Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Next Step

 I haven't written much lately. It hasn't been for lack of subject matter, but how personal and especially how unresolved it all has been. Things have been in turmoil and the path unclear for some time. But, at long last, our path has been made clear, if not the end, and we are ready to begin a new journey in our lives. I'd like to invite you to begin it with us, and tell you how it came to pass, because now pieces and fragments so confusing at the time have fallen into place and formed the beginning of a story.

   As you may know, we have been trying to have a second child for nearly two years. It was two years ago that God began prompting me that this was what we needed to do. I vehemently rejected His promptings. After Lana's pregnancy, I had sworn to never again, for any reason, allow myself to become pregnant; and I was happy in that decision. God said otherwise. I disagreed. We went back and forth for some time. I am perhaps too stubborn and unyielding; God knows this. I said it didn't matter if He sent an angel to tell me to have another child, I wasn't going to do it. So he sent something more powerful than an angel. He played a card I didn't even know existed. In His own mysterious way, He allowed the spirit of my unborn child to touch my spirit. My soul recognized my child's soul in the same way I recognized Lana when she was born - with enormous, overwhelming, indescribable love. Love so powerful the closest word to describing it is Motherhood, and that only to those who have felt its greatest depths.

  Well, what was I to do? I could fight obstinately to protect myself from suffering, but how could I leave my child stranded? What will a mother not do for her child? For it was my child, and I knew it. I grumbled that God had pulled a dirty trick because I was scared. I was terrified. By trying to become pregnant I gambled everything: my health, my life - and not just my own life, but the life I had with my husband and daughter. In trying to have another child, I could very well leave my husband a widower and my daughter motherless. It was not an exaggeration. But I had to try.

  And so, in my most terrifying leap of faith, I removed my IUD and began fertility treatments. It was far more taxing than I had anticipated. Within six months, I had fallen into a deep depression so binding I could not function even in daily tasks. I was trapped in bed and in my own personal hell. I could not escape. I could not bring my unborn child into the world, and now I was also failing my child already in this world. Paralyzed by fear, by PTSD, by my perceived failings, by depression, I knew I could not continue the course. I apologized to my OB for being fickle, got a new IUD, and began therapy anew.

  Once free of my depression, the pressure to have a child returned. Surely God could not ask that of me again. We knew what would happen. I begged and prayed to be released, but the call was persistent. And when I stalled, I again felt the calling of my child to please make room. So, in anguish of faith, I leaped again.

  I pushed harder this time, past the depression. It's grip was strong, but I reached out to others and begged them to hold onto me, that I might not fall into the pit again. the darkness overwhelmed me at times, but there were hands to hold mine and hearts to listen compassionately. For those dear friends, in those crucial moments, I am forever grateful.

  Still, month after month, pink stick after pink stick showed that I had once again failed to bring my child into our lives. The pressure did not lessen. If anything, it built.

  I began to ask that ever-unanswerable question, "Why?"

 Why the promptings? Why the pressure? Why the sense of urgency? If God was not going to send me my child, why would He ask me to do this? My mental, emotional, and physical health were steadily deteriorating. For what purpose? Why, after we had already suffered years of infertility, would God do this to us again? Of course, the heavens were silent.

  Then came cause for more questions, as Anthony nearly died from hypokalemic paralysis when we discovered he had Graves' Disease. On the heels of that, I contracted C. Diff., which left me hospitalized myself and incapacitated for months to follow, during which I suffered several other ailments. Help flooded in at first, then died down to a trickle. Again, for those who supported us during those arduous months, I am forever grateful.

  But I asked again, "Why?" Why these sufferings? We could not try for a child with our health in such conditions, and yet the pressure did not lessen. I had another child, and I was still failing. I was tormented. Had I not done what God had asked? Had I not done all I could do? Where was His hand? Where was the fulfillment of His prompting? What more could I do? How much more could I endure? Why this pressure, this constant pressure, when He knew there was nothing else I could do? This was in His hands. I could not understand His will.

  My health returned slowly, but not entirely. Mentally and emotionally, my health was low. Physically, I had suffered trauma and was fighting to recover. Then, to add insult to injury, my body decided to manifest its own PTSD from Lana's pregnancy. I began to have debilitating pain each month which, in short, turned out to be my body sensing ovulation and sending extreme pain signals to my brain for an average of two weeks as a sort of protection against becoming pregnant. When we realized the pain was not in response to something "wrong," we tried to overrule my body and, under my OB's supervision, eventually resortied to using narcotics to mute the pain so we could still try to conceive for another six months. Nonetheless, it was clear my mind and my body simply could not, or would not, tolerate pregnancy.

  Again in anguish I went to the Lord. Everything had fallen apart. I had tried. I had tried beyond my capacity to try, and still we had no second child. Why was He still asking this of me? How could I comply with His edict to add a child to our family when we needed so desperately to stop and recover my health?

  This time I thought to go to our bishop for counsel. We needed intuition I could not find. As we met with him, he was sympathetic but had no firm answers for us. As we explained that no matter our circumstances, the promptings and pressure to have this second child remained the same, he turned to the story of Alma and Ammonihah. Alma went to preach in Ammonihah, but seeing he would have no success, he left the city; and on his way, an angel appeared and told him to return to the city, for he still had work to do there. So Alma speedily returned, but, our bishop pointed out, he went by another way. He then suggested that perhaps there was another way that we had not yet tried, and we should prayerfully seek it out. He confessed he had no idea what that way might be, but to remember the Liahona, that ancient compass, and how it worked. He then gave me a blessing, which was comforting and encouraging, but gave no specific directions.

  I left and racked my mind and soul for other ways. And as I did I was reminded of a blessing by another bishop, years ago, when we were struggling still to have our first child. In that blessing, I was told that I would have multiple children, each had very specific timing for being born on this earth, and whether they came biologically or by adoption, my preparation to be a mother had to be the same. At that time, we had looked into adoption - the expense and the uncertainty were far too great for us; it was simply beyond our reach. Searching again for "another way," I looked into adoption again, beginning with LDS Family Services, which had always been most accessible and affordable, only to find that they no longer offered adoption services.

  I stopped my search into adoption at that and wept. If that were not available, surely no other agency would be within our reach. I thought of Alma returning to Ammonihah and cried out to God, "He went another way, but he had an Amulek! You sent and angel to Amulek so Alma had a way into the city, and a way to do what you asked. Where is our way in? Where is our Amulek?"

  That was on Sunday evening. On Monday morning I woke to read a message from my mom with a link to an LDS news article. She simply said, "Have you seen this?" I read the article and watched the accompanying video.

  My jaw dropped open. I was speechless. I turned the computer to Anthony and said, "Watch this." His jaw dropped open.  God had given us our Amulek.

  In short, the article announced an unprecedented move by the Church, mobilized just that morning. Until February 2016, qualified LDS couples hoping to adopt could post listings on adoption.com, now the worlds' most used site for connecting families with birth mothers, and the expense would be paid for by the Church. This meant that instead of waiting in an agency's long line for up to years, we had the potential to connect with a birth mother within months.

  The answer was staring us in the face: a way to try to add a child to our family without continuing to sacrifice my health. What yesterday had been impossible, today was a miracle.

  We still had to find an agency and complete a home study so we could be legally authorized to adopt. We researched everything local, and my heart sank as I saw the price tag of a home study. I sent Anthony an email at work with the information at the same time that he sent me an email informing me what his annual bonus would be. The numbers matched. It was a sign if I've ever seen one.

  We found our agency to do our home study. We turned in that lump of money and began the paperwork, the background checks, the health checks, etc. There are only a few more steps before the process is finished and we can post a listing for adoption. Our social worker has looked at adoption.com and encouraged us that there are only a couple listings for Oregon, so anyone looking to place a newborn within the state will see us right away. Maybe there is a child out there right now, growing and waiting, like we are, for all this stinking paperwork to get done so we can be together. 

  We've looked into the cost of finalizing an adoption after placement, and I don't know where that money will come from, but too much has lined up too fast to doubt now. We were counseled to remember the Liahona, and I was told I would take one step into the darkness and only then would another be illuminated. And so it would continue. We have our course set. We have but to take a step, and I have faith that God will provide a way.

  I can finally see the step ahead of me. For now, I ask your support in this, our next great leap of faith. (See below for one way you can support us!)

  As to why - I do not know. This may be one of those things I have to sit down with God in the next life and ask Him to explain for me. But I have had, independently, from a few close friends one consistent answer: "Hannah, you are so stubborn. You know it would have taken at least this long for you to decide you couldn't do the pregnancy yourself." And they are right on that count, though my heart is still in turmoil about it. I hope there are other reasons to be made clear. For now, all I know is the simple explanation I give to Lana - because Mommy can't grow another baby in her tummy, God is going to grow a brother or sister in someone else's tummy for us.

P.S. Here is how you can help!! We've just launched a site where you can help donate towards the expenses of finalizing adoption, court fees, etc. It's a little scary, and very humbling to ask for donations, but raising the amount we need (our adoption agent told us to expect around $30-$40,000) is simply more than we can do by ourselves. And so we are reaching out to our friends, families, and communities for love and support. Unfortunately, that has to come in monetary form. We've titled our site "drops in a bucket" because we know not everyone can give much - and all we are asking for is a drop, because enough drops will fill a bucket; enough drops can fill an ocean; and each drop, big or small, makes a difference.

So please look at our fundraising site: http://www.gofundme.com/dropsinabucket. Donate if and when you are able (no minimum amount and no limit to how often you can give). And then the best thing you can do is share, share, share! Like our site, share the page, pass it on to those you know - tell them about our family, how you know us, and why you'd like to help us adopt, and see if they would like to add a drop to our bucket, too. Because the more drops we get, the closer we get to being able to make adoption a reality!

Leave your thoughts and comments please!