Before Alex and I married, I had no intention of having children, and I actually took offense to his comment that I would make a good mother. In fact, I wrote a poem bemoaning all the factors of motherhood that I deemed negative. As time went on, I warmed up to the idea as long as I could skip the pregnancy and childbirth part of the deal. I had seen birth on TV, and I had no intention of putting myself through what seemed like an incredible amount of pain, discomfort, and embarrassment. I notified Alex that we’d be adopting, and bless his heart, he gave me his usual response: “Whatever makes you happy.”
Adoption had been burrowed in the back of my mind for years and years. I grew up hearing my mom tell me how she and my dad had planned on adopting their children, except that it proved to be too expensive and too much of a hassle as they began building their first house shortly after they were married. For them, since they had the choice, it was easier to “just conceive”, and here I am.
But what stuck with me from this story wasn’t what my mom intended. I managed to misunderstand her and thought that it was only she that wanted to adopt, and that my dad wanted biological kids. I got the impression that my mom caved to his desires, and I vowed that no such thing would happen in my marriage. As you can tell from this attitude, I was very much a feminist in my world-view at the time, and for many years, in fact.
In college, my English professor mentioned having had several of her children at home, which piqued my interest. I was free to explore the idea of homebirth from a strictly academic standpoint, since I had already made up my mind to adopt my children. Without the baggage of preconceived notions or ulterior motives, I found homebirthing to be a fascinating option and was angered that I had never heard of any birthing options, not just the location of the birth. There were options regarding the amount and type of intervention, the ability to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after birth (versus watching the baby be cleaned, weighed, and medicated before you ever get to hold her or nurse him), and even things like cord-blood banking and nursing on demand.
My academic interest in homebirth quietly crept into my subconscious. It sounded not at all like the “barefoot and pregnant” mentality I had come to associate pregnancy and childbirth with. It sounded…. empowering! I realized that, as a feminist, of course I wanted to be empowered above all else, and having options in how to give birth to my child sounded like the ultimate feminine empowerment because it was something that no man could do.
I actually agonized for a while over being faced with what I saw as a decision between adopting and giving birth. This was back when I still assumed I had both options. I didn’t think it’d be fair to have siblings that didn’t have an equal link to their parents, yet I didn’t want to give up the desire to adopt in order to have my empowering birth! I finally came to terms with the following plan: Alex and I would have a biological child, which would empower me, and then we’d adopt an opposite-sex child.
So the plan was set, but it wasn’t put into motion yet because I was graduating college, getting married, and heading to graduate school. Once I completed my graduate coursework, we would begin trying to conceive. But since I had been on the birth control pill, whose hormones my mom warned me should be completely out of my system before attempting pregnancy, I went off the pill and started charting my cycles well in advance of when we hoped to conceive.
My faith journey at the time had landed me in nature-based Paganism, which only reiterated the beauty and empowerment of fertility to me. I was excited about learning about my cycles! How amazing is the female body, I thought! We didn’t actually start trying until 18 months after I got off the pill, because I was preparing for my comprehensive oral exam, which would allow me to start writing my dissertation. After I passed this exam and we were ready to go, something told me to be proactive and get checked out.
We hadn’t suspected anything, actually. I had 18 months worth of charts, but it was clear that we never purposefully got busy during my ovulation periods. In all honesty, we hadn’t been trying to conceive that whole time. We were just preparing to try. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just confirm that we are ready to go, and since I had 18 months worth of charts, my OB was happy to oblige.
During the three or so months that Alex and I got our routine tests done, we were actively trying to conceive. There were hips in the air, there were Pagan spells, there were baby name discussions, and Alex served as cheerleader for his swimmers (“Go, guys, go!”). It was oodles of fun! Except that it was very short lived. Alex’s semen analysis happened to have been the last test that was scheduled. We got the results on January 2nd, 2008, via a phone call from a nurse at my OB’s. Today marks the 5th anniversary of the day God put a stop to the crazy life-planning that I thought I was in charge of.
Remember how our plan was to conceive first, and then adopt second? The reason for this was to have two kids, a boy and a girl, and to have the best of both worlds. You see, I had a heart for adoption. I felt strongly that if there are kids in need of parents, we’d be happy to be those parents for them. It was never about genetics for us, even when we were trying to conceive. It was about the experience of pregnancy and the empowerment of childbirth. Our diagnosis (azoospermia, ie. zero sperm) sounded to me like a pretty clear sign that we had to adopt.
I began researching adoption agencies right away, while Alex (unbeknownst to me) proceeded with several more detailed tests that gave no answers. By the time May came around, I had figured out the plan of action that I felt was best for us, while Alex was satisfied with his additional tests that this was the only way for us to become parents.
The new plan (notice how in spite of God’s clear act, I continued to think I knew best) was to pursue domestic independent adoption for 6 months in an effort to cut out the middle-man (adoption agency) and save money in the process. We were in debt. We were in a hurry. Or at least I was. We did not take time to budget and save, giving us more time to fully consider our options. Once I decided I was ready for a baby, I wanted that baby NOW! It didn’t help that my dissertation was based on an analysis of pregnancy magazines! I was all baby, all the time, and I wanted instant gratification.
(Part two to be continued...)