By Patricia Ryan Lampl
I'm getting married to a wonderful man with two children. Since I'm not some ingénue, we throw "the protection" away before the wedding, even though I have a secret fear that I'll be pregnant at the ceremony.
I make a gynecologist appointment and ask: "Am I too old? Is everything working?" "Pat," she replies, "if anyone under thirty comes into my office, I think they have the wrong address. Have fun. If nothing happens in six month, we'll talk."
January 1995 to March 1998
I've entered the infertility factory. Everything is calm, efficient, and hygienic, but anxiety, manifested as faux calm, could blow the roof off the waiting room. We're all members of a club that we don't want to belong to. Eye contact is nonexistent. I make a mental note that there is a 30 percent success rate. What I don't account for is the difference between pregnancies and deliveries. After preliminary testing, blood work, sonograms, ultrasounds, and more, Mark and I receive our stash of plastic specimen cups. This is every man's nightmare. He's a night in shining armor carrying a plastic cup. We are escorted to a block of rooms equipped with magazines and videos. The men "go in" and the women sit on a bench reading. Every woman sits like a statue except for the bouncing foot. Some kick line...
One morning I realize that I've read the same paragraph in the New York Times for twenty minutes. After a number of months, Mark opts for the home performance with his cup. I vow that when it's over, I'll host a Tupperware party with one-size cup and one color lid.
Sonograms...Ultrasounds...Blood work...More blood work...Miscarriage #1...Progesterone...Miscarriage #2...Shots...Acupuncture...Yoga...Shots...Miscarriages.
I know if I do yoga I'll be calm and centered. Even though for me, being calm and centered is impossible. Feeling angry, tense, disappointed, hopeful, and exhausted is the norm.
Miscarriage #3: I see another doctor known in the pipeline as having a more "holistic" approach. The office feels nearly warm and fuzzy. There's no sign-in sheet. Real compassion.
Miscarriage #4: There are days when it's hard to get out of bed. I can't go to other people's baby showers. When someone complains about sleep deprivation from a newborn, I could go postal.
Miscarriage #5: I've hit my ceiling. I know this isn't going to happen even though I've followed the rules.
I try to make peace with not becoming a mother. One day while running errands with my four-year-old neighbor, Robbie, we have the following conversation:
"Mrs. Lampl, how come you don't have a baby?"
"I don't know, Robbie."
"But I want you to have one."
"So do I. But you don't always get what you want."
"How come you don't have one?"
"I guess there's something broken in my stomach."
"I'll fix it."
"I don't think you can."
"Maybe a doctor can."
"We've been to a lot of doctors and they couldn't."
"Maybe God can."
"Rob, maybe God has other plans for me."
"Mrs. Lampl, I don't want you to be lonely."
"I'm not, Rob, I have Mr. Lampl."
"But that's different."
Yes it is.
My husband returns home and I drop the bombshell. I may not be able to be pregnant, but that doesn't mean that I can't be a mother. I want to adopt. We decide to proceed. I don't think I've ever felt so loved in my life.
We do extensive research, attend a seminar with Dr. Jane, and sign with an adoption agency. We'll adopt from Russia, and so begins the mountain of paperwork. It's quite startling to go from a process that's medically impersonal to the personally invasive adoption process, which includes letters of reference, financial statements, police clearances, blood tests, and fingerprinting. On second thought, maybe more people should do this before they become parents.
A video arrives via FedEx. I wait until Mark gets home to look at it. After all we've been through together, there's no way I'll watch it without him.
We hit "play." Video hash. She looks up at the camera at us, her parents. We both start crying. There she is, our daughter. We've found each other.
August to September 1999
We complete stacks of immigration paperwork and wait to receive word that we can travel. Our agency and Dr. Jane hold our hands and guide us through the entire process.
Mark's children respond with a love and generosity of spirit for which I'll always love them. We're counting the moments until we get on the plane. I'm out of my skin because my daughter is in the world and I'm not holding her.
September 30, 1999
JFK airport has never looked so good. We arrive in Moscow and complete more paperwork and then fly to Yekaterinburg.
My legs are like Jell-O when I walk into the building. We're only allowed thirty minutes with her, and I'm sure my heart will break when we have to leave. We're required to visit three times before our court appearance where we'll be declared her parents.
Once our court appearance is complete and her passport is issued, we're done. We burn the phone lines to our families and friends who've been with us every step of the way. Feeding our daughter mashed bananas in a hotel room in Russia, cobbled together tooth and nail, we're a family.
Excerpted from Carried in Our Hearts by Dr. Jane Aronson, Tarcher/Penguin, Penguin Group USA, Penguin Random House. © 2014.
Photograph by Adam Przewoska via Unsplash