and candidly told us that IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) would give us the best chance for another baby. It was the most invasive option; it was also the most expensive.
As we drove home that June day, we were completely overwhelmed. Yes, we wanted another child, but was IVF really the answer—a difficult multi-week regimen that involves daily hormone shots, a minor surgery, not to mention the whole embryos-growing-in-a-Petri-dish part of it that honestly still weirds me out a little.
The conversation quickly turned to adoption. I had always known I could love a child that was not born from me; after family members adopted a son from Korea, Alex had also opened his heart to the idea. A couple of weeks later, we attended an adoption information meeting. We were inspired by the options, especially after meeting a family with two adopted daughters from China.
At this point in my story, I wish I could tell you that we jumped whole-heartedly into the adoption process, but we hesitated. We talked and talked, finally deciding together that we would try IVF. Alex said he might regret it later if we hadn’t tried everything we could to have another biological child. I agreed.
Within a few weeks, we began the grueling “IVF protocol,” as they call it.
### This article will continue next week with Part II of “How My Fertility Struggle Became An Adoption Journey.” Erika Weisensee, a writer and native Oregonian, lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism and communication courses at the University of Portland.