Monday, January 30, 2017

The Gift (Our NFP story) Part 2

(You can read  Part 1 here

     So, by the time Andrew was 18 months old, we knew God was saying no to having more children at the time.  And, as mentioned before, He provided so much peace about it, that we knew we had discerned correctly.  Yet, even with that peace, I had to mourn the fact the we might not ever have any more children.  Yes, we were still open to life, of course, but from the time after Andrew’s birth, until today, we practiced NFP faithfully to avoid pregnancy.  And it took time to accept that we might not have any more children.  There were times when I would hold a friend’s new born baby and then go home and cry because I knew I might not ever know the joy of holding my own baby again.  We live in a community where life is celebrated and families are large.  Usually more than one friend is pregnant at a time.  In those early days, each pregnancy announcement was met with great joy for the friend, but often left me with an empty feeling.  I understood, in many ways, why God was calling us to not have any more children at the time; my body clearly needed to heal and then there was the pull to adoption,  but it often did not make it any easier to accept. 

      But as with many challenges, time did heal the wounds.  And after a while, I began to relish our time as a family of 5.  We enjoyed special time as a family of five that I will always cherish.  Joshua, Caleb and Andrew are still affectionately referred to as “the boys” even though they are no longer the only boys in our family.  Personally, I found healing in running.  Miles of pounding pavement turned into some of my best prayer times.  Alone, I could speak to God during those miles and I felt His comfort and His guidance.  I tackled the marathon, not just once, but twice.  The call to adoption seemed to becoming stronger.  I will not go into depth about our journey to saying yes to adoption here, but you can read the two posts I wrote about that a few years ago here and here.



     During this time, we did not “reevaluate each month.”  We felt God was saying no and did not question that discernment, knowing He would make it clear if that answer had changed.  And the beauty of NFP is that really, we aren’t in control, God is and we knew that and honored it.  And, honestly, it was easy most of the time.  We followed the strictest guidelines for NFP with little trouble, even as the years passed and I aged and the signs changed a bit.  I truly believe that it all was a gift from God. 

     In 2013, we began the process of adoption, and were blessed with the gift of Felicity in October, 2014. 




Six months later, we began the process to bring Thomas home. I often called Thomas our “surprise adoption" because we did not plan to adopt  so soon after Felicity had come home, but God made it clear that Thomas was our son. Once again, we opened our home and our hearts to new life.

     Our paperwork was moving along. Our dossier was being authenticated and we were just a few short weeks away from our dossier being sent to China.  We were so excited to get him home as soon as possible.  It was the end of the summer and I just felt different.  One of the side effects of NFP is that you learn to listen to your body closely and you get to know it so well. And in those last days of summer vacation, before school started, I began to suspect I was pregnant.  I was a good week away from being able to read a positive pregnancy test and it had been 7 years since I had been pregnant, so my memory was not the best at what those early days feel like, but I suspected just the same.  I looked at my NFP chart, recounted days just to make sure I had not miscounted.  I told Pete my suspicion.  He laughed.  For years we were following “the rules” and this month was no different.  He was pretty sure that this month would be no different than the last oh, a hundred, or so.  But Pete was wrong.  A week later, two pink lines showed that even though we followed the rules of NFP, that God’s will was stronger than the rules and we were blessed with a precious life.

     But, here is where it gets hard.  In those early days and months, I didn’t feel so blessed.  The overwhelming emotion was fear.  Fear that our adoption would be stopped and that, due to this unexpected blessing, Thomas would remain an orphan.  Fear that due to scar tissue, there would be complications during the pregnancy and delivery.  And both of those fears were almost a reality (you can read about that story here). Fear in wondering how in the world we would be able to handle having two toddlers, from trauma, one newly home, and then a newborn to care for too.  It was the first time that “being open to life” began to be really hard. 

     Thankfully, we serve a God that loves us and meets us in our human frailty.  During the Advent before Thomas came home and Hope was born, we were at mass and a reading from Isaiah rung through the church and through my heart.

Lift up your eyes and look around;
They all gather together, they come to you;
Your son(s) shall come from far away,
         And your daughter(s) shall be carried on her (their) nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
           Your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
Because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
The wealth of the nations shall come to you.
   Isaiah 60:4-5

God was speaking directly to me though this scripture (I changed it slightly . . . original text is in parenthesis).  Our son Thomas was coming home from afar and Hope would be placed in my arms by her nurse and while I did not understand what the rejoicing would look like, I kept coming back to this scripture at those times when the waves a fear would roll over me and I felt like I was drowning and it brought me some peace.

     2016 began, Thomas, Pete and Joshua landed back in the United States on March 6th and my heart overflowed with joy.   




Hope was born on May 3rd and a new hope was born in me.  And during those months, all those fears were washed away. 







“Then you shall see and be radiant;
Your heart shall thrill and rejoice.”


  

   There are mornings I wake up, sleep deprived and groggy from lack of sleep and I am surrounded by my three youngest, two of which like to make their way to our bed after Pete wakes for work;  Hope to my left and Felicity and Thomas to my right and my heart does thrill and rejoice.  These precious little lives have opened me up to a glory of God that I can’t quite describe.  It is hard and oh-so-messy and more exhausting than you can imagine, but there is beauty in it that I have not experienced before.  I call Thomas and Hope our surprise presents because neither was planned for or expected.  They have taught me that sometimes surprise presents make the best gifts.  Thomas and Felicity bring an immense joy that I had not known before we entered into the journey of adoption.  And Hope, oh, Hope reminds me that babies make everything seem so much better.  Her smile and sparkling eyes bring a new light to our home.  I hold her and am reminded just how good it feels to hold a baby again. In these moments, I know that our family is just as God planned.




     Those years of practicing NFP when we felt God was saying no, allowed us the time necessary to say yes to life through adoption.

     And it turns out those years, and all those miles run, allowed my body to heal to be ready for Hope . . . .  at my post-partum follow up with my OB, I asked how much scar tissue I had and she responded that I looked great.  She ended it with, “All that running you did must have helped!”


     I do not know what the future holds.  Will we adopt again?  Will we have another baby?  I don’t know.  I do know that ultimately it is in the Lord’s hands and just as I relished the time I had with “the boys” I now relish this time now with my crazy crew.  I know, too, that God calls all families to be open to life in different ways.  For some it may be welcoming their 10th child by birth, for others it may be hoping to welcome their first through adoption, for others it may be somewhere in between, and still others it may be giving of themselves generously in other ways.  That is the beauty of being open to life and allowing God to guide our family’s growth as He wills.  Families are not meant to all follow the same pattern, or look the same.  Each couple, each family, mirrors God’s love in its own unique and beautiful way. And I am grateful for our journey and the beauty that is a part of our family because we were open to life.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Gift (Our NFP story) Part I

(I started writing this post months ago, but have not had time to refine it and finish it.  I have felt the need to hit "publish" lately though.  Maybe it is because Hope is too quickly approaching 12 months old and my desire to share it's sentiments would be lost soon. Or maybe it is because this week is the March for Life and the sacredness of life is before me in a precious little girl and I want to remember that, in words, here.  But whatever the reason, here is our story of seeking God's will and and being open to life.)

Shortly after we announced that we were expecting baby Hope, I felt that I needed to share our NFP story.  Partially, it was because we had so many people say things like, "What a miracle!" or share stories of how people they knew were infertile, adopted and then had a baby of their own, that I felt that many people probably got the wrong idea about why we had three boys, waited a while and adopted and then found out we were expecting a baby while adopting.  We got a lot of "That always happens!  People always seem to get pregnant while adopting." I would typically just smile and nod my head, yet inside I was thinking, "They really have no idea!" So, I felt compelled to share our story.  I told my husband and his immediate response was, "Are you sure you want to do that?  You could open yourself up to a lot of criticism."  He, wisely, suggested that I table the topic.  And I did.  But, after Thomas came home and baby Hope arrived, the perfect-ness of God's plan before my eyes, I knew I wanted to share our story. So, let me begin at the beginning . . .

About 17 years ago, Pete and I got engaged.  And, as all good Catholic engaged couples do, we attended an NFP class.  We fully embraced the Church's teachings on being open to life and embraced learning the ins and outs of Natural Family Planning as well.  And it was easy to learn as I was the pattern of the typical text book woman.

We were married 6 months later.  Pete was living in Michigan and I had just left my job and apartment in Steubenville to move up to Michigan and start our married life.  I am not exactly good with change and most change causes lots of anxiety and sleepless nights, so after much prayer, we knew introducing a baby to the mix right away probably wasn't the best way to help me transition, so we used our knowledge of NFP to ensure we would wait to have a baby.

A year later, we knew it was time and the planner in me had figured out the perfect month to try to conceive.  That first month of hoping brought forth a positive pregnancy test, and 9 months later, our son Joshua.

Joshua - Born before we aquired a digital camera


Over the next several years, we used NFP to both achieve pregnancy and to avoid pregnancy.  During part of that time, Pete was a full time PhD student for a while and we had the WORST insurance ever and such little income, that we knew that adding to our family during that time would not be a good decision.  Two years later, Pete was in a full time job again, we were no longer living is a tiny apartment in a college dorm, and so we excitedly looked forward to having another baby.  Four months, a positive pregnancy test, and a few ultrasounds later showed we would have another son, Caleb.  Joshua and Caleb are three years apart.

Caleb


Right around the time Caleb turned a year old, we felt that we had no grave reason to not have another child.  It was the first time we weren’t using NFP to avoid pregnancy or to actively achieve a pregnancy.  We decided that we were open to having another baby whenever God wanted to bless us.  Caleb was just 15 months old when we found out we were expecting baby #3; Andrew.

Andrew

All three of the boys were born via c-section.  Two of out three of them were horrible experiences, and the third left me in a lot of pain.  My recovery took forever and Andrew was 6 months old and I would still sit up in bed in the morning, and it was hard to breathe.  It felt like I had to work to take a deep breath.  I would have pain in my lower abdomen and although my OB said that I was fine, after talking with a family member that is a doctor, I was sure that damage had been done to my pelvic floor and I was having problems with scar tissue.  I headed to a PT who specialized in the breakdown of scar tissue. I also began exercising. A lot.  Running became my therapy to the craziness of three boys and my PT encouraged it, mentioning that the motion of running would help to keep scar tissue from building up again.  But, the pain from the c-section lasted until Andrew was around 18 months old.  Several times a day, I would be reminded that something was still not quite right.

And so, when we began to talk and pray about having another baby, I was a bit apprehensive.  My OB was concerned and said that she recommended me sitting down with many of the OBs in the practice and have a "panel discussion" about my situation before we tried to have another baby. I took that as a clear directive to not have any more babies.  After all, I did have a heart for adoption, but I was still conflicted.  The Catholic in me was really trying to figure out "is this a grave reason?"

Pete and I talked and prayed about it a lot.  I was unsure what God was calling us to do. 

One day I was at a friend's house for a party.  As I was leaving, I began talking to a friend who had had a c-section that left her unable to have more children.  As we stood in front of our cars, she said something to me that struck my heart.

"You have no peace, Katie.  Ask God to give you peace about whatever direction you are to go."

I drove away and immediately went to adoration.

And the answer came.  It was one of the few times in my life that I felt God speak audibly to me.

No. Do not try to have any more children.

And with that no, an amazing peace came.  I knew that we had our answer and God supplied an abundant amount of peace with it.

I went home and told Pete.  We prayed together and knew, for that moment, what God was saying about our family size.  

At that moment, our three precious sons were enough.





To be continued . . .