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To the birth parent of the child I will adopt: ’We are one human family’

Before You Go: Sarah Mian on the heartbreak of unexplained infertility, and the cosmic relationship between biological and adoptive parents
Sarah Mian
Sarah and her husband, Shawn. (Narah Comstock)

I believe in the power of stories. I was raised by a single mother who could not afford to take my siblings and me anywhere but the public library. Through books, I could go anyplace and be anyone. Stories honed my imagination so effectively that the life I am living today is almost identical to the one I imagined for myself. My little yellow house by the seashore is the same one that appeared in my crayon drawings, and my husband, Shawn, is remarkably similar to the partner I envisioned. In my wedding vows I told him, “In any other lifetime, under any other circumstances, I would have found you and I would have chosen you.” I believe I will someday say the same words to our child.

The story I want to tell you starts with an ending: a painful, traumatic miscarriage. After it was over, Shawn lay down next to me and held my hand. An hour passed before I turned toward him and saw that he’d shaved off his beard, drawn a moustache on his face and put on a vintage bathing cap. In retrospect, this may have been an attempt to escape that awful moment by becoming someone else, anyone else. But it was such an unexpectedly bizarre manoeuvre that it achieved its goal: I started to laugh. And then he joined in and both of us were hysterically laughing with tears running down our faces. Not just at his getup. At life. At us. At the ridiculous lengths we’d gone to achieve something so basic.

Five years before, we’d been given a non-diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” All we could do was keep trying. We tried everything, including three wearying rounds of IVF, before we were finally pregnant. But then we weren’t. In the aftermath of the miscarriage, we agreed to stop trying. Too many other dreams had been sacrificed. For starters, we were engaged but never got married, at first because we couldn’t fathom planning a wedding while on the roller coaster of fertility treatments, and later because the stress started to erode our faith that the relationship would even survive. But it had survived, stronger than ever, and that warranted a celebration.

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Shawn and I got married on a bluff overlooking the Bay of Fundy surrounded by our friends and family. We stopped fighting the current, and magical things started to happen in our personal and professional lives. If either of us were unsure that we still wanted children, we’d have ridden these fast-moving tributaries onto another path. But our separate and mutual longing for a child remained.

Before we’d ever walked into a fertility clinic, we’d taken adoption classes. It isn’t important to us that I carry our child for nine months or that our offspring share our genes. What’s important to us is having a family. But we were daunted by the long waiting period with no guarantee of ever being matched with a child, and decided to try IVF when my debut novel won some money in literary awards. Post-miscarriage, we still had embryos left at the fertility clinic, but opted not to implant them. Both of us feel that adoption is a far more natural concept. In fact, up until a few decades ago, it was common for a family or community member to raise a child on someone else’s behalf. But now, even living side by side, people are so far apart. And with that distance comes fear and mistrust. Shawn and I were reminded of this when we returned to the adoption process and had to consent to having our home, values, finances, relationship, motivation to become parents and even our pasts put under a microscope. At various points, we had to dig deep and ask ourselves if we were sure enough and strong enough to walk this emotional gauntlet. The answer that rose up from the purest part of both of us was “yes.” It took several years, but we are now on a waiting list to adopt.

I have a strong intuition that the soul of the baby we miscarried is about to be born through someone else, and that it was meant to happen this way so that, when I use my skills as a writer to tell the story, it will remind everyone that we are, all of us, connected. We are one human family.

Birth parent, you are reading this letter because you want the child you created to have the chance for a beautiful life. I am writing it because Shawn and I would be honoured to have the chance to carry out that wish. But it is your decision to make. Trust your own beating heart to tell you what to do, then go peacefully to the life that is waiting for you.

But before you go, I want to tell you that the pain of loss will leave you once it has taught you what you need to know. One day, you will look up at the sky and see every star you ever wished on sparkling like confetti. You, the baby growing inside of you and the people you choose to be the parents will be the brightest constellation of all, forever held together by a mutual act of love.

This essay is part of Maclean’s Before You Go series, which collects unique, heartfelt letters from Canadians taking the time to say “Thanks, I love you” to special people in their lives—because we shouldn’t have to wait until it’s too late to tell our loved ones how we really feel. Read more essays here. If you would like to see your own letters or reflections published, send us an email here. For more details about submitting your own, click here.