Waiting. Loss. Longing. Those three words sum up 2018-2019. If you asked me three years ago if I wanted children, I would have said no. Everyone, and I mean everyone, constantly asked us when we would have children, remarking on our idealistic life. The roses, the farm, all the cute pets, but no baby. What could be wrong with us? People wondered about our obvious shortcoming. Our picture perfect existence had a gaping hole. Due to my medical history, I wrote off having children. I saw myself as a diehard entrepreneur too driven to be sidetracked and have fulfilled my maternal side by adopting animals and nurturing tens of thousands of roses. Also, I come from the brokenness of losing my mother to cancer when I was five, so my entire scope of family, childhood and mother-daughter relationships has been blurred and tainted with loss and pain. I have wonderful adoptive parents, but the premature loss of my mother has shaped who I am. When people questioned and judged us for not having children, I’d try to sound as annoyed as possible when I would reply. I’d say I couldn’t be bothered with them, but deep inside I had an open wound and hadn’t yet figured out how to heal it.
In my late 30’s something changed. I didn’t want to someday regret not having a child and knew if we had one we would never regret it. Our business was getting to the point where we could explore focusing on our personal life. Due to autoimmune disease I’ve had since I was a child, we considered adopting, but didn’t get far enough in before having conversations about a biological child. We went straight to a fertility doctor because of my age. He gave us a 30-40% chance of a successful egg retrieval cycle (meaning we’d have at least one genetically normal embryo to transfer for IVF) and those odds were good enough for us. We planned to have a surrogate carry for us due to my autoimmune disease and a rare uterine anatomical issue that can cause miscarriage and birth defects. We were ok with the idea of another woman carrying our baby, but learned IVF with surrogacy in California is $160,000+ with a good portion non-refundable if the surrogate doesn’t get pregnant. Yikes. In California there are far more couples needing/wanting surrogates than there are surrogates available so the cost is driven by demand. We don’t have a sister or close friend to carry for us as a gift so we’d only have medical and legal costs, we have to pay everything out of pocket. I think I might be a surrogacy expert after all the months of research I did. Since we have employees and their families depending on us, spending that much money to have a baby seemed selfish, so we put the idea on hold.
We proceeded with our egg retrieval cycle anyway and were surprised to learn we did two times better than the average woman my age! With optimism, we confirmed our decision to hold off on surrogacy and transferred one embryo to me even though my miscarriage rate would be higher due to my autoimmune and anatomical issues. Everything was great, perfect actually, until our loss two and a half months later. It was the kind of loss that wouldn’t have happened in a woman with a normal body and uterus because the fetus was genetically normal. My body killed our baby. She had a name and we loved her. We are left with one frozen embryo requiring a surrogate to bring her/him to life as our other embryos were deemed mosaic, meaning not compatible with life. Deep down I’ve known all my life that my body wasn’t fit to have babies, but I’m glad we tried and know for sure now.
When you have a miscarriage after IVF at my age and with the sort of medical issues I have, you can’t just “get pregnant again” the next cycle. The promised “rainbow baby” is near impossible to envision. You hear about women having miscarriages and then getting pregnant right away, but that will never happen for us. You want to unfollow everyone you know that’s either pregnant or has a baby, as well as moms who moan about how hard their toddlers are and talk about needing all the wine and cocktails to get through witching hour. Couples struggling with infertility would do anything to have a whiny toddler or baby that won’t sleep through the night. The reality of infertility and miscarriage is that it becomes really easy to resent other women for not having the same plight you’ve been handed. I’ve had to work hard on realizing everyone has their hardships in life and accepting this is ours. And then there is the guilt. We waited too long. I was too focused on our business to think about babies and now I’m too old to produce lots of healthy eggs. Of course my other issues would still be a factor, but the guilt of putting off children is there.
We haven’t given up on having a baby, but we’re done with fertility treatment, despite loving our doctor and his wonderful staff. After dozens of appointments, hundreds of shots, endless blood draws, painful procedures and losses, I can’t subject myself to more pain and potential loss when our odds of success are so low. I would need to start another egg retrieval cycle immediately to hopefully get one or two more genetically normal embryos so we have extras in case our frozen one doesn’t take. We may go through the whole process (months of treatment and thousands of dollars) only to have no viable embryos at the end. And even if we were lucky to get one or two, we require a surrogate to carry those embryos. We hope our one frozen embryo is an option for our future and feel blessed to have her/him since it’s so much more than many couples have going through IVF.
We’ve come full circle and are right back to where we began in 2018. We are so happy to announce we’re adopting! We are currently being presented as intended parents to expectant mothers considering adoption. We are so hopeful that the right baby will come into our lives because our hearts are fully open to the possibilities. We are both excited and nervous about the process. We pray we don’t experience the heartbreak of a mother changing her mind at the hospital after she’s placed the baby with us, while our hearts also break for the mother who will give her newborn to us and experience a loss most people could never fathom. From her loss, will come our joy and that’s a very difficult realization we’ve had to come to terms with. The bravery and selflessness that come from women who choose adoption for their baby is the most beautiful yet heart wrenching of acts. I could never do what a woman is about to do for us and her baby and we’re already so grateful for her, though we haven’t met her yet. We are focusing on the good and beauty that can come from adoption so we can move confidently through this process. I come from adoption so I understand much of the complexity of what we’re embarking on to build our own family. It won’t be easy or without fear, but this is the best option for us.
And this is where YOU come in! By openly sharing our story with those invested in our life, we hope to be connected with someone who is considering adoption for their baby. As hard as it is to speak about something so deeply personal, we are hopeful that doing so will bring us the child we want so much. Your support means everything to us! We are working with an adoption lawyer and will forward her information to anyone who may be able to help us make our family complete - thank you!
As for our one perfect frozen embryo, we plan to grow more roses than ever this year so we can save up and transfer her/him to a surrogate. It may take us awhile, but we will form the family we are meant to be and could only be because of the hardships we’ve had.
We decided to share our story after hundreds of you sent us messages in reply to our recent post about your own journeys with infertility, miscarriage and finding hope in the midst of darkness. This winter has been the most isolating, depressing season of life and while I don’t wish anyone to suffer like we have, it’s comforting to know others have been here and have gotten through it. My biggest takeaway from infertility and loss is that you never know what people are dealing with, so it’s best to be kind - always. It’s made me a more giving, understanding and compassionate person. I’m not as quick to judge or make assumptions about people because they could be dealing with the hardest time of their life, whatever that may be. They could be waiting and longing, like we are. Thank you to everyone who has wished us well and continues to have hope for our future. We would appreciate any and all support to lead us to the adoptive baby that is meant to join our family. We feel so blessed to be able to adopt and while it took challenges, heartbreak and loss to get to where we are now, we are optimistic and grateful for what's ahead. Thank you for your continued support. To leave a note, please do so here.
With love, Gracie and Ryan