Paul and I always imagined ourselves with 3 or 4 kids. Since we met at 19, and married at 23, it seemed like we would have the time to make that happen. We started our careers out of college and I enjoyed teaching sixth grade, so we decided we would put family making on hold until our late 20’s. In the back of my mind, I always had fears that we would struggle to have kids, but maybe all women wonder or worry about that.
It proved to be true for us. We started trying to have a baby when we were 27. It wasn’t happening and we really weren’t in a place financially where we could investigate medically what the problem was. When we moved to Georgia in 2000, I had a doctor give me references to some fertility specialists, but it took about two years of savings for us to feel like we had any business even trying to schedule an appointment. Those years were awful. No matter where I turned, everyone was having a baby. People mean well and they say unintentionally unhelpful things to women struggling with infertility like, “It will happen when you aren’t even trying.” They would tell stories about a person they knew who as soon as she stopped worrying about it and trusted God, became pregnant. Like this was a crisis of my faith, and when I got right with Jesus I’d find myself pregnant in no time. I look back on those 3 years and I remember all the pain and helplessness. I remember ovulation kits, pregnancy tests, Chlomid, all of it. I remember missing my period in the spring of 2001, the positive pregnancy test, and three days later being in the hospital with an ectopic pregnancy. I remember the arguments we had and how mad I felt at everyone. I’m amazed we survived it. I’m grateful we did.
In late 2001, Paul had a great year of work and was rewarded financially. We finally had the money to visit the infertility specialist. I remember sitting across from the doctor as he reviewed our medical history. He didn’t offer us any cute platitudes. He didn’t give us maybes, possibilities, or percentages. He said, “Four years is a long time to try and have a baby. I’m sure you are exhausted. My suggestion is we forego trying anything else and go straight to an IVF.” I almost burst out crying because for the first time somebody understood, and was ready to act on it. We walked out of that office lighter than we had felt in years. Two thirty year olds, reaching for each other’s hand like teenagers on a first date. With hope.
IVF is a gruelling experience. So many needles, hormones, pills, almost daily ultrasounds, and a heaping helpin’ of anxiety. I won’t bore you with all of the medical details because it all paid off. Stephen was conceived, and we put 4 embryos in the freezer bank for later, as you do, in the crazy world of assisted conception. My pregnancy with him was hard, to say the least. I wasn’t sick so much as I had miscarriage scares almost every single week. I’d be at work or I would wake up and just start bleeding and off I would go to the doctor to have an ultrasound. There are no words for the fear you feel until that ultrasound wand rolls over the fluttering heartbeat of that little baby on the screen. Stephen was born at 32 weeks. He spent 17 days in the NICU. It’s a blur of days, but when I slow my mind down I can remember every detail of it.
We were living in Tampa when we decided to have a second child. My parents were in Atlanta, so we arranged to have those embryos thawed and put back. And then there was Lindsey. She was an easy pregnancy and an easy baby. We started to talk about a third, only we weren’t sure we could do another IVF. It is such an exhausting process and we had two toddlers now. We decided to look into adoption. As we gathered information, we started to feel like an international adoption from China would be the best fit for us. We started the dossier, homestudy, and training involved in this process. We assumed we were looking at an 18 month window until we would have a little girl. Unfortunately, at the time our dossier logged-in, a lot of circumstances were changing in China. The country changed the age limits and marital requirements for prospective adoptive parents and a flood of dossiers went into the system in an attempt to be grandfathered in before the rule changes. At the same time, the Chinese government became aware of the potential demographic problems with their one child policy and started to relax it. They started a domestic adoption program, and with the boom in the Chinese economy, more orphans were adopted domestically by Chinese parents. More international demand for Chinese orphans and fewer orphans available meant we were in for a long wait. For awhile we just bided our time, renewing our homestudy every year, continuing the training required for prospective parents. By the time we moved back to the USA, we were no closer to being a family of five than we had ever been. We changed our criteria for a child, willing to take on an older child or a child with certain special needs. It didn’t move the needle. Finally, we decided maybe we should abandon the international adoption and look at adopting from foster care. Our kids were now 10 and 12, we had no reason to want a baby or toddler. That stage of life was behind us. We attended sessions on foster care adoption and prepared to do the training for this new endeavor.
One day we came home from dinner, and I was teasing the kids. I don’t even remember what about, but I sat down on the arm of the couch and for some reason they both launched themselves at me and we all three tumbled back onto the sofa laughing. And God said right into my heart, and as clear as if He spoke it aloud, “They are enough.” It stung for a bit, but I started to wrestle with the idea, that we were done. That we were meant to be a family of four. I didn’t say anything to Paul for awhile. I figured he needed to come to his own conclusion, and then I’d know this was right. A few weeks later, he was out in the front yard playing catch with Lindsey. When they came in later, she went running upstairs and he came over to me and asked, “Do you ever think, maybe we’re good as we are?” I smiled. Yes.
I wonder about the why’s every now and then. Why couldn’t we have more babies? Why didn’t adoption work out for us? Why did we wander down that road for so long and never reach a fruitful ending? I don’t know. Because God is gracious and generous, sometimes He lets us know the answer to the WHY, and sometimes He does not.
This past week I had both kids in the car driving to school. “On Top of a the World” by Imagine Dragons came on the radio, and both kids remarked how it reminded them of a vacation we had taken to the Bahamas several years ago. We were listening to the song and in our own thoughts, when Lindsey said, “I love it when it’s just the four of us. Those are my favorite times.”
Mine too. I am content with four.
I think back now to those unanswered “why” questions that sometime circle around in my head.
Why couldn’t we have more babies?
Why didn’t adoption work out for us?
Why did we wander down that road for so long and not have a fruitful ending?
I’ve realized that the only explanation that matters is the one God spoke to me that day on the couch, Because THEY are enough.