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The Infertility Journey (Part 2)

Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace pose for the cover of The Art of Relationships Podcast.

Founders of Uniquely Knitted Doug and Jesse Brown continue their conversation from last week with Chris and Tim about the difficulties of infertility and how to face these struggles as a couple.

Speaker 4:    Thank you for joining us for another Art Of Relationships Podcast. In each episode, we work hard to bring you the latest research in psychology and communication theory, to help you develop healthy relationships. We also have a lot of fun in the process. Ready to get started? Let's do it.

Chris Grace:    So once again, Tim, we are going to listen to some guests from a topic that we've explored just recently. And Tim, that is on infertility and adoption issues, and we have Jessie and Doug Brown with us today, and what a great opportunity.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah. And, and as our listener base becomes more and more diverse, we are coming across a lot of couples that are dealing with this. And there's things to say, and things to avoid, and I think today could be very educational for all of us.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, so let's get started. When you guys go through this, sometimes situations like this can tear a couple apart. And so, going back to your notion of seeking help, having that friend, that person that you can rely on, sometimes that's your partner, but they are not your therapist. And I'm assuming you can right away, exhaust their ability because they're dealing with their own sadness and pain. Tell us about that. I'm sure some couples out there are not just isolated from community, they're isolated from each other, this has driven a wedge between them. And how did you guys battle that?

Jessie:    Absolutely. I remember the first girl I mentored with her fertility struggle, this was her husband and her's biggest thing, was she felt like it was ripping them apart. And then she almost got bitter even more about infertility, of like, oh, this is what's ripping us apart and not having us have good communication. And she said, I'll never forget this one line she said. She's like, "I feel like people that go through fertility issues have conversations with their partner that some couples never have." They never have to have the like, "So, do you want to stop treatment and go onto adoption?" Or, "What do you want to do with this?" Or, "This costs so much money," and all these things. And so, she was really feeling the unfairness of that, of as a couple when you struggle with infertility, you have to talk about a ton of hard things. And then you throw sex in there, and it's like, it can be a hot mess sometimes.

Chris Grace:    And when you guys do that, what recommendations do you give for that couple? When again, one thing is therapy, another is just getting more information, another is finding that safe person. Dealing with the degrees, you could expand on any of those. But I'm guessing for you guys, one of the benefits of community has been the ability for others to come along and support you together, but also just your desire to make your marriage as strong as it can be, and to use this to strengthen you guys, rather than to weaken or tear you guys apart.

Doug:    Yeah. We often find that when we're teaching people and helping people build their resilience for this season, we talk about a lot of the relational needs that we have. At times, we need people to be there and cry with us. At other times, we need people to motivate us, and we can't normally find that in one person. And it usually is never, it seems to never be just your spouse, and in one moment your spouse can motivate you, but also cry with you. It doesn't necessarily always work that way. But that's why encourage people to start to self identify, the people in their lives who can help meet those relational needs. And at times for me, Jessie was there for me if I needed to process something, and be sad and cry. But at other times when I needed someone to really chop up all the options, and dig down into the nitty-gritty of what we should do, that was a friend of mine, or that was a family member of mine who helped meet that need for me.

    And when we started to spread out our needs, so to speak, we were actually connecting better as a couple, because I wasn't having to get all of my emotional, relational needs met by Jessie. Obviously, there was a special connection there, us being husband and wife, and there's a loving connection and something that is further than any other relationship I had in my life. But it would be too much for me to ask all of that from her, because she's also going through her own battle, her own journey. And there were times where we needed to communicate about needing things, and needing other people in our lives. Friendships, and community, and church members, and pastors, and people.

Jessie:    And a really practical thing that I always say to people, is when you go out on a date, try not to talk about that. Or whatever it is, try to have some night or date or whatever, in your schedule, in your week that you don't talk about that. And I think that even goes when you have kids too, but especially when it comes to fertility infertility too, I think that works.

Chris Grace:    No, I think that's great advice. You have to reserve some times where you're looking forward, you're using what happens in the past to project what's going on in the future. And when you're constantly dealing with the present, constantly going over it and over it, it can become a drain. I love that idea. You go on a date, and you reserve it for having fun, not... And then you have a date in which you can maybe talk about the issue, and call it a working date. Now, you guys have made a decision at some point about adoption. And many couples have gotten to this point, where infertility has opened their eyes to some other options. That's been a journey for you guys, and I know you have such a great story too, a blessing in your life. And why don't you tell us about that?

Jessie:    Well I think, I get this question a lot, which I want to say first is a lot of people say, "How did you and Doug know when to move on?" And I think a really-

Doug:    And explain what that means though.

Jessie:    Move on, as in stop doing fertility treatments. Yeah, stop doing fertility treatments. And a doctor we interviewed for our podcast actually said it perfectly. She's like, "I always tell the patient, it's what the science tells you and what your emotional state is telling you." So, our science was not great. Doug and I together, even with a lot of meds, and a lot of drugs and all the things, was not great. And our emotional state, we were not doing well, we were having a hard time. And so for me, that was when we kind of communicated and took a step back and went, "I think I'm ready to move on to something else."

    So, I think that's a good practical step, is listening to the science and listen to how you're emotionally doing as a couple. And then we grew up in the church, so adoption was always something that was talked about a lot. So we were very comfortable with the idea, which is also interesting because not everybody has that comfortability, and so it was easy for us. So, we started advertising that we wanted to adopt, and started telling people and talking to people. And I got a phone call at my work about, she met this little boy who was living with a family, and he needed to be adopted. And he was 18 months old, and he was adorable. And she said, "So what do you want me to say? Do you want to just come meet him?" I was like, "Okay, what? This is crazy." So, we met him five days later. And four days after that, he started living with us. So, he is pretty fantastic.

Chris Grace:    9 days.

Doug:    Yeah, we say some people have nine months and we had nine days.

Jessie:    Nine days, to turn it all around.

Chris Grace:    A month a day, just to get ready.

Jessie:    Yeah, exactly.

Chris Grace:    And how long ago was that now?

Jessie:    He is going to be seven on Sunday.

Chris Grace:    Seven, oh man, that's amazing.

Doug:    We met him at 18 months.

Chris Grace:    And then you guys have decided to continue maybe in the foster area as well?

Doug:    Yeah, absolutely. After we adopted our son, we knew that we wanted to continue to grow our family. We actually went through two failed adoptions before we ended up in the foster community. To be perfectly honest, and this is probably a huge motivation for why we do what we do, but we brought a lot of the trauma from our infertility journey into our adoptions. And there was a lot of leftover desires, probably unhealthy desires that we had, that grew during our season of infertility. We wanted to have that baby, we really wanted to be pregnant, that's what we wanted. But it manifested itself into, we really wanted to adopt an infant. And we fell on our sword a couple of times, in trying to do that, and overextending ourselves, and ended up into two failed adoptions. Which they were big learning experiences for us, but it even really helped highlight what we had gone through, and the experiences that we were going through it, and knowing that, oh wow, we need to start addressing our infertility.

    But after those two failed adoptions, we were actually interested in one specific little girl that actually didn't end up panning out, but that opened up our eyes to the fact that there are other kids out there that need homes, there are other kids out there who are in situations that desperately, they would thrive in a family situation. So that just drew us straight in, and we ended up meeting a little girl, and she's now actually living with us. So, it's super exciting that she's here. We don't know exactly where her case will go, but we're kind of unofficially right now, a family of four, which we never thought would happen. It happened in a very unconventional way, but like I said, this opportunity of infertility kind of gave us this blessing of being able to have our home open, and being able to bring in more kids.

Chris Grace:    And so, if someone out there, a listener is going through this, and they're thinking about adopting, your advice is what?

Doug:    We always say the same thing, and this is what I would say, is just go and talk to someone who's done it. It's always our same advice. There's so many answers to that question, and there's a million ways to start, but I say just go talk to someone, if you're part of a church community, there might be someone who's done it there, there might be someone in your life who is adopted. Go and find, and just hear the story. Just ask them, "How did it go, what happened?" And it will start to open up your eyes to all the different ways adoption can happen, all the different agencies and organizations that are doing it, but I would start with the person. Because you can get lost in the logistics really quickly. And I think you've got to start with the person first.

Jessie:    Yes, I would go hang out with a family who has adopted children, and then find an adult in your life that is adopted themselves. That's what I always say, and pick their brain. Because one of my really good friends is adopted, so I picked her brain and I was like, "What was that like?" And I learned so much about her story that I even had no idea, and I had been her really good friend for a really long time. And it really opened my eyes, and it helped me parent better, listening to her and how she grew up. And she was adopted 25 years ago, so the training and stuff that has happened since then, is a lot better than it was back then. So it was just like we're her parents, sometimes made mistakes and stuff. So, I learned a lot from her, and even just how to parent an adopted child.

Tim Muehlhoff:    What do you think about this advice, to talk to both a couple that it's gone well, and talked to a couple that it hasn't? And the reason I say this is, we have some really dear friends who they went to the former Soviet Union, they went into a Russian orphanage, and came out and adopted two girls from this Russian orphanage, and it has been a nightmare. A nightmare. They so downplayed the things that both these girls were struggling with, and it has been almost to the point that one of the girls could not stay anymore. It just wasn't, you just couldn't. So I almost... I'm sounding like a downer here, Chris. But I'm thinking of this couple, and by the way, can you imagine how much they were applauded on the front end?

Jessie:    Of course, right.

Tim Muehlhoff:    I mean, this is a Russian orphanage, we are not worthy to be in your presence. And so now, they feel like the biggest losers of the world, because this is like spiritual battle. So, comment on that idea. Is it possible even to find a couple that would be transparent enough to say, "Yeah, this was not what we signed up for"?

Jessie:    Absolutely. I think sometimes it can be glorified, like, "Oh, look at what you're doing for the children of the world that have nowhere to be," absolutely. I always say, it's just so hard. But sometimes what I say is, you can't go in it for yourself. I went in it to, in adoption, to solve my problem, to solve my infertility. I really did that. And then once those two adoptions didn't work out, and I was so incredibly crushed, and I had to go back and be like, wow, I need to grieve what I went into, and really understand my motivation for what I'm doing now. Why am I adopting children? I am adopting children to, whatever it is. And this couple, whatever it is. And if you can try to go in and really find your motivation, and for me, we were just opening our homes to kids. That's what we wanted to do. We wanted to love kids, and for however long it was.

Doug:    I think the reality is that every situation is different. Anytime you bring a person into your life, there's a variable that people are all different. Jessie and I say, speaking of downers, here's a real downer for you. If you want a downer of an analogy, we say that adoption, and I don't know where we've heard this before, but we often say adoption happens on the grave of another family. Which is a downer, but the reality is that a family situation has broken down, and is essentially dying. And then this new family is starting again, but it's on the grave of that old family. So, it's a serious situation that you're putting yourself into. And oftentimes, it's approached in this fun, lighthearted, social media kind of way of like, "Look how great this is."

Jessie:    "They get to go to Disneyland now."

Doug:    Yeah. And, "They have all the things they've ever wanted." But just beneath that, skin deep, is the reality that there's a death of a family, and both of them have to be held in that tension. But when you do, you start to realize that there's going to be some really dark days. You know there's going to be some really hard moments. There will be good moments too, but there's both. And at times it becomes too much, and you end up in that situation like your friends, which is a hard thing. Not everyone ends up that way, but it is definitely a reality when you're talking about how serious adoption can be.

Chris Grace:    Well, when you guys have gone through these experiences, it does so much to just hear your story. It's a blessing to so many people, in many ways I'm sure you guys may not ever be aware of, but to just do what you're doing so publicly, allows people the space to find somebody, to recognize the wounds that they have, the debris that they need to get rid of. But I'm sure your story has opened up the eyes of a lot of people. So, we just want to thank you guys. It's really good to hear about a couple that have journeyed through this, but more importantly have journeyed through this now, in a way to be able to help other people. And I think that's exactly what the gospel is about, right? We take our stories and our lives, and we share that with others and point them to a God that cares above all, about them, and cares about their hearts.

    And so, I'm guessing that for you guys, your journey with Jesus, your walk with him has just grown tremendously through the hard times, through the yelling, and the anger, and the pain, and the sorrow, and the grief and the wounds. And I think that's what's so cool to hear about your story, and we're just so glad to have you guys share that with us.

Jessie:    Yes, thank you for having us.

Doug:    Thank you so much. It's been a huge blessing to us to go through what we've gone through, and then know that there's so many still in this journey, and we're still in this journey. But to be a voice for the community, to be a little bit of a light to the world, and to show people that there is hope, there's always hope for them, has been not what we set out to do in our marriage. But it's really been the most blessed thing we could have ever done with this relationship that we're in. And we really are astounded by what we're called to do, and what we're able to do.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And it's not just telling your story, but it's the transparency of how you do it that I think it's so healing. Because there are challenges within what you're doing, and I really resonate with that. I'm so glad that you guys have chosen to show us both sides of this issue.

Doug:    Thank you.

Jessie:    Yes, thank you for having us.

Doug:    Thanks for giving us the opportunity,

Chris Grace:    And Jessie, Doug, where should they go if a person out there is wanting some help? We have a website, and I'll let you guys share yours. Ours is at CMR, which stands for Center for Marriage and Relationships, And we have resources of therapists, we even have free relationship advice where couples can call in, or an individual. And then we have a whole host of therapists in Southern California, and across the country actually. So, if you had to provide anything for someone out there listening, what resources would you direct them to?

Doug:    I would say two things. Our website is, so uniquely, and then knitted, K-N-I-T-T-E-D, And then also our Instagram is uniquely_knitted. From there, you'll be able to see that we are building right now, and it's actually going to be live in 2021. So, you might even be listening to this in 2021.

Chris Grace:    Probably.

Doug:    But it'll be like, we're offering a therapeutic resource for people, to help them understand kind of the basic tenets of what it's like to build resilience during a difficult season like infertility. And then we will network out to all the different therapists that we know, back to you guys, and just helping offer this community a specialized training, in what it's like to care for yourself during the very particular time of infertility. Linking them up with some therapeutic practices, and walking with them through that. So you can check that out,

Chris Grace:    Jessie, Doug, thank you guys so much.

Jessie:    Thank you so much for having us.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, well thank you for being here. And we'll be praying, and interested in your journey, and praying for you guys as you go through this. And again, thanks for being our guests today.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Thank you, guys.

Jessie:    Thank you.

Chris Grace:    Have a great day.

Speaker 4:    Have you ever been asked to mentor a young married couple, but were afraid to say yes? Thankfully, the Center for Marriage and Relationships is here to help. The CMR's marriage mentoring curriculum, covers important topics like communication, forgiveness, and the ever important sexual intimacy. It even provides tips on when and how to refer a couple for professional help. Sound interesting? Check out the resources page on our website at