Note: this a piece originally written for a national periodical called Forward in Christ.
I knew what the news would do to you.
How could I not? It had been quite the frenzy recently. With only a month to prepare, your mom had come. There was excited shopping to do and a baby shower from our church family to attend. Just a joyous time. Everything was ready for the big day. Mia was coming home! Everything in the house was ready for the daughter you would soon adopt. The baby blanket was draped expectantly over the rocking chair. Mia’s name was pinned to the wall in letters lovingly chosen from the local Hobby Lobby along with the butterflies that symbolized your heart taking flight in the promise of a coming child.
So much history came to bear during that time. I was there for all of it. Marriage seven years earlier along with the hope of an immediate pregnancy. Do you remember talking about five future kids? I know you pictured it and prayed for it with so much of your being. I know it’s all you really wanted to do outside of being a wife.
I know it was hard for you to wait to see doctors when pregnancy didn't come. Three years you patiently waited to get through the Seminary life where there would be a steady paycheck, health insurance, and a doctor to see. And even then there were no answers for you. None. The tests explained nothing. Your exploratory surgery was inconclusive. Finally, you sought out the best of the best in fertility medicine.
I know you remember sitting in that quiet, meditative office with the green walls and the upbeat staff. I know you remember the plan the smartest doctor you ever met laid out to treat the infertility. I know you had hope. Lots of it. I know you remember how each time the doctor met with you he'd say, “Now, let’s get you pregnant.” And you’d hope.
That’s how it was. Each month there was so much hope. Let’s try this. Let’s try that. Maybe this is it. Maybe that’s it. And it never, ever was. Each month there was more pain, more tears. Each month another disappointment. I was there for all of it.
I saw the very mixed feelings you experienced at a Facebook birth announcement or the news of an unwanted pregnancy. I saw how some of it was envy you fought and some of it was sharp pangs and longing that were put into difficult, sharp relief like a desperately dehydrated desert traveler who looks on as another person is showered with water - water that is always just out of reach. Then there were the well intentioned comments that felt like daggers such as, “When you decide to start a family…,” or, “Some day when you have kids…”
I also knew what the tears, the pain, and the deep disappointment did to you in those years. It withered hope. It grew Hope. Do you remember that? Do you remember how right there in the ashes of burnt dreams grew beautiful, gleaming Hope? So counterintuitive to what you’d been expecting. So freeing. So beautiful. Those moments of pain became defining moments for your Hope in Jesus. You rejected a worldview that said, “Life is unfair. This random infertility is only an unfortunate circumstance to fix.” You embraced a divine view that said, “This is an intentional, designed pain in my life that is here to do one thing: send me into the arms of Jesus.” And I got a front row seat to watching you step closer and closer to Jesus painful month after painful month. I saw your conviction grow and heard you say, “What I really need is Jesus. He is all I need.” Right there in the ashes of burnt dreams grew the greatest gift of all - a planting of Hope in Jesus.
That’s why I knew what the news would do to you. You were ready. The phone call came. “She decided to keep the baby.” You were numb at first. Really sad later, but never defeated. Never devastated and never in despair. You didn’t have hope (for a baby). You did, however, have Hope. You trusted that despite all appearances there was a master plan in play that kept your best interests in mind. Yes, I think we both know that on the day this hope died, Hope lived.
As time passed for the first time in your life, you could talk about being a childless woman and it was ok. It really was. You were even trying to figure out when and how you could share this conviction with your mom who had been on this journey with you. Remember the conversations about not only accepting a childless life from God’s hand, but actually celebrating it as a gift? Remember that? Yes, hope had died, but Hope had grown strong.
I know you now see how divine and necessary it all was. You wouldn’t be the woman you are now if none of this had happened. You wouldn’t be so confident in adversity. You wouldn’t be so peaceful when the going is tough. You wouldn’t be so focused on the finish line of heaven’s gates unless it had happened just this way. You can see how the identity of motherhood was chiseled, hammered, and pried away from your soul. You can see that as that identity was carved away your true identity took a firmer shape in your soul and came into greater focus in you. It became your anchor, your lifeline in life’s greatest waves. “I am a blood bought child of God,” you’d say as if it was the only thing that mattered in the world. And it was. You came to see those circumstances as tailor made to drive you to your gospel centered mantra: “If Jesus would care to forgive me and resurrect me, then he certainly would care to bless my family life - perhaps with no children.” And, yes, it is true you came to believe that too would be a blessing.
And that’s when I knew you were finally ready to get a different bit of news. You were ready to be the kind of mom that my Holy Spirit had shaped you to be - a woman who is my child first and now happens to be a mother (instead of having it the other way around). Melanie, you and I both know that it wasn’t a coincidence that another pastor asked your husband about your story. I was in that. I personally saw to it that just days later that pastor would come across a young lady who needed to place her baby for adoption. And, remarkably, it was just three days later when Elliana’s birth grandma called and said, “Melanie, we want you and Jonathan to be the parents." A few hours later you were holding Elliana with all the love, tenacity, and strength only one of my children can have. I know you remember and treasure deeply that first moment of motherhood. You always will.
As you held her in that moment is how I have always and will always hold you. Don't see pain, failure or disappointment in any other light. Its intent is always to drive you to my gospel. And there, my dear daughter, you will always find all the love, comfort, identity, joy, and strength you’ll ever need.