It seems like a lot of our readers are grappling with the ‘when is the best time to have children’ question, especially since this season of life seems to be the perfect time to start a family. But – what if life doesn’t work out that way?
Over the next couple of months, we’ll follow 4 different graduate wives through their journeys of infertility, miscarriage, and adoption. If you are facing any of the above, or know a graduate wife who is, we hope you will find their stories encouraging and supportive. ~Mandy and MC
-written by Katy, a current graduate wife
–Part 1 found here
–Part 2 found here
–Part 3 The first part of Katy’s story found here
As we were moving overseas in less than three weeks, we knew that our situation would be unusual. In fact, at first we weren’t even sure it would be possible for us to adopt while living abroad. But after a little research we learned that as American citizens living in Europe we could pursue a path to adoption following a precedent set by military families living abroad. As we interviewed agencies, talked about what type of adoption we were interested in pursuing, and read everything about adoption we could get our hands on, two things happened. First, I felt empowered to make decisions in a way that I had not felt in years. For so long it seemed like whether or not we became parents was completely out of our control. We couldn’t get pregnant on our own, and once we began fertility treatments I began to defer all decisions to the doctors we worked with. Now, with adoption, I was back in control and able to make choices and decisions with my husband that had been taken away from us for so long. And second, my heart began to heal. One of the most important books that I read during this painful journey was Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families by Patricia Irwin Johnston. If you are going through infertility, whether or not you are looking at adoption, I strongly recommend this book, if only for her section on grief.
Johnston writes about how infertility is not just one loss, but really multiple losses including (but not limited to), the loss of control, the loss of genetic continuity, the loss of a jointly conceived child, lost physical and emotional expectations (pregnancy and birth), and the loss of the parenting experience. Reading that finally gave me the permission to name my grief and realize that grief is multifaceted, and therefore not dealt with all at once, or all in the same way. Choosing adoption allowed us to break free from some of the grief we had been carrying with us for years. We were able to regain a level of control over our ability to grow our family that had previously been beyond our reach. Once again we were free to anticipate becoming parents with joy and hopefulness. Our grief was transforming. And while some of the losses we experienced through infertility, particularly the loss of never experiencing pregnancy (which likely will always be an area of tenderness), remain poignant for me, we both felt as if new life had been breathed into us, and suddenly the fog that had been hanging over us for the past five years began to recede.
The week before we moved to the UK we settled on a wonderful faith-based agency that was happy to work with us, and we began the paper work to pursue a domestic infant adoption. Shortly after making the decision to move forward with our adoption, we went from feeling like we had no options with our infertility to suddenly having more options than we knew what to do with. It was strange being in a new geographic place, working to form a new community, while still carrying the wounds of loss the past few years had left us with. No one knew about our past, knew that we were mourning, or that we were actively pursuing adoption. It felt like we were a two-sided couple: the happy, carefree couple excited to begin a European adventure and two heartbroken souls desperate to become parents. Finally, we made the decision to share openly with our new community about where we were at, despite our fears that it was too early in these relationships to share such personal and difficult details. Our vulnerability yielded rich rewards as we found comfort, encouragement, and empathy among our new friends in the midst of this graduate-life journey we were sharing together.
Over the next few months we completed all the paperwork and found ourselves ‘actively waiting’ the placement of a child. When the call finally came that we had been chosen, our joy was made that much fuller by the wonderful surprise party our friends organized to celebrate. Our long wait was nearly over, and nine months after we had begun ‘actively waiting’ we found ourselves back in the States watching the birth of our beloved son. Those first moments he was placed in my arms still seem like a dream. He was beautiful and perfect, and I was at long last a mama. Even now, fifteen months later, I still have days that tears of joy overflow as I look back over our long road to parenthood and can honestly say I’m thankful for all of it. It shaped me and changed me in ways that were incredibly painful, but also incredibly beautiful. Infertility was like a refining fire that taught my husband and I how to truly love one another, taught us what it means to be vulnerable, and about our desperate need for grace. Adoption has taught us about the incredible capacity and depth with which we have been created to love. It has shown us that out of deep grief comes an even deeper joy. And throughout our entire journey, we have learned that openness and vulnerability with your community makes room to experience true life together. Going through infertility and completing an adoption while living as graduate students in foreign countries has not been easy. But the gift of having a close-knit group of friends through the graduate community walk this long journey with us has made our joy that much more complete, providing strength in our brokenness, encouragement when we were without hope, and steadfast love throughout it all.
How has your graduate community helped you heal, or deal with difficult, life changing decisions without family nearby?