There’s something you might need to know about us before we enter into our long-term online relationship. We do not struggle with infertility as far as we know. In fact, my husband recently pointed out, we struggle with fertility – meaning we believe we are capable of conception, but go to great lengths to avoid it because of a different medical complication.
Almost six years ago my vision started to do funky things. Where there was period on a printed page, I would see a semi-colon. I started to clean my glasses two or three times an hour when I was at work or reading a book. Finally I went to an eye doctor, thinking I needed a new prescription. A few weeks later, thanks to the amazing team of specialists in the field of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at The Johns Hopkins University Hospital, I learned that I actually have a retinal eye disease called Punctate Inner Choroidopathy. It’s an extremely rare, inflammatory eye condition primarily occurring in women in their 20s and 30s who are nearsighted but otherwise healthy.
Although it’s not technically classified as an auto-immune disorder, it behaves like one AND it responds to treatment like one. So, to effectively manage the condition, I began a long-term treatment involving a drug called CellCept. Usually, CellCept is used to suppress the immune system in transplant recipients so they don’t reject the new organ, but it’s been effective in off-label usage for people with auto-immune conditions. And, it’s been mostly great for me. I’ve had relatively few flare-ups in six years and very little if any permanent vision loss. I’ve been extremely lucky.
But, CellCept is a powerful drug and it’s believed to cause birth defects. Patients who are on it have to be extremely cautious not to become pregnant, according to two warnings in place by FDA. There are other ways to manage the disease, including regular shots of a drug called Avastin and steroids, but I already take a daily dose of steroids and recently started the injections as well. This overall course of treatment seems to work for me and I see no reason to tempt fate by altering my plan – especially because I sort-of always expected to adopt.
I knew I was adopted before I knew how babies are made. So to me, adoption always seemed like one of a couple of ways families are created. When I was a kid and teenager, I told people I wanted to adopt. For a brief period of time in my 20s, I assumed I would parent biologically because it’s certainly easier and less expensive in most cases, but the minute I began my CellCept treatment I knew adoption had always been the right choice for me.
Don’s own journey to adoption was different than mine because he had to first determine if he even wanted to be a dad. I’ll let him tell you that story himself, but I will tell you how his decision intersected with my own.
When I first had my diagnosis and began treatment, it was a scary time. My vision was deteriorating, there was talk of needles to the eye (or warm laser treatments which would cause some vision loss) and these very powerful drugs which can have lots of terrible side effects. I saw a doctor every two weeks at first. It was at one of these appointments where I learned about CellCept, its benefits and drawbacks. My doctors explained that the course of CellCept would likely last for years – well into my 40s in all likelihood, eating up the remainder of my child-bearing years. I called Don when I got home and told him everything that had happened at the appointment. Finally, I said in small and scared voice, “And I won’t be able to have kids.”
And Don said, in a determined and not-at-all small voice, “Then we’ll adopt.”
We weren’t married at the time, we weren’t even engaged (though we had been dating for four years), and our previous conversations about kids had ended with Don saying he wasn’t sure he wanted them … so this was a Big Deal. He wanted them, he wanted them with me and he was okay with the fact that we’d need to look at alternative ways to create them. He didn’t even take 30-seconds to mourn the loss of the opportunity to be a biological dad.
It took us another two years to get married and another two to arrive at this point, but those three words helped me know that Don and adoption were my future.
“Then we’ll adopt.” It started as simply as that.