As a preschooler, my son would casually say that he adopted us. As much as I understood that it was just his young mind processing, as best it could, the story of his arrival into our family, it felt much more profound than that. He was right. Contrary to popular belief we, as adoptive parents, somehow “save” our children by giving them a loving and stable home that they might otherwise never know, it’s actually the other way around: the truth is that they often rescue us.
I never planned on adoption to be necessary for building our family. Because my husband and his sister had been adopted and thrived in a very loving and solid family, we decided from the beginning to share our lives with at least one adopted child. As beautiful as we knew the journey could be, adoption was, at best, an option. Besides, we had a beautiful baby girl—almost 3 years old at the time—who was conceived mere months after our wedding, so thoughts of infertility were the furthest thing from our minds. Whenever we were ready for more, we naively thought, we’d just go about the business of getting pregnant again.
Month after month, we waited those two helpless weeks after each conception attempt, desperately clinging to hope that the vigil would end with a cross on the pregnancy stick instead of with another “X” on the calendar. One year passed; then two. Before we realized it, we had joined a club that no one wanted to belong to, and we were far from alone.
In a report issued this year by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, 6 percent of married women ages 15-44 (about 1.5 million) were considered infertile at some point between 2006 and 2010. While those numbers are down from 8.5 percent of women (2.4 million) in 1982—and that’s a good thing—that’s still a lot of heartbreak and disappointment to go around. But that’s the thing about statistics. If they include you, the “minority” becomes your personal “majority,” and it is neither fair nor fun. It’s just your reality.
Once we decided to surrender our own battle with infertility, we focused on achieving what we truly were after: another child to complete our family, regardless of the route we’d have to take. It’s hard to articulate but I can say that once that mental bridge was crossed, something magical happened. Gone were those anxious “baby dance” days of trial and error and in their place stood hope. Through adoption, no matter how long it would take and no matter how many hurdles we’d have to clear, our child would be waiting for us at the end of the journey.
Almost nine months from the day that we walked into the adoption agency, he was here. With his first coo, this mighty little giant erased more pain, doubt and grief than years of therapy could ever correct. We’d been holding our collective breath and hadn’t even realized it until his crooked newborn smirk gave us permission to exhale. Yes, he adopted us that day. He was here, he was perfect, and we were healed.
He’s 11 years old now and remains a beautiful blend of humor, unconditional love and precociousness. Not a day goes by that his existence doesn’t somehow make things more bearable. From him, we’ve learned to relax, to not take life too personally. Infertility happened, and it left us doubtful and fragile, but having our son—exactly the way it happened—left us humbled and more prepared to face life on life’s terms.