The Blessing of Infertility

By Jason and Ryan McBride
Story provided by Holt International
Eugene Oregon

We read an interesting comment on an adoption blog recently. It said: “My infertility is a blessing.” It was made by a woman who had adopted two children of her own, then dedicated her life to helping others who couldn’t afford it.

It immediately sparked a conversation in our house, where one of us said what an absolutely bold, mildly insensitive, yet positively true statement it was.

Years ago, had we read a statement like this, we probably would have thrown the laptop into the sink, cursing its author as an ignorant fool with no concept of what we’d just gone through.

See… we struggled with infertility for a long time. Three years in fact.

Not the easier “I can’t get pregnant” kind of infertility either. Ours was worse. We had the kind where you waited month after disappointing month in the world of “infertility treatment” – a years-long saga of waiting rooms, biweekly ultrasounds, weight-gaining medications, morning “donations” before work and, of course, the ever-invasive IVF sessions where you pray for twins but… get neither. All of this inevitably ended in disappointment and the usual “We’ll get em’ next time, honey” conversation.

Yeah, it’s safe to say our battle with infertility was the most challenging, rock bottom point in either of our lives.

So how on earth could this woman dismiss her infertility so easily? Didn’t she know how tragic a subject this was for so many couples out there? It took us another three years, two adoptions, and two wonderful trips around the world to answer that question. The answer? Because it’s true. Our initial misfortune of infertility was a blessing in disguise. We just didn’t know it yet.

We came to Holt International in the summer of 2009 after years of failed infertility treatment. Don’t get us wrong, this wasn’t exactly a “second choice” for us. We had always planned to adopt, just not yet. Biological children were our first priority because well… that’s just what people do, right?

We inquired with a local branch office, having heard about Holt through a friend of a friend who had adopted two children from Korea and raved about their services. We were cautious in our optimism, but hopeful we’d find the next phase of our lives.

We were looking for a miracle.

Our initial optimism turned to skepticism. We preferred international adoption to domestic, so when we heard about the extremely long waiting period for one of Asia’s most stable programs, China, we began another round of disappointment. How could we possibly wait another five years to have children?

Then we heard about children in China with “minor correctable problems.” Not special needs, but children who are basically healthy with the exception of some needed medical attention. This was a shorter, easier option to pursue.

At first, the program received cold reviews on our end. All sorts of questions sprung up, many of which we hear all of the time in our conference calls with families who are potentially interested in Holt’s China program.

“Can we really handle this?”

“What if we’re pressured into something out of guilt and regret it later?”

“We’ve waited so long. Don’t we deserve a ‘perfect child’?”

We know skeptical questions like these don’t sound very charitable, but that’s OK. They’re normal. They should be asked. Adopting a child is a big deal!

Luckily for us, we’re big believers in “signs.” For us, the signs were pointing toward an available option, so we took a chance despite our lingering questions and followed our hearts. In the summer of 2009, we officially applied to Holt’s China program that focused on the adoption of children with minor, correctable problems. Exactly one year later, we returned home from China with our son, Wyeth Michael, a perfectly healthy and beautiful baby boy of 16 months.

Wyeth was nothing short of a miracle child.

In his evaluation at Children’s Hospital weeks after returning home, he was determined to be right on pace with his age in both cognitive and physical skill. By the end of our time in China together, which lasted all of ten days, he was counting “1, 2, 3”, eating with a fork, calling us “Mama and Baba,” and cuddling with us every chance he got. His minor, correctable problem? Cured by an over-the-counter medication. Our leap of faith had paid off.

Weeks after returning home, as things began to settle, we sat in the family room and reflected on our lives. With the sounds of our child playing in the background, things suddenly felt as they were supposed to and a tremendous sense of calm relieved what had been years of sadness.

We had finally become parents.

The discussion quickly turned to our wanting more children. After all, we’d waited over four years for what many of our friends and family had achieved in a year or less. Both of us knew in our hearts what we wanted, but we needed to make sure.

We first asked ourselves a simple question: Do we need biological children in order to be happy? This may sound harsh to admit out loud, but in the adoption world – and perhaps in the infertility world too – everyone asks this question at some point. Biological vs. adoption is one of the major hurdles in a couple’s decision to either adopt or continue trying for pregnancy.

Due to our ages, this was an important question to answer because we knew the decision to adopt again may put our chances of ever having biological children in jeopardy. Were we ready to accept the potential of never having children through pregnancy? Would we get pressure from our family because they might not understand?

In some respects, the decision to adopt a second time was harder than the first.

Despite these reasonable questions, we agreed on something we knew the minute we first laid eyes on our son back in China: biological relation wasn’t important, love was. Our hearts were telling us that the chance to adopt again was the thing we couldn’t pass up the most. Having experienced the journey of finding our son – of traveling across the world in what seemed like the most random and unforeseen way of linking three human beings together – we knew this was God’s plan all along. This was what we were meant to do, and though painful, our long battle with infertility was necessary to ensure this wonderful little boy had a family.

How could we not give that gift to another child, much less to ourselves for a second time?

Four months later, in December 2010, we applied once again to Holt’s China program, this time to adopt a little girl. Exactly one year later to the day, in December 2011, we traveled to China to adopt our 12-month-old daughter, Channing Elizabeth. Her minor, correctable problem was a minor ASD in her heart, which we later found out never existed; she had been misdiagnosed in China. Today, she’s completely healthy.

Two years, two adoptions. When we think about our family in those terms, it’s nothing short of amazing. In early July of 2010, we had no children. This July, two years later, we’ll be enjoying summer picnics, birthday parties, and trips to the beach with our 3-year-old son and his younger sister, who will have been home with us for six months.

Is there any doubt this wasn’t supposed to be our family all along? We don’t think so.

Holt International is a wonderful agency to work with. Their staff is knowledgeable, they’re consistently precise in their time estimations – both at the beginning and during the process – and they help you every step of the way in the maze of paperwork and regulation that comes with adopting a child. Their organization is reputable around the world, which is important considering the constant changes in adoption laws and agreements with other governments. Concerning our own initial questions about “minor correctable problems,” Holt was pressure-free about the conditions we were open to. Both of our child referrals reflected those conditions accurately.

No guilt was ever given to take on a child we couldn’t handle, because as they put it: they’re in the business of matching the right child with the right parents.

Words are important, but the best testimonial we can give is in our actions, as well as in the actions of others we’ve met through Holt’s China program. It should say something that during both of our trips to China, we were surrounded by parents who were second, third, and even fifth-time adoptive parents – with Holt specifically. As for us, within four months of returning home with our son, we chose Holt a second time. If we decide to adopt again, there isn’t any question where we’ll turn in this most intimate and personal of choices.

Beyond just thinking of the best agency, however, we hope this article speaks to you about the beauty of adoption itself. It has changed our lives for the good in so many ways. Adopting children has not only given us a new perspective on how important family is, it’s helped us understand that all children deserve a forever home with good parents and lots of love. Adoption didn’t just give us our family, it gave us a calling.

However you came to consider it – whether because of infertility, through your faith’s teachings, or maybe something else that’s interested you – we hope you’ll not only choose adoption as a way of building your own family, but for the sake of making the world a little better.

It is an amazing experience that everyone should have.

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