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Things were going well. The fact that our daughter was now classified as “special needs” no longer bothered me. I felt blessed to be the mother of this glowing spirit. Life was truly becoming more and more beautiful.
But it was incomplete.
Months earlier we had been advised by our geneticist not to have any more biological children. Out of all the problems we were facing with Samantha, all the developmental delays, seizures, and medical concerns, having a geneticist advise to not have children was the hardest reality to deal with. Samantha was only three months old at the time and in a very real way, we were processing a great loss. As much as I battled daily problems with Samantha, I had hope for our family. Then we were told not to have more children?! I was crushed. I felt so empty. This was the deepest pain I had ever felt.
The fact that we could get pregnant but were told not to was an especially difficult blow. It confirmed that Samantha’s problems were expected to be lifelong (there is a 1 in 4 chance of this recurring in another pregnancy). It confirmed that Samantha’s problems were severe enough to warrant a professional advising us against having more children. It confirmed that Samantha was born with these problems because both Marcus and I are recessive carriers. We did this to her.
AND we couldn’t have more children.
The car ride home was gloomy, at best. I sat in the backseat next to Samantha while Marcus drove. My mind swirled. How did this all happen? How did I get here? I looked over at her smiling up at me and burst into tears. Oh I loved her so much. Is this really it? Are we really not going to have more children? I watched Samantha look at me and cried as I kissed her little hands and brushed her hair aside.
Normally I’m very pragmatic –the problem solver – but the past few months had worn me down and the emotion of that doctor appointment tipped me over. I became still with exhaustion. In those quiet moments, Marcus was filled with clarity and wisdom.
“Jenny, we’ll adopt.”
It was so simple and clear. That was our answer. The depressing sadness, fear, and darkness I felt was lifted with that simple statement. I can’t quite describe the feeling that overcame me. Immediately I felt light fill the car and peace replace the turbulence in my heart. I felt instantly fearless and ready to move forward. We would adopt. And not because it seemed logical if we wanted more kids. It was much deeper than that. We would adopt because in that car, we had a confirmation that adoption was our path. It was different than we had originally planned, but it was right. Our path was adoption. Over the next few months, we took time to think it through, do some research, and pray about the matter together and individually. We were increasingly confident that this was our plan and we were excited.
Samantha was only eleven months old when we began the adoption process. Our agency had told us that it took roughly two years, and so we figured we wanted to get things rolling as quickly as we could. We were considered approved and ready for a child to be placed in our home about seven months after we had our first meeting with the agency. During those seven months, I had my hands full with Samantha. I’m sure others thought we were a little crazy to even consider having another baby, but I always knew it was right. In fact, we had an increasing sense of urgency.
All things considered, life was really great. There’s a beautiful phenomenon that many have had the privilege of experiencing. Even when life feels like it’s upside down, there is a sacred peace that envelops you when you know you are doing what you feel is right and you are doing your best. We were enveloped in that sacred peace. We weren’t floating in an imaginary land of butterflies and rainbows; we were very aware that we were living a very difficult reality. What we experienced, however, was inner peace that protected us from internalizing some of the pain that comes with seeing your child in pain…and feeling that life isn’t really in your control.
That peace was healing. It allowed me to feel immense gratitude for Samantha and how she had led us to this path. I was no longer sad that pregnancy was no longer in my future. I completely embraced our new direction with full peace, acceptance, and excitement. Earlier I had felt so much pain when the doctor advised us not to have more biological children, as if something was ripped from me. In all actuality, though we adore Samantha, we chose adoption and that decision was confirmed as a good one for our family. I’d even say, the right one.
I believe there comes a point, or several points, in our lives when we need to lay it all on the altar. In order to have a life with that inner peace, we need to sacrifice – wealth, careers, opportunities, social status, living environments, comforts, dreams, pride, selfishness…the list goes on and on. For me, I realized I didn’t have to lay down the dreams for my family and children. I could still have children. With adoption, our future family was possible. Once I realized it was my self-pity, fear, pride, and pregnancy I needed to lay on the altar…I was filled with light. It’s the only way I can really describe it. And it healed me.
I remember Christmas 2007. I was talking to my mother-in-law about our adoption, hoping it would happen soon. We had only been approved for a month and I knew it would take time. Other families had been waiting for years, so I tried not to be antsy, but hoped a baby would be placed in our home during the coming year.
Only a week later, I received a phone call. That phone call changed our lives forever. A baby had been born in Detroit and her birth mother had chosen us. It was a surreal moment. The next few days were busy and intense. I felt unprepared because it all happened so much more quickly than I had anticipated! Samantha was 19 months old and not what I’d classify as an “easy” baby. Developmentally she was way behind and would be very dependent. In a very real way, with a newborn and Samantha, it would be like caring for twins and I wasn’t sure if I could handle that. The caseworker who called offered the most reassuring words, “Jenny. Take time and pray about it. If it’s not right for you, it’s right for someone else.”
Hadn’t this been what I wanted? Why, then, was I so hesitant now? We took her advice and prayed, discussed, and really pondered this out over the next day. On the second day, I called the foster mother. She told me everything I already knew about prenatal care, labor and delivery…then she began to just talk about this baby girl’s newborn personality.
It was during that conversation that I received my confirmation. And it wasn’t that this baby was our daughter. No. It was “This is Samantha’s sister.” It caught me so off guard to receive such a powerful answer, almost a clear voice, because I had been so consumed with myself! I learned an important truth that day: Families are about individuals creating a whole. I had been so focused on MY children = MY family, that I forgot about the other relationships within a family that are so critical to our spiritual, emotional, social, and physical development.
Eight months from the time we began our paperwork, I was holding our new daughter in our arms. Not feeling her during a pregnancy and bonding with her, I didn’t expect the amount of love I felt for her so instantly. Though clearly different (and also unexpected), it was just as spiritual of a moment as when Samantha was placed into my arms after birth.
Our adoption journey after Callie has not been as swift or smooth but it’s been just as beautiful; it has never been about finding any child, but the right child…and right birth mother. I absolutely cannot imagine my life without any of my children and their birth families. And I look forward to adding even more to our family in the near future. Hopefully.
Over the years I’ve been continually humbled. When Samantha’s life altered our course direction, I learned that our greatest self is brought forward when we sacrifice that which we believe we cannot. I have been humbled to realize I’m not as smart as I once thought I was with all my plans and expectations…I still believe in making plans and setting goals, but now I try to make sure that I always leave space in between the lines so my life can be edited more readily. In my learning I’ve experienced greater joy…and pain…than I could have imagined.
Years ago my husband said we’d look back and say we wouldn’t change a thing.
He’s right. Today, more than eight years after that initial shock…that initial pain…I can honestly say that I would not change a thing. Because I have also learned that from pain can come the most beautiful gift.
Follow Jeannette’s beautiful journey at The Green Piece.
Story written by: Jeanette Green
This story was seen first on Real Imprints.