MOORHEAD — Parenthood is something many dream about — holding their child for the first time, their baby's first word, first smile and all the other milestones along the way.
But for many people, traditional pregnancy isn't an option, whether it's because of infertility or other factors. It can sometimes take many attempts to expand a family, and with each failed attempt comes heartbreak.
However, some couples know from the get-go that having children the traditional way will never be an option. For those who are looking to start a family, surrogacy can be a solution, and with the advancements in technology, having children via a surrogate has become safer and easier. Surrogacy, however, still involves someone trying to get pregnant, and the odds that it works on the first try do not always favor the intended parents.
That's where adoption comes in for a Fargo married couple looking to expand their family after six years together.
As soon as you shake the hands of Benny and Josh Andres, it's easy to see how anyone could fall in love with them.
Sitting in Babb's Coffee House before the workday starts in downtown Fargo — the coffee shop is still near and dear to their hearts six years after their first date there at the corner table by the window — the couple shares their journey together to where they are today.
Shortly after they got together, their family grew by four legs.
"It's kind of funny," says Josh Andres, a counselor at Davies High School in Fargo. "We met and then about four months into the relationship, my lease was up and we tried to decide if we should commit to a house and living together. We decided not yet, and we got a dog two months later."
"Yeah, we weren't ready to move in together, but we got a dog together," says Benny, an operations manager for US Bank in Fargo. "You know how that goes."
Now, the Andres are hoping to grow their family even larger. This time, however, they're hoping for less fur.
"I think throughout our whole relationship, we were on the same page of wanting to have a family," Benny says. "After we got married, it started becoming more of a conversation."
Since their first meeting, Josh and Benny have made it their approach to life together to put their honest selves forward, experiencing new things to bring out different sides of one another. It's an idea they have brought with them everywhere, so when it came time to talk about starting a family, the Andres recognized the idea of their child (or children) not being biologically both of theirs because of adoption rather than surrogacy would allow them to enter parenthood together.
"We really thought adoption would be the best route because we felt like we are both coming into it on the same page," Benny says.
The couple found an agency and began the process.
"When we started researching, we found out how long the process can be and we looked at each other and decided we should probably start now," Benny says. "We weren't really ready for a kid that next day, but we know it could take two to three years. In two to three years we are going to be ready, so we thought we should get started."
They began the process in December 2017. After the first application to determine their eligibility for the program, the couple was invited to a two-day pre-adoption education class. After that, a second pre-adoption application was filled out and submitted, and the "hurry-up-and-wait-game" began. Six to nine months later, they could start the second phase, known as the home study process.
"Just saying 'home study process' is an understatement for all the work that goes into it," Josh says. "We spent all summer working on separate, individual questionnaires asking pretty much any question of when we were born, how we were raised, all the way to what our relationship is like now and everything in between."
After a month or so of filling out paperwork and submitting documents to meet the requirements, which included a background check, they were ready to wait for home study approval, which they got in December 2018 after several meetings with their social worker just one year after beginning their journey.
"It's a lot of time," Josh says. "After we submit it, it takes a month for them to receive it, process it and assign a social worker."
While they have made strides in the adoption process, the Andres know they are far from done. Their domestic infant adoption program gives them two options to pursue in their quest to grow their family.
They're now on the waitlist to be added to their agency's profile book that will have information for expectant mothers to get to know them. If she decides they may be a good match, they have the opportunity to participate in a "match meeting," where expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents can get to know each other, ask questions and figure out if they would like to move forward.
The other option, outreach, gives the Andres the opportunity to find a match without using, or without needing, the family profile service. Their Facebook page, Benny & Josh Adopt, provides updates on their journey and a glimpse into their lives as they wait for a match to make their family complete.
While their adoption journey hasn't always been easy, the Andres know they are lucky in ways that some aren't.
"One thing that we are really thankful, and are very aware of, is we didn't have years of infertility to work through and those heartaches that come with that," Josh says. "So although it's been a full year (since we started) and there have been some bumps that go with that, we are fortunate that we haven't had those years of heartache that go with this."
"We don't have a loss because we can't have our own biological children," Benny says, adding, "but it's different for a heterosexual couple because, in reality, they should be able to — and they have probably tried — and it isn't working. We just always knew that we would have to adopt or we were going to have to do something."
The process can take years to complete. From the initial decision to the second the ink dries on adoption papers, couples like the Andres wait in the wings, reaching out and preparing their hearts and lives for the day their little one can come home.