The couple had never contemplated adoption – until the miscarriage of a longed-for child during a foreign holiday. More devastating miscarriages followed and when an unsuccessful attempt at IVF finally put an end to their hopes of natural childbirth, the couple began to research adoption.
“Our story begins innocuously enough with a phone call. There was nothing remarkable about the call really but I remember it so very clearly. Almost exactly five years ago, I was standing in the garden of a small apartment complex on the Greek island of Kefalonia chatting via mobile phone to a good friend of mine in Indianapolis in the United States who was getting married the next day.
I apologised for not being at the wedding and he asked after my wife, who was approaching her twelfth week of pregnancy with our first child. It was a warm and sunny June evening and, after a testing but successful time at work, I was on a real high. We had been married a year, had our own home, were both successful at work and had relocated to Manchester. Everything was going to plan.
The next morning, our lives changed forever. A few hours amid the dusty halls of Kefalonia’s only hospital, a brutally shocking scan – which showed our baby but no heartbeat – and an apologetic doctor later, our tour operator was helping us home to the reassuring embrace of the NHS. This was ‘before’. As yet, there is no ‘after’, but we’re getting there.
As those first few savagely painful days turned into weeks and then months, the thought of adoption was a long way off and considering it would have been premature. We’d just been unlucky, we were told. “It happens. We can’t always explain why”. Well, it happened again. And again. And then once more.
We briefly flirted with the mocking hopefulness of IVF but fertility (or lack of it) is, in my experience, a tyranny. It takes over your life and, worst of all, it rarely explains itself.
A thousand articles like this one could not adequately detail the pain we suffered with every agonising turn. If you’ve known this kind of pain, this desperation, then you need no explanation from me. You will also realise that no one can fully appreciate what you have been through no matter how hard they try.
The innocent naivety of our plans to start a family continued to haunt us and nothing – nothing – was working for us. Thanks to some truly inspirational support from one counselor in particular, we have very slowly rebuilt ourselves. This gradual recovery owes most to a rock-solid marriage that refused to be broken. The job is not finished – it may never be. Those lost children will always walk with us as they must, as they should. We’d miss them now if they weren’t there.
During this long recovery, the prospect of adoption continued to lurk in the shadows, menacing us with its associated sense of failure. We were unfamiliar with the adoption landscape – as, sadly, are the majority of people in the UK – and we had little idea what a happy and uplifting place it can be at times.
For months, perhaps longer, we kicked around the ‘A word’ to see how it sounded, to see if it scared us any less, all the while knowing, deep down, that we were sliding inexorably towards it.
In those early days, the word seemed to exist only to mock us, to highlight our failings. They say children can be cruel but there is nothing as unforgiving as your deepest, darkest thoughts at 4am in the black heart of another sleepless night, your inner voice taunting you: “You’re going to have to adopt because one or both of you doesn’t work properly. You’re a pathetic failure”.
The A-word continued to raise its awkward head here and there, now and again. We mentioned it to close family members and only the closest of friends.
For those on the outside of your experiences, of your pain, even three or four years and several miscarriages later, suggesting adoption can still come as a bit of a shock .
They, of course, only wanted what was best for us but, understandably, they saw adoption as the last refuge of the truly desperate. We’d been tossing the idea about for a while, mostly subconsciously. You park these words at the back of your mind. Then you read something you wouldn’t have read before maybe, and gradually you jump less when it is said out loud. It becomes less scary and, eventually, it becomes an option. An ally, even.
I think we knew the time had come when, after around two years, we reached the top of the NHS IVF waiting list. We’d already paid for one cycle of IVF privately which had not been successful. In case you didn’t know, private IVF costs around £5,000 per attempt. Success rates are modest but it can work and there are many heartwarming success stories that deserve to be heard. Hope can be rewarded. It’s worth remembering that.
The two of us had become a resilient unit and, thanks in part to the excellent counseling, were able to step back just a little and say ‘no more’. We felt we’d suffered enough and we believed the chances of success were greatly outweighed by the potential risk to our little team, to our marriage. The thought of another miscarriage was genuinely terrifying.
As it turned out, getting to the top of the IVF waiting list and then not going through with it was empowering. Anyone who has experienced any of the things we have will know that you lose confidence in your ability to make decisions. To shun IVF for the sake of our emotional wellbeing and our longer term relationship was an assertive course of action and it felt good.
With the A-word becoming gradually less scary, we saw an advertisement in our local paper for an adoption open evening with a local agency which has an excellent reputation.
I’d love to tell you that we went along and that they were lovely and kind (which they were) and that we all skipped off into the distance singing ‘Bring Me Sunshine’.
But we still weren’t ready.”