Mother's Day can be a bittersweet day for many women--especially for those of us longing to be mothers. This year it is a sweet one for me: I started off my weekend scavenging and then washing a tiny soccer uniform, making chocolate chip pancakes and listening to the sweet sound of my son singing "Jesus Loves Me" from his bedroom. But for anyone to fully understand just how sweet this was for me, I really need to start at the beginning of my story...
My journey to motherhood started 10 years ago. I was a brand new teacher in a brand new school, and let’s just say there was “something in the water.” I had never seen so many pregnant women in one place, and it sparked a desire in me that I never knew I had. I wanted a baby bump! So I come home to my husband of 2 weeks, and I tell him that I want to have a baby. My husband, who never tells me “no” to anything I ask, told me “no” that day. We did, however, agree that waiting until our 2 year anniversary seemed like a good plan.
The next summer, one year later, my husband and I took a group of high school students on a mission trip to Reynosa, Mexico. One of our assignments while we were there was to visit an orphanage. We were told that the kids wouldn’t be there and we would just be moving some boxes, so we were thrilled when we got there and the director told us the kids were there and we could just spend time with them. I spent most of my time with one six-year-old girl who painted my nails and showed me the bedroom she shared with several of the other girls. She let me carry her around piggy back the entire time. I watched my husband playing with the boys. Later that night when Richard and I had some time to talk, we both shared that we felt God calling us to adopt from a third-world country...one day.
Fast forward to the following year...the spring of 2005 rolled around, and we were approaching our 2 year anniversary--the date we had agreed that we would start trying to have a baby.
Now, I am a teacher, and teachers like to plan. I had heard that sometimes it takes a few tries to actually get pregnant, so instead of waiting until our official anniversary in July I told my husband we should start trying a month or two early. Then it could happen by July so that I’d have an April baby and I could take my maternity leave for the remainder of the school year which would just continue right into summer...
I am telling you all of this because I want you to see just how much I wanted to control my journey 10 years ago.
I didn’t expect it to happen right away, but about 6 months later I began to get just a little concerned that it hadn’t happened and so I decided to go to the doctor just to make sure I was doing all of this right. I scrolled through a list of local doctors and randomly picked one. I had no idea that I had chosen the meanest, oldest doctor in the county--who was way overdue for retirement and hated her job. I had only known her for 5 minutes before she gave me her professional opinion: more than likely, I had Gonorrhea. What?! Are you kidding me?! I’m pretty sure that kind of diagnosis requires a little more than a handshake and a 5-minute consultation.
I left her office in tears and vowed never to return, but one thing I did take away from that visit was a Basal Body Temperature chart. For the next two years I would take my temperature at the same time every day in the hopes of finding my ovulation pattern. I hated doing it, but I liked that it gave me some sort of control. I was like a fertility detective, trying to break the secret code of my body.
Once we had reached a full year of trying and 6 months after my horrific experience at the doctor, I decided to visit a new doctor to get a new opinion. She was the complete opposite of my first doctor...completely laid back, and didn’t think I should be concerned about anything. She told me that for many people it can take over a year to get pregnant and that I shouldn’t worry, but she ordered some tests for me and my husband, just to humor me. The results came back and showed that both of our bodies were perfectly healthy and in good, working condition in the fertility department. It was bittersweet news. We were relieved that nothing was wrong, but then frustrated that we still had no answer. To find that something was wrong might have meant that something could be fixed.
Instead, I spent another year taking my temperature, asking questions, researching on the internet…but mostly pleading and wrestling with God. It was a lonely and dark time for me. Nothing and no one had an answer for me. I begged God to make me pregnant, and at the time it felt like He was so silent and distant.
After 2 years of “trying”, I mentioned to my husband that maybe we should start the adoption process. After all, we had both felt that calling from God and it was definitely something we wanted to do in the future. And we knew that it could take a while, so it just made sense to go ahead and start. But I will confess to you…it wasn’t my plan A at the time. And there was a large part of me that still hoped I would get pregnant. But in my mind, adoption was a given. It was certain. It was something I could control (if you are an adoptive mom out there, I know you are laughing right now…adoption is anything BUT certain, and certainly not anything we can control!). If I couldn’t control my body, and I wasn’t hearing from God, this was something I could do TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN.
So we contacted a local adoption agency and signed up for their informational meeting. Days later, before we’d even attended the meeting, I heard from God. My husband and I had volunteered at the Louis Palau festival on a Saturday, and when we got home I was feeling pretty tired so I took an afternoon nap. And while I was sleeping I had a dream. It was so vivid. In my dream, one of the workers at the festival…a woman with blonde hair and a white visor walked up to me. She said, “you need to read 1 Peter1:6, and tell Richard.” I woke up scared to death. I had never had a dream like that before, and I certainly wasn’t familiar with the scripture she was telling me to read. I was terrified of what I might find! What was this woman trying to tell me?
So I ran downstairs and grabbed my Bible, and as I read it, tears just streamed down my face:
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
I knew in that moment that God heard my cry. That he cared. And that He had a plan. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and everything up until this moment was for a purpose. I did not, however, realize that I was about to enter a 2 year refining process.
And so we began the adoption process. We chose an agency, and we chose a country—Ethiopia—it was the only country my husband and I agreed on and whose profile we fit, and it was really an easy decision for us. Later, when we learned of the statistics of Ethiopia’s orphans (there are currently 4.3 million orphans in Ethiopia; and 1 in 6 Ethiopian children die before the age of 5)—it affirmed our decision. The first part of our adoption process went fairly smoothly. The paper work was smooth. We had the funding we needed. We loved our social worker who visited us and wrote our home study. I began reading books on adoption and Ethiopia and my dream of becoming a mom began to materialize.
Our social worker sent our home study to our adoption agency, and at the same time my husband and I boarded a plane to Colorado for spring break. He was out snowboarding one morning and I was in our hotel room when I got a call from our agency that they had received our home study…but they had some questions and wanted me to call them. This woman told me that she had reviewed our study but that she couldn’t guarantee that we would be approved by immigrations OR by the Ethiopian court because in our home study, my husband admitted to experimenting with drugs when he was 19 years old. My husband was honest in this study because that time in his life was a big part of his story and how he learned about God’s grace. But this meant that we could wait a year, receive our child’s picture and information, and then be denied during the final court approval process. It planted a seed of fear in me that caused me great anxiety throughout the rest of our process and forced me pray for peace continually, and to pray that God would let nothing stand in our way.
We joined the waitlist at #98 for a baby girl. But then I just didn’t have a peace about our decision, so we decided that we were open to either gender. Still didn’t feel right. Ultimately we decided to request a boy, from birth to up to 9 months old. And then I had a total peace. I began to dream. Began to visualize. We had a name: Jude. God was growing my heart for adoption. For this little boy over 7,000 miles away on the other side of the world.
During the year that we waited to be matched with our son, a lot of incredible things happened...
- On a Friday night on the way to an out of town wedding we received a phone call from a family friend, telling us that she had an employee who was due in 6 weeks and wanted to give her baby up for adoption and the adoptive family had backed out. She wanted to know if we were interested…we were interested only if we could do both adoptions simultaneously, but once our agency said we’d have to put our Ethiopian adoption on hold, we knew that this baby was not meant to be ours. We remained faithful to our call to our baby boy in Ethiopia. So I called my close friend who had been going through infertility treatments and had just mentioned that she might be open to adoption. When I called, her husband told me she was in the bathtub and that she’d call me back. Little did I know, she was in the bathtub, grieving over her 3rd failed fertility treatment, and telling God that if He wanted her to adopt, it was going to have to fall in her lap. She called me after her bath, and I told her about this pregnant girl and this baby due in 6 weeks. She was interested, and he came early…he was born 10 days later and has been in her arms ever since.
- Shortly after this, a friend of mine who had been barren for over 10 years found out she was pregnant.
- And then the same wonderful friend of mine whose adoption process took 10 days, and who had been diagnosed with an onset of early menopause…found out she was pregnant. Unfortunately for my husband, he was the one that delivered that news. We both remember it like it was yesterday. I’m pretty sure I smiled and said how great it was for them, and then I just sort of melted to the ground. My whole body just gave way and I was doubled over, ugly crying on my kitchen floor. Saying, “I am happy for them…all of these things keep happening for everyone around me…and that’s great…but I feel like God forgot about me. When will it be my turn?” And my sweet husband…who is always so compassionate and sensitive and understanding…lifted his hands in surrender and slowly backed away, saying, “I don’t know what to do.” And then a moment later he said, “I’m worried about what is going to happen to you if this doesn’t work out. I think it will, but if it doesn’t…you’re enough for me.”
I called that moment my first real “Hannah” moment. In the book of Samuel there is a story about Hannah, and it says that the Lord had closed her womb. Her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
And it says that in her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. She goes on to say, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” I learned to pray like Hannah. I took my anguish and grief to God and was transparent before Him. He was the only one who could handle that kind of ugly crying and brokenness.
On 9/9/09, it was finally my turn. I got the call while I was teaching a room full of first graders. Our adoption consultant got my husband on the phone and then told us the news at the same time: “we have a referral for you! A handsome baby boy. He is 8 and ½ months old, he is healthy, and his name is Abreham.” She also told us that she was sending us an email with more detailed information along with his picture. My husband and I vowed to wait until we were together to open the email. Several long hours later, we sat down in front of the computer and laid eyes on our son for the first time. He was beautiful and perfect. We began praying that we could bring him home by Christmas.
The Ethiopian courts were closed for the rainy season, so it wasn’t until November 4th that we received a court date. Our court date was set for Friday, December 4th. That was the longest month of our wait, and possibly the longest month of my life. I was terrified we wouldn’t pass court. That we would have come this far only to be denied at the end. I prayed night and day. I remember driving down the road and feeling like I was running out of air…that no matter how deeply I breathed I couldn’t get enough oxygen to my lungs. But finally, on December 4th, we received the news that he was officially ours. And I could breathe again.
We received an embassy date for January 5th, which meant we needed to leave for Ethiopia on New Years Day, 2010. We were disappointed that we weren’t able to bring him home in time for Christmas like we prayed, but when we arrived in Ethiopia we made the interesting discovery that THEIR Christmas is on January 7th, so we were with Jude in time to celebrate HIS Christmas with him! My husband jokes that we just weren’t specific enough about WHICH Christmas when we prayed.
Jude is everything we prayed for. Everything God knew we needed and abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined.
He had heard my cry. But He had also heard Jude’s cry. And he knew what I needed. He knew what Jude needed.
Jude is an amazing boy. He has caused many to open their heart to adoption. God didn’t heal my body, He changed my heart. It says that He gives us the desires of our heart; He also gave me His desire. There are 54 verses in the Bible about orphans. He tells us to look after them; to bring justice to them. That is the desire of God’s heart.
And now we are waiting again…we are #59 on the boys list, #72 on the girls list, and #28 on the siblings list. We are praying for siblings—a toddler boy and a baby girl....and this time around, I am learning to pray expectantly. I have learned to say,“God, I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who you are, and I know that you are faithful and most of all you are good.” I look back on my journey and I realize it was during those times of great desperation that I walked so closely with God. What seemed at first to be a curse has turned out to be the greatest blessing of my life. I thank God that He chose me. Instead of feeling like He forgot me, I think to myself that He must really favor me to have chosen me to be an adoptive mom. I am so blessed.