Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences.
By Whitney Marsh
It was only fitting that Sophia held him first. I was almost afraid to touch this tiny baby that we had prayed so hard for. I was afraid that he would disappear under my fingertips. His little eyes were scrunched tightly shut and he made noises like a bear cub. Our little bear.
There was a time that I truly believed God only intended for us to have one child no matter how badly we wanted another. The truth was, He always knew we would have a son, just not in the way we could have ever expected.
After high school, Jeb and I were married and not long after that, our daughter Sophia was born. My plan for a family was on track, and we were very happy. It was shortly after Sophia’s first birthday that Jeb was involved in an incident at the pharmaceutical company where he worked.
At the time of the incident, we were unaware of the ramifications. After trying for a second child unsuccessfully for over a year, we decided to have some testing done. After an agonizing wait, the results confirmed our worst fear. He was sterile. We would never have any more children.
I cannot put into words the devastation that we felt knowing that our dreams of a bigger family seemed to have been stolen from us in the blink of an eye. I had a clear vision of what my future was supposed to look like, and I felt betrayed that God would take that from me.
True to form, I did not allow myself time to grieve. Instead I began working furiously towards finding another way to add to our family. Adoption seemed the most logical choice, so we began the arduous process of becoming a certified family. Ignorant of the foster/adoption system, I refused to consider anything other than an infant adoption.
Our caseworker warned us that living in Wyoming would make this a harder request to fulfill with Wyoming’s population numbering at just under 600,000. Less people mean less infants being given up for adoption. Unable to financially consider adopting out of state, much less out of country, our options were limited.
When we were finally certified to adopt, I set about making a quilt to have when we brought our new baby home. Our caseworker had told us that the phone call could come at any time, and we needed to have a bag packed and a car seat ready. I put the finished quilt, clean and folded in the closet with the other items.
As time wore on with no phone call, I would dig the quilt out of the closet and sit alone crying. So many emotions raged within me and I remember begging God in one moment and cursing him in the next. I felt abandoned, and His silence was deafening.
When Sophia turned five, I could no longer bear waiting for something that God seemed unwilling to give us. I wrote a long letter to our caseworker telling her that at this time we wanted to be removed from the list of potential parents. The hurt I felt was overwhelming and without the support of my husband and family, I am not sure how I would have made it through. Closing the door on adoption gave an unsettling finality to something I didn’t want to let go of.
Slowly, I let myself grieve the loss of having another child, and in time, I found a new rhythm in my relationship with God. I was still angry. I didn’t understand what His grand plan for me was but I grudgingly began to pray again, and I started taking our daughter to church.
The quilt and car seat sat in the closet for another year before I asked my mom for help in letting go. Along with the items we had purchased for a new baby, I had saved every piece of clothing from our daughter in case we had another girl. Most of the clothes were donated except for a few special items that I wanted to keep, and the car seat went to my sister-in-law who was expecting a baby.
The quilt was the last to go and the most difficult to give up. The quilt had been made with all the love I wanted to give another child, and in essence, having it gave me an excuse to not let go. Eventually, I gave the quilt to our caseworker with instructions that it be given to a family who welcomed a new baby into their home. At least it would still serve its purpose.
Having purged our home and life of all ties to a new baby, I was finally able to find peace in the many blessings I already had. Sophia was beautiful, smart and made us laugh every time we turned around. My husband found a new job with good benefits. We moved to a neighboring town, and into a home that we remodeled together. Life moved forward.
Sophia had a deep love for God, and I marveled at her innocence and passion. Time had eased the pain I felt, but my relationship with God was still tenuous at best.I wanted so badly to feel what my daughter felt, yet the pain prevented me from being open to His grace and love.
One night, shortly before Christmas when Sophia was seven, Jeb told me that he felt strongly that we should try for another child. I would have laughed at the suggestion if it hadn’t hurt so badly.
He continued to tell me that he had been praying, and he thought we should look at adopting from foster care. There were so many children in need of a home, and we had a good home to provide. The possibility of having another child was once again dangled in front of me. I couldn’t help but take the bait.
Foster care had never been a consideration in the past. When we had first started the adoption process so many years ago, I would not consider an older child. Now, Sophia was seven and it seemed possible that we could bring in another child closer to her age. Foolishly, we thought foster to adopt would be easier than infant adoption. We contacted our caseworker and told her what we wanted to do. She informed us that we would have to become foster certified, and gave us the date and time of a class to accomplish this.
Jeb and I went to the first class together, and it quickly became apparent what a broken system foster care seemed to be. A parent seemed to have more rights than a child, and the system worked hard to reunify a family regardless of the circumstances. There were, of course, parents who worked hard to follow a court appointed plan in hopes of regaining custody of their children, but it seemed that there was an equal number of parents who made no effort and still regained custody. By the time a court terminated a parent’s rights, many children had suffered irreversible, and sometimes severe, emotional, mental, and physical damage.
Undeterred, we finished the program and began our search. The process of finding a waiting child was overwhelming at best. No longer set on bringing a baby home, our options seemed wide open.
There was an air of excitement with this new venture. Our families were extremely supportive and hopeful for us as we hit the ground running. The first child we inquired about showed us that this wasn’t going to be easy as we first thought. As we talked to caseworker after caseworker, we became more and more discouraged.
We were told that we couldn’t adopt this child because we were too far from medical facilities, and we couldn’t adopt that child because we weren’t African American. We couldn’t adopt this little boy, because we had a girl in our home, and that one would be institutionalized for life. I cried for each and every child, praying that God had a special family in mind for each one.
For an entire year we slogged through the system, only to have the door slammed shut again and again. I turned to a family friend who had adopted two girls for support and guidance. She told me that she had included a letter with her Christmas cards stating that they hoped to adopt a child. Sure enough, word got out and they ended up with two beautiful little girls. It sounded like a ridiculous idea but I didn’t have anything left to lose. So, I wrote a letter with the intention of handing it out to all the local hospitals and clinics hoping that someone would remember us when the time came.
The day I decided to hand out the letters, I received a call from my brother wanting to tag along. We had just left a stack of letters at the first hospital and gotten back in my car when the phone rang.
It was our caseworker. She informed me that she had a unique situation, and wanted to know if we would consider an infant. I remember feeling completely numb and struggling to ask the right questions. How old was the baby? Where was the baby? When could we get him? She told me that he hadn’t been born yet, but the mom was due in three days. Apparently, the birth mother had just recently come to our caseworker asking her to place the baby.
Holding my brother’s hand with tears streaming down my face, I called Jeb. I told him he was going to be a father; that he had a son. He laughed and said that our caseworker had already called him, and he was putting together our information for the birth mom.
Five days later, our caseworker called to tell us that birth mom was in labor and that she would call again when the baby had been born. We went to bed that night knowing that we wouldn’t get any sleep. Shortly after midnight, only a few weeks before Christmas, our caseworker called to tell us that our son was here. We listening over the phone with tears running down our face as we heard him cry for the first time.
It took several hours to reach the hospital, as it was in a different town. Excitement and trepidation filled our car. When we finally pulled into the parking lot, I grabbed Sophia’s hand tightly. Together we walked into the hospital, and down the corridors to the nursery.
There, wrapped tightly in a blanket, was our son. As she put him in Sophia’s arms, I came to a startling realization. God had not abandoned us. All this time, all these years, God had known who our son was. I had spent so much time being angry that I had forgotten to listen to His quiet assurances.
I read another adoption story where the adoptive father commented that God had not made them wait an arbitrary number of years for their child. No, God knew exactly which child would be theirs, and it was just a matter of time before that child was born. The truth in these words could not be more accurate.
Three years later we are reminded daily of God’s love. I am blessed with two beautiful, happy children and my son serves as a stark reminder that we are never alone. Even in our darkest hour God is there holding our hand. His timing is not always what we would want but His plan is always better than ours.
Whitney Marsh was born and raised in Wyoming. She married her husband right out of high school, and shortly after, they welcomed their daughter. After their son arrived, Whitney became a full time mom. Recently, her husband was transferred to Oklahoma, so they packed their bags and made a huge life change. Because of her family's experience with the foster care system, Whitney hopes to volunteer for CASA when their son goes to school full time. Writing has always been a part of her life, and one of her greatest inspirations is her mom.
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