National Adoption Month Series: Donna’s Story

Parenthood is an amazing adventure. It is a road riddled with twists and turns and unexpected bumps. It’s also a journey filled with wonder, grace, and joy.

Pat and I never intended to have six children. When we were first married and talked about how many children we would have, I wanted four. Pat wanted two. In the end, we did both. Our first three sons arrived the conventional way. Our next three children arrived through the miracle of adoption.

My older boys were in their early teens when Pat and I became foster parents. One beautiful June evening, we were asked to open our home to a three year old girl and a seven month old boy, both of whom had the chicken pox. A few hours later, Patty arrived clutching a much-loved doll. She had big, brown eyes and a fearful, but beautiful smile. Anthony came into my arms and snuggled into my heart. A few years later, a judge made official the adoption that took place in our hearts that night. We had four sons and one daughter.

Shortly after Patty and Anthony’s adoption, we learned that their birth mother was expecting another child. We agreed to accept this child also. While my boys wondered who would have to share their room and Patty and I wondered if this baby would be another boy or if Patty would have to share her princess status, my husband wondered if we were nuts. When we received the phone call that a baby boy had arrived; I laughed and said, “We needed another one of those.”  We picked Connor up from the hospital when he was just three days old. 

Adoptive parents never really know for sure exactly what we are getting into, but birth parents don’t either. There are days in the lives of every parent when you want to tear your hair out and cry, “This is not what I signed up for!” I have been picking up Legos for 29 years. I have finally graduated out of car seats. I have slept in hospital beds with my arms wrapped around a sick child. I’ve worried when they’ve come home late. I’ve attended hundreds of parent-teacher conferences and countless holiday performances. I’ve lent my son an earring. I’ve overseen enough homework assignments to fill a library. I’ve had pool water spit in my face and baby spit-up on my shoulders. I’ve been blessed with tadpoles and dandelions crushed in a chubby fist. At one point we had one son in the Navy, two sons in college, and our baby in day care. I can bore you to tears telling you about my kids’ accomplishments. I am fiercely protective of them and want only the best for them.

We do not know a lot about our children’s birth mother, but this one thing I do know, she loved her children. She loved her children enough to give them life and we are so grateful she did. Our children, all of them, have enriched our lives far beyond what anyone could have told us.

~~~~~

Donna is a wife of 34 years to Pat and blessed with quite a lot – 5 sons, 1 daughter, a daughter-in-law, a dog and a cat, a house, a bunch of furniture, and a garage filled with everything but a car. You can follow her on the blog, HoliMess, where she shares about noticing God in the midst of our daily life through crafts, recipes, devotions, comforting words, and encouragement.

Donna

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National Adoption Month Series: StandUpGirl and Love’s Choice

http://www.standupgirl.com

StandUpGirl is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to providing pregnant or at risk adolescent and young adult women with insight into alternatives to abortion. The mission is to change hearts and save lives by educating young women on the development of the unborn child and alternatives to abortion. Standupgirl.com is a rapidly growing website whose scope is world-wide. We have volunteer “StandUpGirls” who moderate the site’s chat rooms, blogs, forums and respond to emails – from across the United States as well as in Canada, Africa and Japan.

Young women from all over the world are coming to StandUpGirl looking for information about pregnancy. They find educational material, real answers to their questions, and a community of women they can talk to about their unplanned pregnancies. StandUpGirl.com currently has over three million visitors each year, and while it is a great encouragement to see this many young people coming to the site, we are barely scratching the surface of the potential number of visitors on the internet.

Perhaps the most important component of the website is the real-life stories of girls facing their own crisis pregnancies and how our StandUpGirl team provides personal and individual guidance and encouragement to help these women make a choice that they and their baby can live with. The team provides visitors with contact information of local pro-life pregnancy centers where they can get the support and resources they need to journey through their pregnancy. Most guests remain on the site an average of 23 minutes, looking at phenomenal fetal development photography, life-like illustrations and remarkable videos. StandUpGirl.com is one of the most visited abortion-related website in the world! This energetic and beautifully designed website can now be viewed in several foreign languages and the StandUpGirl App can be downloaded from the Android and Apple markets.

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http://www.loveschoice.com

Love’s Choice was created to take an honest look at the painful beauty of adoption, and to provide tools to help each woman honestly assess the choices before her.

For girls out there that might feel overwhelmed as they try to make the best plan for their child, Love’s Choice is here to help and encourage, providing facts about adoption and tools to help them plan for birth, and either adoption or parenting. And, most importantly, Love’s Choice shares personal stories from real people who have experienced adoption –  adopted children, adoptive parents, and other birthmothers.

We want the girls that visit Love’s Choice to make an informed, confident decision about adoption or parenting. If they choose parenting, we hope the process of answering hard questions will make them a better, more intentional mother.

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StandUpGirl and Love’s Choice are not adoption agencies, nor are they in any way affiliated with any adoption placement programs. For more information about them, please visit them at www.standupgirl.com and www.loveschoice.com and on Facebook and https://www.facebook.com/standupgirl.

The History of National Adoption Month and Motherhood Monday LinkUp

Did you know that November was chosen as National Adoption Month by a Presidential Proclamation? It’s true! Government-recognized adoption awareness first began in the United States in 1974 when former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis declared an “adoption week” in his state, and in 1995 former President Bill Clinton proclaimed November the National Adoption Awareness month.

In the nineteen years since, Adoption Month has blossomed under the direction of the Department of Health and Human Services, offering government-sponsored activities and celebrations each November to help build awareness of adoption throughout the nation. With the partnership of thousands of community organizations all over the world, Adoption Month now represents a multitude of programs, events, and activities to share positive adoption stories, challenge the myths, and draw attention to the thousands of children waiting for permanent families.

This year’s National Adoption Month theme is about the importance of sibling connections for the 102,000 children and youth in foster care waiting for adoptive families. To get involved with the programs, events and activities happening nationwide next month or for more information about the history of National Adoption Month, please visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/nam.

And don’t forget to come back here next month and read some of the AMAZING adoption stories that I will be sharing each week as part of the special M2M Adoption Month series! If you still want to submit your own adoption story for this series, please email it to me at wynterkaiser@gmail.com by 11/2/14!

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And now for the monthly Motherhood Monday Link Up! Please also visit M2M on Twitter @made2mother and like on Facebook.com/madetomother!

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Grab the Link Up button!

The Made to Mother Project is dedicated to encouraging, supporting and inspiring women by sharing their stories of motherhood. I hope that this link-up will continue to grow our community of mothers. Please read the guidelines below for information on how to join!

LINK UP GUIDELINES

  • Please post family-friendly topics/websites. Bonus points if they have to do with mothering!
  • Be sure to link back to your blog post not your homepage.
  • Share the Linky love – visit a page or two linked up here and leave them a nice comment.
  • Oh, and a link back to Made to Mother using the button above or a sweet shout-out would be awesome, too!

The Purpose in My Pain – S.L.’s Story

I didn’t become the mom I am when my husband and I decided to start a family. Like most people, God had been shaping my life for motherhood before I even knew it. It began when I was in preschool. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was sick. I’m not certain exactly when it happened because I was so little, but some of my earliest memories are painful ones. The problem with pain, though, is that you don’t realize it’s pain when you’ve only ever been in pain.

When I was 17, I spent a an unforgettable summer on a mission trip with some wonderful friends from my church youth group. I knew then I wanted to be a missionary. The warm air in that impoverished Caribbean nation made me feel so good and I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing what God wanted. It was humbling and exhilarating all at the same time to have the opportunity to daily share Christ with the kids I worked with. And though it was also hard, I loved being completely dependent on God. He daily gave me strength.

I didn’t want to lose the closeness I had with God or the purpose that I felt on that trip, so when I came home, I made one of the most pivotal decisions of my entire life, although I didn’t know it at the time. I prayed that God would continue to keep me completely dependent on Him. God isn’t safe. He’s good, but His ways aren’t our ways. I had no idea that only three weeks later, the pain that I had felt my whole life would become excruciatingly unbearable. I went from being an athlete to barely being able to walk. It was so bad, I had to crawl up stairs and it hurt even to be touched. If someone just accidentally bumped into me, I was reduced to tears.

The summer ended and I began my senior year of high school, but everything had changed. I needed all the support I could get, so gone were my plans to attend college out of state and when I lost my voice, my dreams to major in music also ended. I realized I wasn’t healthy enough to go live overseas anymore so I couldn’t go into missions, either. I was devastated. And, to make it even worse, I still didn’t have a diagnosis. I was so scared because pain like that usually means something bad. Really bad. It took a year before I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia; a chronic illness that has to do with overactive nerves and causes miserable pain. There is no cure for it and my case was severe, yet, I was relieved knowing that it wouldn’t take my life like some of the others diseases that were being considered. Still, I felt so hopeless and lost in darkness. Didn’t God understand that all I wanted to do was to serve Him? I felt like He took my ability to do that, but truly, I had the complete dependence I had asked for.

It took me a few years before I could understand the point of all my failed dreams. God wanted to teach me something first. I learned how to manage my illness and got it under control so I could live pretty normally despite being in constant pain. I met and married my husband, Brian, finished college with a degree in psychology, and we started a family.

I had always wanted a little girl. Desperately wanted a little girl. And we had Ethan. Then, two years later, we had Luke. Four years after that, Jackson joined our family. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my three boys! But, when I found out that I was having a third boy, I cried. All the feelings of loss crept back upon me and another dream died. I sobbed to God, asking Him, “Why can’t I catch a break? I’ve lost so much already and now I’m never going to have the daughter I’ve always wanted. Why does my life look so different from what I planned on it being? I just want to be normal!”

When Jackson was born, everything changed. I fell in love with being a mom of three boys. God started showing me how wrong I was to think that my plan might have been better than His. I couldn’t have been happier being mom to my Monkey, Gremlin, and Trouble, respectively. And I love that we laugh. A lot. There was the time that Ethan colored himself and Luke completely with a blue marker in three minutes while I was on the phone. Later,when Luke was a toddler, he drank day-old cold, black coffee, straight from the coffee pot when my back was turned. And once, at two years-old, Jackson snuck out of bed in the middle of the night and we found him watching The Chronicles of Narnia with the sound turned all the way down and the subtitles on. Yup. All we can do is laugh!

SLP Coffeeholic Luke

Still, my heart ached. I didn’t feel done with our family. Brian and I lost a precious baby between Luke and Jackson and I found myself wishing that I could make some difference. I’ve always had a desire to adopt, but it never worked out. The doors just kept closing until, one day, one door stayed open. Foster care. It wasn’t what I planned. It was messy, complicated even, but the need was great. I brought it up to Brian and he was immediately in. I know it makes no sense to do this. I was only 29 years old when we started the process. We have our three boys, live in a house with only three bedrooms, and I’m sick. There were so many reasons to not do it, but God put it on my heart. The desire wouldn’t go away and when God asks you to do something, you can’t say no.

Right now, I’m a mom to four. We are on our second placement with a precious infant foster daughter. God gave me my girl. I might not get to keep her, but that is okay; God is bigger than the pain of goodbyes. If there is one thing I learned from my miscarriage, it is that I am going to make the most with all the time I am given with my kids, biological or not. They are all my kids. I’ve also realized that I don’t want to be normal. My boys are amazing; they love their foster sister and are incredibly compassionate. They’ve seen so much pain as they’ve watch me struggle with illness and they want to take care of their foster sister since they understand she has lost her biological family. They are so empathetic and are learning to serve God sacrificially even at the tender ages of 8, 6, and 2.

It occurred to me once as I walked into the social services building that I actually am on the mission field. I may not have been able to go overseas, but God brought the mission field to me. The psychology degree I hadn’t planned on getting was exactly what I needed. And I might not be using my voice to sing, but I’m using it to tell others about God. As a foster parent, I get to work with these precious, hurting birth parents and make a difference. Because of my pain and chronic illness, I am open with them about how I don’t have it all together. They know I understand and so they listen to me. I never expected my pain to be so important.

Being a mom is so much more than simply taking care of kids, making PB&Js for lunch and reading bedtime stories. Being a mom means giving of ourselves in ways that we never expected and serving God even when it doesn’t make sense. My journey wasn’t what I had planned, but it was what God planned and His plans have proved far better than mine ever could.

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S.L. Payne, a Southern Californian transplanted to the South, lives with her husband, three biological sons and foster daughter. She is thankful for God’s faithfulness in her illness as God has used to it help her see Him in everything; the three boys have supplied the humor! She loves writing, photography and laughing with her family. She writes at Rest Ministries and on her website, www.uncommongrace.net, where she hopes she can encourage others to live in grace. You can follow her on Twitter @saralynnpayne.

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Saying Yes to the Adventure of Foster Care – Emily’s Story

The call came from a DHS supervisor at midnight: “We have a three-year old girl at the hospital. Her mom was shot and is not expected to live through the night. Her dad has been arrested. Domestic violence. All clothing was taken by police as evidence so if you could bring a blanket that would be great. Can you come pick her up?” Yes.

The call came from a CPS worker while I was making dinner: “I just came on the scene to find a four-year old boy sitting in the back of a police car. His clothing is soaked with urine from his mentally unstable mother; he may have lice, and he is filthy. Can we bring him to your house?” Yes.

The call came from another county as we were getting ready for bed. “We have a two-year old who is sound asleep at the DHS office now. She was brought to the ER with an injury. Her mom was so high on drugs she could hardly function. This little girl is adorable. We just need someone who can take her for the night. Could you?” Yes.

The call came from the placement desk while I was in the middle of a run. “We have a tiny, ten-day old baby boy. Things aren’t working out with his current foster home, and we need to move him. Do you have an infant car seat?” Yes.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

My husband and I are biological parents to two young kids, as well as foster parents to a revolving crew of kids under the age of five. A friend, who also fosters, once told me that calls from DHS are like a Create-Your-Own-Adventure Game. Each “yes” takes your family on a wild new adventure you never expected. I always wonder what adventure we are missing out on with the calls we can’t take.

We say yes because these broken babies need a safe place to land. They need a mommy to wrap them in blankets and tuck them in at night. They need a daddy to hoist them up on his shoulders and gallop them around the backyard. They need clothing that fits and food that nourishes. They need to be tickled and trained and taken to the zoo. They need boundaries. They need love.

I have been surprised to find how much we need these little people, too. They are sweet and feisty and stubborn and funny. They keep us on our toes and teach us lessons we need to learn.

People tell me all the time, “I don’t know how you do it! I could never become a foster parent. It would be too hard to say good-bye to the kids once I’ve gotten attached.” And I get it, I do. I used to say the exact same thing. But now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking. Was I serious? It would be too hard for… me?

Make no mistake. It is hard. There are plenty of days when I feel like I just don’t have it in me to do this. My ideas and energy and patience fall flat. Some kids have night terrors, others have accidents. You wash a lot of sheets. You fold a lot of socks. You buy a lot of diapers. There are endless meetings and appointments and phone calls. There are false accusations and frustrating decisions. Foster parenting can be tough.

And yet these kids are forced to do hard things every single day, through no fault or choice of their own. They are abused and neglected and forced to fend for themselves. They are separated from siblings and shuffled from place to place. Kids in the foster care system have endured more hurt in their short lives than most of us will pause to think about, let alone experience, in our own.

The next phone call will come. And my husband and I will say yes. Not because we are some amazing poster family for foster care. We will say yes because these kids are forced to do hard things. The least we can do is look into their broken eyes and say, “Yes. I will do hard things with you. I will hold your hand and kiss your head and calm your tantrums. By God’s grace, we will figure this out together.”

When it is time to say good-bye, I will wash their clothes and pack their stuffed animals. I will ache and cry and wish it could be different. But I will never regret saying yes.

~~~~~

Emily is a foster mom in Portland, Oregon, who has been married to the love of her life for almost 12 years. They have two adorable kids, who keep them laughing and Googling. Emily also volunteers with Embrace Oregon.

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A Mother to the Motherless – Stephanie’s Story

I have a daughter. The day I met my daughter was my first day working at a charter high school for at-risk kids. Ti flitted into my classroom, rail thin, dressed provocatively; hair dyed some unnatural shade of pink and her need for love written across her face. In my mind’s eye it was as if there was a spotlight shining down on her. God spoke to my heart, “Watch out, this one is special.”

Of course they are all special. I wouldn’t have been in this particular school if I didn’t believe that. The place was filled to the brim with kids who were literally not wanted by any other school and often, it appeared they were not wanted by their own parents either. My daughter was no exception. From birth, Ti’s mom and dad “parented”(if you can call it that) as if they didn’t care what happened to their children. She was left prey for any perverted man who was on the prowl. Outside of my husband, there is a short list of men who have not violated her. She was taught early that her usefulness was mostly sexual. Her parents went so far in their neglect as to sign over parental rights to an ill-equipped sibling who only perpetuated the cycle of abuse and neglect. By the time she was a freshman in high school and walked into my class, she was using drugs regularly, promiscuous, completely detached from any kind of “home,” but to me and to God, she was a treasure.

I continued teaching at the same school while Ti hopscotched from friend’s house to the streets, to boyfriends’ homes, to her abusive dad, to her neglectful mom, to the streets and round and round she went. By the time she was 16 she was hooked on meth, and most people had given up on her. What hope was there if she dropped out of school? What hope was there if we couldn’t even find her?Through all of this she and I managed to keep in touch; a phone call here, a lunch there. Sometimes Ti would come by school, but most of the time not. Her brief stints of silence when she was on the streets interrupted our communication, but she always came back. “Miss. Kramer, can we go get lunch?” I got married and she got clean, but she still struggled. She still fought demons. One day, while trying to hide from the abusive meth-head drug dealer she’d been seeing for a year, Ti realized that she was either going to die, or she was going to stop. She asked Jesus to come into her heart and she quit meth. Yes, she quit meth. Only with Jesus can a girl shake a habit like that with no treatment.

I was able to extract some of her story over lunch one afternoon; details Ti had shrouded in shame and secrecy for many years. Accounts of the atrocious things that kept her from growing or healing came thundering down on my head like hot coals. WHAT KIND OF PARENT LETS THAT HAPPEN!?!? I was so angry. This precious baby girl was simply not cared for in any way. For whatever reason, her parents were completely remiss to love, protect and provide for this dear one. What I really saw sitting before me was not a 17 year-old, but a six year-old girl, neglected and broken from the inside out. Seeing this shattered girl before me I knew she needed a mommy. A REAL mommy. My husband and I started asking Ti to come spend the weekends with us. I’d take her to counseling, she’d spend the weekend and then I’d take her home on Monday. She’d work and detach once again, because detachment was the only way to cope in her mother’s home. Finally, realizing that we were making little progress with her still in the abusive situation I asked my husband, “What if she came to live with us full-time?” By this time, Ti was 18, technically and legally an adult. I knew in my heart that she would never heal if she had to stay in that home, in that neighborhood, in that city, with those people. We decided to float the idea to her and see what she thought. She literally almost jumped at the idea. We were clear that this was not a “you can live here and do what you want” situation. This was an opportunity to heal. This was a chance at 18 to finally know what it was like to have parents. There would be rules. There would be expectations, but there would be actual parents. Parents who love. Parents who discipline. Parents who protect.

A year at Bible school in Sweden and four years of college in the states later, we now have a 24 year old daughter who is going to walk as a Summa Cum Laude graduate in Behavioral Health this year. I still recall clearly the moment Ti decided to tell people that I was her mom. She said, “You do what moms are supposed to do. There’s no other way to describe what you are to me.”

Many people think, “But, she’s an adult. How can you parent an adult?” A few things come into play. Foremost is the impedance of emotional development when the use of narcotics, abuse and neglect are present. Ti did not even know what size shoe or bra she wore when she came to us. Why? Because no one had ever taken her shoe or bra shopping. Her mother had never taken the time to show her how a bra is supposed to fit. ALL of her clothes and shoes came from friends’ hand-me-downs. She brought only one small backpack with her when she moved in. That was all she had. Her parents weren’t that poor; she was just that neglected. Ti didn’t even know to feed herself. With absolutely no clue how to eat a balanced diet, she would eat at weird times during the day and live on hot Cheetos, dry tuna and instant ramen. And while many a college freshman has thrived on this diet, the problem with Ti was that she didn’t know anything else. The high level and amount of abuse she had withstood left her with severe PTSD, flashbacks, awful nightmares and addictions that were harder to kick than meth. So, did she need a mom? Yes. She did.

Re-parenting Ti has been a sometimes frustrating, difficult, but all-times rewarding journey. We not only taught her how to dress, buy bras, and eat, but we also did a lot of repair work in the areas of sexuality, proper relationships with the opposite sex, trust, spiritual healing, etc. Honestly, when Ti came to our home, I never would have guessed where the last six years would have taken us. But, when you become a mom, you are a mom forever. Parenting never ends. I still get late night texts because a boy has hurt my daughter’s feelings. I still have to issue correction when she blows things slightly out of proportion (girls and hormones). And, just like other moms, I still get to celebrate her accomplishments. I rejoice every day in what a lady she has become. Modest, beautiful, polite, well-mannered, and still so precious. I celebrate her amazing mind, which has been enriched and blossomed. SUMMA CUM LAUDE!!! Who would have thought? I am blown away by her compassion for others. Her career of choice is to help children like her. The hands and feet of Jesus in action.

I celebrate her dedication and hard work. My husband I were simply vessels willing to do whatever God put before us and we have been blessed to walk through this journey with Ti. But, she did the hard work. She did trauma counseling. She changed patterns and broke habits and addictions. She is a warrior, a fighter and a conqueror.

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So, I have a daughter. I’m not nearly old enough to have a college graduate for a daughter. But, I have a daughter. And I love her just as deeply, fiercely and passionately as if she were my own flesh and blood. I am beyond thankful to the Lord for giving me the blessing of being her mom.

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Stephanie lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband Rhett and their two small boys, Brock and Henry. She has a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and has put her M.Div. in Counseling studies on hold to raise her two small children. She is a teacher by vocation and a mom by calling. She volunteers with several women’s ministries, and find the most fulfillment in those that foster and guide the healing process for victims of abuse. You can read about her life, love and seminary at www.ignitingwholeness.blogspot.com

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Motherhood Vignettes: A Mother’s Day Week Tribute #5

What a fantastic week of Mother’s Day tributes! Thank you so much for sending in your Vignettes, for your comments, shares and likes! I have been so blessed by them and I know the women in your life that deserve to be celebrated this Mother’s Day have been too!

As we wrap up this series and begin preparing for the weekend, I want to recap the different kinds of mothers we have thanked.  We’ve honored the women in our lives that are as dear to us as sisters, those who may be a bit older that stepped into a mothering role when our own mother was unavailable, the one or more dear friends who feel our joys and sorrows and cry right along with us and those who mother the ones we love, like our children and others dear to us.

And then there are our own, traditional mothers: biological, adoptive, birth, foster, step, in-law and of course, grand. I’d like to take a moment and give a shout-out to those women who are recognized as our “real” moms and think of a new way to pay them tribute this Mother’s day.
I know I have several to be thankful for. First of all, my own mother, Rebecca. We have always had a special, close relationship and it has been a joy to grow up and watch her cultivate that same, precious relationship with my three young children. Also, my mother-in-law, Beki, has always been tender and loving to me and a fantastic grandma to our children. This sweet woman is now in advanced-stage Huntington’s Disease and we savor every moment we have left with her. And lastly, my stepmother-in-law (if that is an actual word!), Cheryl. I am awed by her strength, resolve and deep compassion. She is also the best hostess when we stay with them and loves my husband and our children as if they were her own flesh and blood.
All three of these woman, my moms, have enriched my life, inspiring and motivating me to be a better mother and woman and I am so very thankful for them this Mother’s Day!

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Finally, before we end the series, I want to give you one last opportunity to share a vignette or tribute to your own, traditional mothers in your life. Please feel free to write in the comments about them. They may be biologically or legally your mother, or just someone else you feel should be honored on this special day.

Thank you for your readership and sharing this week and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

 

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When Motherhood Doesn’t Come the Way You Expected – Lela’s Story

Motherhood is an interesting concept. When you are a young girl it consists of questions like, who will I marry? What will I name my children? How many kids will we have? And as we get older then it becomes, should we use birth control? When should we have kids? How far apart should they be? How will it feel to be pregnant? But I don’t think any young women ask themselves…will I be the one that can never get pregnant? Will I ever carry a child? How do I handle the pain? At least I never thought it would be me. But it was.

Infertility was easily the hardest thing I have ever gone though. It was hard physically, spiritually, mentally and especially emotionally. This is the ONE thing every girl is supposed to be able to do. God made us that way. Yet I can’t.   For four long years, my husband and I went through all the testing, medications, surgeries, and of course the ups and downs of each excruciating month, when I would realize once again that my body failed me. And I continued to ask myself, is this God telling me that I was not meant to be a mother? Should we just give up and focus on something else in life? Why is this happening to me, when everyone else in my family has no problem getting pregnant? What did I do wrong? I can’t express the grief and pain that comes with not being able to conceive a child. It was hard to watch others get pregnant and become mothers. To want something so bad and not be able to make it happen. To suffer during the many mother-oriented things like Mother’s Day, baby showers and others’ ultrasound pictures. To feel the guilt about not being super excited about the pregnancy announcements when they came in droves.

Somehow through all of this pain my heart began to warm up to the idea of adoption. In 2008, I prayed for six months that my husband would want this too. And, on Christmas, he gave me two books on adoption to let me know that he, too, was ready to go forward with that step.

Adoption is a long, tedious, hard and absolutely rewarding adventure! In January of 2009, we started the process of paperwork and getting our life story written out. We picked a local agency who worked with open adoptions from our city. Because of the stories we’d heard about children being given back to their biological parents, we were very nervous about open adoptions. But one weekend we went to a seminar where the agency had a few birth mothers come and speak about their decisions to put their child up for adoption. We were blown away by the bravery and love that these women had for their children. It opened our eyes to a whole new concept of what an open adoption was and how hard it is for these women to make a decision like this in the best interests of their child. It was a powerful day and I can honestly say now that these women are my heroes.

We finished our profile at the end of March in 2009. Ironically, only three days later, on April Fool’s Day no less, we received a phone call that we had been picked as the potential parents for a baby! One day later our little miracle girl was born and we were blessed to be in the room to watch the birth. It was exciting but to say this was a life change was the understatement of the century! Being prepared not to get our hopes up and convinced that the process would take a year or more, we had NOTHING ready for a baby. God amazingly provided for us through many friends and family members, and we managed to get our home and ourselves together with a new little girl. For various reasons (problems in the birth mother’s life and an inability to find the birth father to get a signature) it took eight long months for the adoption to be finalized, but we finally became legal parents. Two years later, we went on to adopt another child, this time a boy! Our son’s adoption took a more common route and we were able to develop a relationship with the birth mother over the last five months of her pregnancy. I was even able to go to an ultrasound with her and see our baby boy for the first time! As with any adoptions, there were ups and downs in our emotions. At one point, a few weeks before he was born, we found out that he has some Native American heritage, and as such, we were told that the likelihood of the adoption going through was very slim. But thankfully, the tribe signed off on his release and we were able to adopt him rather quickly, only two months this time!

Adoption can be very expensive and we decided that he would be our last one. We had entertained the idea of foster care but were overwhelmed with the process. However, God had different plans for us, and in October of 2013, we were given fifteen minutes to make the choice of taking a little six-week-old foster baby from a family friend. We felt that God was putting him in our lives when we have been too fearful to follow our hearts. And he is currently still in our care as a foster child.

While my journey to motherhood was very different from what I had seen growing up and what I had expected to happen, when I look at my beautiful children, I wouldn’t change it a bit. I still have many doubts and worries about bringing up my kids, along with some added pressure that they will not appreciate their life’s journey, but I am thankful that God did have children in mind for me, after all!

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Lela and her husband, Ian, live in Washington State. She is a stay-at-home mom with her three kids, ranging in age from 7 months to 5 years old.

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