The Fate of Adoption – When, Why and Where We Are

Illustration by Tim Bower - Vanity Fair

This time last year, my husband and I were notified that we would be parents.  It was actually one month and two weeks from the day we first mailed our agency application with every intention of  adopting from Jordan.  I remember it vividly – it was Halloween weekend, last year.  My husband, Matt and I had lengthy discussions about dealing with stringent requirements and certain restrictions we’d face adopting a child from Jordan (because it was a very new program and we would have been one of the first families).  For a variety of personal reasons, we made the difficult choice to stop pursuing a Jordanian adoption. So, that weekend, I called our agency to let them know our decision and explore adoption from another country.

That Monday, we were both back to work as usual.  At 2:35 pm ( November 1, 2010), I got a call at work from our adoption agency.  It was the day our world would be forever changed.

In retrospect, it was actually April 21, 2010 when our world would be forever changed.  On April 21st, 2010 we attempted the transfer of 5 embryos through our seventh in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure.  After the “2 week wait“, I had to go yet again for a pregnancy blood test to get the somber news that our seventh IVF didn’t take.  It just wasn’t meant to be.  But being the determined person some think I am, I couldn’t let it go.  It became like gambling.  The statistics show that the more you repeat IVF treatments, the more likely you are to get pregnant (or so we were told).  So, clearly the chance were on our side that eventually it would work, we’d conceive and have the child we talked about since we got married nearly seven years earlier.  I mean, it took Brooke Shields seven rounds of IVF to conceive her first daughter.  Maybe just one more…this one will be the one.  I was determined that a couple of months later, we’d try it again and it would work.

As time went on, and my body began to ‘recover’, I started accepting the fact that we’d never have kids and we’d end up as “that” couple – the DINKs (Duel Income No Kids).  I was now 37 and Matt was 47.  Eventually, we would have traveled the world some more, continued to spoil our neices and nephews, driven luxury cars, lived in exclusive neighborhoods, or perhaps even a “phat” condo on the beach, pretend as though our 80 pound dog was really “our baby”, and we’d grow old and even more in love together…by ourselves..but missing something in our lives.  We would be missing the  opportunity to raise a child, become a “family”, go to soccer games on Saturdays, teach he or she right from wrong, be the classmom, shoot hoops, collect seashells on the beach, introduce them to other cultures by travelling the world, help to shape a little soul to be a productive member of society, and make a positive contribution to our world.  Who knows – maybe even grow up to be the next Steve Jobs?

Now it was Labor Day weekend, 2010.  Our friends Renee and Greg had a party and Renee’s sister was in town with her family.  Her 4-year old son Tucker and I played Angry Birds on my iPad, laughed and goofed around and just really connected.  I felt this indescribable motherly love for this brilliant little child.  He gave me the tightest sqeezey hug goodbye and this feeling of unconditional love and completeness fell upon me.  So, as Matt drove us home through the neighborhood, I brought up the topic of how much I loved sweet little Tucker, what a terrific kid he is and how I’d love to have a child just like him.  Then, the reality of another round of IVF disappointment coupled with how I felt about Tucker made me realize that I could love any child with all of my heart without sharing DNA.

Giving birth to a child doesn’t make one a mother.  Nurturing, loving, guiding a child…being there to pick them up when they fall or lend a crying shoulder and listening ear when they deal with their first heartbreak; celebrate when they make honor roll in school or teach them to ride a bike.  Being there for their every need for the rest of my life.  DNA doesn’t create a family unit.   I don’t need to share DNA with a child to be their mother.  It was that realization as we made our way home Labor Day weekend, which made me  bring up the topic of adoption with Matt.  We had danced around it over the years, but back then it just didn’t seem like the right time. But now we were considering another round of IVF…our eighth round.

Between the ridiculously high cost of yet another IVF procedure and the expensive and unnatural fertility drugs, the emotional roller coaster between the hormones, visiting the doctor every other day in advance of the procedure and of course the joyous weight gain of having gone through multiple fertility treatments, for the first time in seven years, I just couldn’t bring myself to go through the process again.  I didn’t want to win…I didn’t care anymore if the statistics indicated that we’d increase our chances by 25% this time.  What’s 25% of zero when there are kids in this world who need a loving home?

Plus,  Tucker made me think about adoption in a different way than ever before.  I wanted to adopt, but I also wanted to make sure Matt was fully onboard and committed to the idea.  I’m the one who tedns to initiate things, and if he’s really on board with adoption, then he’d be the one to initiate the process of identifying an agency and next steps in the process.  And he did….immediately…without any further discussion with me.

Thinking back, as I bring up the topic of biological relationships, I remember a conversation I had with my mom before our first IVF attempt.  I was driving down 3rd Street in Jacksonville Beach when I was explaining to her how much my rear end hurt and was so lumpy from all of the injections, and I had this strange feeling about the birthing process and I just couldn’t envision giving birth.  I told her I could picture being pregnant, feeling adoration for our child, loving that baby with all of my heart, but the birthing process itself just seemed so…terrifying…I’m not even sure how to describe it…but I had a strong feeling that I wanted to be a mom, but not go through the birthing process.

So here we were in September 2010 –  which was almost a year from the day that we found out I was pregant.  We had conceived naturally….yes naturally….no fertility….no IVF…it just happened.  But then it didn’t.  We lost the baby a few weeks later in November 2009.

But, back to April 2010, when our lives would be forever changed.  It was April 21st, 2010 and it would be the last time we would attempt to conceive a biological child. I just didn’t know it then.

On April 21st, 2010, on the same day that I began carrying those five fertilized embryos in hopes of carrying at least one to full term,  4,360 miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean, our daughter was born.

On Monday, November 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm when I got that call I talked about earlier, from our adoption agency to discuss the decision we made over the weekend. I had no clue how important that day would become.   Our agency rep had been in Morocco the previous week and had just returned to The States.  She was in Morocco to visit an orphanage for her families adopting from Morocco and select children for them.  It turned out she was not returning my message from the previous day.  Rather, she was calling me to see if Matt and I would consider changing adoption programs from Jordan to Morocco.  She wanted to know if we’d consider adopting a beautiful little baby girl she had met at the orphanage in Morocco.  She was calling to tell me that we’ll need to switch programs because she found our daughter, and we’ll need to plan a trip to Morocco in the next few weeks. And while on the phone, I got this email:


to Ilona Olayan <>
date Mon, Nov 1, 2010 at 2:54 PM
subject re photos
here is majdia  born on  04/21/10
Little did we know on that incredible Monday, November 1st, 2010, when I was speaking to our agency and with tears in my eyes, forwarding photos of “Majda” (not Majdia) to an unaware father,  just how much our lives would truly be changed forever.  We didn’t know it then, nor did we know of him yet, but our son was born just two days earlier on October 30, 2010 – the day we decided to change programs from Jordan to….who knew…Morocco.

4 Comments   -   The Fate of Adoption – When, Why a . .

  1. What a journey it has been. Well written. I look forward to reading the rest of the story.

  2. What a great, heartfelt story. Things truly do happen for a reason, just hard to believe it at the time. You and Matt are amazing people and will be awesome parents. Love you guys.

  3. JiLL DiBerardino-Coggin says:

    Ilona- thank you for all your information and help as we begin the journey to Morocco. Amazing story full of hope, love and joy:)-

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