It’s a pleasure to share the most important story of my life with you, but I also feel the weight of it. This is a story about infertility, and, to put it simply, infertility is grief. At least, that’s how I define it. I wrote an article about infertility many years ago, and I heard from a lot of people who found it helpful. But I received one specific email that I’ll never forget: A woman told me that, as she read the article, she finally felt as if someone understood her pain—until the end, when I betrayed her with my story’s happy ending. I don’t want to make that mistake again, so I’m telling you up front: This is the story of how infertility, adoption, and one very special fundraiser changed my life in unexpected ways.
When I say infertility is grief, I suspect that most who have struggled or are struggling with infertility know what I mean. Every day, every week, every month is the death of an unconceived child (again and again and again)—not to mention the slow, seeping, soul-crushing death of hope, of the dream to start a family. There should be a funeral, many funerals. Friends and relatives should gather. Bereavement leave should be granted. Yet the world keeps spinning, and even those closest to us haven’t a clue as to the depths of our pain. Infertility is loneliness and isolation. But time doesn’t heal this wound; it only makes things worse.
My wife, Lora, and I existed in that desolate place for a year or two leading into 2005. That’s when infertility treatments almost killed her, and we were left with one clear path for beginning our family: adoption. This felt like a mixed blessing; many couples wrestle for years with the gut-wrenching choice of infertility treatments or adoption. Of course, adoption is a surer path, but giving up on the dream of biological children is not easy to do. With the decision made for us (more or less), we grieved the loss of our biological children for a time, and then we poured our hearts into adoption.
This new and unexpected journey rekindled our hope. It pulled Lora and me out of our despair. It gave us a new mission, a new goal to work toward. We wanted a newborn baby; we wanted to be present when our child was born. So we chose an “infant and open adoption” program. There was paperwork, trainings to attend, paperwork, and did I mention the paperwork? On top of all that, the price tag looked very out of reach for our paycheck-to-paycheck lives. (I believe our total bill was in the $16,000–$18,000 range.)
Lora and I did what we could with fundraising. We held a couple of garage sales, we sold baked goods, we picked up more work on the side. (For example, I created resumes and cover letters for people.) Together, we earned about $4,000–$5,000. It was a stellar start, but we needed to bring in more money more quickly, and our top fundraising prospects were behind us. We decided to try something else—something daring.
I had written a manuscript for an early-reader chapter book called Santa Claus: Super Spy: The Case of the Florida Freeze. I believed I could sell plenty of books at school visits and holiday craft fairs, so Lora and I discussed it. We made a financial plan, and we decided to invest a few thousand dollars into self-publishing the book.
Back in 2005, self-publishing wasn’t mainstream. Very few self-publishing websites existed, and those that did charged their clients hefty fees. So I turned to my local library for help and was delighted to locate exactly one book on self-publishing. For the next several weeks, I used it as a guide—and I ultimately published 3,000 copies of The Case of the Florida Freeze.
You can probably guess how this gamble turned out: I sold every copy! Just like that, we earned most of the money we needed—and I picked up a new hobby.
In June 2006, our son Jonah was born. He came a couple weeks early, so we were caught off guard. We hurried home from a weekend vacation but missed his birth; we arrived 15 minutes after Jonah entered the world. He’s been with us ever since.
It’s incredible how our journey of heartache, torment, grief, and depression led us to our two amazing sons. They are the joys of our lives, and we wouldn’t trade them (or the winding path that led us to them) for anything. All that I do is for those two boys and for the biological parents who chose to give Lora and me the greatest gifts we could ever receive.
As for Lake 7 Creative, it’s grown beyond a modest little self-publishing company. I work with a variety of authors and illustrators, and the company now specializes in Choose Your Path books. Our newest batch of titles includes interactive adaptations of classic literature, such as Can You Survive the Wonderful Wizard of Oz?, and interactive mysteries that let readers solve each case: The Empty Cabin and The Ghost of Old Central School. These titles and more are available beginning October 11 wherever books are sold.
About the Author
Ryan Jacobson is an award-winning author. He has written more than 60 books, with topics
ranging from silly to scary. Ryan prides himself on writing high-interest books for children and adults alike, so he can talk about picture books in kindergarten, ghost stories in high school, and other fun stuff in between. When he isn’t writing, Ryan likes to build LEGO sets, play board games, and try new restaurants. He lives in eastern Minnesota with his wife and two sons.