The Family Picture: Two couples’ stories of infertility and adoption

Infertility affects thousands of American couples and yet so many of them suffer in silence. They’re afraid to tell their friends and family, all the while enduring countless medical tests and treatments.

In a special report, News 8 sat down with two Quad City couples who decided to share their struggles to start a family and the odd coincidence they both share.

Few things are as hopeful as a family picture. Few things are as joyful. But for years, few things seemed as impossible for two Bettendorf couples. Their roads to starting a family would end far from where they started on their wedding days.

High school sweethearts Lynn and Nate Schulte started dreaming of a big family after their wedding in 2004.

“You think that when you make the decision to have kids that it’s going to happen,” Lynn Schulte explained.

But as they say, life is what happens when you’re making other plans. And life was about to get interesting.

After a year trying to get pregnant, the Schultes hoped doctors might have the answer. That lead to three attempts at In Vitro Fertilization and three miscarriages.

“The first one was devastating,” Lynn said. “The second one was heartbreaking.  After the third one, my husband couldn’t do it anymore.”

“I didn’t want to give up on the dream of having a child that looked like either one of us, that had my nose, or his eyes. So it was the death of a dream of our family.

But what she didn’t know is that a new dream family was waiting.

****

“I’ve always wanted to be a mom.”

Olivia and Kevin Ryan are just eight weeks away from welcoming their second child into the world.

Their son, Coleton is almost a year old.

“Kevin is the one who can make Coleton belly laugh,” Olivia explains. “He comes home from work, and they laugh and wrestle and play. It’s so cute.”

The Ryans, like the Schultes, knew they wanted a big family. The couple couldn’t wait to tell everyone the first time Olivia learned she was pregnant. The first doctor’s appointment should have been a happy one, but the technician couldn’t find a heartbeat. The miscarriage was devastating to the couple, but doctors told them everything was fine. They were young and healthy. But then, they lost another baby. Then a third.

“There wasn’t anything to point to,” Kevin said. We took all the necessary tests and they say they have no idea.”

“We knew going into each one that we might go through heartbreak again,” Olivia explained. “But just knowing that we just had a hope, we had a hope we eventually would.”

***

At the Schulte house, hope came in an e-mail. By now, Nate and Lynn were on a waiting list to adopt a baby internationally, after struggling to conceive on their own. The e-mail from the adoption agency was short, but it packed a big question.

“It was two, maybe three sentences,” Lynn recalled. “Would you consider being an instant family? They are a 2, 3, and 4-year-old sibling group. What are your thoughts?”

“My thought was, maybe these are the only kids I’m going to get. I’m going to grab them up.”

With her husband’s support, they went for the first meeting to see Rosetta, Xavier and Glorianna for the first time. These were their children, but there wasn’t much time to get ready. In 48 hours, they were coming home.

“We surprised a lot of people,” Lynn said. “A family of two became five in 48 hours.”

They were first-time parents, three times over, and that wouldn’t be the last surprise.

***

“We never had a point where we thought to stop trying.”

After three miscarriages and a failed adoption, the Ryans weren’t ready to give up on their family picture.

“Maybe God’s closing this door, but he’s opening another one,” Ryan said.

And that’s what happened the day Olivia was approached by a woman from their church, who had followed her struggle to start a family on her blog.

“She came over, and she asked if we would adopt her baby. I said yes. I started crying. She said, aren’t you going to talk to Kevin? And I said no,” Olivia explained.

Olivia was in the delivery room the day the baby they had hoped and prayed for was born. His name was Coleton Samuel.

All the while, the couple was still trying to conceive on their own. And there would be three more miscarriages, until Olivia was pregnant for a seventh time.

“We had never seen a healthy heartbeat at 10 weeks,” Ryan explained. “We had never made it through the first trimester.”

Then we hit eleven,” said Olivia. We hit 12 and thought, are we really not going to lose this baby?  What’s going on? It took a while to accept it.

And at 18 weeks, they learned their baby was a girl, on the same day Coleton’s adoption was finalized.

“We had a party for his adoption and a gender reveal for our baby,” they said. “And that’s the time we accepted it from people when they said congratulations.”

It’s something she’ll hear a lot more of in the coming weeks.

“We feel content. So blessed. We have two kids under 14 months old, and this is plenty.”

***

Back at the Schultes, Lynn was getting used to life as a family of five, when she learned there would be a number six.

“I was sick. I had headaches,” she said. “I was not feeling well. And I took a pregnancy test on a whim and found out I was pregnant. It was just six months after I just adopted 3 kids.”

Baby number four was on her way. She’s now a 2-year-old named Lily.

Lynn is now surrounded by the children she dreamed of for so long and the family picture she never thought would be complete.

“I want to slap the girl years ago who thought she was never going to have a family,” Lynn said. “My family was waiting for me. It wasn’t exactly what I pictured, but it’s so much better.”

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