For the past three years my wife and I have struggled with infertility. It’s actually been longer than that, since we struggled before our son was born. But it has been three years since we started trying again. Three years and a lot of tests, many tears, and a lot of broken hopes.
But now, we are again pregnant with hope. Late last fall, my wife and I began the process (read “fill out paper work all the live long day”) to adopt.
Before my wife and I got married, we dreamed – like every couple – about what our family would be like. Traditions we wanted to carry over from our family of origins and new traditions we wanted to start. Experiences we wanted to give our family. And (seemingly) most importantly, how many kids we thought we wanted. We talked about four.
Then we had one.
After that we talked about two or three.
Even then, as we talked about biological kids and what we hoped for our family, we talked about adoption. Not only were both of us open to adoption, but both of us considered it to be likely for our family. At that time, our dreams surrounding adoption were much more altruistic: We would bless some poor child by opening our lives to them.
Go ahead. Pat us on the back. We are amazing people.
I used to think we were really good people for being willing to open our home to a child. After all, we are doing what Jesus commanded, taking care of the orphans. But now my thoughts are shifting. We have decided to do a domestic infant adoption, which means the child who becomes a part of our family will never be an orphan. They will never not know a home. Never not know a mother. Or a father. Or a brother.
There will never be a time when she or he does not belong.
We aren’t fooling ourselves into thinking we are fulfilling the command to care for the orphans. We are not twisting what we are doing into that. While we believe the command to care for orphans is central to the Christian faith, this adoption is about belonging. Yes, we are opening our home to a child that is not of our blood. They will not share our genetic code. But when we bring that child home, they will belong.
And we will belong to them.
There is a sense in which our family is incomplete. It isn’t that we aren’t enough as we are currently constituted. We are enough. But we are not complete. There is a difference. That difference is not something that words can be put to. Trying to describe how we are simultaneously complete and incomplete would be like smelling purple. The only way I can describe it is to say someone who is not among us belongs.
You see, we aren’t just opening our home to a child. We are opening our family to being completed.
Which, again, is a really weird thing to say. How does one know when their family is complete? It isn’t that our son isn’t enough. Or that the three of us aren’t happy. We are extremely happy. But there is something unfinished with us. Something that we have to share with someone else. Something that someone needs to share with us. Because it isn’t just about we have to offer a child, but what that child will offer us.
Which makes me wonder if there isn’t something selfish about wanting another child in our family. Selfishly, we want another child. This is a desire we have, and it is a desire we are actively seeking to meet. It would be easy to shroud adoption in altruistic intentions, but we need to be honest about our desires. We want more children. We want a bigger family. It has taken me a while, but I am coming to see that the desire my wife and I have for more children is okay. And adoption is okay. And the selfishness that exists in the space of adoption is okay, just as it is okay in the space of having biological children.
Maybe it is the selfish desire that keeps adoption from seeming like a last ditch effort to grow our family. It would be easy to make adoption a secondary, lesser option since biology seems to be telling us we can’t have children its way. But it isn’t lesser. Adoption, for us, is a second option to growing our family, not secondary. Just like the child that comes into our family. That child will be the second child in our family. Never will they be the secondary child. We want that child. I want that child. I want the child that will come into our home just as much as I wanted a biological child. And the desire for that child will continue long after they are born and come into our family.
Obviously, infertility wasn’t a part of our plan. Even though we had talked about adoption, we imagined it would be a choice we would make once we had all the biological children we wanted. Then, after we had all our biological children, we would adopt. We’ve had to let that plan go. More than just let it go, we’ve had to mourn the passing of that plan. As we met with adoption agencies and began filling out paperwork, we found ourselves caught in-between grief and excitement. Filling out the paperwork re-fueled our hope for a child, but it also meant the letting go of a dream. Letting go of a life imagined in order to embrace the life before us.
Ten years after my wife and I shared the hopes we held for our future family, we again find ourselves dreaming of our family. But it is different this time. The process is different. The way we dream is different. Everything we know about family is different.
But the pregnant hope is the same.
-photo credit Jennifer Driscoll Photography