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Wisconsin woman aims to have kids despite complications

Posted September 9

— Miranda London knew her path to becoming a mother would be unconventional.

As a 17-year-old at Stevens Point Area Senior High School, London (then named Miranda Sexton) was diagnosed with gonadoblastoma, a form of ovarian cancer so rare that at the time doctors were able to find only one other person her age who suffered from it, USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported . The cancer had been caused when female cells divided abnormally, with one or three X chromosomes in some cells rather than the normal two.

Surgery removed the cancer, but also Miranda's ovaries and fallopian tubes. At the time, the concern was less about the future than about getting back to a normal life. During the early stages of recovery, Miranda was unable to lift her arms and needed assistance to walk up and down the driveway. With support from family and friends, she returned to school in just a couple of weeks and eventually went back to playing basketball and softball at SPASH.

Now 31, she lives in Madison with her husband, Brad London, and works as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Mary's Hospital. It's a career path based in part on her experience as a teen patient.

The couple, married three years in October, sought to start a family, going through a donor egg program and four failed attempts at in vitro fertilization. That process resulted in a bill of around $60,000; the procedure is not covered by insurance. After taking time off, the Londons opted to pursue adoption. They are working with American Adoptions — a national nonprofit domestic adoption agency billed as one of the largest in the United States — and say there will be an additional cost of at least $50,000 to $55,000 to complete an adoption.

The entire process has strained them financially. They have maxed out credit cards. They rent an apartment rather than own a home, and both drive vehicles with over 100,000 miles they hope will last another year. Brad, a deputy with the Rock County Sheriff's Office, has pulled his share of 60-hour work weeks. The Londons have also set up a fundraising page on YouCaring.com.

"I think it changes your priorities. Something you thought was important a few years ago is a lot different when you experience something like this," said Brad, 30. "I think it's been good for us and our marriage, to have these struggles and be able to lean on each other."

Beyond the expenses, Miranda said the process of bringing a child home is exhaustive. Like other prospective parents, they've gone through meetings with social workers and a study of their home, plus paperwork, parenting classes and background checks. Like other couples working with American Adoptions, the Londons have put together video and text profiles that would be viewed by prospective birth mothers.

"It's been crazy, but we feel like there is more of a light at the end of the tunnel," Miranda said. "And we've been lucky to have so much support from people."

Their experience, including the lengthy and taxing process, isn't rare. Around 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. Organizations like American Adoptions are regulated by state agencies such as the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, and wait times and costs can vary. American Adoptions, which focuses on domestic adoptions, says on its website that most of the adoptive families that join the agency first hold their new baby within a year. Adoption costs for families working with the agency averaged between $38,000 and $48,000 for 2015-2016, although the Londons said they should be prepared for a higher amount.

Support for the Londons has come in the form of encouraging words, positive adoption experiences shared by others who have been through the process; and through fundraising support by family and friends.

Lona Sexton, Miranda's mother, said the support has been uplifting after a difficult few years. She's watched her daughter struggle with the fertility treatments, and in January 2016 Lona lost her husband and Miranda her father, Jerry Sexton, to melanoma.

"They are excited again, and I'm looking forward to seeing them as parents," Lona Sexton said. "Even when she was younger, when there was a fussy baby people could give them to Miranda and she would calm them down. Jerry used to call her a baby magnet."

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