Lessons Learned Growing Up Barren

In the late summer of 1983, I became gravely ill and ended up needing an emergency hysterectomy. I was just eleven-years-old, and did not fully understand the implications of this type of surgery.  That fateful moment in time changed my life in a drastic way.  Infertility became the shadow to which I danced around, but could never get away from.  Going through this experience taught me some vital life lessons that are translatable to other aspects of life.

Lesson #1 – You really cannot understand what someone has been through unless you have truly walked in his or her shoes. Unfortunately, I learned this vicariously through the things that people would say to my parents after my surgery. For example, my mom returned to her job at a local retail store after being gone for several weeks to care for my needs. A co-worker said to her, “Well, at least you don’t have to worry about her getting pregnant as a teenager.” My mother bit her tongue and kept on working, but I know these words stayed with her for many years. The woman would have been better off by either not saying anything, or letting my mom express her feelings about what just happened to her daughter.

I think about this often, and use this lesson to remind myself that I never really know what someone else has been through. It also reminds me that everyone has a back-story to life.  We live in a world of comparison.  We live in a world that expects nothing but the best.  Behind comparison and ideals are the battles that we all face. Everyone has a story.  Let us not forget that.

Lesson #2 – Infertility is a topic that most people avoid. I was always so amazed at how very little my circumstance in life was talked about. Even medical professionals would ask why I had a hysterectomy, but then the conversation would fall off or end with the statement, “You can always adopt.”   I learned that the whole subject made people very uncomfortable, and in many ways, it still makes people uncomfortable.  In particular, churches do not offer enough support for church-goers who are deeply struggling with God’s plan for their parenthood.

Within the past few years, there has been an increase in public awareness about infertility. Thousands of bloggers hit their keyboards noting their very painful and poignant journey to become parents. They seek comfort from strangers while feeling completely isolated from those closest to them. My advice after living with barrenness for thirty years is to talk about it with anyone who is able and willing to listen. There is nothing to be ashamed of, so unload your secret struggle on those who will provide you authentic support.

Lesson #3 – Adoption and infertility are two separate experiences.  We need to stop blending them together.  People used to give me advice on how to handle infertility. Most of the time, they ended up talking about adoption. I never understood the equation of woman minus being able to get pregnant equals adoption. It is true that a lot of couples who are unable to have biological children seek and become adoptive parents.

I, too, am a mother through adoption, but my adoptions do not represent my infertility; nor do they erase the grief I experienced through the years.  On the flip side, barrenness does not damper my experience as a mother.  If anything, it may just enhance and enrich it.  My hope is that society gets to a place where we recognize the authentic and deeply wounding loss of infertility, AND, that we can see adoption as a separate and remarkable experience – not just a band-aid for infertility.

Lesson #4 – Traumatic events that take place in childhood can linger throughout adulthood, but they do not define who you are. Trauma, whether through abuse, loss of significant person in life, or serious medical illnesses such as mine, stays with a person for the rest of life.  The flashes of memories while in the hospital, and recovering at home still play in my mind. The reality of the great loss that I suffered has never really gone away, and it probably won’t. I keep it tucked away in a corner of my heart.

I suspect most of us who have gone through traumatic events remember a life in the “before and after”.  Yet, (and this was a very important life lesson I learned) my surgery did not define who I was, and it certainly did not declare my future.  I encourage anyone who is going through a traumatic experience to please remember that what you are going through does not make up who you are.  It impacts you.  It changes you.  It even sculpts you in a way that is a little different from who you were, but, it does not constitute the rest of your life.  Do not give it that much power. Cling on to who you were before sadness visited your life, and celebrate who you will be in the future.

Lesson #5- Infertility is both an emotional and spiritual battle.  It is hard, sometimes, for me to express just how much of a spiritual and emotional battle that I have walked through the years.  Before I became a Mommy, I dealt with deep loss and confusion about what God’s will in my life was.  I wondered why I was born a woman if I could not give the world what is considered to be one of the most precious gifts.  I’m not sure if people fully understand what having a hysterectomy means to a female; especially one like myself who had the surgery at a time when every other girl I knew was having a period.

From a spiritual sense, I thought that God must have never wanted me to be a mother.  I was taught to trust His will, but when it came to being a mother, I often questioned why the will of God would include infertility.  Looking back at the years long ago, I know that I was battling a spiritual battle,

I thought for many years that I deserved what happened, and that somehow the Lord must have known that I would make a terrible mother.  I figured that I must not be capable of caring for a child, or that for some reason, I was being punished by the sins of those before me.  Hear me when I say this – these thoughts were real, all-encompassing, and took a long time to heal from.

While I went about being a typical teenager, twenty-something, and young adult, I battled the silent war of my own emotions and sense of spiritual longing.  I know many others who are battling this secret war behind closed doors, and through unseen tears.  It is a very real.

Lesson #6- Women complain about pregnancy….a lot.  Now, I don’t mean any disrespect by this, and I’m sure that at times, pregnancy is extremely uncomfortable.  Please remember though that while you are complaining about swollen feet, hot flashes, and back pain, there might just be a woman around you who feels a twinge of pain with each of your words.

There is nothing more uncomfortable for an infertile woman than being around a pregnant person.  Again, I mean no offense by this.  Do you understand what it means to not carry a child?  Do you understand that it is a deep longing that may never be fulfilled?  If so, then please, stop complaining about pregnancy.  I know it is uncomfortable, but at the same time, it is miraculous, beautiful, and incredible. Please treasure the nine months, and understand that there are millions (literally millions) who would trade places with you in an instant.

Lesson #7 – Life is unpredictable, but our reactions are not.  Life tends to throw us curve balls.  I was born a healthy baby girl and within eleven years, I underwent a hysterectomy.  I became the youngest female known to have this surgery.  This was the absolute last thing my parents would ever expect when raising me.  Honestly, it is the last thing probably any parent of a school-aged girl would think.

It took many years, and there were pitfalls, but eventually, life got back to normal. My parents raged in silence, and grieved even more, but they continued to show me a sense of stability and hope for the future.  Their reactions were what I expected – steady, loving, and what I needed.

Initially, when we are struck by incredibly traumatic events in life, we may falter a bit. Our knees may buckle.  We may feel like curling up in a ball, and wishing the world away.  After some time though, we can choose to get back up.  We can choose to react in a way that shows the world what we are made of, and better yet, where our faith is in our lives.  This a life-lesson that stayed with me.

Lesson #8- Hope is one of the most powerful human actions.  I always wondered with an excitement, and even a little bit of fear, what the Lord had in store for my life.  I remember thinking that maybe I could adopt some day, but, I really did not understand it at all.  I just knew that eventually life would make sense. Eventually, even if in Heaven, I would come to know the reason why all of this nonsense took place.  Eventually, I would know the answer to what my hope clung to.  And, do you want to know something?  I have found that answer in a two brown-eyed boys, and one blue-eyed girl.

Whatever you are going through in life right now, please do not give up hope. Hope is the confirmation that you declare a brighter future.  It truly is an incredibly powerful human experience.  It is one that has set many people free.

Lesson #9- Conception and birth are miracles, but the greatest miracle in life is love.  I knew that there was something quite special that I would miss out on. I knew that giving birth to a baby was a precious and vital part of being a woman, and that this had been tragically taken from me.

I also remember thinking at age twelve that birth is miraculous, but love is even more miraculous.  I found myself immediately defending love as being the most important miracle in life.  Without love, life would cease to exist, or at least the life that we all know.

Love causes us to be moved in ways that require selflessness.  It asks us to participate in moments that we otherwise might avoid.  It calls us to be the one person that makes a difference in another’s life.  It pulls us out of empty places, and commands us to re-position ourselves to the benefit of someone else.

This lesson of love helped me to survive the battle of barrenness.  I knew that one day, I would be able to pass on the love I received from my parents.  Out of love grew the desire of my heart to become a foster parent, to show kindness to my children’s birth parents, and to adopt.  And, it was love that called me back to my faith.

Love is truly the greatest miracle of all.  Love replaces barrenness.

Lesson #10- God is faithful.  I look around my house now as it is over-run by children’s toys, and pictures of smiling kiddos.  I enter into my children’s rooms while they sleep and see the love that lies before me.  I get up each morning to the sounds of needy and active children.  I feel frustration over their messes, bad choices, and just plain hardship of being a parent.  I cry at their successes, and their struggles.  I live life thinking about how I can make their lives better.

I look at life now as a mother and believe wholeheartedly that the God I believe in is faithful.  Of all the lessons I have learned in this unique walkabout, this lesson is the one that I cling to the most.  It is the one that delivers me from whatever hardship I am going through, and it is the one that my soul is able to rest on for the future.

These are the life lessons learned while growing up barren.  These lessons are ones that molded a life that went from barren to blessed.  These lessons are ones that have added depth to my Earthly experience.

In many ways, perhaps, I was not so barren after all.

Momma-in-Waiting (Part 2)

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you…. You look in the mirror and do not recognize the girl staring back at you.  That girl, the one who radiantly wore your skin, now looks worn, tired, and plagued by a silent war.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….You are surrounded by a crowd of many, and yet, you feel alone, isolated, and slightly misunderstood.  You hear the squeals of delights when others announce their impending motherhood, and all you hear is, “It’s not me.”  

All you think is, “It may never be me.”

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….At one time, you believed in happy endings.  Oh, you were not naive to the hardships of this world.  You knew that not all of life’s wishes are granted.  You understand that the Lord doesn’t give you more than you can handle, but this….this battle….is one you never imagined facing.

Instead, you thought, “One of these days, I will be this kind of mommy.”  Or, “I cannot wait to see my child for the first time.”  Here you are now, waiting to be the kind of mommy you promised yourself you would be.  Here you are now, waiting to see your child for the first time.

And yet, that first time has not happened.  You are a momma-in-waiting.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….You have felt as though the Lord is not listening to you.  You have pleaded, begged, and cried out, but all you get is silence in return, and doors closed, and negative tests, and doctors giving bad news.  You nod your head, close your eyes, stare in the mirror at the girl you no longer recognize, and weep.

You feel lost in the midst of a million prayers.  You might just be questioning your faith, or perhaps, your faith in His plan for your life.  You do not know which one is worse – to doubt the Lord’s plan, or to doubt your faith in Him.  Both cut like a knife.  Both break your heart.  Both do not resolve your struggle.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….I was once like you.  I knew I could not get pregnant, but I wondered, and waited.  I stared at the mirror, and did not recognize the girl staring back at me.  I felt forced into a war that I did not start.  I felt like the loneliest person on Earth; even though, I was surrounded by many.

I too felt lost in the midst of a million prayers.  I questioned my faith, doubted His plan, and wondered if either really mattered at all.  I did not want to raise my white flag to surrender and give up, but I was sick of fighting.  I was tired from carrying the burden of it all.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….Do you want to know something? Sometimes, I still do not recognize that girl standing in front of the mirror.  That girl, the one whose scars seemed more powerful than life, does not even see her scars anymore.

That girl, the one who doubted her faith in a redemptive and loving Lord, feels Him in the slightest of breezes, sees Him in the wonders of her children, and hears Him in the quiet moments of reflection.  The girl, the one who used to believe that being a mommy was not in her plans, understands that her plans were so very small and narrow compared to the promises of God.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….tell that girl in the mirror who you are. Remind her of who you once were.  Tell her that she is not going to give up so easily.  Tell her to be brave, to seek answers, to keep trying, and to take risks.  Tell her to listen to the Lord….

….listen to Him.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….greater things are coming.  Soon, your skin, the one once worn with radiance, will be radiant again.  Soon, you will not recognize that war-torn girl staring back at you in the mirror.

Soon…yes, soon….you will no longer be a Momma-in-Waiting.

Related Articles:  Momma-in-Waiting 

The Road Less Traveled

roadI went for a run the other night, and found myself alone on the path.  I thought, “This isn’t the first time I’ve been on a road alone.”  Growing up with what happened to me, I always felt I was walking down a different path in life.  I was a sojourner discovering a new world all to myself.  No one could relate. No one could understand.  No one could comfort. The chains of barrenness bound me to relive my regrets, my insecurities, and my unfulfilled desires over and over again.

I was on the road less traveled.

It was hard, really hard, to fully understand and accept that I would never have children through birth.  I hid my insecurities through a big smile, an adventurous spirit, busy life, and a confident persona.  Yet, beneath that chameleon-like suit, was a girl blindly walking through a tunnel without a light.

I felt forsaken by the Lord.  I had to navigate the road before fully understanding the terrain.  I had heard that the greatest of all gifts are children, and yet, there I was childless, damaged, and forgotten.  The Lord felt thousands of miles away…

Here I am now thirty years after my surgery, and infertility is spoken about, but not often understood.  Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by how many women, and men, struggle with similar gut-wrenching tugs on their hearts, minds, and spirits.  If only I had a “mentor” growing up, or someone who would have shared with me that barrenness would stay with me for life.  It would get harder the older I got, and it would try to siphon the joy from grand moments in life.  If only, I had someone to walk with me down the road less traveled.

My advice to anyone going through similar issues is quite simple: listen to your heart, cry when you need to, don’t let others negotiate your infertility for you, and never give up hope.

NEVER.GIVE.UP.

I didn’t walk down this road to keep my experience to myself.  Now, as a parent, I certainly don’t want to silence the songs my heart sings about grace, forgiveness, and the gift of children.  Looking back on my journey, I get a sense that it all led to this time in my life where I can speak out loud the twisted thoughts, confusing notions, and painful longings of my youth.

IMG_1517So, here I am.  I’m still walking the road that was carved out during that fateful time in September of 1983.  The difference now is that I’m no longer walking the road less traveled by myself.

I’m sharing it with a host of others who are walking alongside me.  I’m walking side-by-side with my husband who could have chosen a different path.  I’m celebrating it with family members whose lives and love have grown tremendously since the kids entered our lives.  I’m being carried by the strength of the Lord, and, I’m skipping down it holding the hands of my children.

I’m on the road less traveled, but I am no longer alone.

Related Posts:

Momma-in-Waiting

Glass Door

Blessed beyond Measure

little loving one
little loving one

“How old is he?”, asked the gentleman sitting next to me in the car dealership waiting room.  “He’s almost a year old”, I replied.  “Our baby is due to in two weeks!”, he said with excitement in his voice.  “Wonderful.  Are you having a boy or girl?”, I asked.  “Boy”, he said.

We continued to talk about the differences between boys and girls.  After his name was called to pick up his car, I said, “Good luck and congratulations with your new little one.”  He thanked me and went on his way.

I did not want to explain that I had not given birth to the little guy in the stroller next to me, or that he was my little cousin, or any other detail surrounding our relationship.  I also chose not to explain that my kiddos are adopted.  It seems there is a time and place for that, and this was not one of them.  The remainder of my wait time for the service on my car, I thought about how exuberant he was about his baby growing inside of the woman he loved. Sometimes, these conversations affect me, and cause me to think about my experience with motherhood.

Truth be told, I sometimes forget that I didn’t give birth to my children; and yet, at other times, I’m keenly aware that I did not carry them.  Right before our oldest son’s adoption, I was able to review the entire protective services file for him.  I took notes, wrote down names, and read it as if I had not heard the information before.  I had heard it before, but seeing it, reading it, and soaking it in, was a whole new experience.

I turned the pages as if reading a novel.  I felt sadness at times for what must have been a difficult road for his birth mother, and then, my sadness turned to anger when reading about some of the choices she made when pregnant.  This experience was the first time I actually felt anger towards his birth mother, and towards the not-so-healthy start he had at life; still yet, I carried such empathy for her.

My daughter was born and basically abandoned due to circumstances beyond (in some respects) her birth parents’ control.  I heard what the social workers suspected her birth mother did during pregnancy, but, there is no written proof of any of it.  She was born, brought into protective services, placed in a foster home, and then moved to our home.  It really felt as if she was forgotten about by the one person who brought her into this world.

If I had carried my children in my womb, I would have not made the same choices.  I would have gone above and beyond to protect my babies before they were born.  I would have taken any class offered on prenatal care.  I would have seen a nutritionist, read all of the books and articles I could get my hands on, taken the necessary supplements, and done anything else that contributed to the health of my children growing inside of me.

I would have carried their ultrasound pictures around as if they were flags of victory.  I would have kept people guessing on the genders until I just couldn’t stand it anymore.  I missed the kicks in the belly, the swollen feet, the flushed feelings, and the nesting time.  I missed the look on the faces of loved ones when announcing our new arrivals.

I would have bought cute “going home” outfits before leaving the hospital.  Their nurseries would have been ready for their arrivals.   I would have kept their names secret, but only for a little while.  I would have invited my mom to my doctor’s appointments.  I would have taken as much maternity leave as I could.  The minute I held them, I would have known they were mine forever.  I missed out on carrying the most important gifts I have ever received.

 I.missed.so.much.

Do I wish that I had carried my children in my body?  Yes, of course I do.  I wish I would have experienced feeling them growing inside of me.  I wish I would have had nine months to fall in love with them.  I wish I would have had my bags packed by the door in anticipation of their impending births.  I wish I would have felt labor pains as they made their way into the world.  I wish for all of the experiences of being pregnant.

Do you want to know something amazing though?  

Even though I missed out on carrying my children in my body, and even though I would have made difference choices had they grown in my womb, I know that my children were meant to be mine.  I know it…I feel it.  They are an extension of who I am, and who my husband is.  I do not regret the path I have walked to be a mother.

They are the living, breathing, walking, and delightful embodiment of the hope I had for the future.  They are the promised answers of a faithful Father who heard my prayers and pleads to be a mother.  They are examples of goodness that is born out of awful circumstances.  They represent God-given strength, and the resilience of children whose start in life was a challenge.

Earlier in the week, I woke up, and read this email that was sent to me from a friend:

Isaiah 51:3

New Living Translation (NLT)

3 The Lord will comfort Israel again
    and have pity on her ruins.

*** Her desert will blossom like Eden,
    her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found there. ***

Read this scripture tonight and thought of you 🙂

I didn’t carry my children in my body, and in many ways, I wish I would have….but….the joy found when our lives collided with each other is something that I would never trade.

my sweets
my sweets

I meandered my way through the barren wilderness, and walked out of it with joy, gladness, and blessed beyond measure.

Thank you, Father, for reminding me in small and big ways just how faithful You are in listening, guiding, and gracefully giving me gifts that keep on giving.

 

  

Momma-in-Waiting

photo taken when I was a momma-in-waiting
photo taken when I was a momma-in-waiting

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you…. You held your breath when the doctor walked in.  You lost his words after you heard, “I’m afraid I have some bad news…”  In that moment, you felt the weight of the world collapse onto your shoulders.  Your body went limp.  You became numb.  You had to shake yourself back out of the stupor you were in.  You were told that you would never carry a child in your womb, but what you thought was….

“I will never be a mother.”

You’ve gotten good at faking that shy smile when others ask how you are doing.  You’ve gotten even better at letting others think you are just fine.  “Fine”….that word is meaningless in your world, except for the fact that you are not fine.  That word has become the mask you wear.  Inside that mask though, you are devastated.  You are trying to keep it all together.  You are pretending to be okay with the news, so much so, that even those closest to you cannot hear the grief-stricken song your soul is singing.

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you….You carry on, and pretty soon days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and now, it has been years since you walked into the desert.  Out of courtesy, you join in with others while they celebrate the new arrivals of precious ones into their lives.  You are on the sidelines, sitting on the bench, and waiting…waiting to be the one who is celebrating a life with children.  You feel shame for your jealousy; and yet, you cannot help it.  You feel embarrassment for those long, tearful drive homes after baby showers.  You are exhausted from crying yourself to sleep.  You cannot be comforted, and, you don’t want to be.

You don’t look forward to opening up birth announcements because you know that with each tear of the envelope, a little more of your heart is being torn.  It pains you to buy the gifts, wrap them with a pretty bow, and walk through the doors to greet the one who is carrying what you cannot.  Anger sits by your side.  It has become your friend, but it doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t care about you, and it doesn’t fix your problem.  You are a jilted daughter.  You have been robbed of the very thing you want more than anything.  You are thinking….

“Why Lord? Why can’t I be a mother?  What did I do wrong?”

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you….Your life is different from what you thought.  There is great silence in your world.  The longing you feel is so deep that it feels as if it will consume you at any moment.  Your child, your baby, your dream….has vanished.  You think about your baby.  You visualize him.  He has your eyes, daddy’s chin, he is perfect, and he is wonderful.  He was perfect….He was wonderful….He was yours.  You feel haunted by a child who will never be born.

Pssst… Hey momma-in-waiting. Yes, you… You who have longed for years to have and to hold a child of your own, only to be told that it will not, it cannot, ever happen.  Your walk in this world feels heavy.  You know there are multitudes of others out there going through the same thing, but you feel like the loneliest person in the world.  You read the brochures about adoption that are sent to you, and you listen to the advice of others…but…you know this is a battle all to your own.  You are a soldier fighting in an army of one.

You are a momma-in-waiting.

Has anyone ever told you that it is okay to feel the way you do?  Has anyone told you that they too would be grieving if in your shoes?  Has anyone ever given you a true glimpse of hope for the future?

Pssst…Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you…The One who created you sat by you when the floor fell out from under your feet while in the doctor’s office.  The One who created you sees your half-hearted attempt to be happy for others.  He holds your hand when you walk into baby showers, He reads the announcements with you, and He catches the tears that tire out your weakened body.  He is in the silence.  He is right there with you,very step of the way, as you meander around with infertility as your shadow.  The One who created you hears the song of your grief-stricken soul.

He sees the baby you dream about.    He knows the baby you dream about.    He is creating the baby you dream about.

Pssst….Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you….Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  You are weak from your battle, but the One who created you is standing firm.  He did not forsake you as He hung on the cross, and He will not forsake you now.  You are thirsty walking through this desert, but He is there to quench your thirst.  You feel devoid of life, but He is life.

Has anyone ever told you that there is great worth in the wait?  Soon, yes, soon…the wait will be just a memory, the pain will perish, and your soul’s song will be one of joy.

Pssst….Hey momma-in-waiting.  Yes, you….Lift your head and dry your eyes.

Soon, yes, soon….You will no longer be a momma-in-waiting.  You will be  a mother.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

**I wrote this piece in hopes of both validating and inspiring women who are struggling with infertility.  As I look at the picture taken of me years ago, I can see the hardship of the years in my eyes.  If you are not a regular reader of my blog, you may not know that I am a mother through the gift of adoption.  I can look back now and see that while I was in the despair of infertility, the Lord was writing the story of my life, and the lives of my children, to include each other. For that I am truly blessed!**

At The End of My Life

photo (51)We have survived our first week and a half with an additional little one living in our home.  Having three children under the age of six years of age and a full-time job outside of the home has made for some interesting changes in our schedules and time spent on various tasks.  From Legos on the table to semi-folded laundry piled on a chair to baby wipes dispersed throughout, one can tell our lives have been a little hectic lately.  Let’s just put it this way, if you were to walk into my home, you would certainly find the remnants of childhood scattered throughout.

My mom stopped by this afternoon and before she could enter the living room, I found myself issuing an apology of sorts for the way the house looked.  Before I digress any further, I should tell you that I’ve never been one to have a perfectly clean home at all times.  Life is not perfect.  I am not perfect, and, in my opinion, homes certainly need to look as though they are lived in.

After weaving our way through the living room, stepping over a few toys, and entering the kitchen (which was equally “lived in”), I said to my mom, “I’ve decided that no one will say “Caroline sure kept a clean house” at my funeral.”  My mom (whose home is almost always immaculate), agreed with this statement by saying something to the effect of “Yeah, you’re right.  They won’t be saying that.”

Now, one might take offense to this, but I don’t.  The truth is that is not what I hope people say at my funeral anyway.  I don’t want to be known for neatly folded towels.  The towels are clean, they are good at drying off the kids, and well, they serve their purpose.  I certainly won’t be known for clutter-free floors.  I have a boy who loves Legos and any other small knick-knacky kind of gadgets he can find.  These little feet-killers usually find their way from the floor to the skin of my bare feet on any given day.  My floors have toys splattered around like some sort of painting.  I choose to refer to it as “artistic expression”.

I have a daughter whose short attention span leans towards getting out stuffed animals, baby dolls, kitchen utensils, art supplies, blankets, and even more blankets.  If you ever come to my home, you will not need to worry about being cold!  There are plenty of blankets and baby dolls lying around the living room for you to snuggle.

The newest member of our home is a 7-month-old baby boy.  He really can’t be blamed for any mess necessarily, unless you consider that laundry just got increased, stinky diapers make their way to our trash can, and formula is sometimes dusted onto our counter-tops like some sort of cooking seasoning.  He even likes to “season” me with formula from time-to-time.  I may even use it as perfume soon!

I say all of this jokingly, but also as a reminder to myself, and maybe a few other moms, to stop fretting over the small stuff.  Yes, it can be distressing to have little dirt and clutter fairies sprinkling their magic around the house right after I get through cleaning it.  It may frustrate me that I can’t just wiggle my nose like “I Dream of Jeannie”, and make the house instantly clean up.  I may even find myself full of doubt about being able to manage three young children, a job, and a home at the same time, but, at the end of the day, I need to remember these are not the things I want to be remembered for anyway.

Years before any of this occurred, I never dreamed of having a home full of loving, laughing, playful, and messy children.  I never imagined that I would spend a great deal of time playing catch up on the housework, folding little girl’s dresses, getting stains out of blue jeans, or bending over to pick up toys at random spots throughout the house.  I certainly never thought I would care for a third baby (wow- what a blessing).

 I never really pictured children in my life at all.

I know the cleanliness (or lack there of on any given day) of my home will not be spoken about when reflecting on my life.  I won’t be known as an extremely organized parent who spent a great deal of time labeling drawers, or using a color-coded closet organization system.  I certainly won’t be known as carrying any hint of perfection in my personal, professional, or domestic life.

At the end of my life, I hope I’m known for what the Lord has done.  I hope people speak about my life that went from being barren to blessed.  I hope people can say that they saw me living a life yearning to do His will.  I pray my children will say this as well.

No, I may not have the cleanest home on the block.  I may not fold laundry in a timely manner, frantically sweep up all the little dust bunnies that hang out under the beds, or even stay up extra late to get that last bit of cleaning done.  At the end of my life, I pray I will be known for having a home that welcomed children, welcomed love, and welcomed Him.

Each Time I Speak

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.

 

Hello, World!

Hello, World!  My name is Caroline. I’m 40, married with children, and barren.  There, I said it.  I’m barren.  I’ve known nearly my entire life that I would never have children.  A devastating illness almost succeeded in taking me out of this world at the age of eleven.  The only way to save me was to remove my uterus, right Fallopian tube, and right ovary.  These organs had been ravaged by a bacterial infection – or more like invasion.  I am the youngest female known to have had a hysterectomy.  Then, at age 20 my left ovary was removed due to a cyst.

One may wonder why in the world I would consider myself to be blessed.  Well, I did not always feel this way.  Heartache, isolation, gut-wrenching grief, and confusion lurked within, behind, and around me nearly every stage of my life.  I dealt with infertility as a child, teen, and adult, but then, this funny thing started to happen.  As I drew closer to my Lord, the shadow of my surgery seemed to be just that; a shadow.  Grace was changing me.

In 2006, my husband and I became foster parents.  We fostered for about four years and were able to adopt our two foster children.  They are now 3 ½ years old and 5 ½ years old.  Many things have been revealed to me during these past few years…well, maybe the past 29 years since the surgery.  One thing I do know is that love is a miracle – pure and simple. 

Love knows no boundaries, no genetic markers, no birthing, and no bloodlines.  Love takes hold of opportunities and transforms them into beauty.

I still get the sense that there is great shame and silence with infertility.  There should not be.  Too many suffer in silence while people offer their two-cents worth on what to do about not being able to have a child.

I have gone from barren to blessed, silent to singing, and loathing to laughing.  Happiness is possible in the world of infertility.  I’m not ashamed.  I’m not desolate.

Hello, World!  I’m barren and blessed!  

I found my purpose in it and hope to share it with you through this blog.