Leah Campbell is the author of Single Infertile Female: Adventures in Love, Life and Infertility. Leah was inspired to write this memoir after chronicling her struggles to conceive in a widely read blog. In her memoir, Leah is faced with a medical diagnosis that spurs her quest to have a baby while still single. As someone who has also struggled with infertility, I looked forward to my conversation with Leah. We talked about life lessons, overcoming obstacles, adoption and more.
Your book starts out with you packing up everything and moving to Alaska in search for a new adventure. You soon find out that this adventure will include your struggles with infertility, after a failed relationship and being diagnosed with endometriosis. As someone who has experienced both, I was curious how learning to cope with challenges such as these have made you grow as a person. What are some of the lessons you learned through blogging and/or writing your book?
Leah: I think facing infertility while still single taught me how capable I am of overcoming the obstacles in life on my own. It really highlighted the inner strength I have, and my ability to be my own advocate. At the same time, it made it clear to me how much I truly would like to have a partner in this life… because going through that alone was hard. I am proud of how I handled the hurt, but it would have been nice to have someone who loved me and was equally invested in my fertility supporting me through those trials. As far as lessons I learned from writing my book and blog – I came to realize how common the struggle to conceive is. So many women and couples face the same hurdles every day, often silently because they just don’t know how to talk about it. People don’t want to alienate their friends and family, and those who have never been through it rarely react appropriately, so a lot of times women and couples just suffer in silence. When I started blogging, I found a world of women out there who actually “got” what I was talking about, and had been there themselves. It was incredibly healing for me to realize I was not alone, even as I would never wish the same pain upon anyone else.
Recently, in your blog I would think you shared that you are in the process of adopting a child. That she, after so many struggles with infertility, “just dropped into your lap.” Can you share more about this arc, going from your challenges you describe in your book to finding hope through adoption? As someone who has considered adoption, I am interested in that kind of a journey. It would seem you might have some great life lessons having “come out the other side of infertility.”
Leah: For a long time, I was really frightened of adoption. I did not like how it was always thrown in my face as an option, because it felt like this way for others to diminish my feelings about losing my fertility. So often those who would flippantly say “I would just adopt if I were in your shoes” were people who weren’t in my shoes… people who had families of their own and had conceived with ease. It was very simple for them to tell me what they would have done in my shoes, because they didn’t actually have to be in my shoes. It just frustrated me, for so many reasons, and I felt as though there was a lot of ignorance behind those statements as well. As if people somehow believed adoption was just easy, when in reality – couples often spend upwards of $40,000 and wait for years to adopt healthy infants. And even then, there are no guarantees that adoptions won’t fall through, which always terrified me. Then you start to feel as though you are expected to not care about having a baby, or a healthy child, if you really want to be a mom. Like if you wanted it badly enough, you would be willing to take any child. Something about that always rubbed me the wrong way as well. Why did I have to make these choices? Why was it up to me to just accept what I might be given, when for so many others conception was so easy? I was frustrated and angry and couldn’t fully appreciate the option of adoption as a result.
Then, a little over 2 years after my last failed IVF cycle, a woman sent me a link to a website that was searching for homes for kids in foster care. Out of curiosity more than anything, I began looking through the profiles. To my surprise, the profile for a 12 year old girl really struck me. She seemed a lot like me when I had been her age, and the idea of her in the system with no home to call her own was really hard for me. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, even as I told myself the whole thing was crazy. I was still single – what on earth was I going to do with a teenage girl? But within just a few days, I had called to inquire about potentially adopting her. And just like that, my whole outlook changed. I suddenly became wholly aware of my ability to love the right child – regardless of whether they were an infant or not. I decided I had the space, and the love, and this was the path I was meant to pursue. My whole heart changed towards adoption, and I became passionate about foster care adoption.
I was sincerely set on adopting an older girl, and was going through the process of getting my foster care license, when a co-worker randomly introduced me to a woman from her village who was about to give birth. This woman had been planning on giving her child up for adoption all along, but after meeting the potential adoptive parents for the first time – everything had fallen through. She was due in a week, and desperate for someone to take her baby. A healthy baby girl who had never been exposed to drugs or alcohol. At first I started talking to her about someone of the couples I knew through my foster parenting classes who I thought might be interested, but within 15 minutes of us talking – she asked me if I would adopt her little girl. We really just clicked, and apparently she just knew I was the one. A week later, I was able to be in the room when my daughter was born. She is going to be 3 months old on the 21st, and her adoption will be official on the 28th of this month. We still have an incredible open adoption with her birth mother, and I am beyond blessed. But my adoption story is not typical – it is rarely ever this easy. Which is what I mean when I say she literally just fell into my lap.
You talk in the book about fulfilling your dream to become a writer and told me that you have started full-time freelancing. What are your writing plans since you have gone through the cathartic experience of writing a memoir about infertility? Do you plan on following up this and writing about your experiences with adoption? As a memoirist myself, I am curious about the process of moving on from one writing experience to another.
Leah: I do think there is another memoir in me about Josie’s adoption and life as a single mom by choice, but truthfully – I am much more interested in writing fiction. I really never in a million years would have thought I would write memoirs, it was kind of just something that happened as a result of this period of my life I felt strongly I needed to get out there. I have one idea for a fiction novel rolling around in my head that I am excited to get started on, but for now I am focused on book promotion and on lining up articles through various other sources. I am excited about this new adventure, and just open to the possibilities that may be coming up down the line.
Leah Campbell’s Single Infertile Female is currently available on Amazon. Her blog is at www.singleinfertilefemale.com .