In the Valley…
When my husband and I married, we assumed that someday we would have children of our own and that I would go through the process of conception, development, and birth. But after 12 years with no children, we began to think differently. We found a infertility center and used a number of methods to try to remedy the situation but with no success. I had what is known as a luteal phase defect, where I could get pregnant, but the lining of the uterus was not thick enough to maintain the pregnancy and 6 times in these twelve years, between 6-10 weeks, I would learn that there was no heartbeat and have to undergo a D&C. Each time I learned I was pregnant I was thrilled, only to learn 2-4 weeks later that the pregnancy was not viable and my hopes were dashed once again.
Though I often wondered what God was doing in my life and why these things were happening to me, I honestly feel that my faith in God was the only thing that got me through these dark, discouraging times. My hope lay in these beliefs: because of evil in this world, death exists and bad things can happen to good people. That doesn’t mean, however, that God allows these things to punish me personally. He grieves along with me; he never leaves my side in my sorrow; he knows what I feel - my discouragement and hopelessness. He comforted me and gave me peace and taught me to put my hopes and dreams in him alone. He walked beside me, every step of the way. My only comfort was and is that I know that I belong to him in both life and death (Q&A1, Heid. Catechism). In times of grief, I also remembered that God cared more than I did about these little ones and it gave me comfort to know that as their Creator, he was caring for them in Heaven for me. I believe that one day I will these children again. Though I did not get to experience life with them here on earth, I get to experience eternity with them in the future.
Yes, my faith sustained me, but that does not mean I did not go through deep mourning, sorrow, and grief. These feelings are real and it does not matter at what point after conception that you lose a child, he/she was still a real human being full of potential. I mourned for what could have been, the potential, the death of dreams. My friends and family supported us, constantly prayed for us, and assured us that God had a plan for us.
After twelve years of trying, I basically gave up and felt that this must not be part of God’s plan for our family and resigned myself to the fact that most likely I would never give birth. I gave my dreams to God and asked that his will be done in my life. After awhile we began to look in other directions to build our family and that is a whole other story. More to come…
Climbing to the Mountain Top...
If you read my “In the Valley” blog, you read that we dealt with infertility for many years and that we began to look at other means to build our family.
We knew of Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and called them to get information about adoption. We had an interview and were put on a wait list for a baby. After two years on the wait list we were told that it might still be another year or two before a baby would be available. Due to my impatience and feeling the years slipping by, we looked into international adoption because we heard that that there was a shorter wait time for an infant. After attending an informational meeting, we came home feeling strongly in our hearts that this was the direction God was leading us. We immediately started the paperwork, had home visits, saved money, and waited. Eight months later, on June 5, we met our 3 ½ month old daughter from South Korea at the Detroit Airport. Two days later I had the shock of my life.
We were told that if I got pregnant during the wait for arrival, we would have to wait until after that child was born to proceed with the adoption. Due to my history with miscarriages, I honestly thought there was zero chance of this happening. Having been pregnant a number of times before, and being somewhat irregular, two days before our daughters arrival, I started wondering at some symptoms I was having. But with all the busyness surrounding the anticipation and arrival of our daughter, I thought they were due to excitement. But two days after our daughter arrived I ended up taking a pregnancy test just to make sure and realized that I was pregnant! Even though this was a difficult pregnancy, I am happy to inform you that I was able to carry this pregnancy to term and our son was born the following January. After twelve years of no children, God had blessed us with two children eleven months apart in age. Two children: a girl and a boy. Perfect. Right? Our story doesn’t end here.
Long story, short…after two more miscarriages, we once again looked into adoption and two years after the birth of our son, adopted a second daughter from South Korea followed by the adoption of a son also from South Korea two years after that. So now we have 4 children ages 5, 4, 2, and an infant. We felt our family was complete. Okay, you’re probably thinking, “this must be the end of the story now.”
3 More Adoptions & Adjustments...
A family with five children joined our church. We learned that 3 of these children were stepsiblings and were in foster care with this family. As we got to know the parents, they shared that these 3 children had been removed from their home because of neglect, the parental rights had been terminated, and they were available for adoption. A few weeks later the foster Mom, who knew we had adopted our children, asked me if we would be interested in adopting these three kids as a sibling group. I said I would mention it to my husband. You can probably imagine my husband’s response: "Are you nuts? We don’t have room in the house (3-bedroom ranch). You’re already busy. We don’t have a big enough car. We don’t have enough money to send them all to Christian school". After investigating the options with Bethany Christian Services again and God clearly removing all the above-listed obstacles, we ended up adopting three more children ages 12, 5, and almost 2. Our birth order went down the tubes. We now had a 12-year old boy, 7-year old daughter, 6-year old son, 5-year old son, 4-year old daughter, 2-year old son, and almost 2-year old daughter. Times were crowded, hectic, crazy, and filled with joy.
Adoption brings unique sets of challenges. We navigated through uncharted waters as we did our best to parent and help brothers and sisters, new to each other, find their place of belonging in our home and within our family unit.
This meant brief counseling for some who felt displaced, time outs for kids and myself. We dealt with hoarding of food, eating until vomiting, screaming for attention, and learning about fetal alcohol syndrome and ADD/ADHD (3 children). One child asked after every meal for a year, what we were having at the next meal, until I figured out it was a trust issue and explained that there would always be food on the table and that I would never use food as leverage for obedience. I learned it was okay for a 12-year old to play cars, with all the appropriate noises, because he never got to be a child in his home of origin. We watched him learn to trust us, and gradually give up his weighty, adult role that he had carried inappropriately before. There were many explanations of why something they had done in their past environment was not appropriate then and now (stealing). It also meant deprivation and early trauma carrying through into the teen years and learning that because you saw someone hit your Mom in your original home, that it did not make it okay to hit your girlfriend when things didn’t go the way you planned.
With God’s grace we got through it. We learned a multitude of lessons and wished we had done so many things differently. We prayed frequently and fervently for wisdom and patience. Though my husband and I both grew up in Christian homes with wonderful parents and siblings, we had different parenting styles and had to learn what was best for each child and what was the most effective. Many times I felt like I was in deep water way over my head. I felt like I knew nothing about parenting and was the worst parent ever. I made many mistakes and learned to apologize to my kids (still do) and they graciously forgave me. I was filled with a love for these precious ones that I didn’t think was possible and was given unconditional love in return.
We have watched our now-adult children go through heartbreaking experiences themselves -- divorce, loss of jobs, and their own infertility issues. We are able to share with them the lessons we have learned along way and give them hope for a future filled with joy.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! Though in reality there were many rough spots along the way, there were also times of intense joy – hearing that one of your children shared salvation with another sibling and led them to Jesus, watching them date, graduate, go to college, find a spouse, marry, start a career, and give birth to grandchildren (we have 7 wonderful grandchildren with one on the way). Adoption has made me grow, learn to be more empathetic, and has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.
My Life Today...
After high school I attended and graduated from Grand Rapids Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. Following graduation, I hoped to attend Western Michigan University for a teaching degree. My plans changed when I met my future husband and I ended up going to work full-time.
I worked full-time for the next 12 years until our first daughter arrived from South Korea. Fast forward… While the kids were in school, I mostly worked part-time at a number of jobs, until I started to work for Kuyper College, which gave me the opportunity to mentor a number of students after hours that developed into a passion that still exists to this day. While working full-time, I decided to enroll part-time there as well and for the next four years took one course per semester and over the spring and summer sessions, until I finished my Bachelor of Science degree with dual majors of Interdisciplinary Studies as well as Bible & Theology, with a Communications Minor. Four years later I graduated - just one semester before my youngest son graduated from Kuyper College as well. The following fall, I enrolled in Cornerstone University’s counseling program as a part-time student. I completed my degree four years later, while still working full-time, earning a Master of Arts in Counseling.
While I would not recommend taking graduate-level courses, doing practicums and internships while working full-time, it is doable, but not without some sacrifices along the way. Without my husband’s support, I could not have completed this journey. I could have never completed the many long days at work, followed by late nights and weekends filled with homework, without God’s to me of (good health, perseverance, and understanding employers.
After completing a practicum with Innovative Solutions Counseling in Grand Rapids, Michigan, using neurofeedback, internships at the counseling center of Cornerstone University working with college students and at Joe Martino Counseling, Grand Rapids, I passed my State Counseling test and I am now working as an LLPC at Joe Martino Counseling-Grandville & Lowell offices, and at Creative Solutions Counseling in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I thoroughly enjoy working with my clients and find the work challenging but extremely rewarding as well. I am currently working to complete the required hours to finish the requirements to be able to apply for my LPC counseling license.