On a questionnaire for personality/gifts/talents, I score a 92 out of 100 in Administration. Apparently, that means that 92% of the time, I make decisions or do things according to my instincts of organization/planning/making things work efficiently.
Unfortunately, my compassion score is 45 (sigh), so I need to be very careful I don’t plan or be efficient right over others’ feelings. I just loooooove lists and schedules and planning - I really should have bought shares in the Post-It Note company! I love to plan out my day, my vacations, special events – my life!
So it comes as no surprise that in my early 20’s, I had my life all planned out. I married my best friend from college, we had a cute little apartment in Winnipeg, and I had my dream job as an Executive Assistant to the president of an oil company, which paid the bills through my husband Emery’s university years.
The week before graduating with his Bachelor of Education degree, Emery got his dream job! It was in Steinbach, Manitoba, at a private Christian high school.
I arranged to take a day off from my job in Winnipeg and we drove to Steinbach for the day to look at houses and for me to interview for a job as a school secretary at a nearby elementary school. By the time I went back to work the next day, we had bought our first house and I had a new job ready for me in August - one with the same Christmas and summer holidays as my husband!
I had also already planned when we’d start our family, but I had no clue that statistics show two out of every five couples face infertility. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive, and carry to term, a baby within one year of trying. I never ever thought I would someday become part of that statistic.
We went to the doctor after just over a year of trying to conceive. The following two years consisting of testing, trying one thing, waiting three months to see if it worked, trying something else, waiting three months, and on and on. It was a huge roller coaster of emotions – hopes dashed, then hopes up, then hopes dashed.
Meanwhile, our friends were all (or so it seemed) having their families - some planned, some not even planned (sigh). It became very depressing as time dragged on and no “answers” seemed to be forth coming. It was also a very lonely process. We kept it to ourselves for a long time, unsure of what to say or how to share it. Only our immediate families and a few close friends knew what was going on.
Emery and I had both committed our lives to Jesus at a young age, and continued to strive to live our lives for God’s purpose. But what was God’s purpose in this? We thought part of our purpose was to be parents, and I, of course, was convinced my purpose was to be a very well balanced, organized, efficient mother! We also believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, that what is written in it is God’s thoughts, God’s instructions, God’s encouragement. These are some of those Words:
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Pretty clear, isn’t it? So why do we too often live out this version:
Do not be calm about anything, but in everything, by dwelling on it constantly and feeling picked on by God, present your aggravations to everyone you know, except God. And the acid in your stomach, which transcends all milk products, will cause you an ulcer, and then a heart attack, and you will lose . your . mind.
We often do everything but pray. I am completely guilty of running to make a list or do some research, trying to fix things, when I should just pray. Even Bible study, church or counselling without prayer will rob us of that deep understanding and power that can be experienced when we stop and spend time enjoying God’s presence, His joy, His peace.
Oh, there were times of deep despair that I actually could not pray…I was all prayed out, felt like I had nothing else to say, or was truly a little ticked at God. Isn’t that exactly how the Deceiver and Defeater wants it? That is when I really learned about Intercessory Prayer…people prayed FOR me, ON BEHALF of me, because I sometimes could not pray myself.
I also wanted to remind God of His words in Psalm 37:4…
Delight yourself in the Lord and HE WILL GIVE YOU THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART
But I think God was trying to remind me…DELIGHT YOURSELF IN THE LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Delight myself in the LORD, not in becoming a mother
That was a lesson I needed some time to catch on to. Was I putting all my trust for happiness and satisfaction in becoming a mother? Could I be content and satisfied in my Saviour?
After nearly three years of hoping every month that we might be pregnant, we finally got a phone call from our fertility specialist that one of the test results confirmed that we would NOT be able to conceive. I have to admit that it actually brought a sense of relief; finally we had an answer.
Up to this point I was going crazy, of course, because I couldn’t plan a thing! Here we were: first time with double income, a new mortgage, wondering if we should be looking for a car with four doors instead of our sporty two-door. Do we designate our tiny second bedroom as a kids’ room or a guest room, or should I make it a craft room? Our life felt like it had been on hold for three years. But now there was a new peace - the peace promised in Philippians 4:7.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Peace comes in situations completely surrendered to Christ. Sometimes when we finally give up trying to discover all the answers to the “why’s” in our lives and decide to trust God, unexpected peace washes over us like a summer rain. Those who haven’t experienced this perfect peace may find it unexplainable that, at nearly the same moment we were told we would never conceive, I distinctly remember feeling a peace that I would someday, somehow be a mom.
So now that the conventional method was out of the question for us, we began to look for options. The first route we researched was other medical ways of achieving a pregnancy. However, we found our options of Inter-Uterine Insemination or In Vitro Fertilization raised a number of ethical issues that were not right for us. I won’t go into any Science lessons, but even the Math lesson was not enticing…at that time, for about every $10,000 spent there was a 7% success rate…that was too discouraging for us.
So, then there were three other options:
1. To decide to be a childfree family – somewhat enticing: dual income, perhaps simpler to travel the world; important realization that two people do make a family
2. To adopt
3. To foster
We decided that adoption was the way that we wanted to go.
In 1998, in Manitoba, there were three ways to do this:
1. Private search
2. Child and Family Services (CFS)
3. Adoption Options – a not-for-profit Licensed Adoption Agency
We first attended a CFS Adoption Orientation and discovered anyone wanting a child under age two with limited special needs…see you at your next orientation in nine years!
On to Adoption Options (AO), which connects birthparents and adoptive couples. People with an untimely pregnancy or birthmothers/fathers can come to AO, receive respect, confidentiality, and counselling to guide them through this difficult decision-making process. If they decide to place their child in an adoption, they choose a family from AO’s files. All of the expectant client services are free of charge.
Clients wishing to adopt a child attend a training seminar and compile a detailed information file on themselves. A Home Study is conducted and then your file becomes active. From those active files, birthparents can make an informed decision about who they choose to adopt their child.
Our file was completed and became active January 1998, and we began to wait. It is a very unknown wait because you are chosen, not moving up on a list. It could be days to years, so you really can’t sit by the phone. Somehow, we didn’t find this nearly as hard; we had done what we could, put it in God’s hands.
Eleven months later, November 30, 1998 we received a call that a birthmother wanted to meet us; we had been matched! We met right away because the baby was due in a week! At our first meeting, both parties try to be objective, checking each other out to see if this really is a good fit; both sides can back out at any time, with any or no reason. A few days later, AO called and said IF the birthmother was going to choose adoption, it would be with us!
The very next day, her baby boy was born and she wanted to see us again. We named the baby together – we chose his first name and she chose his middle name. The day they were released from the hospital, she placed him in our arms, kissed his forehead and said to that little boy, “Now it’s time for you to go home with your new family.”
Our adoption experience has been nothing but positive. Our adoption is Open, all identities are revealed, as are all adoptions in Manitoba after 1989, unless there are safety concerns. The short version is we enjoyed regular family gatherings with Braden’s birth family, a little less frequent when geography separated us. But both sides believe that God brought us together exactly according to His plan. And His plan was far superior to anything I could have ever organized.
If anyone would have asked me at age 21 when I got married if I’d be able to handle not being able to conceive children, I’d have said Not A Chance. I do not wish infertility on anyone but accepting my hardship of infertility as God’s all-knowing plan for me brought me closer to God.
Remember my low compassion score? This has given me a huge opportunity to feel more – to be more sensitive of couples who have been married for a long time and don’t have children – no more jokes that they don’t know how! It has also given me a whole world of communities to relate to: infertile, adoptive parents, birth moms or birth dads, adoptees.
Well, it didn’t take long before thoughts started entering my head like: Wouldn’t it be nice for Braden to have a sibling? I knew we were parents forever – even with one child, we would always be parents. Adoption Options would return our file to Active to be considered for another adoption whenever we were ready, and so we did that when Braden was about one and a half years old.
Two years later, not a single birthparent had even looked at our file. Our first adoption had happened only 11 months after we filed, which on average is very short. But again, there are no guarantees because you are chosen by a birth family.
God continued to provide that indescribable peace as I continued to strive to delight myself in Him. I was never one of those that missed being pregnant. Other adoptive couples did express that the mom sometimes wished to be able to join in those all too frequent conversations about pregnancy, morning sickness and stretch marks, horror stories about labour and delivery, but I quite honestly did not feel I missed out on a thing! I had a baby, I was a mom and I loved every moment of it.
Spring Break of 2002, Emery and I chaperoned a choir from his school on a tour to Abbotsford, B.C. We spent a week on a big chartered bus. One of the young ladies in our choir suffered from motion sickness, and we had to pull over once or twice when her Gravol wasn't cutting it. I had never before experienced motion sickness while in a vehicle, but on this trip, it felt like it was contagious. Oh well, never had I been on a big chartered bus with 30 high school students, driving through the Rocky Mountains for a week either! I felt kinda yucky the whole week, but found that if I snacked constantly, I felt a little better. Snacking constantly…on a trip with my hubby and a bunch of great musicians…in the mountains…good times!! We made it home safely and I was glad to finally be free of that bus. Only after we’d been home for two days and the nausea continued, did I suspect that something was “wrong” with me. I thought I had a parasite (I’d had one a few years earlier) or…wait a minute, let me look at the calendar – how time flies when you’re travelling, right?!?
Emery said there’s no way, don’t get our hopes up. I went and bought a home pregnancy test anyway…it was positive!
Emery didn’t believe the test that said 99.9% accurate right on the box! He said I should go to the doctor. When the nurse came back into my room and said I was pregnant, I broke down and cried like I have never cried before. The nurse asked if she should call someone, was this very unexpected, did I need to talk with someone? Through my sobbing I tried to tell her, "No – I’m very happy!"
I was already seven weeks pregnant. Not in any of my planning or even praying did I expect this.
Macy was born in December 2002.
I spoke to a church ladies’ group just before she was born, and the end of my speech went something like this…
-I feel a little guilty sometimes, like I don’t deserve this second miracle in my life
-Braden was our first miracle – coming to us in a way only God could perfectly plan out
-I was going to strive to be content with one child, I expected to maybe adopt a second child
-Now God defied all fertility specialists and statistics, and performed another miracle in this pregnancy
-It’s almost an excited kind of scared to think what He has up His sleeve next…
There’s another verse in the Bible that I thought I knew well and understood what it was talking about. Paul wrote a letter to a church group in Ephesus. He describes God like this:
…who is able to do immeasurably MORE than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us
I had already received more than I had asked. IMMEASURABLY MORE equaled a little sister for both Braden and Macy. (This time I knew a little sooner what the signs of pregnancy were.) Rayna was born in May 2005.
God has blessed me more than I ever imagined, never mind planned. In all of this, I have realized that my happiness cannot depend on what I am blessed or not blessed with. It must depend on my relationship with my Saviour.
I still struggle today with being tempted to plan a