Love, Hope, and Acceptance: A Family’s Transition

We are thankful for all of the wonderful people that The ART of Infertility has allowed us to cross paths with. Today, we have a guest post from CJ Carman, who we first met in July of 2015 at her home in Northern California. A memoir about CJ’s infertility, parenting after adoption, and how she and her family were transformed along the way was just released. She shares some of that story with us today. Thanks, CJ!

CJ with baby Nicole

Before my husband and I got engaged, we had discussions about having children.  At first, we thought we did not want children but after several years of marriage, decided we did, in fact, want children very much.  So we set out to get pregnant and soon discovered that we were infertile.  After many tests and discussions with our physician, we decided to try infertility procedures that proved both physically and emotionally painful and that would, alas, fail to get me pregnant.  So much goes on when you are in this place.  So many comments and unsolicited advice from people who mean well, but inadvertently added to the pain.  Guilt was also a huge part of this package.  But my husband and I pretended to make peace with the fact that we would never have children. And then, we were inspired to look into adoption.

Both of us are Caucasian, but being very open to any child who needed love, we adopted an African American baby.  Adopting our daughter, Nicole, was literally the best thing that ever happened to us.  It was also the start of a journey that inspired me to write Love, Hope, and Acceptance: A Family’s Transition.  Besides the “normal” parenting challenges and the realities that come with raising a child of color, there were other opportunities to expand my way of thinking of this world in a positive way.  Living in a very diverse area, through Nicole’s activities and relationships, I was exposed to many different cultures and family lifestyles.  Nicole’s life opened many doors for me and I feel has made me a better person.

Part of Nicole’s journey was realizing that she was lesbian.  At a very young age, Nicole was more attracted to females than males and also tended to identify more with stereotypical male behaviors and dress and was labeled a “stud” in her lesbian relationships.  And while my husband and I were concerned for Nicole’s welfare, we were accepting of how she identified and expressed herself.  Little did we know that her inner angst continued into high school. You see, Nicole felt deeply that she was not a female interested in other females, but actually a male interested in females.  In other words, Nicole knew she identified as male while everyone still saw her as female.  Nicole knew she was transgender and really wanted to make physical changes so his brain’s image of who he was matched his outer appearance.  Thus began the transition from Nicole to Cole. But it was a transition for the whole family.  One that has been mind blowing in that we experienced the power of Cole’s human spirit crying out for, and gaining control over, who he truly is.

Part of this journey included an extraordinary wish by Cole to retrieve and freeze his eggs before starting hormone therapy (at that time, he was one of the first female-to-male transgender persons in the country to undergo this procedure). Cole knew he wanted biological children someday.  Once Testosterone therapy begins, it is extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, to produce viable eggs. This was not a decision we all took lightly but one that ultimately led to the success of preserving a part of Cole that will become a living, conscious part of him.  The process was both costly and physically painful but one well worth it.

Cole’s senior portrait

Two-and-a-half years later, Cole is a thriving college student who is secure and happy.  It is not lost on me the almost full circle gift that my husband and I lost, found through adoption, and now can give to Cole – a chance to be a parent.    Now days, those in the LGBT+ community can entertain options once closed to them. I have no residual pain or regret about not being able to have a biological child.  Though Cole did not come into this world from my body, he is, most definitely a part of me. My labor was different but just as mind blowing and wonderful.  It gives me great joy that my husband and I were not only able to help Cole become and openly express his true self, but to help instill hope for his future as a parent.  What greater gift could a parent possibly receive?

Love, Hope, and Acceptance: A Family’s Transition, is available at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.






Poetry from Kathy Wills. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing with us.

Kathy Wills

They count beads the size of
ovaries into a clay jar.
Beams creak above them,
dust balls roll across the floor.
This is summer, the alive season
at this altitude.  They wait
just like those who wait
in the lowlands and cities,
those who proceed in their rituals
of fertility:  write a check,
mark off on the application form
what they can or cannot accept.

Will you accept a child of incest,
Or one with a port wine stain on his face,
Will you accept congenital heart murmurs,
Or a family history of felony,
Are you willing to meet the 13-year-old
mother in an office at a designated time,
smile and say,
“Hello, from your biography you sound so
interesting. We are so pleased to meet you”?

The couple on the mountain takes ashes,
covers each other’s naked body.
They face the sun together at dawn,
asking the goddess of grain,
moisture, and light for pity and
a continued place in earthly consciousness.

In her morning, she inserts a
basal thermometer under her tongue
while he sleeps.
Her pelvis churns, seems to hope
About this specious rite.

She dreams of celestial sprouting,
Not the common spawn.
They hope and turn to the sun.
They hope and turn to write another check.
They begin to accept
their specialness through this walking,
waking, bloodless crucifixion.

Burn the baby name book: no Christopher, Caitlin, John, or Joan.
Tie seven sticks into a bundle
Placing them between you for a month when you sleep.
Turn away from each other.
Become philosophy incarnate.
Woman, bury your unborn, unnamed,
Unbaptized child as she seems to punch
her way out of your belly.
Man, as he seems to punch his way out of your head.
Push away with your hand their faceless
forms and accept the death of Gods.
No questionnaires,
no amulets, mojos, or jujus will help
those who must bury their children alive.

#startasking: How Infertility Prepared Me to Be a Mom – Camille’s Perspective

Camille Hawkins, MSW, LCSW is the Executive Director of Utah Infertility Resource Center. She reflects on her experience with infertility and shares 5 ways her infertility struggle taught her to be a great mom to her daughters. This post does contain images of babies and parenting. Thank you for sharing your insights, Camille!

I was recently part of a discussion in a “Pregnancy & Parenting after Infertility” Support group. The question was posed: Would you change the fact that you struggled with infertility?

How would life be different if I didn’t struggle with infertility? Even though this was the most difficult experience of my entire life, would I change it? It brought more heart ache, more tears, took more energy, and also more money than any other trial I’ve faced.

The consensus as each group member deeply reflected on this question was a resounding no. If you would have asked each of them in the heat of the struggle, the answer would have been different. But the common theme was that they had gained so much from their infertility journey, and there were still some very difficult parts about it, but they wouldn’t trade it.


Camille pictured with her infant daughter.

My husband and I met at Utah State University in 2007. Once married, we waited a year to start trying to have a baby. We quickly learned it wouldn’t come easy. After 5 years of tracking monthly cycles, timed intercourse, surgery, fertility medications, injections, intra-uterine inseminations, in vitro fertilizations, a miscarriage, and being completely broken down emotionally, we became parents to two beautiful girls through the miracle of adoption. Becoming a mom was the best day of my entire life. I will never forget that feeling.

Even though my life is now consumed of changing diapers, making bottles, and rocking crying babies during the night, my infertility will always be a part of me. My diagnosis makes it so I will always be infertile. The wound of infertility may be healed in my heart, but the scar will always be there as a reminder of all I went through to get my girls. This journey has shaped my life more than anything else has. It helped me be the best mom I could be.

Here are 5 ways my infertility struggles taught me to be a great mom to my daughters.

  1. Peace – coming to accept my situation was difficult and took a lot of time and energy. I had to grieve every time I had a failed cycle, a failed treatment, grieve the death of my embryos, and the loss of my only pregnancy. I had to grieve having a biological child –the one I always dreamed of looking just like my darling husband. As a woman, I had to grieve not being able to experience pregnancy, child birth, breast feeding, and the things I was raised to most closely associate with womanhood. Through this process, frustration and resentment for my imperfect body eventually turned to peace and acceptance. I learned that things aren’t going to be perfect in life, but I can still be okay. I will teach my daughters their bodies are unique and special, and don’t have to be perfect in order to be beautiful. I will help them find peace and acceptance with the situations they find themselves in so they can look for the happiness and joy that surrounds them.
  1. Balance – I grew up in a culture that taught my most important and divine role would be that of a mother. Everything should revolve around that role, even my education, my career choices, everything. When I realized I was unable to conform to that norm, I was forced to either sit around and do nothing while the time passed, or do something productive with my time. I decided to get a master’s degree in social work and begin a career in counseling. I worked at a nonprofit community mental health center helping children heal from trauma. I volunteered with an organization running kids grief groups. I fell in love with my husband over and over again, traveled the world, and I became a dog mom, enjoying the beautiful outdoors hiking with my two retrievers. Infertility tends to consume you completely, like a black hole. The lows were the lowest I could ever imagine. Learning to keep balance in my life was crucial to surviving the black hole of infertility, and I’m learning that balance as a mom is crucial to being the best mom I can be to my daughters. I would like my daughters to have balance in their lives too, and to know it’s okay to be lots of things, do to lots of things, and most importantly to take care of themselves.
  1. Patience – Infertility makes you wait…….and wait……..and wait some more. It makes you cry night after night, feeling hopeless and that all is lost. False hope is sometimes the only thing you have left. I learned that things don’t work out necessarily in the way I expect, but it’s possible for them to work out in some way. My mom told me I was a very impatient child. I wanted things NOW! Patience is something I was forced into learning through my infertility journey. Now as a mother, patience is my saving grace. Motherhood is not easy; I never said it was going to be. Having patience shoved down my throat during infertility has allowed me to see things in motherhood through a different lens. I can make it through my baby’s crying spell. I can make it through my daughter refusing to sleep throughout the night. I can make it through two babies crying at once……Infertility helped me learn the patience for these moments.
  1. Appreciation – When you yearn for a child, you yearn for the good and the bad. Being a mother isn’t easy, but I realize I appreciate all the moments so much more than I would have because I worked so hard to get there. My girls will grow up knowing how much they were wanted, how much they were sought for, and how special they are. I know I am so lucky, so blessed, and so fortunate to be “Mamma” to my sweet baby girls. I have so much gratitude for their birth families for entrusting us to raise these little girls.


    Camille with her two girls and husband.

  1. Determination –I have met many women who struggle with infertility and I have found that these are some of the strongest women in the world. My husband and I experienced failure month after month, year after year, and still we pressed on. We did this because family is so important to us and we would not stop until we became parents. I learned I can do hard things, and my daughters will learn they can do hard things too. When I face failure and frustrations in motherhood, I remind myself of the obstacles I have overcome and rely on that strength to get me through hard times.

The journey of infertility is treacherous. No one deserves the pain that comes from an inability to get or remain pregnant when that is their deepest desire. The wound of infertility often runs deep. But there is hope. There is a lot we can learn. And we can have tremendous growth which can prepare us to be great parents when that glorious day finally comes.




Endometrial Cancer and Infertility – Angela’s Story

Today we are sharing the story of Angela’s journey to build her family after an infertility diagnosis due to Endometrial Cancer. Thank you, Angela, for opening up to us!


Angela and her husband, Tony, have been through some of the toughest struggles a couple can face. They never expected their journey to having a child would be filled with so many obstacles that they are still working on overcoming today. However, through all of the struggles Angela has decided to share her story, hoping to help people who have gone through similar situations and show them that they are not alone.

Angela found healing from infertility and her experience with cancer through the process of building her dream home.

Angela found healing from infertility and her experience with cancer through the process of building her dream home.

Angela and Tony were married for a year before they started trying to conceive. After 6-7 months of trying they were not having any success. It was both a frustrating and confusing time for Angela. She was 31 and she was at that stage in life when everyone around her was having kids and growing their family. They both decided to see a doctor and see if there were any medical issues that could be preventing them from having a baby. After a couple of tests, the doctors discovered a tiny, cancerous tumor in Angela’s uterus. As a hopeful mother, Angela felt that this was the worst news she could hear. She was told that she could never have her own children. Angela states, “I wasn’t growing a baby in my uterus like I had been trying for 8 months, I was growing a tumor. I was growing cancer in my uterus where I was supposed to be making a baby.”

Although she would be unable to experience pregnancy, Angela and Tony decided to try a round of IVF so they could potentially use a gestational surrogate to carry their child for them. They were able to freeze seven embryos before she had to have a hysterectomy.

Angela finds creative outlets helpful and often works on projects to personalize her home.

Angela finds creative outlets helpful and often works on projects to personalize her home.

The day before her surgery, the wife of one of Tony’s friends from college called them and said that she wanted to be a surrogate for them. Angela felt as if the universe knew exactly what she was praying for. The offer was extremely surprising and exciting especially considering that in Michigan, it is illegal to pay for someone to be a surrogate. Since she was doing it for free out of the goodness of her heart, it would be a possibility. So Angela went into the surgery with a hopeful mind.

After five months of lawyers and doctors visits, they were finally able to go ahead with the first frozen embryo transfer. There were three attempts. The first did not take and the second and third times were miscarriages. Understandably, this led Angela to fall into a dark depression and develop anxiety. After the third attempt, they all made the decision to wait a while before trying again. They still have two frozen embryos left.

Angela hopes to soon have a photograph of her child in this frame, a favorite gift from her adoption shower.

Angela hopes to soon have a photograph of her child in this frame, a favorite gift from her adoption shower.

After such traumatic experiences and feeling emotions of hope and then loss and depression, Angela and her husband decided that they would take a year off and focus on each other. Since they got married, they had talked about building their dream house, so they did. This was a time of extreme healing for Angela. Although, she was still unable to check her Facebook due to all her friend’s baby photos, or go to any baby showers, she poured her whole heart into making her dream home the place that she will be happy for the rest of her life. She poured her soul into the project and felt extremely lucky to have a husband who let her have most of the say during the designing process. She was not just building a new house; she was building a new life for herself and slowly picking up the pieces that were lost during months and months of trying for a baby.

The house took ten months to complete and as it was getting finished, they started the process of domestic infant adoption. After they were approved all they could do was wait for a baby. It has been seven months and they are still waiting but they are both still holding onto hope that they will be soon be getting a call from their adoption agency telling them that they have been matched with an expectant mother.

Tony and Angela's two year old Yorkie, Sophia, checks out an adoption storybook in the room that will become the nursery.

Tony and Angela’s two year old Yorkie, Sophia, checks out an adoption storybook in the room that will become the nursery.

Throughout the many ups and downs that Angela has faced, she has always had her husband by her side, supporting her and never making her feel guilty about anything. Of course, this was hard on him as it was for her, but they always had each other to talk to and confide in even during the most isolating of times. Although she had Tony, she knew that the only one who was going to pull her out of her dark hole, was herself and she found the strength to do so. This healing process will never truly be over but she finds strength by sharing her story and helping others. There is never an easy way to talk about infertility but she finds that it is especially hard for people who have never been through it because it is so hard for them to understand the pain and emotional rollercoaster that infertility can bring. Angela wishes that there was a better way to make family and friends understand that everyone handles their grief in a different way and that this is not a wound that will ever completely heal. Angela’s strength in her experience of infertility and cancer is something that anyone can gain hope and insight from.

Click here to view Angela and Tony’s adoption profile.

Still Waiting – Infertility and Adoption

Today’s blog post is from Jackie. Jackie and her husband, Kevin, are waiting to be matched for a domestic infant adoption. Read their story below and please consider sharing their profile so, hopefully, they won’t have to wait much longer to make their dreams of parenthood come true.


Kevin and I knew we wanted to parents one day.  After we were married we attempted to start a family of our own.  After trying without any success for a while we decided maybe it was time to seek a professional opinion from a doctor.  Fast forward 5 years, and 5 doctors later and here we are still hoping to become parents.

kevin and jackie adopt

After testing and fertility treatments we found that having a child was not going to be very plausible for us as a couple; although it has not been completely ruled out.  Struggling with infertility has been hard for us.  Infertility gives you a completely different outlook on life and the world once you’ve lived inside of it.  Our relationships with family and friends have changed.  Small talk with acquaintances, or strangers, can be difficult as soon as, “Do you have children?” or “When will you start a family?” questions come up.  Also a simple walk through the grocery store can be rough. Yes, I see those parents doting over their child.  Yes, I see the aisle of baby toys, diapers, and oh so cute outfits.  Yes, I see a pregnant mom waddling through the aisle looking ready to meet her baby.  These things that we once never seemed to notice are now all we see around us.  Jealousy and sadness are unfortunate ‘side effects’ of infertility.  I am not angry at these people I see out and about living their lives and becoming parents; however, it is hard not be jealous or sad when it is something that you have wanted and tried for for so long.

 Our relationships with family and friends have changed.  Small talk with acquaintances, or strangers, can be difficult as soon as, “Do you have children?” or “When will you start a family?” questions come up.

We decided that one way we could possibly have a chance at becoming parents was to pursue adoption.   We did not have much reservation about pursuing adoption, rather we both felt very comfortable with the idea of building a family this way.  My father, and two of his siblings were adopted, and Kevin has two adopted cousins.  Adoption is already a part of our lives so it did not seem odd or inconceivable that we could be happy with a family built that way.

We have been pursuing adoption with an agency known as Greater Hopes Family Services in Grand Rapids, MI.  We have worked closely with them for the past year and a half and we have been waiting for the opportunity to become parents.  In the mean time we have found ways to deal with our infertility and lack of family by keeping busy with things we enjoy.  We enjoy spending time with our family and working on projects around the house while we wait for the opportunity to become parents.  We have love to share and we are lucky enough to have fur babies to share our love with.

memphis dog

We have a 9 year old lab named Memphis who is definitely great for cuddling.  We also recently just adopted a new lab mix puppy named Cali.  When we brought Cali home we went thought the late night crying as she adjusted to her new surroundings.  We are still working on potty training and teaching her the ropes.  As we went through all of this with our new puppy we couldn’t help but feel that this new puppy is like our new baby.  She is keeping us on our toes and also keeping us up at night.  She is creating more laundry, making messes, and not loving bath time. She truly is like a new child in our lives.  It is important to us that we can give our love in this way and it makes us feel important to someone.


For the time being these two are our children and we are proud parents to two wonderful fuzzy puppies.  We still hope to someday become a ‘traditional’ parent by being able to share our love with an adopted child(ren).  We have an online profile that we often share on social media in hopes of it falling on the eyes of someone who may be able to make this parenting thing a reality.  Until that day we will continue to love each other and our fur babies.

Thoughts on Adoption from the Archive

We’ve had the opportunity to interview many families who have come together through adoption. In honor of National Adoption Month, we’ll be sharing some of those stories through our blog. First up, some thoughts on adoption from Liz, Abigail, and Joan.

Liz (and Andy) – Adopted from foster care as well as via private domestic adoption.


Liz and Andy at home with their three children.

“Before we had these guys, I wanted nothing to do with people who had kids. I didn’t want to see a pregnant woman. I would go out of my way to avoid them. I was jealous. That should be me. That should be us. We should be having kids now. That’s totally gone away now. These are MY babies. They may not have come from us, but this was God’s plan for us. It would have been really nice to know his plan ahead of time but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Abigail – Adopted internationally.


Abigail in her office in the Los Angeles area.

“I had made an appointment during the process of my second IVF for an orientation with an adoption agency for after the results of my second IVF. I got the call and the doctor said, you’re pregnant but you’re going to lose it in a couple days and I can still get teary talking about it. I, personally, am not fond of the term chemical pregnancy. It’s a pregnancy, if you got pregnant, you got pregnant. I left that adoption meeting with hope for the first time and it became very clear which direction I would go and I went. It was the right choice for me at that time. I wasn’t closing the doors to pregnancy or nursuing at that time.”

“It took 9 months from that meeting to bringing our baby home. We adopted our son from Guatemala and it was an incredible, wonderful experience and it became very clear, very fast that my son just had to be born from another body. We brought him home and I had decided that I was going to nurse him because nursing was something I was missing also. I brought him home at 3 months and 4 days. A friend of mine gave birth at the same time and she pumped extra breast milk for me. I used the Lact-Aid supplementer and I put him to the breast 5 times a day and within two weeks I was producing milk on my own without any meds.”

Joan – Private domestic adoption.


Joan holds artwork that her daughter, Josie, created.

“We wanted very definitely to do open adoption, which was essentially the wave of the future that was opening up right then and there. The process of adoption is incredible intrusive, the home study, the interviews with the therapist, it just goes on and on. You have to be willing to be incredibly transparent to become an adoptive parent. Since I’ve adopted, I’ve found that my reaction to the process has been that adoption is portrayed a lot in a very negative way. We only hear about the adoptions that fail, the adoptions that don’t work out for whatever reason and it just has a very negative connotation in many cultures.”

“There’s loss in every part of the adoption triangle. The birth mother has to grieve losing her child, her child’s time with her. The adoptive parents have to grieve losing the ability to have a biological child and be clear with that in order to be good parents and then the adoptive child has to come to terms with “being given away”.

“It’s a leap of faith in more ways than you ever expect but a wonderful leap.”