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I can’t remember exactly how I first connected with Sarah Rollandini. I think I came across one of her blog posts about infertility and shared it on social media. Since then, I’ve enjoyed learning more about her story and her upcoming book, Life After Infertility: A Story of Hope for Those Who Wait (available this summer). She graciously agreed to answer some questions about her experience with infertility, adoption, and gestational surrogacy.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and met my husband, Mark, in the Washington, DC area where I was studying for my masters degree. After we married, I dragged him back to Michigan. I’ve been teaching deaf kids and American Sign Language at a public high school for the past 21 years. My husband and I are on the worship team at our church, where he plays bass and I sing. I love walking (not running!), traveling all over the U.S. with our family, and adopting rescue dogs (we have two). I am a chocoholic and allow myself two squares of Dove dark a day. Also, I am writing a book about how God showed up in our infertility, adoption, and surrogacy. My hope is to encourage others in the midst of their waiting. The book is currently in my editor’s hands and I hope to have it available on Amazon this summer. Our family of five (currently six with an exchange student from Vietnam!) lives near Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Q. How long did you try to conceive on your own and what issues were you facing?
Mark and I had been married for three years before we started officially “trying”. We used the natural family planning approach, which makes me laugh now because, looking back on it, I realize the method was only effective because we were infertile. Since I was nearing 30 when we started trying, we sought help after about a year. After all the testing, our infertility was labeled “unexplained”. My theory is that our infertility was related to my tubes. My appendix burst when I was twelve and I nearly died. I believe the tiny hairs in my tubes that are supposed to wave the embryo through are more like a petrified forest. I had a tubal pregnancy with twins that sent me in and out of the hospital for a whole summer.
Q. You’re a mother to three children via surrogacy and adoption. What would you like to share about your decision to build your family this way?
When Mark and I realized we were infertile, we (read: I) came up with a plan. Adoption was at the bottom of my list. I had bought into the world’s idea that, as a way of having children, adoption was second best. We also had a negative experience with an adoption agency representative who was very condescending when we met with her. In the middle of infertility’s grief, we did not need to be judged. Four years after we started trying, I came to the end of my rope and God had a little intervention with me. On the day we got the negative results from our fourth IVF attempt, I hit a wall. I sat in our would-be nursery crying and bargaining with God. Then, I took a deep breath, calmly stood up and walked over to the drawer with the phone book and opened it up to the yellow pages, searching for “adoption”. My body was going through the motions before my brain had registered my actions. It was a Friday in November right before 5 p.m. and ridiculous to think I would get a real person on the phone. But guess what? Carol answered and was a bundle of positivity. I got the information packet in the mail the next day and from there on out, every door opened effortlessly. It was a clear sign that adoption was God’s plan for us.
As for surrogacy. We were thrilled with the adoption of our two daughters and knew that we wanted another child. A friend had offered to carry a baby for me, but Mark and I were on the fence about whether we should adopt again or try surrogacy. We had had two very positive adoption experiences, but adoption has pros and cons. Until the paperwork is signed, you are on pins and needles as you fall more in love with your baby every day. We prayed about it (as did our friend who was willing to carry our baby) and felt led to move forward with surrogacy, which has just as many hoops to jump through as adoption!
Q. What would you tell someone who is considering pursuing adoption?
If your ultimate goal is to become a parent, adoption is an amazingly rewarding choice. I would have missed out on so many miracles had we not grown our family through adoption. It is an opportunity to see God come to the rescue of you, the birth family, and your child and work miracles. Your child through adoption will always have two sets of family, biological and adoptive, and degree of openness is something you should consider before you say yes to adopting a child. You must make a plan that everyone feels comfortable with and not compromise because you are so eager to have a baby. God is in control and will bring together birth families and adoptive families that are a good fit. Our daughters have always known their adoption stories and we talk openly about their birth stories and birth families. I would recommend this approach to talking about adoption so that kids’ before and after-adoption stories can be seamlessly woven together. You will always be your child’s mommy and daddy; don’t think your role will be usurped simply because your child wants to have contact with his birth family. Trust God to work out these details. He will!
Q. Surrogacy is not talked about very often in Christian circles. How did your family and friends react when you told them you were going to you a gestational carrier?
Our close family and friends were very supportive. The larger Christian community was trickier. Most articles about surrogacy from a Christian perspective do not support the practice as, according to these articles, surrogacy goes outside of the marital relationship for procreation. My question for these writers is this: Does God still reach out to individuals in unique ways? Does a personal relationship with Christ allow for direct communication and God’s leading in every Christ-follower’s life? Most writers of these articles have never experienced infertility, but are quick to dole out truth. I love Romans 11:33, which speaks to the mystery of God:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[a] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Is God’s wisdom available to all of us or only a few chosen theologians?
Our surrogacy experience was only positive. We are still friends with our gestational carrier and her family and there never was, nor is there now, any awkwardness in our relationship. And I have my son, now 10, who I’ve known since I saw his pencil-point size image in a black and white photo pre-embryo-transfer at our infertility specialist’s office. Our specialist, by the way, is a Christian whose life goal is to assist in creating families.
Q. What surprised you the most about becoming a mother via surrogacy?
The selflessness of our carrier and her family. The long-awaited sight of my husband and my genes at work in our son ten years after we started trying to conceive. The fact that my son was born alive with a knot in his cord and I know that God’s protection was an answer to my breath prayers laced through every moment of our waiting….but that is another story. 🙂
Q. Which books, quotes, websites, verses, movies, songs, etc. were an encouragement to you during your journey?
I so wish information on the internet had been as prolific during my infertility struggle as it is now. Information in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was few and far between. My favorite book (I think it was the only book on the topic!) during that time was When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden by Sandra Glahn. I also owned the Resolving Infertility book, which is more of a practical read that guides one through the steps of diagnosis and treatment.
My favorite Bible verse that I turned to again and again was Jeremiah 29:11,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I also listened to a lot of Kathy Troccoli. She had just lost her mother and her album, Corner of Eden, contains songs about her journey of trusting God through loss and grief. I clung to her words when I felt lost.
Q. Anything else you’d like to share with my readers?
Everyone’s journey through infertility is different, but I know this: When you can’t see what God is doing, you can trust that his heart for you is to give his very best to you. Your wait is temporary and what’s waiting for you at the end will be worth it.
Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her story with us today. Be sure to stop by her blog and please leave her a comment below to let her know you appreciate her!
If you enjoyed reading this interview, you might also enjoy all my other interviews!
First and last image courtesy of UnSplash. All other images courtesy of Sarah Rollandini.