by Lennie Magida

Families come about in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of steps along the path. Believe me, surgery is one of the least fun steps. Surgery that’s followed by complications and then by more surgery is even less fun. But when there are infertility issues, there’s often surgery.

In my case, it failed. And 28 years later I often think: Thank goodness.

Let me explain. Back in 1984, after various tests, I had infertility surgery. My husband, John, and I were living in Baltimore, so I was able to go to Johns Hopkins Hospital—the best of the best—where a renowned specialist operated on me. Unfortunately, the results weren’t promising. OK, they were dismal. And then I developed complications from excessive scarring, wound up back in the hospital for a few weeks, and finally needed a second operation to clear the complications.

In the end, the doctors told me that I’d probably never be able to conceive normally and, by the way, I probably shouldn’t try to conceive by any means. “If you had to have a Caesarean,” they said, “it could kill you.”

It was, to put it mildly, a low point. I was sick and weak—I’d been nourished by nothing but an IV for three weeks—and I had nothing to show for the surgeries and hospitalization. My body had failed me, and medicine’s best efforts had failed me. Even worse, I felt that I’d failed John. One day I asked him tearfully, “Do you wish you’d married someone else?” Being who he is, he of course replied, “Are you crazy?”

(So far, I realize, John’s response seems like the only part of this experience that would make a person thankful. But please keep reading.)

Before long, my body and emotions healed. And in 1985, John and I began focusing on adoption. If we were going to become parents, that’s how it was going to happen. We decided to go the private adoption route and started working with a Maryland adoption lawyer. We got a dedicated phone line, ran ads, and waited.

In early 1986, a young Maryland couple contacted us. They were married with a toddler son, and they were expecting a second child. But they were barely scraping by, and they’d reached the painful decision that they couldn’t afford the new baby.

We met the sweet mom and her adorable little boy. With our lawyer’s help, we started making arrangements. But when the baby girl was born, the couple couldn’t give her up. They just couldn’t. And we couldn’t help but understand.

Still, it felt like another failure. But 26 years later I often think: Thank goodness.

Months went by, and we found out we’d be moving to Beijing in 1987 for John’s job. There wasn’t time to complete an adoption, so we stopped seeking possibilities. Maybe, we thought, we could adopt a child in China. (This was about five years before the adoptions of children from China to the U.S. began.) Or we’d wait until we moved back to the States. Another two or three years wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Then, one evening in late 1986, when I was on deadline at my job at the Washington Post, my friend Kim called with a five-word question that changed our lives:

“Do you want a baby?”

I’ll tell you the details in my next post. For now, suffice it to say I told Kim “yes.” And that’s how our daughter, Nina, came into our lives.

Sometimes I look back, and I wonder. What if I hadn’t had infertility problems? Or what if my surgery had worked? John and I would have had a biological child—or children. What would they have been like? And what happened to that baby girl in Maryland and her family? I’ve often hoped everything turned out fine for them. I’ve pictured the little girl as blonde and blue-eyed like her mom and brother. What would we have been like as that family?

Those are unanswerable questions. But that’s fine. Because I can always know this: If any of those scenarios had happened, we would never have even known about the beautiful Filipina baby girl who became our daughter.

And that’s why, when I think about the surgery mess or the adoption that wasn’t, I think: They weren’t failures. They were simply detours that led us down a different road.

Thank goodness.


Lennie Magida works mainly as a nonprofit development writer & consultant.  With husband John and daughter Nina (another Don’t We Look Alike? contributor), Lennie spent most of the ’80s and ’90s in Asia and Hawaii before moving to Potomac, Maryland, in 1998.  (See Author Bios for more information about Lennie)

See Lennie’s first story, “3000 Miles Away, the Stork Came Early,” here.


  1. Lennie, what a wonderful expression of gladness for being able to raise your strong and beautiful daughter. Thank you so much for writing this!

  2. Impossible for me to imagine a finer daughter. Or a finer wife.

  3. A truer testament to “God works in mysterious ways” has never been written. Thank you for sharing your story, Lennie; it is truly inspiring!

  4. Wow, the comments above are just so sweet and well-deserved! Thank you for sharing this post, it’s really heart warming and inspiring. You’ve reminded me, whatever the predicament, all will fall into places in ways we really do not know or even plan. Thank you. Looking forward to your next story!

  5. As someone who also struggled with infertility only to find true love through adoption, I can fully relate to your story. It’s strange to think about what could have been. But even harder to imagine life without my sweet daughter! Thank goodness for infertility!!! 😉


  1. […] Part 2: Sometimes Things Don’t Work Out. And Thank Goodness for That. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Filed Under: Creative Nonfiction, Domestic adoption, Lennie Magida, Parents on adoption issues, The new baby Tagged With: adopting a baby, adoption, creative nonfiction, domestic adoption, interracial adoption, transracial adoption « Murmuration […]

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