Dr. Mike and Mary Beth Brummond, members of the Basilica of St. Josaphat, always knew they wanted to raise a large Catholic family. They just didn’t know the journey would be different than either imagined.

Married on Oct. 3, 2008, in St. John — close to the northeastern shore of Lake Winnebago — the couple hoped to begin having a family right away, but after two years, it became apparent they were experiencing infertility and were unlikely to have biological children.

“We pursued a number of medical options for several years, none of which were successful,” Mike said. “While we had talked in the abstract about adoption even as a possibility while dating, it became a very real possibility for building our family after going through years of infertility.”

The couple researched the adoption process and spoke with others who had gone through the same process for beginning a family.

“More than anything, we knew we were called to share our love with children, and adoption seemed to us the most natural way to do so,” said Mike, who is an associate professor of systematic studies at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.

Mike and Mary Beth began pursuing adoption, but as they quickly learned, the entire process was a rollercoaster of bureaucracy, red tape, disappointment, cost and waiting.

“There were times when we felt overly scrutinized through a home study process with our agency and by the birthparents who were considering adoption for their baby,” Mike said. “While there were a lot of ups and downs in the wait, we were so thankful to have a wonderful agency that walked us through the process step by step and offered their support to both of us, and to the moms and dads considering adoption for their child.”

After a wait of about three years each, they adopted two boys. Both appreciated not only the support of family and friends but also the birthparents, who are also involved in their children’s lives.

While Mike and Mary Beth are overjoyed to be parents of two active boys, they still retain the wounds and anguish of infertility.

“There is so much joy in our lives, but there is still sorrow at not being able to conceive,” Mike said. “We discovered each other not just as a husband and wife but as mother and father. We saw in each other new gifts and new ways to love. Educating and forming our boys, particularly in handing on the faith, is one of the most rewarding experiences of our married life.”

Mary Beth had worked as a certified financial planner, but two years ago, she began homeschooling their two boys.

The changes in Mike and Mary Beth’s marriage were similar to the way any marriage changes after having children. The couple spent seven years without children, and became accustomed to their independence and a quieter way of life.

“Suddenly, our time was not our own, and we had to learn to be more selfless in whole new ways,” Mike said. “We have also been blessed to have open adoptions in which we are in close contact with our boys’ biological families. In a sense, we’ve been adopted into their larger families as well. Besides our own families, we spend holidays and birthdays with our boys’ biological families. We like to say that our children went from being loved to being loved and from being cherished to being cherished. The connection between our family and our children’s birth families has been one of the unexpected blessings of adoption.”

As no child is born with an owner’s manual, Mike said they learn to parent as they go. Adoption is no different, and each child brings questions and challenges.

“Some of these will undoubtedly come when our boys are older, and we help them navigate their own story of adoption and make sure we are there to be with them as they process that reality,” he said.

For those contemplating adoption, Mike and Mary Beth agree that it has its moments of frustration and can be quite taxing, but for those who are called to build a family through adoption, it is incredibly worth it.

“Our boys are not simply our ‘adopted children.’ They are our children,” Mike said. “Also, don’t be afraid to open your heart to your children’s birth parents; they chose adoption for their child out of courageous love, and we can learn a lot from their self-sacrifice. Talk to families who have been through the process. The time may never be perfect, but we’re not called to wait to give our love until everything is perfect. Love is never wasted.”