I’m a planner. I like a calendar with all the little boxes filled in. I like to know what’s coming up, whether it’s what’s for dinner that night or our next vacation. So, when Matt and I started talking about having kids, I had my plan. I wanted lots of little chubby hands, some lighter skin, some darker, all a part of our family. Little did I know then that the road to each of our kids would be far different than I had planned.
We went on a cruise for our 3rd anniversary and while we were digging our toes in the sand and watching the waves crash in front of us we started dreaming of our family. We talked pregnancy and cravings, adoption and referral stories. We couldn’t wait to see how God was going to grow our family. Not long after, I remember waking up early on a Saturday morning. Matt was still asleep and I had bought a pregnancy test. My heart raced as I waited to see the results. Sure enough, I watched as a second line appeared. I couldn’t believe it. Could it really be that easy?
We relished our little secret and I immediately began planning. I was online figuring out the tentative due date, wondering if our little pea would come early and share a birthday with me. The next few weeks we dreamed and wondered and planned and imagined. And then one night I had a funny feeling. I called my doctor the next morning and told her, “I just feel like something’s not right.” She had me come in for an ultrasound the next morning and we heard the beautiful sound of a strong and healthy heartbeat. The next day we headed down to Mississippi excited to tell our family the news. They were ecstatic. And then, right in the middle of all that excitement, I started spotting. I called the nurse who reassured me it was probably nothing. But within hours, we knew it was definitely something. I wound up being taken to the hospital via ambulance. I kept hoping and praying that somehow, someway our little pea was still with us. But when they took me to do an ultrasound instead of the beautiful heartbeat we had heard just 48 hours before, now there was silence. A deafening, sickening silence. And my plan started to crack.
The days following were painful and raw. Most nights I cried myself to sleep on Matt’s shoulder until I woke up in the middle of the night with the sound of our baby’s heartbeat playing through my ears, only to realize it was just a dream and my womb was empty. My doctor gently told me how common miscarriages are and that we could try again as soon as we were ready. About six weeks later, we saw two more lines. With tender hearts, we prayed and hoped that we would be able to hold this baby. Several weeks went by and we were scheduled for our first ultrasound. I held Matt’s hand in a death-grip, his knuckles white as she turned up the volume and we heard another strong, healthy heartbeat. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy.
Less than 48 hours later, I had another miscarriage. It felt like falling off a ferris wheel, from hearts soaring in the sky to hitting earth and hitting hard. I was mad, hurt, heartbroken and desperate to understand God’s plan. Every morning, I would start writing in my journal and then eventually the tears caused the ink to run everywhere and I collapsed in a heap on the floor. I wasn’t so much praying as I was begging, pleading. God took me back to Luke 1, a passage He had used to encourage me after our first miscarriage. “Blessed is she who has believed that what they Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” I knew God had a plan, and I was finally ready to follow His plan instead of my own. After years of talking about adoption “one day,” we began to talk about it in the “now.”
During this time, my doctor put me through a litany of tests. One came back abnormal, and she prescribed a medicine for me to take. We got the green light to try again. We were both scared and unsure how God wanted to grow our family. When we found out I was pregnant again, we were paralyzed. I couldn’t even bear to dream or believe that I was pregnant because I was so afraid to lose another baby. We had our first ultrasound and heard a healthy heartbeat. Then, we made it to a second ultrasound, and a third and a fourth. As this precious life grew inside me, I realized my faith was growing too. And so was my love for adoption. God had brought me through my darkest days. He had led me through the loss of my two babies. He had sustained us and shown us that He alone was enough. And on Memorial Day 2010, at the start of a hot and muggy Memphis summer, we headed to the hospital. That night, we held our beautiful miracle, Lydia Marie, for the first time.
From the first moment, Matt and I loved being parents. Even during sleepless nights and dirty diaper explosions, we were head over heels in love with our baby girl. Lydia wasn’t even nine months old when we started talking about growing our family again. We talked about adoption and pregnancy, unsure of what our next steps should be. The planner in me thought it better to go ahead and try to have another biological child while I was younger if it was possible. Plus, the cost of adoption had us petrified. Despite the miscarriages, we had been able to get pregnant so easily before that we hoped it wouldn’t be long. But one month turned into two and then three and then four… until a year had gone by. A million Dollar Store tests and no second line.
While all this was going on, my heart for adoption was stirring stronger every day. I got to go watch our dear friends Stephen and Jessica finalize their son’s adoption. I left the courthouse that day knowing I had witnessed something special and sensing that adoption was just around the corner for our family. Our pastor, Chris Conlee, taught a series that January called Defining Moments. His bottom line, “If God says go, you can’t say no.” Halfway through the second week’s message, Matt and I looked at each other and we knew. It was time to get started. We dug out all the adoption information we had sent off for over the years. We talked agencies, countries, ages and medical health histories. We chose our agency, America World, and our country, Ethiopia. We had fallen in love with those big brown eyes and for some indescribable reason we just both felt Ethiopia was right for our family. We sent in our initial application, and a few days later we received a phone call letting us know we had been accepted into the Ethiopia program. We had a long way to go and a mountain of paperwork to start working on, but our adoption journey had begun. During the weekend that followed we told the exciting news to our family, to our small group and then Sunday night I wrote a blog letting all our friends know. And in God’s incredible grace and provision, the next morning we got quite a surprise when we found out we were adopting and I was pregnant.
Lydia’s favorite phrase at the time was “Mo, mo babies!” She would proclaim this as she walked through the house with her hands full of baby dolls. On my most honest days, I prayed the same cry to God, and I smile when I think of how God answered our prayer. We began the first trimester of pregnancy and the paper chasing stage of adoption.
The total cost for our adoption was estimated to be around 30K, a figure that made my heart race when I thought about it. Being a planner, my first approach to raising funds was a spreadsheet that showed where every dollar would come from. I quickly realized my spreadsheet was futile. God was going to provide every dollar we needed, but He was going to do it in His own way and His own timing. We have watched God provide through t-shirts, a garage sale, a quilt, journals, headbands and extreme generosity from friends, family and even strangers.
While I watched my tummy grow each day, I wondered if our birth mom was doing the same. While I prayed for the health of our unborn child, I also prayed for the health of our child and birth family across the ocean. As we checked off documents and background checks, fingerprints and a home study, we dreamed of our Ethiopian child. And on August 31, 2012 we sent a package weighing almost 15 pounds bound for Ethiopia. We were officially DTE, dossier to Ethiopia, and our wait time commenced. After a year of waiting, wondering and wishing to grow our family, we celebrated being DTE right there in the middle of the FedEx store and then five weeks later, we celebrated the birth of our second miracle, Charlotte Anne.
Over the next three years, the wait time for Ethiopia has been extended, but God has continually nudged us forward through much prayer and encouragement. After being DTE for two years, we got quite a surprise when we found out we were expecting a third biological child. On November 20, 2014, we added our third daughter, Georgia, to our family. That Christmas, we added her new stocking, and I hung the little Africa cookie cutter a friend gave us on the mantel too, a reminder to press on.
Our journey to each of our children has been a hard one. But looking back now, I’m grateful. During those dark days and long nights, my faith has been forged. The painful loss of our two babies gives me a better understanding of our birth family and what they have endured. Having walked through the valley gives me hope as we prepare to help our child walk through a lifetime of grieving the loss of his or her birth parents.
This road has not been easy, but as I hold my girls’ hands and imagine the day when I get to hold two more I am reminded that God is faithful. Matt and I have claimed Isaiah 61 over our family. I especially love verse 3, the first part speaking to our journey as a family, “and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” and the second part is my prayer for each of our children, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”