At some point in my late 20s, parenting became just about the only life goal I could focus on. I’d spend countless hours imagining the wonderful things I’d do with my child. Traveling to dozens of parks, taking mommy and me classes, designing a princess or prince room, the field trips I’d volunteer for, being class mom and whipping up the most delish class treats or the coolest holiday crafts, and countless other things I dreamed I’d take up with my child, until I was finally crowned, in my mind, “The Best Mom Ever”.
My husband wasn’t too far behind me in his pie in the sky parenting ruminations. Just unlike fancy desserts, he dreamed up dozens of train layouts around the nursery ceiling and enclosed in glass track cases. Or trees built and made just for trains. If it wasn’t trains, it was full-scale war ship models or imagining rebuilding a car with his teenager. Throw in the sports he wanted to teach his son or daughter, like taking up his beloved hockey, all the go-to dad things every dad dreams of. He, like me, conjured up all the ways he would be “Dream Dad”.
You get the picture.
That’s when we were newlyweds, young, wide-eyed, essentially carefree, and mostly naïve.
Well, as they say, stuff happens.
The starting of a family began with excitement and planning. You know, a special dinner followed by a check of the calendar, a quick temperature check, and then that special meeting; the one that makes miracles happen. But before you know it, weeks led to months and months to years, and we were still the same fun-loving couple we started out as, just childless and a few years closer to the, “Hey, you shouldn’t have babies after that age” date.
That looming deadline led to countless doctor appointments, even more countless tests, followed by dozens of artificial inseminations, and finally that fateful, “Hey you’re not going to be having a baby” conversation.
Truly, no one can prepare a mother to hear the words, “It’s you, your husband’s got fine sperm, but you’re infertile, and you’ll never give birth to your dream child.” I mean that’s not what they said, but it’s what you hear. It’s your bottom line pain. Knowing that like every other woman around you enjoying the fruits of their date nights, you’ll be fruitless. Barren. Sterile. And every other word you learn that defines the new you.
And thus, as quickly and wildly vivid as your dream of parenting came to be, it dies a rather slow and agonizing death as the cold, hard reality sets in.
I mired in self-pity for a good while after that, lived to work, made poor health choices, made poor life choices, and basically struggled to find joy. You start to wonder if your husband and his healthy sperm will find the door to more fertile ground in an effort to fulfill his goal of “dream dad”.
He didn’t. He clung tight to the pitiful me holding on to me as I wallowed in every moment of the news, until finally, I rounded the corner in search of new light.
I decided to renew and re-energize our marriage, I’d join my husband’s Catholic faith. He hadn’t been practicing Catholicism, and I thought if I converted I could convince him to return to the church and we could heal together. For the first time, I was unselfishly opening my eyes to the pain that our infertility wasn’t only causing me, but us.
And truth is, I wanted to ask God, “Why?” And while I was fairly certain He wouldn’t be shouting down any helpful answers, I thought I just might find peace in understanding why I had to follow His plan and not my own.
And boy did that turn out to be a surprise.
With a little reluctance, I joined my fellow neighbor who was an RCIA member at the local Catholic Church. The great Christians who commit most of a year training and initiating people like me, the big sinners. He agreed to be my sponsor and lovingly opened his home, complete with two young children to my husband and me as we made our way through this faith journey.
We grew close during those many nights of learning the Catholic faith. I came to call him my brother, not just in faith, but in heart, as we laughed, learned, cried, and really experienced my life transformation together. And still every night after class, I continued to pray for God to help me understand why. And every night, silence reigned.
My faith was really my only mooring from the depression that threatened to drown me.
Until one night on the way home, my neighbor and now truly my best friend, Jeff, looked at me and said, “Why not adopt?” By now we were pushing mid-30s and I think both of us had sort of given up on the idea, but somehow his idea sparked a bit of joy in my dark heart.
I’d always been reluctant after hearing so many news stories of adoptive parents having the baby of their dreams torn from their arms after months of caring for them. Adoption didn’t seem a reasonable emotional risk for me.
But Jeff went on to explain that, as a lawyer, he was affiliated with two state attorneys who were changing federal legislation when it came to adoption laws. And that Indiana now held the most favorable laws in the nation for adoptive parents. Is that you God? How did I meet Jeff, and how did he know these two lawyers from all around the country?
Many sleepless nights and plenty of conversation later, my husband and I heard God’s message, and several months later we joyfully brought home our child. It wasn’t a traditional path to parenthood. It wasn’t even a pleasant path to parenthood, but we were parents, and at the end of it all we had no doubt we were this child’s parents, not because of our plan, but because of a far greater plan.
According to the National Survey of Family Growth produced by the CDC, 7.4 million women, or 11.9% of women, will receive fertility treatments in their lives. For some, the miracle of conception will be the result they dreamed of.
But for many others, the miracle of adoption can also be the dream they longed for. You see, we know now without a doubt, our son was made in God’s hands to be with us. In fact, his birth mother tragically died just four years after he was placed in our loving arms. Instead of an orphan, he is our child, our son, the carrier of our family legacy.
And as I write this today, thinking back on those times, I realize I probably wasn’t the “Best Mom Ever” but I gave it one helluva shot. My son, on the other hand, will leave the nest in August to head to college, and he will have been “The Best Son Ever”.
Remember, your family can be born in more ways than one.
And, one last thing, he opted for a Batman room over the prince or princess room.
In loving memory of my brother in Christ, Jeffrey Jankowski.
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