Editor’s note: This op-ed was written in conjunction with Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger’s series and podcast, called “The Wait,” about her family’s experiences with infertility and Baltimore’s foster care and adoption systems. Read the series here.
It was during a fire drill at work that I got the call that changed our lives: The birth mother of a 2-week old baby boy had chosen my husband and me to be his parents.
I felt like my brain was melting and time had stopped. Like so many couples who have endured infertility and longed for a family, this was the news we had been living for.
My husband, Jonathan, and I had not been able to conceive naturally; we tried four rounds of intrauterine insemination and three rounds of in vitro fertilization, or IVF.
Not only was the whole ordeal invasive, but it also had a negative impact on our sex life. I remember waking up from one of the procedures, groggy from the anesthesia and crying out, “Sex is so much easier.” Tracking ovulation took the passion from our intimacy — and put our focus on supporting each other and lifting one another’s spirits.
The shots to prepare my body for the IVF treatments were painful and intrusive. And injecting me each day took a toll on Jonathan. What was worse, though, was the hope we lost each time it failed.
We knew stories of people who had tried IVF for longer, and others who had used a surrogate, but we determined there was no good reason for us to go down either of those roads. We were in our mid- and late-30s, and we were ready to try adoption.
We looked into adoption through foster care and even attended an orientation session, but we decided quickly that we were not up for caring for children — and perhaps a succession of children — before ever having the chance to adopt. Getting attached to a child and then having to say goodbye was an intolerable thought for me.
Once we made our decision, we found an agency — Adoptions Together — and faced the next round of hurdles. We needed a home study, inspections and approvals from the city and the fire department and criminal background checks. Like the infertility treatments, this was invasive and disruptive: strangers traipsing through our home, judging our views on discipline and interrogating our plans for the future. And, as much as I love scrapbooking, I labored over making a book to present to prospective birth mothers, one that made us look just right to a person we didn’t know, whose expectations we could not begin to imagine.
We thought such due diligence on the part of the state was a good idea, but it was galling to have to go through so much to prove we were worthy parents when any joker you met on the street can have a biological child with no government intervention.
As Keanu Reeves’ character says in “Parenthood,” “You need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car. Hell, you even need a license to catch a fish, but they’ll let any … asshole be a father.” Our friends wrote references, and none of us could believe how they had to justify that we would make good parents.
Finally, there was the waiting. We finalized our application in August 2007 and answered all the tough questions about the characteristics we were open to in a child. Were we open to drug exposure or a family history of mental illness? Both being white, were we looking only for a child who looked like us, or did we want our future child to be African-American or of another race?
That Christmas was one of the most emotional times of our lives. I remember sitting in the movie theater with my sister — then 38 weeks pregnant with her second child — our poor mother sitting between us watching “Juno.” Both of her daughters were longing to meet their children; only one of them seemingly close to doing so. As my sister and I cried, my mother held both our hands.
My sister delivered her child within days. And, within a month, I was in a session with one of the children I counseled at St. Vincent’s Center in Timonium when an alarm sounded, and we were all asked to clear the building for a fire drill. My phone rang, and in that instant, I became a mother.
In rapid succession, our friends and family threw a baby shower and helped us prepare our home. As we looked around, we knew the excitement was not just our own. All our friends and family had been waiting for our son with us.
Kerry Ford Morancy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a licensed clinical social worker. She lives in North Baltimore with her husband and their two children.