I started taking birth control my junior year of high school. My periods were lasting two weeks at a time and my acne was out of control, so it was a win-win. I didn’t want my friends to know I was on birth control because it made me feel dirty. I had never even had a real boyfriend, let alone ever come close to having sex. But, a high school girl on birth control? She must be up to no good. Every month I would fill my prescription at the CVS drive-through in hopes I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.
Kyle and I had been married almost three years when we decided we would start “trying” to have a baby. By this time I had been on birth control for close to 9 years. I went back to my doctor and talked to her about getting off birth control and how we wanted to have a baby. I remember how excited she was for me and we talked about how to stop the medication.
I remember asking her how long I should expect to wait until I became pregnant. She told me that 6 months was “normal”, and they don’t consider infertility until a year. A YEAR? Well, that wasn’t applicable to me, so okay. She wished me good luck and I was on my way.
I read articles and websites dedicated to all the tips and tricks to get pregnant. I laid in bed countless times with my feet on my headboard, but month after month I started my period. Every time I bought a box of tampons, I would buy the smaller count because I just knew that next month was the month I wouldn’t need them anymore.
As we neared closer and closer to the year mark, my doctor’s words kept replaying in my head.
Ten months into trying, Kyle and I went on a walk. He told me he always had a feeling he would have trouble having children. He didn’t know why, but it was just something he had always in the back of his mind. We had always talked about adopting, but just assumed it would be after we had biological children. On that walk I pitched the idea of pursuing adoption while also trying to become pregnant.
We decided to pray and think about it for a while. After all, we were both young, healthy people. It was very plausible I could be pregnant right then.
But I wasn’t. Another month passed and I started researching fertility OBGYNs. We were quickly approaching that year mark my family doctor talked about, and I was getting nervous.
We started researching adoptions and different options. We looked into domestic and international, but there were so many more questions we had. If we were to do international, how do you narrow it down to a certain country? Do you request a specific age and/or gender? What about special needs?
I made an appointment with some random doctor down in the medical center who had good reviews online. Kyle went with me and we sat in his office and talked about our situation. He suggested he give me an exam since I hadn’t had one in a year.
Oh man. Talk about awkward… I guess I had never really told Kyle what exactly happens during an exam, but to have him in the room was so weird. I couldn’t look in his direction because he would have made me start laughing, which is a completely inappropriate reaction to that situation.
Anyway, I received a clean bill of health, and the doctor suggested Kyle go to a reproductive endocrinologist to be checked as well. We made an appointment for later in the week.
That same month we signed a contract with an adoption agency to adopt from a country in Eastern Europe called Moldova. Most people have never heard of it. When researching countries that Americans can adopt from, we came across Moldova. It is known as the epicenter of human trafficking. We watched a documentary called Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, and cried for days. We knew we were being called to adopt one of these little girls and keep them safe in our home- away from the world of sex trafficking.
Kyle went to his appointment, had some tests run, and then we went in for the results. It wasn’t great news, but it wasn’t awful. Just some medicine was needed and everything would be good.
So there we were; pursuing adoption and trying to become pregnant at the same time, but we only told people about the adoption. Never once did I post about our struggle to become pregnant. I wrote blog posts all about our adoption, but our infertility was never the topic of conversation.
I don’t know if it is because I never mentioned it, because people are nosy, or a mixture of both, but I had to field the awkward and inappropriate questions that come with adoption before you have biological kids.
Do you not want your own kids?
Do you think you can love them like your own?
Can you not just have your own kids?
What if they want to meet their real parents one day?
And so. Many. More.
Since the doctors told us we could have children, I would tell people we just felt called to be adoptive parents before biological ones. But every time someone asked a question like that, a knife dug a little deeper into my heart. It was hard. It was so hard.
It was like my infertility was a dirty little secret I was carrying around. I didn’t know anyone who dealt with what I was going through- or at least someone who was vocal about it. I had Kyle to cry to, but no one to give me guidance. I didn’t know why God gave me the desire to birth children if it wasn’t going to happen.
My close friends knew about our infertility, but that was a very small number. Fifteen months into this journey, and three months into our adoption, one of those close friends pulled me aside at church. She told me she wanted to talk to me privately for a second. I got kind of nervous because I thought maybe I hurt her feelings or something. Nope. She wanted to tell me she was pregnant. Her and her husband got pregnant the first month they tried. She wanted to tell me before she told our whole friend group so that I wasn’t caught off guard. I smiled and was happy for her. Then I went in the restroom and cried.
The next day I went to work and told another friend what happened. I told the other girl about how I didn’t know how to handle what happened the day before. I mean, I appreciate the thought my friend put into telling me in advance. I am not sure how I would have reacted if I had heard it for the first time in a big group. I am sure I would have acted happy for her (because I truly would have been), but also choked back the tears because I would be sad for me. I told my friend from work that I felt like my newly-pregnant friend saw me as broken. Like, here is poor little infertile Kacee, so let me break the news to her so she doesn’t cry in front of everyone.
Then my friend from work said something that I hadn’t considered before. She said “Kacee, you ARE broken.”
Who me? No, not me. Yes, we were having trouble becoming pregnant, but we were doing everything the doctors said and we were also a few months into an international adoption. At this rate, we would be parents in no time. We had the prayer thing on lock; I mean, my husband is a youth pastor, so talking to God is part of his job. No way I was broken. This was just a delay in our grand plans, but we were going to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
Over the next couple of weeks I thought about being broken. I didn’t want to be broken. I mean, yeah, there are broken people out there, but I was not one of them. I had my life together and knew what I wanted. Okay, maybe it wasn’t going exactly as I planned, but sometimes things don’t.
Our pastor often says, “It is okay to not be okay- it is just not okay to stay that way.” So I decided that I may be broken, but I wasn’t going to stay that way. I found out the hard way that is easier said than done, but here I am, almost five years into the process, and still trying my best to keep it together.
Our international adoption fell through. Basically American adoption agencies stopped working with Moldova because they couldn’t find people on the ground there who wanted to work with their own government because of all the corruption. We were so heartbroken. Also, we were very embarrassed. We had raised money for this adoption. We told everyone about it. How do you un-tell people about an adoption?
We kind of stalled out. We didn’t know what to do next. We were still trying to become pregnant, but that wasn’t happening either. This was probably one of my angriest times with God. I didn’t feel like anything we were doing was against His will, so why wasn’t it working for us?
While we were still in this limbo stage, I got a call from a friend. She knew someone who was taking care of a distant family member’s child, but they were not prepared to take care of her forever. They were looking for someone to adopt this toddler.
We got super excited.
We set up a meeting and played with the little girl. She was so sweet and we enjoyed our time with her. Because she was technically in CPS custody, we would have to become foster parents in order to take her. We contacted an agency and were certified in 6 weeks.
However, during that time, the family had chosen another family who went to their church to adopt the little girl instead of us.
So again, back home with no child.
We were now certified foster parents, so we might as well take a placement, right?
New Years Day we got the call about Mark. He was two and stole our hearts from the very beginning. We hired a lawyer and started the process to try to adopt him, even though CPS said he wasn’t available for adoption.
That summer we started fertility treatments. We decided to do IUI instead of IVF, mostly because of cost. We did three rounds and I made it to the pregnancy test twice without starting my period. So that means that a nurse had to call me twice to say that I was not pregnant. We decided to stop after the third round and the doctor gave me a new diagnosis: unexplained infertility.
What is even worse that being infertile? Answer: The doctors not knowing why you can’t get pregnant.
We continued to pursue adopting Mark, but after 345 days in our home, the judge ordered him to be moved to a fictive kin’s home. Earlier I said I felt the angriest I had been at God. During this time, I felt the most confused I had ever been. I wanted nothing more but to ask God “Why?” and have Him answer me.
Why had He brought Mark into our lives if He was going to take him away? Why did He allow us to love Mark so deeply if it wasn’t forever? Why weren’t we the best option for the rest of Mark’s life? Why weren’t we good enough? His was the first little mouth to call me “momma”. He was the first child who cried out for me in the middle of the night. He was the first kid to make me a craft for Mother’s Day.
After he left, there were good days, but mostly they were bad. I stopped going to birthday parties and baby showers for a few months. I always made an excuse, but I honestly just couldn’t handle it. I have always been a homebody, but I would cancel plans, or not even make them altogether, so I could stay home.
The first Mother’s Day after he left, someone at church told me “Happy Mother’s Day! Are you going to talk to Mark today?” They had great intentions, but it dug into my heart so deeply. No. I wasn’t going to get to talk to Mark. I still have never seen him in person since he left over two years ago. I long to hold him again. I long to kiss his sweet forehead and say “Momma loves you so much.” Writing this tonight has made me cry. I honestly don’t think I will ever get over losing him. I hoped it would get easier, but it hasn’t.
About ten months after Mark left, that same friend who called about the toddler, called me about another situation. This time she knew someone who wanted to place her unborn twins for adoption. After some FaceTime meetings and in-person get-togethers, she officially asked us to adopt them. They were to be born in a few weeks and we were using the phrase “cautiously optimistic” to describe our feelings. You see, just because she said she wanted us to adopt them didn’t mean anything. No paperwork can be signed until 48 hours after the babies are born.
It was a Saturday. I was getting ready to go to a one-year-old’s birthday party and then on to a baby shower. As we were about to walk out the door, she texted me. She had decided to not place the twins for adoption. We decided to still go to the parties and I didn’t let myself cry until they were all over.
If you’re counting, that makes five children who we wanted to adopt, but couldn’t.
We decided to pursue foster care again. Less than four months later we had a newborn in our house. She is the most perfect baby you could ever imagine. I know most people say that about their baby, but I am not exaggerating. She is perfect. We were transferred to adoption prep and we are hoping to finalize her adoption in the next month or two.
I would like to say that I have learned many lessons in the five years we have been on this journey, but the list isn’t very long. However, the thing that I definitely have learned is how to trust God in the situations I don’t understand. I don’t really know how to put into words the peace I feel, and there is no magic formula for it. Contentment is something I have sought after for years.
In college I dealt with a really bad case of anxiety. I needed to control my life, and I wasn’t doing a good job. My prayers were always for a change. I wanted my circumstances, my grades, my body, my acne, my financial situation, *insert a million other things here*, to change. I was never okay with where I was. Praying for your circumstances to change is not a bad thing. Matthew says that God gives good gifts to his children who ask. Oh boy, did I ever ask.
After Mark left I went to a women’s conference. One of the speakers talked about the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac in Genesis 22. I don’t really know the point she was trying to get across, but I got something out of it that allowed me to change my outlook on my situation.
Abraham was fully prepared to sacrifice his promised son. On his way up the mountain, Isaac asked where the lamb for the offering was. Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Once they get to the place they were going, Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac when an angel stopped him. Then, Abraham saw a ram in the thicket and was able to use the ram as a sacrifice instead.
That was it. That's what I was doing; I was looking for a ram, when I was only ever promised a lamb. Sometimes rams don’t come. Sometimes they do, and that is fantastic! Yay for rams! However, we were never promised a ram. But, I do have a lamb. I do have Jesus.
Jeremiah 29:11 is probably the verse on the most coffee cups ever. However, it is something before that verse that had been better for me to hold onto. Jeremiah is writing to people in exile in Babylon. They didn’t want to be there, and would be there for 70 more years. They wanted out. They wanted their circumstances to change. Instead, he says in verses 5-7:
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
We are called to embrace our exile. I am called to make a home in my infertility- build houses and settle down. In my infertility, I am to increase, not decrease. God has carried me into this city of infertility, and I am to pray for it to prosper. I need my infertility to prosper, because if it prospers, so will I.
I never considered praying this way. My prayer was always for change- always for a different situation. I was always searching for a way out: a ram. Sometimes we don’t get a different situation and we need to be content with the Lamb. Sometimes we are in exile for so long, we stop calling it “exile,” and it is just our reality.
"Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."