by Heidi and Matt Cahill
I sat slowly rocking, as tears began to stream down my face. The shadows of the afternoon sun danced slowly across the colorful carpet that had been delivered a few days prior. What started silently, turned into deep, body-racking sobs as I inhaled that sweet, newborn smell and felt my daughter snuggle in a bit closer on my chest. She was home.
Growing up in a Midwestern community, family was the cornerstone of everyday life. Together since high school, my husband, Matt, and I always knew that we wanted children, but also recognized the value of experiencing life as a couple first. About five years into our marriage, we started trying to get pregnant. Parenthood is no doubt the most challenging job there is, but after beating Matt's testicular cancer early in our marriage (at the young ages of 22 and 23), we felt like we were as ready as anyone could be!
Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I had heard the phrase, "life is not fair" in response to me or my sister whining about something that we felt was unjust. Many years later, I can't remember the nature of such perceived misfortunes, but I am confident that none of it could have prepared me for what was yet to come. After 6 months of trying to get pregnant, we embarked on natural cycle IVF. We knew that we might need a little extra "help" due to Matt's cancer treatment. However, we underestimated the physical, emotional and financial drain that this process requires and after four failed attempts, decided to "take a break." Four months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lightning had struck twice.
The following months played out like a nightmare – what were the odds that Matt and I would both battle for our lives so early into them?! Several surgeries, and 6 cycles of chemotherapy later, and I was in remission! While the joy of beating cancer was still very fresh in my mind, we also found ourselves with some tough choices and conversations following my remission about how to build our family. Due to the type of breast cancer I had, we would have to wait at least three years before trying to get pregnant and even then, the increase in hormones necessitated by IVF and general pregnancy would put me at an increased risk for relapse...
I think it is human nature to want to see what your DNA would look like and it took some time for us to individually and collectively mourn the loss of biological children. I remember writing a letter to Matt that I read to him at our kitchen table one evening – it was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. Between sobs, I expressed my desire to adopt; fearful that I might be letting him down on the dream of biological children. His response? "What took you so long?!" We started researching adoption agencies the next day.
We embarked on our adoption journey with whole hearts and a firm committment. We attacked the paperwork, launched a crowd funding campaign that landed us on national television and educated ourselves as much as possible. And then we waited – and waited as each agonizing month passed, hoping and praying that we would get that life changing call. And then one day, we did! This year, on Matt's birthday, we received the life changing news that we had been matched with a little girl in Maryland! As we began our placement journey, the 30-day revocation period was grueling. It was filled with a myriad of emotions – fear, hope, anxiety, love. I don't know how, but we made it through this extremely trying time and ultimately brought our little girl home on May 13, 2016.
Despite all the demands, sleepless nights, lack of privacy or, sometimes, the ability to simply think, I believe you would find most parents say that it is worth it. I can't say for sure, as I have nothing with which to compare, but as an adoptive parent, I feel an even greater responsibility. Someone chose us to parent this little girl - they have entrusted her life to us. If that is not the ultimate gift, I don't know what is! I am in awe of her birthparents' strength, selflessness and unconditional love and I look forward to exploring our relationship with them in the upcoming years! I am deeply humbled and privileged to be this little girl's Mommy and now truly understand that family is where your heart lives, not whose DNA you share.
I look forward to the future and everything it holds - as we end a tremendously long journey to start a beautiful new one. She is home.