By Heidi Gordon

Four years ago, my journey to parenthood was at a crossroads. I had married at 36 and began trying to conceive straight away. After 6 months and no success, it was off to our first Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) and the start of many treatments. Two and a half years later, we had endured failed IUIs, failed IVFs, chemical pregnancies, and a failed frozen embryo transfer (FET). Our insurance coverage was maxed out (thank goodness we had any coverage!). And as our infertility was “unexplained” and most likely due to advanced maternal age, my hope for possible success was drained. I felt broken and incredibly alone as none of my close friends had needed science to help them conceive, even at later ages. My husband and I decided to take a break from treatment, focus on becoming ourselves again, rather than being patients, and explore our options.

I had attended RESOLVE New England (RNE) support groups in the past and as I looked into it more, the RNE annual conference seemed like it would be beneficial for us to attend. The conference addresses Assisted Reproductive Technology, surrogacy, egg/sperm/embryo donation, adoption and the emotional aspects of infertility. I was mourning the loss of being able to experience pregnancy, but when I really thought about it, what was most important to me was becoming a mother. I could go without the nine months of pregnancy to become a mother forever.

Once we made that decision and began to research the world of adoption, I became incredibly overwhelmed again. There was so much information online, but to me, it was all framed in generalities and possibilities. There was no clear path. At that point, we registered for the RNE conference and decided to attend the adoption workshops. Though we decided to prioritize the adoption-related sessions, there were many more workshops that I would’ve loved to attend, particularly the ones addressing stress and infertility, and coping strategies.

I approached the day with trepidation, unsure how the conference would feel. We attended most sessions together; it’s amazing how one can hear the same information as someone else but have different takeaways. One of the most striking statements for me was an adoption professional who said that “once you are approved as adoptive parents, it’s not a question of IF you will have a child but WHEN.” That one statement sparked a renewed sense of hope that we would become parents after all.

Another invaluable point in the day came when we attended a panel discussion of parents who had been through the adoption process and were “on the other side.” They had traveled different but similar paths to achieve a common goal: parenthood. Some had adopted domestically, internationally or through foster care but by the end they were all parents.

I left that day emotionally exhausted but with reinvigorated hope that we would one day be parents. We had a much clearer idea about the adoption process, as well as the knowledge and confidence to begin interviewing adoption agencies. I don’t believe that we could’ve gained that knowledge and confidence on our own by simply exploring the internet. Meeting adoption professionals and adoptive parents at the conference gave us a sense of belonging and community. The conference gave us people that we could reach out to for support as we navigated the adoption process.

While walking around the conference chatting with exhibitors during breaks between sessions, we also found another fertility clinic that offered an attractive, more affordable IVF program for people without insurance. We began to consider pursuing a second opinion on our infertility, while going through the process to become prospective adoptive parents waiting for a match.

Five months after attending the conference, our second opinion with the new RE was progressing well, and we were approved as prospective adoptive parents. Just as we were approved to start a round of IVF, we also received word that we had been selected by birth parents. We decided to put the IVF plans on hold and move forward with the adoption. Our oldest son was born 8 weeks later.

When he was about 9 months old, we decided to try a last round of IVF (the first with the new RE) before beginning the process to adopt again to grow our family. To our shock & amazement, that round of IVF was successful, giving us our second son and two frozen embryos.

As I write this, I am 20 weeks pregnant with our third child from a FET with our final embryo. Reflecting now on our path to parenthood, I know that it would not have been possible without our attendance at the November 2013 annual conference. It was truly a life-changing day for us. Internet searches can give us lots of information, but sometimes it’s too much or too vague or too incomplete. Connecting with real people, both professionals and those who have been in your shoes, is priceless.

Internet searches about adoption and infertility clinics left me overwhelmed, confused and sad. Attending the annual conference gave me direction, clear information and most importantly, hope. That one day put us on the path we needed to be on to become parents. I hope that you can find the beginnings of your joy and success there too.

Heidi Gordon is currently a stay at home mom of two rambunctious toddlers. She has a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and worked for nearly 20 years in the OT field in schools, hospitals and home care. She uses her OT knowledge daily with her two boys. She enjoys running long distances, having completed multiple half marathons and two full marathons. She is passionate about sharing her personal experience with infertility, adoption & IVF with others to increase awareness, decrease stigma and provide hope. Heidi co-chaired the New England Walk of Hope in 2016 and 2017.