Today I had the privilege of speaking to a class of social work students at a Christian university about foster parenting, adoption, and infertility. I always enjoy these opportunities to share of the great calling that is foster parenting, and to give a glimpse of my own personal testimony. It seems each time I speak, I walk away learning a bit more about myself, and about the Lord.
It was a small class, and I really do not know what each of them want to do with their education or who their target population of clients will be. I don’t know what any of their own life stories involve, but I was thankful to see a group of young persons seeking to learn more about society and the social issues that we face. I also recognize that they are going to learn more once they actually graduate and dive into the field, than myself, or any professor could ever teach them.
With that being said, I do believe in the power of story-telling, and not just fictional stories. Human stories are powerful and often help the listener navigate their worlds vicariously through the stories of someone else. Today, after speaking about the basic facts of foster parenting, and sharing some examples of both heart-break and joy, I was asked to share my personal journey.
I’ve been a guest speaker several times and have told my story of infertility and adoption multiple times. Each time I start though, I struggle just a bit with how to begin it. Often, I pause, take a deep breath, then start something like this….
I need to start from the beginning in order for you to understand the full story…
I begin the tale of my journey by explaining that my medical problems started to happen at the age of two years, but that no one ever suspected what would happen at the age of eleven. I tell of being in the hospital for nearly a week in the dying process before the life-saving decision was made to perform exploratory surgery. I talk about my hysterectomy, and at times, I catch myself off-guard about how open I am now in talking about it.
After I “break the ice” a bit with my medical history I meander my way through the steps taken to become licensed as a foster parent up until the moment I first laid eyes on the precious baby we were charged with taking care of. I tell of the lows (and there were many), the highs, the revelations, the humbling moments, and ultimately, the gift of adoption. I speak of the relationship built with my son’s birth mother, and the moments where all I could do was kneel in prayer for the child I deeply loved.
I go on to talk about how our son declared we would get a baby sister about 10 days or so before we even became aware of her. I talk about how her “case” was vastly different from my son’s, and how our children are strong-willed, ornery, and deeply loved. The Lord’s declaration to me that my journey was never really about me in the first place is something I always share. It is the most important piece of my story, and something that will always stand out to me as being one of the most incredible gifts through all of this.
On the drive home following my speaking engagement, I was at a place of peace and contentment with life. I feel this way every time I am able to share my story. I see how the Lord put all the refining and deeply painful moments together with those “mountain-top” moments in life. I also think about the adolescent girl and young adult that I once was who barely whispered a word about what happened. I remember that my hysterectomy was something I hid from others, was deeply ashamed of, and that caused great internal turmoil in my life. I recall the images of myself avoiding baby departments, struggling through baby showers, and coiling up in a fetal position while weeping my way through the pain of infertility.
I am so thankful for opportunities to share my story with others. I know others learn from my professional and personal experience. I believe that a small dose of understanding is learned, and that some may walk away feeling moved to get involved in foster care. I also feel that I am able to speak for those still struggling through infertility, and to share that there is always hope and goodness that happens in life even when that doesn’t seem possible.
For me though, each time I speak it out loud, I am reaffirmed of His presence throughout my life, His marking of the path that led me to my children, and His ability now to use me in ways I never imagined.
Thank you, Lord, for bringing me to a place where my story reflects Your glory. I feel You around me Father. I feel You working on me, and sculpting my life in ways that remind me of who You are. I also know that You are not through with me yet, and for that, I am excited to see what You have in store.