Story and photos by Tyler Cobb
Listen to Andrea Anaya and see more photos of her family.
Andrea Anaya has wanted a big family her whole life.
Upon entering into her second marriage, Anaya, 39, already had one daughter, Shirsten, but she dreamed of having plenty of children to wrap her arms around.
But when she realized she couldn’t get pregnant, Anaya spent years trying to increase her family in any way possible, including through painful and often “devastating” attempts at in vitro fertilization.
Ten years later, Anaya says it doesn’t matter whether a child is yours biologically or adopted.
“To this day, I feel great guilt for the thought I had that I didn’t want a baby that isn’t my own,” said Anaya, who now has two biological and two adopted children.
Many families have gone through Anaya’s pain trying to have children of their own and have spent thousands of dollars in the process fighting against slim odds that pregnancy would occur.
In vitro fertilization is a method in which specialists implant embryos into a woman’s uterus in an attempt to start a pregnancy. It has become a popular substitute for couples who want children but don’t want to adopt.
The process, which can take months, has low success rates. Anaya tried four different times to become pregnant, and only after a lot of tears and prayers, she said, did it reward her with her now 3-year-old son Daniel.
“A lot of the couples I have worked with have tried in vitro once, but it’s so expensive,” said Paul MacArthur, an adoption attorney for MacArthur, Heder and Metler law firm in Provo, Utah. “More than most say I’m not going to go down that road.”
MacArthur, who has three biological and two adopted children, helped Anaya adopt years ago after she had suffered through a third failed in vitro fertilization.
The process of her first adoption started when she put her name on the lists for LDS Family Services, a program within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Her first adopted child “was meant” to come to the family, as Anaya describes it.
Anaya’s husband, Gene, was against the idea of adopting for a while until he came home urgently one day, positive that they needed to sign up for a child after he experienced a spiritual moment when he was working in the LDS temple. The process, which can take months, was hurried along unexpectedly when one of Anaya’s employees, Adrian, knew a pregnant girl who couldn’t care for the baby.
Her caseworker for LDS Family Services helped them go through extensive paperwork, and by early May 2001, they knew they would be bringing a baby girl home in less than a month. Anaya said the birth mother left them a note at the services center, which brought tears of joy to her eyes.
“On one side of the paper were words to the song ‘From God’s arms to my arms to yours’ … and on the other side she had handwritten a note,” Anaya said. “And [the birth mother] said, ‘All my life I’ve wanted to be a mother, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, but I want to do it right. And from the moment Adrian told me about you, I knew you were the family for my baby. I’m having a girl, she’s due May 31, and then she’ll be with her family – thank you for letting me carry her.’”
Despite the joy Anaya felt at holding her new baby girl, Kailea, now 8, in her arms, she wanted more children.
Anaya had initially gone to a clinic in Arizona in 1998 for in vitro, a failed process that cost her about $14,000 in medical expenses. The second time, she heard about the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, a clinic that boasted a 60 percent success rate in early 2000.
Eric Surrey, a physician at the Colorado center, said many of their patients come from out of state and occasionally outside the United States because of the large number of specialists the center employs. Yet even at the center, Anaya tried an additional three times to become pregnant before one egg took hold.
“It’s not so much complications but things that are abnormal with the embryos,” Surrey said about why so many women don’t become pregnant. “It won’t implant, or it could be uterus problems.”
If the embryo doesn’t implant properly, a couple is usually out more than $10,000, which is not refundable.
“With a failed in vitro, there’s only a period of time of a few months in which the mother can try again. It’s a fairly short period of time,” MacArthur said. “With an adoption, you can get back on the list, and there are tax credits. You’ll get your money back and that’s what you use to try again.”
At the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine, the in vitro consultation costs nearly $400, the actual in vitro procedure costs more than $8,000 and additional medication adds another $2,000 to the bill. To save money, Surrey said some families will freeze embryos from a failed attempt.
To attempt pregnancy through in vitro, Anaya said they gave her a drug that put her body in menopause.
“They do that so they can introduce the hormones they want, and then you reach a point where they do an ultrasound every day or every third day and shots become much bigger,” Anaya said.
Then Anaya was taken into an operating room to implant the embryo. She said they usually put the eggs together with a sample of sperm and wait.
“My husband’s sperm is so lazy though,” Anaya said while laughing. “He has them. They just don’t do anything. They had to shove one sperm into the side of the egg, put them inside my uterus and then I had to lay flat.”
On the third try, the pregnancy was successful and went past the danger zone of 12 weeks. Anaya believed she would be having a baby in a few short months. But it was not to be. During one of the check-ups, doctors realized the heart beat had stopped, and Anaya had lost the baby.
The devastating loss didn’t leave Anaya hopeless. She adopted a second child, Kaelys, now 7, and said she realized it didn’t matter whether the child was from her womb, just as long as the baby was part of her family.
MacArthur said he and his wife never actually considered in vitro fertilization because they were “poor starving students.” Now adoption is an amazing thing in their family.
“You also have to go through the issue of what is the story you tell to your adoptive child – that we tried everything and then we picked you,” MacArthur said.
Anaya said she and her husband thought about those issues but realized it was worth it to have a family in any way they could. Even after adopting two children, Anaya went back to the Colorado center to try for a fourth in vitro fertilization, and this time it worked.
She rarely traveled during that fourth attempt, and when her son Daniel, now 3, was born, she cried tears of joy. However, she said it’s not any different than adopting children and feels blessed for all four of her kids.
“It’s about the baby and about the love that you have for the baby,” Anaya said.