So, Lord, I’m Turning Thirty and I Still Don’t Have Babies

So, Lord, do you remember how I always planned to be done having babies by the time I was thirty? I’m not sure why, except that my mother had her last one while in her mid-twenties so it seemed like a good plan.

I had no idea that one day I would be facing my thirtieth birthday without a pregnancy lasting longer than 6-8 weeks. 

Tonight, as I was struggling through chores with a frozen water hose and a nosy heifer and a hissing cat, I felt a little like crying. Sometimes I feel like screaming but tonight it was just tears that bit at my eyes. Continue reading

A lifetime of reading books

A lifetime of reading books (a type of memoir)

**this post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.

 

One of my earliest memories takes place in Jasper, NY at a little log cabin, built by my father. My family is sitting around the living room and Mama is reading. I don’t know the book, just the sound of her voice and the way it rises and falls. She’s falling asleep and her words are drawing out further and further. I’m pressed up close beside her, running my fingers up and down her arm. I stop and tap her. “Mama,” I say, “Mama!” She blinks her eyes at me and one of the boys states, “You were sleeping, Mama.” The book lifts again and she begins reading but we all know it will only last a few minutes.

Some mamas read their babies to sleep, but our demand for books and stories was never sated and it was always Mama who slept first.

Continue reading

Redemption is for all, even me.

The hallway of the maternity ward was empty. My shoes were squeaking against the waxed tile. My sister-in-law was in one of the first rooms. Her belly was round and she was calmly sitting, watching the monitor as a heartbeat jumped across it. A few minutes later another monitor located the second heartbeat. The twins were happily content to sit quiet in their mama’s belly.

It was evening, over forty weeks into the pregnancy, and we were all more than ready for the baby girls to arrive. Little did we know that it would be just two short hours before they appeared.  Continue reading

the broken miracle of adoption

I “met” my friend Everly many years ago when I stumbled on her family’s adoption story. We exchanged a few emails and have maintained sporadic contact ever since. I am so excited to share this guest post with you– a look at the brokenness and miracle of adoption (from the viewpoint of an older sister). 

the broken miracle of adoption

I was on my way home, my mom’s car whizzing down a country road, when the memory came ringing through my brain. I had seen a girl with no legs, her gait awkward as she traipsed around on aluminum appendages.

A stone fell into my stomach as I remembered what I had heard, that sometimes after an amputation, patients continue to “feel” sensations where their limbs once where. They agonize over itches that are not there. It’s a simple brain glitch, but one that leaves me curious. Our brain does not always follow along when nerves are severed, because this goes against the original design.

I turned the wheel and pulled onto our street and thought about how well this issue relates to my family.

Over the course of nine years, five children had been born on an island into four very unique situations. They were different from each other and seem tragic to us, but are quite typical in their homeland of Haiti. Born to a woman who cleaned up and sold trash for a living, a woman who wouldn’t survive to his third year, a woman who could only care for so many children, a woman who we know so little about.

Each of these children were abandoned. We cannot question the intentions, but we can look at the wound and we can see the severance.

Fast-forward to when I was eleven. I took a flight that would change my life forever. That day I would see the island of Hispaniola and a little boy with large, dark eyes. I would see a little baby who had recently been dropped off at the orphanage, completely traumatized by the institution and almost unresponsive. I would see a girl who had learned to adapt to living here when it was safe, there when it wasn’t. A girl who had seen violence and depravity and finally been given away in hopes of a better life.

A matter of months later I’d meet and fall in love with the babies.

After three years, a presidential coup, an orphanage-director coup, and a final adoption denial, the children came home by pure miracle. All but one, and she would always be missed. I fight the lump in my throat now and think that there won’t be infections in heaven, where she waits for the rest of us.

It seemed like the end to some heart-wrenching Hallmark movie. The press crawled around our property with cameras and notepads. Neighbors and cousins offered their congratulations and sent gifts. Bedrooms were painted in the new, larger house and everyone settled in for the happy ending we’d so anticipated.

But when will I learn that stories only end so that the next story can begin?

There are some ties that are never meant to be cut and four of my siblings have learned that the hard way, whether they realize it or not. Though the family picture always turns out cute and we spend our days cooking, homeschooling and laughing at kitchen table jokes, things are not perfect at Eyrie Park.

We have had to face the truth that they don’t tell you in the magazines, that adoption is second best.

Living things rarely connect to something new. Transplants and grafts don’t always take, and even when they do, they are risky. Many times the muscles or the rosebush reject the new cells and the connection is unsuccessful and every adoptive family faces this fear.

We hate to admit it, but genetics are who we are and sometimes it can be hard to make a family out of mismatched, ragtag DNA. Sometimes love doesn’t conquer all. In the end it will, but when you’re doing chores or creating hobbies or planning a family vacation, it sometimes isn’t enough to say you love someone. Sometimes you have to make yourself do it. Sometimes you wonder if you really belong in the same family, under the same roof, at all.

I have come to face the truth. My sisterhood is a Plan B for four of my siblings.

They weren’t originally meant to have this lanky, vanilla, 3rd mom in their lives. This whole living in Texas thing isn’t part of the original story. Life took a detour. Tragedy struck.

But we serve a God of second chances.

Second chances at a mom and dad. Second chances at sleeping in the same bed every night, listening to an air conditioner, not a machine gun. Second chances at an education, an upbringing, a life in which infections don’t steal little babies just because you’re poor.

Second chances at being a good sister. Second chances at keeping the peace. Second chances after you just tore into a little orphan with your tongue because they took your life and held it upside down and shook the last drop of  “normal” right out of it. Second and third and zillionth chances at dying to self and asking those brown eyes to forgive you for thinking that I know how things should be.

This world is full of brokenness. Things that were never meant to be torn are severed forever.

But Jesus didn’t just die. He rose into life again. He didn’t just tell us to take up our crosses, but offered us life abundant. He makes beautiful things out of dust and binds up the brokenhearted.

Slowly we walk to heaven, a little glue at the edges, but held together. Thank the Lord.

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Everly
Everly is a 20-something who lives at home with her patchwork family in Texas. She spends her time cooking massive amounts of food, laughing with her siblings and writing at everlypleasant.com

Journey Through Barren Land

Rhonda Freed has been such an encouragement and example to me as I’ve walked the road of infertility. I know you will be blessed to hear her testimony. In 2011 she wrote the following piece and the post script at the end is what happened last year in their family. 

Rhonda

My testimony is not about bad actions or choices. It’s not about living bad or being bad or bad things done to me. In fact, my testimony should be mostly about good. I’ve had a pretty good life; a wonderful family, happy childhood, a comfortable marriage to a faithful man.

Not only has my life been mostly good but I’ve also always found it pretty easy to be good. Good daughter, good Christian , good citizen, good example.

Then came this trial of infertility.

The Biblical word is barrenness and I found it to be a very appropriate word. Infertility is a dry, brittle, lonely, unproductive wasteland. It is hard to find any good in a barren landscape. Friendships dry up. Stacks of disappointing months add up to irreplaceable years. Hopes are vaporous mirages, ever on the horizon but never producing reality. Prayers are whittled down to desperate pleas for that out-of-reach Hope-denied.

Infertility is a major, life-altering, on-going desert.

And for me, I found that while trudging through this Valley of Death, this trial called infertility, it is also very hard at times to be good. Depression weighed down my desire to do the right thing. Sorrow clouded my view of anything beyond my current shroud of pain. Jealousy of those with pregnant bellies and multiple babies made me bitter and isolated me from activities and relationships.

Having a baby was such an intense life-long desire for me. Being a MOM such a predominate part of my Life Goals. Plus, at the core of who I am, my greatest strengths and sources of deepest fulfillment and even my multiple years of involvement in DayCare, babysitting, and camp counseling, had all prepared and molded me for a calling that I found continually being denied me.

In short… Infertility was, I think, the greatest crucible I personally could have endured.

The spiritual crisis that infertility created in my life, dried up the reserves I had to be good on my own. I was already a Christian but I truly encountered my ongoing need for a Saviour on a whole new level.

The unanswerable WHYS of infertility drove me to contemplate and accept that the Mysteries of God will forever remain beyond my ability to grasp, explain or understand – – and that’s okay because He is God of the universe and I am not.

The unrelenting battering of infertility brought me to the point where I humbly realized that I am not required to always be able to stand upright and rise above the storms of life. I do not need to feel guilt or condemnation if sometimes, in the midst of the wind and pounding waves, all I can do is hang on to Jesus by the tips of my fingernails and determine in my heart that I won’t let go.

The fluctuating rollercoaster of monthly hope and disappointment that consumed years of my life taught me the necessity of allowing for the process of grief. Sorrow is not a sin that must be squelched, purged, denied or hidden. Mourning the loss of a dream is a long road, guaranteed to be potmarked with multiple wounds, ugly scars and partly healed scabs that can suddenly and repeatedly be ripped off by many unexpected triggers.

The most awesome part of my testimony is The Miracle that I was given half way through this infertility trial. After 5 ½ years of disappointment and pain, God gave me the impossible – a trouble-free pregnancy and a baby who is now an 8 year old son, named Conrad who is constantly a blessing to me and makes my heart so VERY glad.

What many people don’t seem to understand is that my infertility journey didn’t end with the miracle of Conrad. Yes, I am a MOM and I am SOOO very thankful. But I never was able to have siblings for Conrad. I still mourn the children I never had. I still am sad when I feel left out of activities and life-events by not having a teenager already like many of my friends do or the multiple talented, funny, smart children ages 5-14 who would make us an average Lewis County Family with the same involvements of those around us.

Infertility, and the barrenness that went along with it, redefined me. It shaped me and my life in irreversible ways. It reveled to me some valuable lessons and truths but continues to challenge my ability to praise God in all things and still often results in my faith feeling battered and bruised.

My hope is that as I continue to heal, emotionally and physically from the problems of infertility I can continue to use this to help others. We have always been open to adoption but the cost and long emotional journey have so far prevented us from being able to make it happen. We would love to have God provide a second miracle child for us but we still wait for Him in this.

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Post Script: 2012 was an amazing year for our family!! On January 4 we got the call that we’ve dreamed of getting for years. A  scrapbook friend of Rhonda’s asked us, “Are you still interested in adoption?” YES! YES! YES!

Ten days later, on Rhonda’s 40th birthday we got another call from the birth family, “Can you come pick the baby up today?” YES! YES! YES! The next 9 months were full of the up & down rollercoaster of a private adoption. We became very familiar with the local courthouse, our attorney, several McDonald’s (3 hour parental visits every week), and NY adoption laws.

Through it all we saw God’s faithful hand weaving and piecing, healing and teaching. Our baby girl’s name is Jensen, which means “God is gracious”. We added Shiloh (meaning “gift”) to that because she is “God’s gracious gift” to us.

Conrad is thrilled to be a big brother!! He prayed for a baby sister every night for 5 years!

It has been an adjustment for us all to have a baby in the house again but we enjoy her so very much and are SO THANKFUL for her! That’s the very short version of our year. If you want the unabridged version you’ll have to wait to read the book. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Author Bio: Rhonda Freed is a professional photographer and a full-time wife and mother. (woohoo!) She enjoys scrapbooking and hopes to one day write a book about infertility, miracles and adoption. 

 

Infertility Awareness Week

failed adoptions {week of thanks}

I wish there was a better word. One that says, “something we tried that simply didn’t work out” but doesn’t actually say “failure”.

This is the part of adoption that so many don’t know. When a child is identified, there has to be a certain level of understanding and knowledge before an adoption is pursued. Especially in the cases of older children (i.e. five and up). In other words: some semblance of bonding takes place even if you never meet.

When we learned about a five year old, originally from an African country, who needed to be placed in a new home—we sent out an inquiry. We then received over fifty pages of information about this child. After reading and discussing many of the ramifications of such an adoption, we sent back a request for further information. Somewhere in the middle, after loads of paperwork and phone calls, the process halted.

The child was placed and we did not get him.

It was okay. But it was hard.

So, why am I thanking God for this, and other, failed adoption attempts? Because I’ve learned some hard, brutal lessons that I am grateful for.

  • I’m thankful that I’ve learned the foolishness of the words, “just adopt”. Mark this down: it is not that simple.
  • I’m thankful that I’ve begun to catch glimpses of how deeply God views prayer. All that time and all those prayers spent on each child would be worthless except that it goes deeper than human eyes can see. It reaches further, touches depths, and builds faith in ways that I can only begin to understand.
  •  I’m thankful for the lesson of open hands. Holding palms upward, fingers forced down. There, in this position of surrender, hurt is bearable. The moment fingers curl upward to cling and long and grab—breathing stops. Oxygen cuts off. Desert-lostness and dying-thirst exudes.
  •  I’m thankful for the knowledge that it is not an accident that we are childless. If we never pursued and doors never closed there would always be a “what if” in our minds. Now, there is not. We surrendered everything, knocked at every door, prayed, sought God, opened our hearts and our home—and the doors stayed shut tight. I can say with confidence: God’s will for me today is to not have children.
  • I’m thankful for the comfort of a God who loves. One of the adoptions that we looked into was for a set of twins. And in the midst of the waiting and longing and hoping… we found out that one of my dearest friends, Julie, was expecting her own set of twins. When it became evident that we were not going to get our own babies, I cannot tell you how comforting it was to know that Julie would soon have her little ones. It was like God saying, My loved-one, I am still here. Because, you see, Julie also once walked the road of infertility and if I could not bear my own children, the next best thing in all the world, is one of my best friends having them. What a gracious God I serve. 

This post could go on for quite some time. There are many lessons. There have been many God-moments. And today, I am thankful for each and every failed adoption. And I believe and say, again, that God is good. 

Can you say, in the middle of your hard things, that God is good? Why or why not?