new truths

The struggle with infertility is a lonely, frustrating and often humiliating journey.

Six years ago as I walked into our small Chicago apartment, I noticed something strange when I came home from work.

The bedroom door was closed. It was just my wife and I who lived there, so the door was always open.

I touched the handle, and I heard a noise: it was crying. Without opening the door, I knew exactly what was wrong.

I walked through the door and saw Anna crying on the bed. Another pregnancy test was on the end table. It had a single, isolated control line: not the hoped-for double line.

After several years of marriage, we had become very familiar with the control line.

The struggle with infertility is a lonely, frustrating and often humiliating journey.

At Mother’s Day Mass, I remember the priest asking all the mothers to stand up, so the congregation could clap in appreciation. I didn’t clap. I was holding my wife’s hand with all my strength.

At dinners with well-intentioned friends, someone usually says, “You both would make great parents. When are you going to start having kids?”

It felt like a gut punch. Every time.

I would look across the table and see pain creep into my wife’s eyes. With poise and grace, she would always respond, “We will see.”

Infertility is not unique to us. In fact, you know someone who struggles with infertility. They are in your family. They work in your office. They are your neighbors. Or it’s you. I know this because infertility affects one out of every five couples in the United States.

It’s personal. It’s embarrassing. As a result, it’s a silent pain two people quietly carry with them.

After years of seeing the control line, Anna and I discussed our options. The one we discussed time and time again was adoption.

We saw adoption as an opportunity to have a large family, or what I call a full kitchen table.

At the time, we didn’t know what we were getting into. The truth about adoption is it changes you. You realize truths about yourself, and other people.

For me, it exposed my insecurities. From others, I gained a new sense of admiration.

What do I do when my child says, “You’re not my real father”? Will my child always fear being abandoned? These thoughts would keep me awake.

The moment of truth came on July 17, 2021. Anna and I walked into the NICU at Slidell Memorial Hospital and saw Peter. When he was born, he wasn’t breathing and needed oxygen to keep him alive. We scrubbed our hands, walked over to his tiny crib and Anna picked him up. My heart was racing.

Little Peter opened his big eyes, looked at Anna, nuzzled his head into her arms and closed his eyes again. He was happy. He was ours.

Peter will never have my hands. He will never have Anna’s eyes. But we share something deeper: a bond that will keep us together for eternity.

On the other hand, I have seen the selfless pain of a birth mother. I have heard a birth mother cry as she signed adoption paperwork: a heart-rentching sob. A cry that comes not just from your heart, but from your soul.

A mother giving a child up for adoption is only comparable to a person taking a bullet for a stranger. For the rest of my life, I will admire and remain in awe of Peter’s birth mother.

She will always remain my vision of a true hero

All of this gives me hope for the future. Today we stand at the brink of a massive change in American history. Roe v. Wade is likely within days of being overturned. That change gives people all along the political spectrum anxiety and fear.

But adoption gives us another option, an option that I have lived through. I have seen its beauty. I’ve also seen its pain. It is not easy, but nothing that really matters in life ever is.

Earlier today, I came home from work. When I walked upstairs, I noticed the bedroom door was closed. I walked up to the door, and before I opened it, I heard crying.

As I opened the door, the crying stopped. My son looked up at me with his big eyes and said, “Dada.”

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Matt Paprocki

President @illinoispolicy the nation’s leading state-based think tank.