Back on the rollercoaster

Not content to wait a whole year to get back on the rollercoaster ride to complete our family, we contacted neighbouring local authorities to see what their waiting times were. Unfortunately we were met with the same response.

We widened the net and then my wife came across an independent agency (Families That Last) which might shorten that time to six months. They had an open evening that night, so I turned up fresh from a meeting and met my wife there. We watched a presentation, saw some anonymised profiles of the sorts of children the agency was looking for families for, and had a chance to talk to one of the social workers. We answered a few questions and asked to be considered as adopters. That’s when the wheels really started moving.

Within a short time, we had a visit from a social worker to find out more about us, have a quick look at our house and explain the process in full. We were keen to start the process so, with the agency’s agreement, proceeded to Stage 1.

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The waiting game

In all the time my wife and I had been trying to conceive, it hadn’t crossed my mind that we might be unsuccessful and that adoption might be our only chance to have children.

My wife had always thought about having biological children and then adopting, but it was never something that I was willing to consider. Whenever she brought it up I told her that I’d prefer to concentrate on the route we were on, then consider alternatives if that route was no longer viable. I felt that considering the next step was admitting failure in the current one.

I had visions of my children growing up and then, when they found out they were adopted, announcing “you’re not my real dad”. I really wasn’t sure I was emotionally strong enough to be able to cope with that.

The turning point came shortly after our round of IVF was unsuccessful.

There was a TV series about adoption,  which I watched out of interest – not because it was on adoption, but because the listings said that it covered “adoption parties” (basically gatherings where hard to place children got to play in a room whilst prospective adopters got to interact with children whose profiles they liked the sound of – a kind of try before you buy approach, which was pretty groundbreaking stuff since usually the first time you meet the child you’re going to adopt is when you’re starting the “introduction” stage – more on that in a later blog).

In one episode, two brothers attended such a party but no prospective adopters came forward to express an interest. The upshot was that it was suggested that the brothers were split up since the younger one would be adopted quite quickly – it was the age of his older sibling which was causing adopters to shy away from them. It broke my heart, and that, combined with a bit more research into adoption (not least the discovery that nowadays adopted children are told their situation [in an age appropriate way], so there are no surprises in that regard when they get older) led me to consider adoption as something I might be willing to do.

Buoyed on by the prospect of restarting our efforts to complete our family, my wife (having already been keeping tabs on adoption events) made arrangements for us to attend an adoption information evening held by our local authority. We were given a presentation on the process and also heard from an adopter. Afterwards we had a chat with one of the adoption team and decided that we would register our interest in having someone coming and talking to us to see if we wanted to pursue that interest further.

A week or so later, we received a devastating letter – because we had only recently finished fertility treatment we would have to wait a year before the local authority would consider starting the process with us. That meant we would have to wait at least 2 years until we finally had our child. We had no choice but to wait.

Reaching for Hope

 

It didn’t feel right to go straight into the blog as of today, when I am an adoptive father. Instead, I thought it might be helpful to provide a bit of background into the journey before I considered adoption. This is actually a series of posts I wrote at the time, but which I’d not looked at for a couple of years. Pulling them together for this blog brought back some of the feelings I had at the time, which really surprised me given what has gone since.

In June 2010, I was sat having a conversation with a friend I was reunited with as a result of a conversation on social media.

We were in the same circle of friends, but lost touch after I left the area. We hadn’t been particularly close in the past, but we had each just moved house and I had thrown out an invitation along the lines of “you’re welcome to visit any time” which she called in at the first opportunity.

During the course of one of the most comfortable and enjoyable conversations of my life, it quickly became clear that we shared the same values and hopes for the future – we both valued our families and wanted to become parents some day. I have never told her this, but over the course of that conversation I began to see her not just as a friend but as someone I would be quite happy sharing my life with. At the time we were getting to know each other and didn’t even contemplate how difficult it might be for us to fulfil our desire to have children.

We became a couple soon after that conversation and I proposed at Christmas that year. She said yes and we started planning our future together. Six months later she moved in with me, bringing her 4 cats (“the girls” – remember that, you’ll need it later) with her and we continued with our wedding preparations.

As our wedding day approached we looked forward to the time when we would be joined in matrimony and expected that a family would follow soon after.  Our wedding was one of the best days of my life so far, and just before our first Christmas as man and wife we adopted a dog – another girl to add to our family.

In the months that followed, we were unsuccessful in our attempts to conceive. We accepted that it could take time (after all there were a lot of things that needed to happen at the right time) but expected it to happen eventually.

After a year of trying, we sought help from our doctors and were referred to a fertility clinic. Following a number of tests (mainly on my wife – I just had to give a sample), the conclusion was that there wasn’t a reason for our infertility, but that since my wife’s egg reserve was low then it would be best to move to IVF as soon as possible.

In order to give us a chance to conceive naturally whilst my wife lost the weight required to receive NHS funding for IVF, she was prescribed with Clomid, a drug which regulated her cycle for three months. That gave us three months when we knew for certain when she would be ovulating and so could plan accordingly. Unfortunately it was not to be the case.

About a year after our first appointment at the fertility clinic we were given the go ahead to start IVF. Agonisingly, that start was delayed further due to my wife needing some separate investigations into her heart and lungs, all of which thankfully came back clear.

With the time we had to think about what would happen, we discussed baby names. Having grown up with two sisters and been surrounded by females at home (my wife and our 5 furry girls), I became convinced that we would have a girl. Although we disagreed on names for boys, we came to an agreement on our first born daughter’s name – given the journey we were following, we decided that she could only be called Hope.

We went into Christmas last year knowing that after two and a half years of waiting, we would be undergoing egg retrieval and embryo transfer in the new year. We felt that this would be our year, this was the year we would have our baby, this was the year we would meet Hope.

My wife had to endure mood swings, nausea and pain (by injection and otherwise) whilst her ovaries were being stimulated and the maturation of the eggs was triggered, then came the first big day – the extraction.

Having had some scans prior to retrieval, we were hopeful of enough eggs to provide an embryo for implantation and some others for freezing (or “plan B”, if needed). We were delighted, therefore, that we had 7 eggs – even if only half of them were to be fertilised then we would have 3 or 4 chances to have our Hope realised. Now it was just a case of waiting for the call to confirm when we would have the embryo transferred.

The first call came – only one of the eggs was fertilised (apparently the eggs and sperm samples were fine, but it seemed they did not “talk to each other”) and there was uncertainty over whether that one would be viable. Devastating news – we had no plan B, and our plan A was looking shaky and Hope was fading.

We had no choice but to wait to find out whether we will have any embryos to transfer in two days time.

Through this all, we went through every emotion possible – from joy to anguish and hope to despair. Seeing my wife having to cope with those emotions was heartbreaking. There was nothing I can do to ensure that we could have our baby and it hurt so much. Whilst we still had a chance I still had hope, but it was getting harder and harder to remain positive.

It turns out we had a fighter.

We were given an appointment to transfer the embryo and all of a sudden we had hope again.

At the time, I don’t think I truly realised how much I want to be a dad until that possibility was almost taken away from me. (I now know differently, but more on that later…)

We were feeling pretty optimistic now we knew we’d got a shot at it. It came as a big shock that we only had one fertilised – we had prepared ourselves for things not working out further down the line but hadn’t contemplated the possibility that our eggs and sperm wouldn’t work together.

In a dish somewhere was a piece of me and a piece of my wife, giving us a chance, however small to extend our family. We were looking forward to bringing a new life into this world :-).

That hope and optimism grew when my wife got a call from the embryologist.

After the news we had earlier in the week we were half expecting our lone embryo to no longer be viable and for the ET to be cancelled. Imagine our surprise and sheer delight when we were told that instead of one embryo being transferred we would have two!

When we had received the call earlier in the week, there had been two eggs fertilised, but for one of them they could only identify one set of DNA, so they decided that it was not viable. Over the course of the last few days, that embryo had fought its way through to actually be a better quality embryo than the one which we had been pinning our hopes on. We were very fortunate to have had our embryos placed into an embryoscope, which tracked their development by taking regular photos. If they had not been in there then we would have only had one to transfer.

Embryos transferred, we were cautiously optimistic about our chances of having a baby – but then came (another!) waiting game.

We (well, my wife) did several home pregnancy tests, none of which came back positive, but we were still holding out a tiny bit of hope for our two fighters.

We took a test at the hospital and it was confirmed that we had not become pregnant. Hope was gone.

We had a weekend away to escape the house and clear our heads before deciding on the next steps. We’d planned it regardless of what the result had been.  It was so refreshing and relaxing, it gave us a chance to focus on each other (and the dog) for once, rather than on the journey we had been putting all our energy into.

We decided not to fund another round of IVF given the massive uncertainty that it would give us the child we wanted to complete our family.

Our journey was at an end. We had stepped off one rollercoaster and were about to get onto another.