My husband, Gary, and I started trying to have a baby in September 2006. I stopped taking the Pill, but I never got a period. The doctor said that it could take time for my body to adjust, but when I hadn't gotten my period after several months, I knew something was wrong.
I started taking hormones to induce my period, but it didn't work. I saw specialists; I had every test imaginable; I was poked and prodded. In December, I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure, and we were told we'd be unable to conceive on our own. It was as if a rug had been pulled out from under me. My whole life I'd wanted to be a mom. It had never occurred to me that Gary and I wouldn't be able to have kids.
We had options, though. I couldn't conceive a baby, but I could carry one, so IVF [in vitro fertilization] using a donor egg was a possibility. We could also adopt. Both options are expensive, so Gary and I took a few years to save money, weigh our choices, and relish our time as a couple. In the end, we decided to adopt. It doesn't take genetics to make a family. Instead, the crucial ingredients are love, support, and encouragement.
Signing up with an adoption agency is an intense process. A social worker came to our home, Gary and I were fingerprinted, and we submitted endless forms, which took a few months. Writing our profile was the hardest part: We each essentially divulged our life story in the hopes that someone would choose us to parent their child. We had faith that a mom-to-be would pick us, but we didn't know when: The agency told us it could be three to nine months.
To our surprise, only two months after we finished the paperwork, we got a call that we had been selected as the adoptive parents for a baby girl! Over the next few weeks, I shopped for our daughter's layette and readied her nursery. As soon as she was born, we packed up, got in the car, and drove to Kansas City. We met her the next morning and spent the night with her in the hospital as her caregivers; we bonded with her deeply.
Two days after the baby was born, an hour before we were to appear in court to sign the relinquishment document, the adoption specialist called to tell us that the birth mother had decided to raise the child herself. It came as a complete shock to everyone involved. We prayed the mom would reconsider once she realized how hard it is to take care of a newborn, but she didn't. We mourned as though we'd lost our own child, but Gary and I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. That is what got us through.
A little over a month later, we learned that we'd again been chosen to be adoptive parents. We were terrified this mom would change her mind, too, but we began making arrangements to fly to Los Angeles, cautiously optimistic that this time it would all work out. When we met Ashton, we had been awake for 24 hours, traveling for nearly as long, and we were exhausted. In that moment, though, all we felt was relief. We knew that nothing was certain until we signed the relinquishment papers, but we also knew that we had to enjoy and embrace every moment with him. And the adoption went through!
In spite of all the waiting and disappointment, it feels as if I gave birth to Ashton myself. Gary and I have the most loving, natural bond with him. We're so happy. We can't picture our life any other way.
In the photo: Angie Simon, 30, with Gary, 29, and Ashton, 11 months, in St. Peters, Missouri
Jen always knew she wanted to be a mom, but I was on the fence. I had decided that if my partner wanted kids, I'd be cool with that. When we began trying to get pregnant with IUI [intrauterine insemination], there was no question that Jen would carry the baby -- I never had a desire to be pregnant.
Some women use sperm from friends or family, but we didn't feel right asking someone we knew to create a child with us, and then having them sign away all their rights to that child. Plus, we wanted our child to have two moms, without a third person in the father role.
When we started searching for a donor, we tried to find someone who resembled me so our child would look like a blend of the two of us. The moment we saw the donor, we knew he was the one for us. He met our physical and ethnic criteria (blue eyes, light hair, Irish), and we loved the thoughtfulness he put into answering the questions in his profile.
I'd heard that it can take a long time to get pregnant, but we were lucky: It took us only two tries.
It hasn't all been easy, though. As a lesbian couple, we've had unique challenges. For one thing, Jen had to surrender her maternal rights to Patrick and we had to adopt him. Otherwise, I could lose my right to see him if anything happened to Jen.
I've been surprised by how naturally motherhood has come to me. I love that I'm now part of a family, and there's no one I'd rather do this with than Jen. I want our life to be full of adventure and shared memories as simple as decorating the Christmas tree and as big as a visit to the Grand Canyon. I think it's those things that create a child's foundation. Everything we do feels exciting. It's so much fun!
In the photo: Bernadette Coveney Smith, 35, with Jennifer, 36, and Patrick, 16 months, in New York City
My husband, Lenny, and I knew we wanted a large family. But seven months after we began trying, I sensed that something was wrong. My doctor prescribed three months of Femara to regulate my cycle and told us I'd be pregnant before he saw us again. I wasn't. The next doctor we saw told us Lenny's sperm count was low and that it had poor motility [ability to swim]. Still, I was hopeful.
We tried fertility drugs first, and Lenny took a vitamin supplement. Then he had a vascular procedure. We tried an IUI. Then it was back to the natural way for seven months.
One night, after yet another round of failed pregnancy tests, we had a long talk about whether we should stop trying. At this point, I was taking three pregnancy tests a month, desperate to see a positive sign. I succumbed to a breakdown of tears and anger, and Lenny decided that we needed a break. I didn't want to stop trying, but I was so exhausted that I surrendered. Lenny saw that it hurt me to stop, though, and he started Googling fertility treatments. He found a clinic near his family's house in New York that was accepting patients for a clinical trial. We were accepted a few weeks after we applied.
I moved in with Lenny's parents while I went through the process; he stayed in Indiana to take care of the house. It was a life upheaval, but I cared about getting pregnant more than anything else. After a month of medications, blood work, ultrasounds, and various other procedures, I got a shot to trigger ovulation. My eggs were fertilized, and I drove home the day after the embryos were transferred. All we could do was wait.
Six days after the transfer, I got my first-ever positive pregnancy test! For more than half of my pregnancy, I wondered about every change my body went through, every sensation, thinking something might be wrong. When I finally laid eyes on Charlie, I was overcome with joy, but also terror. I kept thinking I'd wake up and find out it had never happened. But it did, and every day we love Charlie more. And we still have four frozen embryos -- we hope to use them to expand our family one day!
In the photo: Macara Aloi, 27, with Lenny, 28, and Charlie, 8 months, in Carmel, Indiana
Originally published in the May 2012 issue of American Baby magazine.