For something that is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, becoming pregnant can be a very elusive game. And if there is any one couple who knows just how elusive it can be, it’s Christine and Aaron Kahan, who recently wrote a book called Navigating the Road of Infertility. Their story includes a four-year emotional roller coaster including respective surgical procedures, a devastating failed attempt to “Foster to Adopt” two little girls, and a failed round of In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and sadly another miscarriage of late. Here in this brutally honest interview, the Kahans share their challenges in trying to become parents.
Can you tell us about your journey so far?
Our journey so far has definitely been a winding, bumpy road of infertility. We’ve been through surgeries (me from a coconut sized uterine fibroid tumor that I had to have removed like a Cesarian and Aaron for varicocele which are varicose veins in the testicles). We then went through the long process (4 months, 29 hours of training, a SAFE study & home inspection) of becoming trained to be foster parents as a Pre-adoptive resource. We thought our journey was over when two girls ages five and seven were placed with us. We were prepared to adopt them but sadly due to the broken system and our “caring too much” about them the state removed them from our care. We then went through a failed round of IVF, and a second round of IVF that ended in miscarriage.
Can you share a little about your thoughts and emotions on your everything you’ve been through and your current situation?
Imagine riding a roller coaster: specifically the anticipation and fear of the ride, the gradual rise to the top, some twists and turns along the way until you finally reach the pinnacle of the top where you see the whole park. That exhilaration mixed with fear swirling around in your stomach as you wonder if you can handle it until the bottom drops from beneath you and you are plunged downward. Well, that pretty much sums up the emotions we’ve felt throughout each part of our infertility road.
Currently, we are at the top of that roller coaster. Our only frozen embryo was transferred and we found out that we are pregnant. After experiencing one prior miscarriage we are just praying that the bottom does not drop out from us this time and our baby continues to progress healthily.
What have been some of the hardest coping points throughout your journey?
By far the hardest coping points have been:
-During my post operation check up hearing that it was “highly unlikely” we would ever conceive naturally.
-Losing the two girls we had planned on fostering to adopt.
-Enduring a miscarriage.
How do you deal with well-meaning, but potentially painful questions about your plan to have children?
The best way to deal with these questions as hard as it is to do is to understand that the person asking is not meaning to upset you. They usually have no idea the pain you are going through and are just trying to make a connection to you so they can best support you.
Although infertility seems to be a rapidly growing phenomenon, there still seems to be so much that needs to be said. What changes would you like to see in this area?
I would like to see some more research into the growing causes of infertility in particular among the women within the 25-35 age group: specifically if there’s a link between taking birth control pills and infertility later on in life. I took birth control from ages 16-23 and 27-31. Additionally, we’d like to see infertility talked about more. It is such an isolating experience but it doesn’t have to be if more people felt like they could share their story.
Infertility is often discussed from the point of view of the woman, but can also be an incredibly painful time from a male perspective – can you share a little on that.
The male in the relationship is often overlooked. He is not the one giving birth or getting the shots during IVF and can therefore be thought of as a secondary and less important entity. However, the male still has feelings and is crucial to the process. He provides 50 percent of the DNA and emotional support (provided he is a good guy). But guys don’t want to talk about their infertility because they feel like that means there is something wrong with them. The fact is it’s not your fault. Guys, it’s not you, it’s not your wife. You are ok! Sometimes life and genetics get in the way and you will find another avenue.
Becoming foster parents is a route considered by many after infertility treatment – what are your thoughts about that?
I think it seems like a really good and noble idea. One that many people including me before our experience had no true understanding of what we were getting into. The 29 hours of training, home inspection and invasive personal study into your childhood, relationship and marriage are not advertised in the articles/ads tempting you to foster to adopt. There are also heartbreaking aspects throughout the process when working with your own state’s foster care system. Specifically, that they are always first and foremost planning on reunifying the children with their biological parents no matter how dire the circumstances.
Additionally, the amount of social workers, therapists, lawyers, biological family members, visits, etc. you have to deal with are overwhelming. Along with the fact that until you somehow make it to the actual, final stage of adoption, they are NOT your children. The state just considers you to be housing them so any real medical or other important decisions are not made by you but instead through an intricate process outlined by the state.
What words of advice, support and encouragement do you have for others experiencing fertility difficulties?
-Don’t blame yourself and eliminate guilt. It’s not your fault and you are not alone. 1 in 8 couples along with 7.3 million American women are in the same predicament.
-Surround yourself with supportive people who understand what you’re going through.
-Make sure you have a trusting relationship and an open rapport with your doctors and fertility staff.
-Don’t suffer through infertility alone or in silence, especially from your partner.
-Don’t allow yourself to get permanently discouraged. With each setback give yourself permission to go through the spectrum of emotions you feel. Then, move onto the next step that’s right for you.
If there is only one thing you could say about experiencing such infertility it would be?
It really opens your eyes to what a true blessing it is for those that are able to conceive naturally and in turn makes you extremely saddened when you perceive those people who have no difficulty conceiving to take that ability for granted. Every news story you hear where parents abused, murdered or abandoned their children will tug at your emotions in a way you didn’t know existed.
Along with that struggle though, you become a member or a club that houses some of the strongest, inspirational, most courageous people you will ever encounter. Their stories are like battle wounds that give you the strength to keep going.
And finally, what’s next?
We pray that this baby continues to progress into our healthy miracle for the next nine months. We will also continue our ongoing advocacy of trying to bring to light a broken foster care system that is in desperate repair of an overhaul of it’s antiquated practices. 74% of former foster care kids in the US were in foster care.
Chrissie and Aaron Kahan, both educators and strong child advocates, are now speaking out to discuss their personal experiences surrounding their infertility struggles and the problems within the foster care system in their new memoir, Navigating the Road of Infertility, now available on Amazon. Learn more and connect with the authors at www.kingkahan.com, and on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.