Adoption: Our Story Is Bigger Than Us, by Natalie Brenner

double-blessingIt was a cold January morning when we sat across the Starbucks table from a local pregnancy-adoption counselor. This meeting was the culmination of an adoption-dream first conceived together via a skype date while dating, a couple years of trying to conceive biologically without success, and an eagerness to grow our family.

The counselor’s talk of openness in adoption frightened us and made our nerves tingly in an uncomfortable sort of way. We didn’t know that we agreed with her. How could that be best for our child? Wouldn’t he or she be confused? 

There weren’t many forward-moving steps towards adoption after that coffee date conversation, but our hearts were being stirred and invited into thinking bigger. Up until that point, my idea of adoption was so small, so simple, so cut and dry. The misconceptions I held were many, but we’re all in different stages of life, right?

I had not realized how BIG adoption is. I wasn’t ready for the humility adoption demands.

I did not know adoption was meant to split you wide open, revealing the ugliest and most radiant parts of yourself, all at once.

Another Christmas passed without expectation of, or the existence of little toes to kiss, bellies to tickle, tears to soothe…and the next cold January arrived all too quickly.

We had already decided in the years previous that we would adopt; we hadn’t yet seen it as feasible because of the numbers in our bank account.

But He is bigger than our wallet and our ideals, He allows the messiness of us to be molded into oceans of grace. His stories reveal His faithfulness and graciousness, shining through the gaping cracks of us.

We emailed back and forth with an adoption consultant, Susan, through Christian Adoption Consultants. As we were about to hire Susan with the sum total of our adoption savings account, what seemed to be my one-millionth pregnancy test had come back with two lines indicating a positive result. So did the next four tests. That’s right, we decided to pause before making the adoption process official, in order to “spread the babies out.”

Like He does so often, Jesus allowed that baby to leave my womb too soon for reasons I won’t fully understand until Heaven. The grief gripped us tightly, the tears fell for months, and we were left wondering why we were even able to conceive that tiny human if only to say goodbye.

together1The day after Mother’s Day, Christian Adoption Consultants was running a discount. Our hearts had not healed fully from the loss of our first conceived baby, but we knew with our whole selves that it was time to jump into the journey that is adoption. We knew that He would continue to work His grace into the broken bits that made up our hearts. He hadn’t failed us yet.

From the moment we hired our adoption consultant, my heart grew a void that I could only trust Jesus with. The void felt so gaping, so raw, so open and ready for our baby via adoption, and also for his or her first family. The void in my heart, the missing piece to the puzzle that was our family, was loud and clear — tugging my mama strings and demanding me to lean into His grace more than ever.

As my heart grew softer and softer towards the reality of an open relationship with our child’s first family, I fell more in love with Him and how He works through adoption, but was forced to trust Him further. I realized my fear of an open adoption was wrapped up tightly in trying to control everything. Continuously, I felt my hands opening in surrender as I learned the redemptive power of relationship.

If I didn’t fall into His hands, I was too easily swept away by fear and doubt and sadness. His hands and His love letter were my safe space as I prayed, hoped, and waited for our baby. Every day felt like I was walking on turbulent waves, threatening to suck me under and throw my body around the ocean floor; but every day that I chose to continuously open my hands in surrender, I found the strength to keep standing and keep hoping in confidence.

He had clearly asked us to become an available family for a baby, and we were doing everything we could to prepare.

We raised funds in every way possible: giant garage sales, Christmas wreath making and selling, t-shirt sales, puzzle pieces, and straight up asking people. We applied for countless grants and adoption loans. We were determined and humbled by generosity and creativity.

Four months into our official journey to finding our baby, the pregnancy test screamed positive once again. Instead of dancing in celebration, I blacked out in fear. I crumbled beneath my cries of fear, conceiving not only another miracle of life but the anxiety that we might lose this baby, as well as our place in the adoption process. The potential of losing two more babies; that is exactly what it felt like.

We waded through the early days and weeks carefully, tenderly, prayerfully. We continued to present to expectant mothers we felt drawn to and to let them know — up front — that we were pregnant. The reality of my womb being inhabited seemed to be a big red x over us, because we were declined over ten times. The selfish part of me wanted to hide the pregnancy, hoping an expectant mama would choose us. The bigger and more loving part of me trusted that He had a much bigger plan.

As Christmas approached, my womb was still occupied, and our hearts still longing for a match via adoption. I couldn’t help but picture having two babies at Christmas, 2016. I spoke it in confidence, I told my family, and I claimed it as fact because I knew in my soul there was still a void for a certain baby we had yet to meet.

Again, January rolled around. Cold as usual. My body swelled to 20 weeks round on the same day a baby boy was born a few states over. We wanted to present our profile book to his First Mama, but chose not to because we only had a quarter of the funds that were due upon arrival.

Through the entirety of that Wednesday, I could not stop thinking about that baby boy born around 7 am. I checked in with his First Mama’s agency to see if he had been placed with a family; his First Mama had not felt connected to any of the four books she saw that day. Would you like to present? We were asked. Our tired hearts responded: Yes, but we can’t. There is no way we could come up with the funds that quickly. 

Thursday rolled in slowly and heavily. This precious little man wasn’t leaving my thoughts, so I dared to ask Him why. I shook and cried and begged Him to remove this baby from my mind. Surely, this situation was impossible.

Before our usual kiss goodbye as my husband went to work, I pulled him in close, my eyes locked with his, and I told him I needed him out here in the shaky waters with me. I needed him to walk out here and trust that He would hold us together, that He would provide funds if this child is to be in our family, and we can’t believe anything less. I couldn’t stand alone out here in the threatening waves.

It was mid-morning the third time I checked in with the agency worker. First Mama still hadn’t chosen a family; she had looked at more than six profiles by this point and was feeling defeated. No one was fitting just right for her sweet baby boy. I was asked again to present, and I declined again through pain-filled tears. We don’t have anywhere near the amount due.

I made so many humbling phone calls, asking family members if they had secret stashes of thousands of dollars under their mattresses. Could anyone loan us the money? The tears falling from my eyes were many; the mountain was colossal and I felt like a sloth at the base of it, paralyzed. Impossible.

But I knew in my soul that if we were this baby’s family, that He would make it happen. I had no clue how. But He had never failed us and I didn’t think He would this time either.

The swelling of faith stretched my heart’s skin thinner than it had ever been stretched, marking it forever. I thought it might rip open as I called the agency and agreed to present.

What seemed to be a lifetime of waiting finally turned into a phone call from the agency. The voice on the other end shared with me that within moments of seeing our profile, this baby boy’s First Mama said instantly, “This is them. These are his parents. I want him to have a brother close in age. Tell them to get here tonight if they can.” The agency worker then said, “You have a son waiting for you in Utah.”

I cupped my mouth too late and the loud cry escaped. Trembling with disbelief, joy, and an intensity I cannot describe, I called my husband who was still at work. We flew to our son and his First Mama, and within the first four days of posting on my blog about the gap that needed to be filled financially, we raised over $12,000. The agency gave us an extension to bring in the funds, something they have never done: grace upon grace.

We raised thousands more in the coming weeks and my heart could hardly stand the generosity of so many people. Friends, family, strangers. A village coming together to help us bring our son home. Every time I recount the story, tears well up in the bottom of my eyes, softening my heart and reminding me how faithful He has been.

And our love for our son’s First Mama? Wow. You wouldn’t believe the swelling of the heart that has happened there. Another aspect for another time.

the-boys

Adoption has turned our world upside down and inside out in so many of the best ways. It has revealed to us on many levels our pride, ignorance, and privilege. It has softened our hearts towards hurting families and vulnerable women. It has opened our eyes to so much more than we realized we were blinded to. It has created a cavern of deep love within us.

Adoption has moved the broken bits of myself into feeling safe in His presence, instead of fearful of being “in the wrong” or “imperfect.” He has unraveled grace upon grace through adoption, and I pray to have the honor of being a family for a baby or child once again.

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