By Gabrielle. Family photo by Blue Lily Photography.
Have you ever been in a position where you were given the advice to just wait? It’s horrible, isn’t it? Especially if you’re waiting for a baby; all that time waiting, in our minds, could be spent on making something happen, and the overwhelming feeling that we’re losing time just waiting is super frustrating. I get it.
If you’re in that waiting mode right now, I really can’t wait for you to meet Kari. She and her husband live in Utah at the base of the stunning American Fork Canyon, with…well…I’ll let her tell you the story. It’s such a good one.
One year after we were married, Craig and I decided to go on a three-week trip to the Philippines – a place near and dear to my husband’s heart. Might as well do it now, we thought, before the kids start rolling in.
One year after that, I went to the doctor. He listed all the possible reasons why I was having trouble conceiving and gave me a serious checklist of things to do to find out which particular reason was mine. Rather than call my husband to pick me up from doctor as planned, I walked the two miles home to our apartment and thought back over that last year.
That pitiful, awful year had brought me to tears more than any other year of my life. I thought of my doctor’s proposed routine that would force me to consider my infertility first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Focusing solely on the baby I couldn’t have had left me weak and sad, and I knew I couldn’t endure another year of that. I thought of what my husband had been repeating to my often deaf ears: “If we’re meant to have a baby, there won’t be anything we can do to stop it from coming; but if we’re not meant to have a baby right now, there’s nothing we can do to make it happen.” The one-liner that had been so grating over the previous year, gave me newfound comfort. And I thought over two little words that kept coming to my mind: Just wait. Just wait. Wait for what exactly, I wasn’t sure. But the words were clear.
By the time I got home, I told Craig everything that the doctor told me. And then I told him we were going to just wait.
That was a pretty huge declaration coming from me. You see, I don’t wait. If a line is too long, I come back another time. If something takes too long to bake, I make something else. If someone takes too long to text back, I’ve already made other plans. I don’t wait. But for this, there was no other choice and I knew it. That was just the way it was going to be.
It wasn’t easy, but I waited. And slowly I resurfaced. My heart changed. My career grew. My passport filled. My marriage thrived. In so many ways it was a wonderful and treasured time in my life. But not having babies when everyone else was having babies, put a something of a target on my head. More than a few times someone would half-joke, “You know how babies are made, right?” Or “Can I give you some advice/pointers/positions?” My favorite was when a young woman my own age leaned over to me in church and said, “I know what’s wrong with you.” Waiting clearly wasn’t readily recognized as a proper course of action in growing a family.
It also seemed to be the general assumption that if I couldn’t have my own babies, I must want to hold/shower/babysit everyone else’s. Perhaps that’s true for some women, but not so for me. Babies were my kryptonite, so I avoided them when I could. In a family culture, though, babies are everywhere, and my empty arms and Friday nights were occasionally filled by good intentions. There were plenty of moments where I could completely set my sadness aside and delight in another’s growing family. But just as many times, I had to swallow the lump in my throat while congratulating a friend and cuddling her new arrival. And more than a few times that I just hid from such events.
It wasn’t perfect – there was still a hole in my heart that it seemed only a child of my own could fill. But that horrible year was put solidly in the rearview. I felt stronger and better and ready for whatever was waiting for me.
Five years later, after lots of waiting and working and traveling and waiting, I got a phone call. A sweet friend left me a voicemail saying she needed to talk. It had been my first day back to work for a new school year, so I ditched the skirt, put on cut-offs, and prepared to mop the floors while I waited for her to show up, but she was there within minutes. She came in, skipped the small talk, and told me that her daughter was pregnant and set on adoption. Were we interested?
That’s when the hamster fell off the wheel and I forgot how to think. Or talk, really. I managed to mumble for some time, mostly telling stories of everyone I’d ever known who’d adopted or been adopted or talked about adoption. In the absence of real thought, I was trying to make sense of the offer just laid in my lap. My friend suggested that I think about it and give her a call, before she left me to sit on the couch where I continued to babble to myself for another hour.
Was this crazy? Or awesome? Was this an answer to prayer? The reason for all the waiting? Or was this crazy? Did people do this? Someone shows up at the door and just like that, I’ve got a baby? Too good to be true? Or maybe, just true?
All that babbling and still I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. But I knew, in one of those wild I’ve-never-been-in-this-situation-but-somehow-I-know-exactly-what-will-happen ways, that the very minute I told Craig about the situation and he formed his opinion, that I would know mine. It would happen in an instant.
I was at the same time excited at the chance to know and scared at the thought that our feelings wouldn’t line up. What if he laughed it off just as my heart became set on it? What if he declared he was “all in” at the moment I landed on crazy? I skipped mopping the floor and started in on dinner, waiting for his arrival and working out in my mind the most unbiased version of my afternoon conversation that I could relate to my unsuspecting sweetheart.
He came home and kissed me. I cooked and avoided eye contact. And then I tossed out this amazing story with all the casualness and intensity that I could combine together. He asked questions. And thought. And asked and thought. Then he asked, “Is it crazy that I’m considering this?”
“No,” I answered. “Me, too.”
Seven months and a great deal of adoption education later, our son was born and welcomed into the open arms of his beautiful birthmother. She reached for my hand so that we could hold him together. He was robust and blue-eyed, with sunlight colored hair and we named him Jack after Craig’s grandpa. Within the hour, he was placed in my arms and in a quiet room, and I curled up on the floor and fell in love.
A few years later, we felt that our family should grow. And this time around, it would require some action upfront. We went the more traditional route and registered with an adoption agency. And then waited. We registered with another agency and waited some more. There were many disappointments and heartbreaks along the way, several babies met with hope who were on their way to another family. Much more waiting.
Then late one night, we got another phone call. There was a baby boy waiting – how fast could we get on a plane?
Two days later, we walked into the NICU and presented our driver’s licenses for verification. They walked us down the row of bassinets and pointed out our little Ian. At five weeks early, he was a tiny five pounds. Adding that to his shock of jet black hair and calm brown eyes made him seem the polar opposite of our big, blondie boy back home. I gathered him up and as all the lights and sounds of the hospital faded into white, I settled down in the rocker and fell in love, again.
So much about these two boys and how they came to us is different. We waited and waited for Jack, then had months to prepare and get to know his sweet birthmother even better. After ten years, we are blessed to still keep an open relationship with her – she and her family are our family. We chased after Ian for almost two years, and when we found him he was waiting for us. His birthmother chose to have a closed adoption, so we know very little about her, but we recite and wonder about what we do know. We have a strapping, fair-haired, Viking-blooded nature boy and a little, dark-haired, artistic Latin-lover. Different as can be.
And yet, they belong together. Their brotherhood was fated. When Jack met Ian for the first time, he walked over to the crib, looked in and asked, “Is that my baby? I like him.” And it was a done deal. Jack is a mother hen, and Ian (usually) enjoys being looked after. Jack has the wild child heart and Ian is a thoughtful homebody. What Jack loves, Ian loves. They bash around in the woods, create new worlds from Legos, and make forts between their bedrooms. Despite the four-year age gap and 50 pound size difference, they are best friends.
My boys are, in general, delightful. So much alike and so different all at the same time. For example, they both took to swimming like little fish, but the sun doesn’t love them both equally. On one early summer trip to the pool, we applied sun screen to both before sending them off, warning that with the impending storm, we were likely headed indoors very soon. But the storm never came, so the swimming hour turned into five and we forgot to ever reapply the sun screen. Before long, the effects of the sun made their mark. Ian was a warm dark brown, but Jack was red. “It’s not fair!” Jack complained. “Why isn’t Ian burned?” We explained that Ian’s skin deals with the sun better and while he tans, Jack is always going to burn. “Ian is so lucky. Why can’t I be Mexican?” he demanded. I imagine a day, not too far off where our short, little, football-obsessed Ian will declare, “It’s not fair. Why is Jack so tall? Why can’t I be Scandinavian?”
Usually, however, they take great pride in who they are and what their genetics bring to them. Jack loves telling people that he is a descendant of Vikings. And for quite some time, Ian’s favorite food was enchiladas, because he would insist, “My ancestors told me to eat it.” We tell them stories of our/their parents and grandparents as part of their history and point out characteristics they share, but when Norway makes a showing at the Olympics or Mexico plays in the World Cup, we all claim that connection, too.
We learned very early on that the world we created for our children would be their reality. They’ve known about adoption for just as long as they could understand it. It’s just a part of who they are. We did such a good job, in fact, they they didn’t realize there was anything different about it! One day after Jack had been playing with his buddy next door, he started up the questions with me about the birth of his buddy. When he was a baby, was he in his momma’s tummy? Yes. And then he was born? Yes. And then that lady is his mom? Yes. That is so weird! (That little boy went home and asked his mother why he’d never met his birthmother! Now we’ve adjusted our conversations to include more information about how other children come into their families and how blessed we are that these two are in ours.)
A few years ago, the urge to add to our family came again, and we knew the routine. We filled out forms and made online profiles. And then we waited. I got involved with adoption education in the high schools and sat on multiple panels for discussion. And we waited. And waited. We’re still waiting. Working and traveling and growing and loving and waiting.
Not sure what we’re waiting for, really. But then, that’s probably something you could say about so many things in life. I’m incredibly grateful for what I have and I’m working to be the best at what I am. I hope I’m ready for whatever comes next. I’m trying to be patient. And just wait.
One of my favorite parts is that poor little neighbor boy wondering why he had never met his birthmother! You certainly did do a fantastic job making adoption a part of your boys’ reality, Kari! Thank you for this wonderful story; it was so lovely to read.
I was also struck hard by the help those around Kari offered during her period of waiting. Thinking that for sure she would want to hold their babies or babysit them on a Friday night, or be thrilled to receive their advice on how it all works. In her own words “Waiting clearly wasn’t readily recognized as a proper course of action in growing a family.” Waiting makes us uncomfortable, doesn’t it? I want to get better at it. Thanks again, Kari.