Adopting hope

July 1, 2015 -- Living City

Adopting hope
One couple’s journey to find their daughter

I was in the hospital chapel praying before surgery to diagnose and treat the suspected disease that was causing our infertility, and I just couldn’t bring myself to ask God to cure me.
I was staring at the Scripture verse, “If two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my father in heaven” (Mt 18:19), but in that moment, I just couldn’t ask. What if it wasn’t God’s will? But did this mean my faith wasn’t strong enough?
After finally finding the courage to ask, I felt that Jesus was comforting me, and I heard the words, “Have faith; I’ve brought you this far.” I realized that our prayers were already being answered. I was there, in that hospital, preparing for surgery that could not only help us achieve and sustain a future pregnancy — if God wanted that for us — but that could also heal me of a painful illness. And this diagnosis may never have happened if we hadn’t trusted in God’s plan from the beginning.

Confusing advice
That trust was a challenge as my husband and I first discovered we weren’t getting pregnant when we hoped. Before getting married, we had learned about natural family planning, which has a very good track record when practiced correctly, so we had the tools to understand pretty early on that something was wrong. The first doctor we sought after seeing an ad in our Catholic church’s bulletin referred us, after some preliminary tests came back normal, to a fertility center in a larger city.
I knew we didn’t want to seek conception through artificial means, but I still checked out the clinic’s website. It looked like a creepy spa menu. This much for this treatment, that much for an add-on service. It was hurtful to receive such impersonal advice from someone we had trusted with such personal matters.
It was all very clear for me in the beginning, but as time went on and the heartache increased, the ethical lines started to seem blurry. Some of our friends and family members would lovingly offer stories about people they knew who had sought in vitro fertilization treatments and now had babies, implying that we should try the same. One friend compassionately hinted at surrogacy without any knowledge of our medical situation.
One of the shakiest moments was when a third doctor, whom we chose based on his ethical practices, gently told us that intrauterine insemination was okay under certain circumstances.
It was so easy to become confused, and in many ways it felt like I was drowning in temptation. Thankfully, we were teaching religious education to 10th graders at the time, and the curriculum included sexual and reproductive morality. Hearing ourselves share the Church’s teachings out loud week after week was very helpful in grounding us. And, let me tell you, teenagers aren’t afraid to flat-out ask if you practice what you preach!
Another phrase that helped close the grey-area gap came from a friend who had experienced infertility, yet was now six months into a miracle pregnancy. She shared with me the words of her pastor: the further you take it from the bedroom, the further you take it from God’s plan.
Why did it seem like God didn’t want us to have a child? I saw motherhood as one of the most selfless and noble callings, and such a basic human function. After a few years and an exhausting and expensive medical run-around, I still wasn’t pregnant, and I was emotionally taxed.
The pain consumed me, but it wasn’t the same for my husband. Apart from his empathy for me, he was happy with our life the way it was. He slept soundly knowing we’d have kids if and when we were meant to. We had great jobs, a nice house, and could enjoy weekend getaways at a moment’s notice. Then, one night over dinner we talked about how, if we weren’t going to be parents and be at the service of our own family, we needed to make a lifestyle change. At some point we’d have to stop living just for ourselves and live for others.

Meant to be parents
One of my aunts, who had gone through a very similar journey, intuited that I was struggling and sent me a very respectful handwritten card encouraging me to “cling to blessed hope” that I would be a mother someday. This helped me know I didn’t have to spend so much energy trying to figure things out, but just keep holding on to that hope.
A few months later, during a Focolare summer retreat, a mother shared something she told her daughter, who could not have children: “Maybe God put this great love in your heart because there are so many children out there in the world in need of someone to love.”
Those words spoke to my husband strongly. There’s a long history of adoption in my extended family, so the option was always on the table, but we hadn’t had a serious discussion about it yet. That day, the moment we were alone, he suggested we adopt a baby.
It was the answer I was waiting for. He said that mother’s story helped him stop making selfish excuses for not being “ready” to be a parent, helping him think more about those kids than about himself. If we were meant to be parents, maybe this was the way we were meant to do it, even if it took us a while to get there.
Suddenly, with that decision, I felt the weight lifted. Going through the adoption process was taxing, with interviews, paperwork, classes and training. We had no secrets left when the process was over, but I found it so much more peaceful than the physical investigation I’d endured for the past few years. We were certain that peace was a sign that we were doing the will of God.
Exactly nine months after feeling called to adopt, we were matched with our daughter’s birth mother, whose brave and selfless choice meant we would finally have a child. A few months later, we were in the hospital becoming parents to the most perfect child on the planet. In our first few days as parents, it was clear this was our vocation. There is zero doubt in our minds that this journey of remaining faithful to God’s plan carried us directly to her.

Staying open
With this peace that parenthood brought us, I found the courage to once again seek treatment for my medical problems. We finally discovered an out-of-state doctor who is trained in NaProTechnology, which is a fertility care versus a fertility control approach.
We learned that infertility is not an illness, but the symptom of an underlying problem. This doctor helped us track fertility biomarkers and pinpoint nuances that led him to suspect an underlying disease.
He was right — the surgery was a success, and my prayer to be cured was answered. My health has greatly improved, and while it hasn’t resulted in a pregnancy, the time and effort and expense have proved to be well worth it, as it has helped us be able to stay open to God’s plan for us, no matter where it leads.
We don’t judge others for going down a different road than we did, but when people asked us how we came to adopt, we are open about why our path led us to our daughter. Our choice to build our family this way creates awareness in other families as well, and it opens others up to ask us questions if they are struggling with their fertility.

— F. and J. M