Infertility: The fathers' story


Ronda Payne
Focus on Adoption magazine

The men in these three families know first-hand the joy and sorrow of infertility and adoption.

All too often, when faced with infertility, the focus is placed on the woman or the couple. Seldom is the man’s individual perspective taken into account, but in one family, where three couples in two generations have faced infertility, there are three male points of view.

With some prompting, father, son, and son-in-law in this family all speak about a stereotypically non-male thing: their feelings. Specifically their feelings around the infertility challenges they have faced with their wives.

It was the mid-60s when Harold (then 28) and his wife Lee (then 29) began trying for a family. After a year, they both were tested for infertility issues, and found that Lee was incapable of getting pregnant.

“I was thinking, we just had to keep trying,” says Harold of the year prior to discovering they were infertile. “Then, once we found out we couldn’t have children, it was obvious we should apply for adoption. We wanted kids early, we wanted to grow up with them, and we were going to get them one way or another.”

They drove straight from the doctor’s office to the welfare office to apply.

“Welfare – it was the Department of Welfare back then – did several interviews,” Harold comments. “Then they called to say they had a baby for us. We could have stated if we wanted a boy or a girl, but we didn’t care.”

The couple has often joked that the process took about the same length of time as a pregnancy: it was nine months from the time of their application to the phone call about the baby.

The information they were given about the baby boy was sketchy and things weren’t as systematic as they are now. The call came on a Friday and Lee quit her job on the spot. They picked up their son, Brent, on Monday.

“We went in, they showed us the baby and they said, ‘You’ve got to consider it, so take him home,’” notes Harold. “But there was no considering. We knew he was going to be ours.”

When asked how it felt to finally be bringing their baby home, Harold says simply, “It was beautiful. I got a big carton of La Palina cigars and gave cigars to all my friends.”

When the time came to adopt their second child, the couple decided to have a bit of fun. They were going to keep their daughter, Michelle, a secret until they brought her home. They told only the closest of their friends until the “big reveal.”

“Back then there wasn’t much private adoption. There wasn’t the need. We only paid lawyer fees and registration for the kids,” Harold says.

Passing the infertility torch

Harold and Lee weren’t thinking about grandchildren at the time they adopted, and now, decades later, the infertility torch has passed to their son, Brent, and son-in-law, Nathan. The irony that infertility runs in this adoptive family isn’t lost on Harold. “Things have changed so much,” he says.

This time there are different challenges for the hopeful couples. Adoption is a common conversation in the family, but because there is so much uncertainty regarding their options, the couples’ parents do their best not to ask questions unless invited to do so.

“It’s entirely up to them,” Harold says. “I’ve said to both of them (Brent and Michelle), adoption is a very positive option, and they are both in a better position to adopt because they know what it’s like.”

Adoptive siblings Brent and Michelle fully understand the adoption process, and were constantly told about being “chosen” and “wanted” from the time they came home.

They and their spouses are in their mid-forties and both couples are aware that the clock is ticking on their ability to have a successful pregnancy.

Infertility and Adoption

Many individuals and couples who have experienced infertility eventually decide to form a family through adoption. Most happily conclude that adoption is not a second best option to having a biological child; it is simply a different one. Adoptive parents are more successful if they have worked through their grief and loss around their infertility and come to view adoption in a positive way before attempting to adopt a child.

Some adoption experts and many adoption agencies are reluctant to process an adoption application if they are aware that an individual or couple are still engaged in infertility treatment.

If you would like more information on infertility and adoption, please contact one of our Adoption Support Coordinators.

When Brent’s wife, Helen, became pregnant about four years ago, she and Brent were excited. They had been defined as having a low chance of pregnancy, and they accepted they were nearing the end of that as an avenue. Sadly, she miscarried. Although the couple continued to try, they began looking at other options. “It was disappointing,” Brent comments bluntly of the miscarriage experience.

In terms of expectations, Brent and Helen know that adopting an infant is unlikely. They are currently considering the options for adopting older children.

“I have no idea,” Brent answers when asked what he expects of the process. “I don’t know what to expect of the system.”

Family on hold

Things are equally complicated for Nathan and Michelle. With two miscarriages behind them after extensive fertility treatments, the couple has gone into somewhat of a “holding pattern” in the last year as they consider their options.

“Some days I think I really need kids and other days I think about how much it changes a life we’re so set in,” Nathan says. “It’s difficult.”

The second miscarriage was the most challenging for the couple because it was much further along.

“I felt disappointed. We both really wanted it to work,” comments Nathan. “We’d gotten so far with it, it seemed like it was going to happen.”

As the clock ticks on, Michelle and Nathan are also considering the adoption of an older child as well as foreign adoption, but the costs associated with this are a hurdle for them.

While infertility may be a family affair, so is this family’s understanding and appreciation of the benefits of adoption.

“Adoption is a wonderful thing,” says Harold. “It’s wonderful, maddening, exciting, hair-pulling, happy and sad. It’s everything you thought and then some. It’s the greatest thing we’ve ever done.” 

Proudly adopted, Ronda Payne joyfully lives in Maple Ridge, BC. in yet another renovation-project home with her husband and their pets. She is a regular contributor to a variety of publications, and also has three (or more!) books on the go.

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