We had a daughter

I drove my son and his friend to the park on Monday. It was a rare sunny day in this spring of never-ending stormy showers and we were happy to get out of the house. During the drive I listened to their simple, disjointed conversation in the backseat. I overheard my son say as he stared out the window:

“We don’t have a baby anymore. One day we had a baby. That was all.”

He said it so matter of fact, I admired him. Maybe I’m even a bit jealous of the distance with which he can say those words. Its been almost two months since I placed the baby I called my daughter back in her mother’s arms and I still struggle to say the facts. One day we had a baby. Now we don’t. That’s all.

Four year-olds are resilient. His nightmares stopped the week after she went home, I think. Or at least he stopped crying in the night “I don’t want them to take my baby sister.” I would hug and kiss him and tell him that neither did we, and I’d stay long after he fell asleep again, feeling the breath of this much larger and longer child than the one I just relinquished.

When the morning would break we’d explain to him that this was a good thing. Her mom needed us when she couldn’t parent. She had asked us to be a family for the little girl she couldn’t give that too, and we’d said yes. We’d ohhed and ahhed over ultrasound pictures and been there during labor, when no one else was. “And you were such a good big brother! But the great news is that now she can be a mom to her, so we had to give her back.” I’d grit that last part out, hoping to believe it more and more myself, each time I said it. And that answer seemed to make sense to him.

It is great news, now that she can parent.

I had a conversation years ago, before we had started our homestudy, before we’d officially decided to pursue adoption, about priorities in adoption. It is one of the most paradoxical arrangements, that something could be so tragically mutually beneficial for the parties involved. Mercy for all, a second chance at life for her, and second chance at parenting for us. But that in an ideal world, something so redeeming wouldn’t be necessary. That as adoptive parents, our desire beyond all else should be that the child could be placed with their biological parents.

It is a thought almost impossible to hold in my head. And it’s a reality we have to face daily now. Ten days after she was born, our daughter’s birth mom revoked her consent. Adoption, her plan b, was not necessary after all.

“The great news, is that now she can parent.”

Yes, this is great news, I repeat, as tears stream down my cheeks.

Advent Reveal

This advent I had the pleasure of praying for the sweet and thoughtful writer of a blog I’ve read for a while now and have often cited here on my own blog, which made this season feel that much more personal.  When I received the email I admit I was a bit nervous, knowing what a spiritual dry spell she had been going through lately – but I took that as a challenge to pray harder!  And then when I read on her blog that she was going on a blog fast, although I was a little sad I’d have less to read, I knew things would be  getting better for her soon.  Blog fasts do that.

Crazy enough, two days later she heard about her first potential adoption situation for a baby to be born in February and I got to add 3 more people to my prayer list!  I’m glad she popped back in a few times to let us know how it was going with meeting the birth parents and other things related to life, although I know how refreshing a blog fast can be too.  I particularly liked her spiritual adviser’s advice to shift the focus from suffering to thankfulness for a new perspective and I’ve been trying to apply that to my life.

I got to pray for….A Complicated Life!

I prayed for her daily the St. Andrew’s novena with the intention of “peace in her life and a baby”.  I also prayed the novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe (after recently visiting the Basilica!) and whenever I attended Mass this advent season for her.  I also prayed for her birth parents – they now have names! D and E – after the St. Andrew’s novena each day that they would make the best decision for this new little baby.  You have no idea how excited I was to add them to my prayers!

I hope you felt these gifts of prayer and I’m happy to continue praying for your family!

Not meant to be? Discerning parenthood

“I think clearly God is telling you guys you’re not meant to be parents right now.”

I was catching up with a friend the other day and this was what she came up with after I had filled her in with the going-ons of our life these days.  All I could think of in response was,

“Well, duh.”

I wasn’t upset she said that, because it is probably the most direct and obvious statement of the truth I’ve heard in a while.  In fact, if I were to get upset, I guess the response would be purely an emotional one, more along the lines of “Well why doesn’t God listen to ME because I WANT to be a parent right now” and not actually refuting the truth of what she said.  That would be besides the point.  Her statement still rings true.  It stings and is hard to swallow probably because yes, in my situation, it is true.  I don’t believe God could be making a mistake right now.

I have to remind myself as a married couple we have been called by God to be open to fertility, not necessarily to be parents on demand – which very well may have been our desire.  I think back to how we discerned to no longer use NFP to avoid pregnancy and I remember the decision vividly.  While the decision was complex and personal, it was blatantly clear we no longer had just financial reasons and while neither of us had graduated and had certain jobs, we would have been in a position to properly care for a child had one come along in 9 months.  I’m slightly embarrassed to say that it was not that we had a strong pull that now was the time for us to become parents, although part of me wishes it was so I could have more clarity on our move from here, its just not true.  And in hindsight, I would consider it a blessing that it didn’t happen that way for us.  It was only that our just reasons to not share our fertility with each other were gone, which thankfully, is more than enough reason to not use NFP.  While one great benefit of NFP is that it can help you target your fertile time to achieve pregnancy, NFP’s main purpose as far as morality is concerned is to help those with just reasons to avoid pregnancy.  I do not believe the Church teaches anywhere that NFP is meant to be the default condition of all married couples.  What it ultimately came down to for us was that we knew by using NFP to avoid pregnancy, we were literally holding something back from one another.  Yes, we had not contracepted and done anything immoral, but we were both conscious of the fact that we were not entirely giving ourselves to one another.  For just reasons, our fertility still remained guarded.  And over the course of a few months, it became clear to each of us, first separately and then together, that we weren’t being called to hold back from one another anymore but to take what came.

Take what came.

What came is that we discovered that the opposite of a call to avoid pregnancy is not a call to pregnancy, which unfortunately, many people of varying degrees of fertility believe.

1664 Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its “supreme gift,” the child

This is why the comment,

“Perhaps God’s just telling you guys that you’re not supposed to be parents right now”

is so funny to me.

What else could God possibly be telling us?  We have given him ample opportunity for Him to bestow on us the ‘supreme gift’.  Just as I don’t believe He makes mistakes with “oops” babies, I know that if we give Him the openness of our fertility, He’s not up there saying “Oh crap!  Those little guys missed the egg again!  Sorry Moonheads, I’ll try harder next month!” In fact,  I believe that only by giving Him the openness of our fertility after responsibly discerning parenthood can we be certain that our desires aren’t getting in the way of His will.  Just like we can’t accidentally become parents, we can’t accidentally not become parents.

Which then brings me to the statement which I do find rational disagreement with,

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

I’ve stated the call to not use NFP to avoid pregnancy is not necessarily a decision to become parents.  God gets to make that decision.  For us, God has made the decision to not make us parents so I do believe I should approach our journey to continue to be parents with the utmost prayer and selflessness, which of course is not an immediate decision.  I’ve talked to other women who felt, much like I did, that the first year of not postponing pregnancy felt more like a year of being a mother without a child, rather than just a woman with no children (which is in reality more accurate).  I believe that it was because somewhere in there, in either my anguish to hide the fact that I wasn’t pregnant or in order to try to keep hope alive and prepare for what still may have come statistically,  I made the decision that I was to be a parent.  At this point I’ve realized I have no power to make that decision.  (I will add in here for those who wonder that my husband has remained level headed and not had to play these mind games with himself.  One difference of how infertility affects men and women!) The fact that God is so clearly not making use of our biology, is a large, harsh, but realistic sign to me that perhaps not only am I not to be a parent right now, but not at all.  Maybe we are supposed to fulfill our desires to become missionaries or some other non-traditional way of serving others, as opposed to parenthood, at least at this moment.

In order to “just adopt”, I would want to be sure that God is calling me to parenthood, which does not necessarily follow from not being able to have children biologically and in fact may be a large sign that we’re not.

I must also add that while adoption may not necessarily be the conclusion for all infertile couples for a variety of reasons, I do believe this period of being open to fertility is quite necessary as a step towards adoption.  I don’t know of any couples that have used NFP to avoid pregnancy while pursuing adoption, although that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  God can use this time to plant this seed, prune us and see if we are called to parenthood.  However, that of course means that the time of working through the grief accompanying infertility is also necessary for adoption.

In short, I’ve learned (the painful way) that being open to fertility is not necessarily the same as discerning parenthood and that for some people, the painful way is how discerning parenthood has to happen, because God does not accidentally leave those childless.