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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Journey to Parenthood

In January 2008, the blessing my husband and I had prayed for finally arrived in a back, corner room of the OB ward: Mercy. After eleven years of marriage, God made us parents. Our daughter, Mercy, was born to us in the early hours of a January morning which felt strangely more like Spring Robin's weather than Jack Frost's. My pregnancy with her had come as a beautiful surprise to us: on the heels of years' worth of jumping through infertility hurdles.

We had stopped our biological-parenthood-pusuit at the “in vitro” hurdle and re-routed, because we were already passionate about adoption. Having discussed it prior to marrying, my husband and I had agreed adoption was in our family's future. Adoption was a dream we shared, and one we felt God had placed in both of our hearts. In our "perfect plan", however, we had tried for biological children first. We planned it this way because of all of the reading we'd done on adopted children's struggles with feelings of belonging and feeling wanted. We never wanted an adopted child of ours to feel as if they were not "enough" for us, thus prompting us to have a biological child too. Our perfect family plan.

The Bible says, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails". Proverbs 19:21.

The struggle to have a biological child was a roller coaster. Those of you who have struggled through the valley of infertility understand. It impacts your life on so many levels: from your relationship with your spouse to your medical knowledge as a whole, from your diets and exercise routines to your choice of reading material, from how you handle basic conversations about parenting with friends to what Hallmark holidays- like Mother's Day and Father's Day- begin to mean to you.

If you are a Christian, emotionally, you hand the whole situation over to God and do well for many days, and then in your weak and doubting moments, you take it back again. You wonder why He does not think you should be blessed with a child, but people having one-night-stands are given children they never wanted. You wonder if He knows something about you that you don't know (well, of course He does), but in this instance - perhaps that you aren't cut out for parenting, or any other number of possible reasons "why". You work through faith battles on trust, doubting, knowledge of His character, knowledge of your own sinfulness, marital roles, how to fight for spiritual joy despite life circumstances, and how to rest in God's unfailing love. You do this alone, and with your spouse...and with the few godly people in your life who give advice based on His Word, not their own opinions, and possibly more importantly – the ones who know when it's a "time to speak or a time to remain silent"...the latter being a skill you quickly find many people have not honed.

All of this turmoil, frankly, took me personally quite by surprise. You see, having always wanted to adopt as well, it never occurred to me that the loss of the biological-parenthood dream would hit me with such force. After all, I wanted to adopt too...and to me, a child to love was a child to love. Whether or not it had my husband’s and my genetic composition was nearly a nil point. One would have thought, logically, that if God closed the one door (biological parenthood) it must have been proof positive as to “why” He had planted the adoption dream in our hearts – knowing it was the way He wanted us to build our family.

Yeah, well, the heart is hardly ever logical I have learned. And as hard as I tried to educate it on the logic of our situation: it stubbornly rebelled. It mourned the loss of the children we had hoped for but were not having. It mourned my husband’s lousy “luck” at being stuck with me: an infertile wife. I knew adoption was our future, and that thought filled me with happiness and excitement, but at the same time I was filled with sorrow over the loss of our other dreams. It’s an incongruous, but definite fact, that the heart can feel such differing emotions at one and the same time.

Skip forward to May 2007 when my husband and I found out we were expecting, literally 3 weeks before our adoption dossier was mailed to the adoption authorities in China (the point at which a pregnancy would not have affected whether we were allowed to adopt from there. Timing is everything though, and our pregnancy news did indeed affect our adoption plans, but I will blog about that later).

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people tell us, since that joy-filled time back in May ‘07, that the reason my husband and I were able to get pregnant is because we both had stopped stressing and had relaxed in our pursuit of adoption instead. To that, I just chuckle internally and think to myself, “Nope.”. And, any of you who have wrestled with infertility, pursued adoption, planned for a mission trip, worked demanding jobs, or gone through serious family and church difficulties all at the same time in life (or your own personal life-cocktails) will understand why others’ comments have made me chuckle. No, life did not get less stressful. To be blunt, neither my husband nor I were even ever able to determine when our baby was conceived (No, I am not implying we had an immaculate conception. I am just elaborating on the level of stress we were under at that time of our lives.) But, I will tell you what HAD changed: we had decided no matter what,…despite stresses and emotional roller-coasters, adoption bills, or fertility tests,…we would leave the results up to God and TRUST that His plan was best. Children or no children: He became enough. He re-filled us with joy in Him, when we re-focused our faith…

And, that’s when He sent us HIS Mercy.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lyme Light Beginnings

As I recall it, the year 2009 rolled in with the same sense of newness and imminent possibilities shimmering on its horizon as I feel this 2010 January season. Of course, the year 2009 itself, while filled with those pockets of deep joy life seems to dish out in all the seemingly mundane moments, also proved to be full of hairpin turns and harrowing valleys I could not have anticipated.

Like many in our nation, I faced the first lay-off I've ever experienced in my personal employment history. Directly on the heels of the GM and Chrysler bankruptcy announcements (two of our major clients), one-third of the partnership in our corporation broke off into its own company, and our business could not rally under those three daunting blows. After seven years of dedicated faithfulness to my company, and despite seniority, I was laid off and joined the overflowing masses of the unemployed. (Faithfulness and seniority do not help pay a corporation's electric bills, and all the hard-work in the world cannot generate a case-load out of thin air.)

At the time, however, as deep as the job loss frustration was, it was small potatoes compared to the devastating hits my family was taking on other fronts. The coming months would find me diagnosed with arsenic poisoning, Babesia, Errlichia, and chronic disseminated Lyme Disease: medical conditions I barely (if at all) knew existed prior to 2009. As a result of those diagnoses, our adoption agency would close our adoption file, and my doctors would recommend we not continue our plans to grow our family biologically. Our daughter, who was under two, would be put through a myriad of her own doctor visits and tests, due to my medical conditions, to determine whether I'd passed them on to her in utero...and she would experience her first seizure.

My husband would struggle to keep this family afloat financially, emotionally, and spiritually while facing his own physical challenges: foot surgery, the discovery of food allergies, and chellation to help preserve his one functioning kidney.

While our family's struggles this past year are not necessarily unique struggles to humankind, nor even the most daunting a family has ever faced, they did carry with them all the uniqueness one bundle of human stresses can: They were OURS. Ours alone. Our unique combination. Our unique set of weaknesses, strengths, resources, tools, and faith to help us or hinder us in tackling and overcoming them.

And, in that sense this blog will be both unique and universal. It will be my perspective on my unique family's struggles, not just this past year, but the ones we face in the coming year(s)... but I suspect that as you read, you will see that in many ways, the heart of our emotional and spiritual struggles/victories have been yours as your life's personal valleys and mountaintops.