My wife and I adopted our son and brought him home from Ukraine about five months ago. We went through a similar discussion process before we even started the process. At first we talked about in-vitro and the wife actually had some surgery done to remove some benign cysts that would improve our chances.
In the end, we decided that either adoption or IVF would be very expensive and with the latter there were no guarantees, while with the former, there would be, although timeframes were unknown.
We then considered a US adoption versus international and decided for the latter. One reason is that we aren’t as young as we used to be (she’s 41, I’m 34) and the idea of spending three or four years waiting was going to be too much. Another reason was the idea of the potential repurcussions of having the birth mother pop back into the child’s life at an inopportune time. My wife is adopted and while her birth mother never appeared (and my wife had no desire to try and find her), it remained a concern.
Now that we decided on an international adoption, we then needed to find a reliable agency. We had heard horror stories, including one from an ex-coworker who signed a contract with an agency. The agency worked very slowly and the couple got a baby from another company. The first agency, however, demanded $10000 in payment because the contract was fulfilled when they brought in the baby, regardless of how it was done. We were fortunate that we had a coworker use an agency for a domestic adoption that was competent and trustworthy (http://www.opendooradoption.com/).
We filled out mountains of paperwork, went through the homestudies, etc., and if you want more specifics on this, let me know and I’ll be happy to share. The other important thing to consider at this time, if you opt for international, is to do your homework on time frames, requirements from the host country and other issues. If your agency is a good one, they will be able to help you every step of the way here, although you need to keep in mind that things in these countries can change constantly (details below).
Like you said, adoption is not cheap. I think in the end, including fees, plane tickets, meals, rent, and transportation in Ukraine, we spent $20k-$25k. We are forutnate that our employer has reimbursed a small part of that, and the rest of it becomes either a tax credit or is deductible (I haven’t looked at the tax forms lately, so don’t quote me on this).
After everything is done, you wait, and wait, and wait. One of the reasons we chose Ukraine though is that they were a fast country for obtaining a child, and the whole process from the day we decided to adopt to the day we brought our son home was about 18 months. I understand China, for example, can take up to 3 years. Another reason for choosing Ukraine is that my wife and I are both caucasian and it was important to her to have a child that looked like us. I was not so hung up on these details, and as we talk about having a 2nd, it has become a non-issue for her as well.
Oh, and did I mention that we originally wanted an infant girl, or at least a girl no older than 18 months? Well, when we finally got to Ukraine, and went to their national adoption center, we were presented with with two sisters that could only be adopted as a pair (the oldest one being six years old), and four separate, single boys, aged up to three. We were VERY distraught and had considered just walking away at this point and coming home. Our translator insisted that we see one single boy that was recommended, even though he was just over two years old. We relented (again, I was not so hung up on the sex thing as the wife was) and took a long train ride to the adoption center. We met the boy as he played with blocks and spoke Russian (just a wee bit, he was still young) to his instructor. It took us about 8 seconds to fall in love with him and his smile. It is a good thing too because after only 30 minutes with him, we had to decide if this was the child for us, or if we wanted to travel back to Kiev and wait potentially a week for another appointment to see a list of children, of which there was no guarantee any would be a girl. One thing our agency did not tell us, they may not have known, is that in Ukraine, girls are most often picked by Ukrainian adoptive parents, and then certain European countries are next on the priority list, with the US being near the bottom. Of course if you are willing to adopt from China, a girl is almost guaranteed.
One other thng the agency did not know, and this falls back to the comment about things changing, is that we were originally informed that the adoption would require a single 30-day stay in country and then we could bring the boy home. However, after Yuschenko got elected (we got to visit the ‘village’ that was set up with the protestors!), a lot of corruption was going to the wayside, and as such, the laws in this particular region were followed strictly. This meant that after we finished the first set of paperwork, we had to wait 30 days to take the boy, and then another two weeks of paperwork before we could bring him home. We did not have this much vacation, so we had to make sudden flight plan changes and make arrangements with our (awesome) company to work for a month, and then leave again.
This all went smoothly though, and except for the horror story about being stuck in the Amsterdam airport overnight (with a fun 8-hour wait on an airplane where there is no ac on to save gas) because of their worst snowstorm in 45 years, it all went well.
I have pictures and my wife has her journal up on our website, www.abunchof.us. Like I said, if you have any questions regarding international adoption, or adoption in general, let me know. Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck. The waiting will drive you crazy at times for sure, but I would not trade Alex for anything in the world (well, most of the time!).