They say hindsight is 20/20. When my husband and I had reached the 10th year in our infertility journey, we thought that maybe we should think about adoption. So, we thought about it… for a second. We just weren’t ready to give up on having a biological child.
Now, in hindsight, we both wish we had been ready… not ready to give up, but ready to consider adoption. We would have been parents six years earlier (it was 16 years before we did make that decision) and, who knows, maybe Hashem (God) would have blessed us after with a biological child. We had heard many inspiring stories about couples who had conceived after adopting. The stress of having a child had been removed. I wish someone had shared with us earlier in our infertility journey that adoption can be the start of a family. It doesn’t have to be a last resort. But, by the time we said yes to adoption, I was already 44 years old and my husband was 52.
In hindsight, we realized that all the misery of enduring fertility treatments and money spent on fertility drugs and procedures could have been money invested in the adoption process. Adoption, we learned, was just a different way of realizing our dream.
So, now, 30 years later, because I want to share my infertility story with you, I am going to relive it all. It was a draining emotional and physical roller coaster ride. All the pain. All the hope. All the heartache. All the yearning. All the despair. All the self pity. All the jealousy. All the faking of smiles as I watched other people’s children, everywhere.
I remember just having SO much free time (even with my 9 to 5 job) and imploring Hashem “Look, I have all this free time, why can’t it be filled with raising my children?” The never ending mystery… When will I be called Mommy? It was so hard to remain optimistic. The same cycle repeated itself over and over and over: Hoping to be pregnant each month. Praying to be pregnant each month. Being devastated each month. Feeling frustrated and sad each month. Giving myself the pep talk that next month would be the month I get pregnant. Until, unbelievably, it had added up to 16 years without a child.
Clearly, Hashem had something else in mind for us. So we decided to do extensive research on adoption. We chose international adoption because we knew that these children have been abandoned and all birth parent rights have been signed away. We chose Russia because, it was the birthplace of our great grandparents. (Unfortunately, Russia closed adoptions to people from the United States shortly after we completed our second adoption, in the Spring of 2012.)
We thought our son would be our one and only (because of our ages), and for almost seven years he was. We realized he should not be an only child, with older parents. With Hashem’s help, we adopted again, from the same Russian city (which is located as far south as you can get in Siberia) as our first son. We assumed that at our ages (at that time, 50 and 58), we would be matched with an older child. But, again, Hashem had different plans. We were matched with an infant.
As part of our adoption research, since we are Orthodox Jews, we had plenty of questions for our rabbi in regard to our prospective child’s Jewish identity. We were told that if it was to be a boy, he would have a bris in the hospital. We would then take him to the mikva (ritual bath) where he would be witnessed by the beit din (Jewish Court of Law). And, finally, at Bar Mitzvah, he would declare his acceptance of Judaism. And so it was. Our boys had their bris (circumcision) at 13 months and 20 months, followed by the mikva and beit din. Our oldest son made the declaration, that he wanted to be Jewish, on the day he became Bar Mitzvah, which was two years ago. He is now entering 10th grade in yeshiva high school, our other son is entering third grade in a Torah day school.
When we finally decided on adoption as our path to parenthood, we weren’t sure how people would react. Most, if not all, people were thrilled for us. I am so thankful to Hashem and so proud of my boys and their story. And, whenever I meet someone in the community who is Russian, I end up inevitably sharing the Russian story of my boys, and they are very touched.
We read many books on how to tell a child about his adoption story. We learned that he needs to know his story, from a very young age, even if he doesn’t understand what it means. The important point is for him to grow up knowing about it, and it will take on different meanings for him as he ages. Some will have lots of questions and may seem interested one day to pursue their origins, and others will find the whole thing meaningless. I’ve told each boy, at various stages of their lives, that their story is a special one to share with others if they want, and it’s OK to not share. My older boy chooses not to share yet. My younger one voluntarily gave an impromptu talk in front of his second grade class (we didn’t even know about it until the teacher told us at a parent/teacher meeting). He was warmly received and the boys had tons of questions.
In hindsight, it seems like Hashem wanted us to do things backwards. First we had our empty nest and retirement. We played a lot of tennis and golf, and took a year’s sabbatical to Israel. And, now, ironically, in our real retirement years, we are parents when others our age are already grandparents. (In fact, most people assume we are the boys’ grandparents.)
In hindsight, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We chose adoption as our path to parenthood; and, in our case, later in life… which is certainly keeping us young!