Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Welcoming Jana Renee: A Story of Adoption, Healing, and Redemption

 A note from Aubrey: Rachael is basically my sister. Our family "adopted" her husband many years ago before they were married, so we claim their family as our own. Therefore, I considered this little girl my new niece, and this story so personal for our family! I hope that you can find some healing and inspiration here today. 

 Here is Rachael's story.

Fearless. The word engraved on the Brighton bracelet my husband got me this past Christmas.
Little did either of us know, that word foreshadowed a calling on our lives that would come just
one month later.

In years past I had been anything but fearless. Not long after our son, Samuel, was born we
began trying for our second baby. We tried and tried and there was never a baby. As the months
and years progressed my heart was filled with frustration, then sadness, then anger, then
resentment, then hopelessness. We learned several years into our attempts to have a baby that
outside of a miracle we would not have more babies. As that idea settled into my mind and my
heart, God began to work on my faith and our marriage.

Our infertility was the first of many insights into my own brokenness. I am not saying that people
who have infertility struggles are broken. I am saying that all people are broken, and my own
infertility brought about that awareness in me. As hard as I tried, regardless of the books I read,
the doctors we saw, the drugs I took, I was powerless to make a baby come into our lives. For
once I understood that I was small. I don’t do “small” well. As I grappled with not being able to
dictate how my family would look I began to hear God calling me to joy even in pain. He was
teaching me contentment in suffering. He was revealing the flaws in my own plan and the
perfection in His. As my emotion subsided I could begin to see that God was doing something
but I did not know what, exactly.

In this time of waiting and growing our son prayed for a sibling. My heart both mourned and
celebrated when he prayed “Jesus, thank you for the baby we got (himself!!). When will we get
another baby? Sometimes I’m a little alone. Thank you”. Another time he prayed, “Thank you
God, no matter what happens to us, it’s good”. His prayers weren’t the only thing that
encouraged my heart but also his faithful actions. We bought some baby socks to use in a craft
and had a pair left which I was going to pitch. He wouldn’t let me. He wanted to keep the socks
for when “we got a baby”. In my sadness, hoping was painful. It was too risky for me to hope. But
honestly, I clung to his. His faith came so easily. His faith grew ours.

Early in the process of grieving not being able to have more babies God reminded me of the
meaning of Samuel’s name. When we were pregnant with him we chose the name Samuel
because it meant “heard by God” or “God hears”. We were listening to Old Testament story of
how the prophet Samuel came to be and we both fell in love with the name instantly. We had
previously decided to name him Pierce but in one moment, with nothing more than a glance and
a nod of the head, we changed his name to Samuel. Looking back I can see clearly God’s hand
in the unfolding of our family's story. God DELIBERATELY gave us the name Samuel.
Whenever I was sad God would gently remind me that he had heard my prayers for children
even before I had prayed them. Samuel’s name, his very life, became an ever present reminder
that God hears me. Eventually my sadness became surrender. Surrender yielded contentment
and then joy.

One morning Samuel came to me while I was ironing. He was telling me about how he was
praying for a little sister and that we would name her “Jan”. I laughed and loved that he believed
so easily that he would be a brother, even to the point of naming his own little sister. I chuckled
and asked “Why Jan?”. He responded in an astonished kind of way “Jan! As in January!”. All my
heart could do was smile.

Exactly one month after Jason gave me my Brighton “fearless” bracelet I received a private
message on Facebook from a friend. She asked if Jason and I had ever considered adoption. I
explained we had considered it. Surprisingly, this was not the first time we had been
approached about adoption. For years my heart had wondered about this idea. My earliest
memory goes back to sixth grade where I had the distinct thought go through my mind “What if
you can’t have your own babies?”. It was a startling thought for a sixth grader, just bizarre. I
remember responding to that thought by physically shaking it off and thinking “What?!?!?”, as
though the thought was not my own, but placed there. I believe now that it was.

As I chatted with my friend I learned that her eighteen year old daughter was in the process of
choosing a family for her unborn child. The precious momma had decided not to abort the baby
and was selflessly giving this child a future, which included selecting a daddy and mommy. We
met her a week later, on January 31st. We marveled at Samuel’s comment from a few years
before…”Jan! As in January!”. On this day, our “tummy mommy” chose us to become the family
for her precious baby. On this day, God called me to be fearless. 

Adoption is it’s own kind of labor process. Like with physical child birth, it’s something that
happens to you. You can only surrender to it. It overcomes you, and you can’t control it. This is
how I felt as we journeyed this road. I realized again, just how small I was in the process. How
little control I had in it. A future lingered on the horizon that I could not grasp. I was terrified to
become excited. I did not want to hope just to be hurt. And yet, I felt God calling me to
excitement. I resisted. He tugged more. There were so many reasons to believe this baby,
carried by another woman, would never be mine. So many obstacles to overcome. The timing
was terrible. I had just grown accustom to being a single-child family. Why was this wound being
re-opened? I agreed to walk in the direction of the adoption, terrified for where it might lead, but
walked ahead anyway.

Our tummy mommy invited us to the ultrasound to learn the gender of the baby. We were
delighted! I could not believe I was standing in the room where another woman’s belly was bare,
covered in goo, looking at HER baby that she was preparing to give to me. I could not believe
that this was real. The technician wrote the gender of the baby on a little slip of paper and we
opened it later. A girl. After all, Samuel had prayed for a sister. Samuel immediately began
calling the baby Jan, because that’s what he had decided to name her a few years ago, of
course! Amazingly, the name Samuel had chosen means “God is gracious”. Loving the fact that
Samuel had wanted a sister, prayed for a sister and even named his sister, we adapted her name
to Jana Renee, which means “God is gracious” and “new life”.  We love that these two have this
special story to share with each other.

As the months progressed we were inundated with the question “Is the mom going to go
through with this?” (Tip: Don’t ask that question. The adoptive parents can’t answer it with any
certainty anyway and you will just add unnecessary stress!)
. It was a question that lingered in
my mind always. We were faced with scenarios that little girls don’t imagine for themselves
when they think of becoming a mother. Things like, having a baby shower which included the
birth mom, (which I did and found it be an incredible experience!). Or receiving gifts for a baby
that wasn’t yet my own. Or the possibility of returning the gifts. Or holding onto the belly of
another woman wanting desperately not to let go but knowing I had to. Or returning money to
the people who had donated to our adoption. Or waiting in another room as my child was born.
Or watching the birth mother hold “my” baby she birthed only hours before. Or thinking through
how I would tell my son that his little sister wouldn’t be his little sister after all. Or going home to
a nursery that would never have a baby in it. Or the celebratory visit from out of state family to
meet a baby that wouldn’t be met. All of these experiences were filled with anxiety for me,
downright fear, terror. With every fear filled moment I heard a voice in my head that clearly said,
“You are afraid, but I am not. Let me be fearless for you”.

I also ached for our tummy mommy when I thought of her fears. Because what I stood to gain, I understood too well the magnitude of her sacrifice. I grieved for her and celebrated her. A debt of gratitude and deep love grew in my heart for this sweet momma. I began to experience a kind of love that I had never known until the adoption, and I am now among the few privileged to know it.

 My gratitude and love grows daily for our tummy mommy as I raise her first born daughter.

I pray that God makes me worthy of her choice. I also pray that Jana’s very name be a blessing over her life, that she would experience the grace of God and enjoy a life made new.

As my faith increased and God taught me to surrender my fears to him I was able to experience
life, and joy, and hope in new ways.

 I thank God for slowing the growth of my family so he could grow my faith instead.

I thank God for healing the broken parts of my marriage rather than healing our infertility.

I thank God for giving me enough pain and brokenness to recognize it in someone else in order to direct them to Christ.

 I thank God for the two little lives that are living, breathing reminders that God hears and is gracious.

I thank God for being fearless for me.

(Photos by Sarah Thatcher and Emily Fleming)