The Mom Who Didn’t Want to Try IVF Again

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Diagnosed with endometriosis, Courtney* knew she might have trouble getting pregnant. Still, she and her husband tried for about two years before more extensive testing led doctors to tell them their chances of conceiving were very low. The couple decided becoming foster parents was their next step, and lived with two boys for over a year before the biological family was reunited. Her husband wanted to try again for a biological child, but Courtney was unsure about taking out a loan for fertility treatments that might not work. She describes her naïveté about foster care, driving 2.5 hours each way to an IVF clinic, the week she believed she’d have a biological child, and what it felt like when a judge finalized her daughter’s adoption.

On knowing she wanted a family. We tried getting pregnant on our own for about two years. And because nothing was working, we had some tests done: Afterward, the doctors said we only had a 5 percent chance of getting pregnant on our own. We’d already known I have endometriosis and that could make it difficult, but we didn’t know my husband also has issues.

Another five years went by, and I still just felt like I had a whole lot of love to give. I love my husband very much, but I didn’t feel like we were a complete family. I thought, well, while we figure out what we were gonna do about how to have our own kids, there were a lot of kids out there we could maybe help. I went into fostering, honestly, a little naïve.

On the expectations and realities of fostering. The classes were very good. They were about a month long, once a week for three hours. You don’t take a test or anything at the end, but you have to show that you know CPR. We still see a few people we took foster classes with; it’s exciting when people’s placements change to adoption, that kind of thing.

They try to prepare you in class, but still — the whole end goal is reunification. You’re not supposed to look at it this way, but in my heart, I think I wanted to adopt any child we could foster. In class you learn the odds are about 50-50, lower if you’re a first-time foster parent. I knew that going in, but I still carried that little hope, even though you’re not supposed to.

I also had some incorrect assumptions about the kinds of families we’d meet: We thought we’d definitely get kids whose parents were horrible, really into drugs or something. The situation with the parents of our foster boys wasn’t like that at all.

On going from no children to two. We got a call for a placement just about a week after we completed the classes. That’s a little fast, but the speed really depends on the time of year. As sad as it sounds, things pick up around the holidays because of all the stressors. The boys came to us just before Christmas.

One was 2 months old, his brother was 2. Going from what we had to what we got — it was like, Boom, here you go. Luckily, we have a lot of nieces and nephews who’ve always been around. However, I’d never been the sole caregiver. My husband had never even held a baby.

Because our placement was an emergency one, we didn’t know much when we got the then-2-year-old — we got the baby two days later. He was in the hospital with a broken arm. The way I see it, the parents were in a bad situation at the time and unfortunately, something horrible happened.

On the boys’ reunification. Usually, after a year, there’s an effort to make a permanent placement. But the state had a lot of resources to give this family, and the parents were very active and involved in utilizing them. So that’s why it took a little while longer. We knew from the beginning that the boys were going to go back, but it was still really difficult when they left. You have this very busy, chaotic home with two little kids. And then nothing.

On continuing relationships formed by fostering. They were 3.5 and almost 1.5 when they went back. The older one did better than the younger one with the transition because the younger one thought of me as his mom; he could only remember his parents from their visits. We didn’t tell them, or ask them to, but the boys called us “mom” and “dad.” They were in day care, they heard other people use the words — moms and dads pick up their kids, moms and dads drop their kids off. Other kids use those words all the time. We really didn’t know that would happen until it did.

After the boys went back, that was difficult for the parents, I think. They worked with them on calling us by our names. It was a little bit hard for me to transition too — I’d have to remind myself to use my name instead of “Come see Mommy” or something like that. But I was just so thankful to keep them in my life — we set up a weekly dinner, all on our own, not through the state — that I was trying not to dwell on anything that wasn’t purely positive.

On what to do next. We talked about not doing anything for a little while. We knew we didn’t want to take any more placements anytime soon — I was just so afraid I’d compare everything that another child did to the boys. Now that I have my own child, I don’t think I would have done that because I definitely don’t do it with her. But I was just scared of hurting someone who was already hurting worse.

We kept going back and forth on whether we wanted to take out a bigger mortgage to do IVF. My husband wasn’t really sure if he wanted to adopt. He’s the last of his family — his sister can’t have any children and his dad was an only child. He really wanted to have our own child if we could.

On trying fertility treatments. After a few years, we decided to take out a loan and go ahead with IVF. It was a little bit nerve-racking: I knew you had to do injections, but I didn’t know you had to do so many, especially during the egg-harvesting time. And the nearest clinic was a 2.5-hour drive from us. I had to drive that, before work, three times a week. Thankfully, they let me go first every day.

We ended up with four great embryos. For the first transfer, we did one embryo. I didn’t get excited, I didn’t let myself. And that was good, because it didn’t work.

For the next transfer, we tried two embryos. You have to wait two weeks after the implant to see if it works or not. It was just the longest, most horrible two weeks ever. I was convinced it didn’t work again. And this time I was definitely emotional, lots of ups and down. If it did work, I was terrified it would be twins. If it didn’t work … I just kept going back and forth.

Then they did call and say I was in fact pregnant. It was amazing; I was so excited. We thought that the hard part was over.

On the feeling that lasted a week. For about a week, we thought we were going to have a baby. I guess it happens quite a bit. They call it a chemical pregnancy: It attaches but doesn’t go beyond that. It was the most horrible experience.

I’m sure this happens to a lot of people. We had to wait to miscarry, going in for blood tests while we waited; there was a point where we thought I’d have to go in for a D&C if I didn’t do it naturally. When I finally did, it was on my husband’s birthday.

We had one embryo left, and we decided to go ahead and try. We had to wait a little while before we could start again, about two months. I was so frustrated and feeling like, let’s hurry up and do this. My husband ended up being out of town for most of that two-week wait. He was there for the implantation, but then he left right after — he felt so bad but it was my fault, I planned it that way. Not on purpose, but still. If we’d put it off, we would have had to wait another cycle. I was just in too big of a hurry. And it did not work; it did not attach. That was the end of IVF for us.

They say a lot of people need two tries, but I was not willing to take a bigger mortgage on the house. We’d already done that. It didn’t work, and we needed to figure something else out. In the end, IVF cost us close to $20,000.

On figuring out what “something else” meant. During that time, our former foster boys had moved away — they didn’t live down the road anymore; we didn’t have weekly dinners anymore. Their parents didn’t have a lot of family support where they were, though, and eventually they moved back. Once this was over and they were back, it was a reminder to my husband how great it was to have kids around all the time. It made him think of adoption a lot more seriously.

Not that much time had gone by since we’d been approved for foster care, so we were able to use some of what we had to do for that — we had to update our home study instead of create a new one, things like that. The home study is basically a long interview, conducted in your home. Ours was 19 pages long, not because it was bad, just because the psychologist who conducted it was very thorough. There’s also an element of safety that they’re checking for — knives and medication have to be out of reach, there needs to be a fire extinguisher and a safety plan.

Then we spoke to an attorney about private adoption. I’d had a friend who adopted; she shared what she did, which was to make a book about her family and send letters out to doctors, hospitals, churches, attorneys, even high-school counselors — any place where babies or pregnant women might be making that decision. My friend was picked for private adoptions twice in a year. I decided to try doing it exactly how she did, and started with letters.

But we actually got the call through the state, which is very rare. The biological mother knew she was addicted to meth and would never be able to take her home.

On an unexpectedly fast process. It went so fast — the biological parents signed over their rights when she was just about a week old. Often, you have to wait for the time biological parents haven’t seen their child to go by, until it’s considered abandonment.

Even though the rights are signed over, you still wonder what could happen. She was almost 8 months old when the actual adoption was final, which is very quick, mind you. Even though they’d reassured us many times, it wasn’t until that judge signed the decree that I was 100 percent certain no one was going to try to take her.

On where they are now as a family. My daughter’s a year and a half now. She was premature, about seven weeks early — but you’d never know now, she’s tall for her age. Her first word was “mama.” She knows “dada,” but “mama” was first. She’s a smart one. Because she was born with meth in her system, we were scared she’d have lasting issues — but the doctors have been very reassuring. They say it’s highly unlikely. We believe that being born early played a large part in her not having withdrawals or long-lasting effects.

Our daughter will always know she was adopted. For us, the joy of our child erases anything we went through before her. Our daughter has a relationship with our former foster boys too — they dote on her, it’s amazing. I love watching them play together. This is where we wanted to be for so long. We didn’t get there the traditional way, but we’re here.

*Name has been changed for privacy.

The Mom Who Didn’t Want to Try IVF Again