August 25, 2021

LifeDate Fall 2021

by Amanda Wesley

 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I  have always been a “planner.” I like to set goals, think about the steps I need to take in order to reach those goals, and then work hard to do so. My parents modeled a strong work ethic and stressed the importance of working hard in life and planning for the future. For many things in life, it holds true that hard work and thoughtful planning lead to success. But what happens when we have a goal that, despite our best efforts, seems unattainable? Where do we turn when our deepest desires seem out of reach? How do we respond when our plans don’t work out the way we thought they would? I believe it is at these exact moments in our life that God shows us who is really in control. (Hint: it’s not us!)

I am a sinner, and I will never trust God perfectly, but my journey through infertility, heartache, and eventually adoption has helped me come a long way toward fully trusting God with my life.

Ryan (my husband) and I had always wanted kids, but that road was not as easy as we assumed it would be. After struggling with infertility for two and a half years, we were blessed with our daughter, Ellie, in 2016. We were relieved, thankful, and ecstatic with our precious gift from God! We were also told by our doctor that since we were able to get pregnant once, there was a good chance it could and would happen again. But as the months rolled by, we became frustrated once again. We spent a year at a fertility clinic, undergoing tests, procedures, drugs, and injections. Every failed procedure and unsuccessful month brought more heartache. After a final exploratory procedure to look for the cause of our infertility, we still had no answers. We longed for another child, we prayed that our daughter would experience the joy of having a sibling, and we just felt that our family was not yet complete.

Ryan and I had talked about adoption on and off over the years. We signed up for our first orientation before we had Ellie, when we thought we would never get pregnant. We actually found out we were pregnant just before the event but decided to go anyway, “just in case.” I remember the shock when we opened our orientation folder and saw the total estimated cost. We were relieved that we had gotten pregnant, and it seemed we would not need to turn to adoption in order to grow our family.

Three years later, we found ourselves discussing adoption once again. After exhausting our options at the fertility clinic, we felt that adoption was our only chance to find that missing piece of our family. We started looking more closely at the cost, the process itself, and agencies. In August of 2019, we attended another orientation. The cost was still overwhelming, but that wasn’t the only thing holding us back. We had read about “failed adoptions,” heard horror stories about everything that could go wrong, and worried about the impact this would have on our biological daughter. We prayed about it. We talked with family and with some friends who had been through the adoption process. After countless late-night conversations and prayers, we decided to take a leap of faith and get the process started.

After completing a mountain of paperwork and forms, we were officially “homestudy approved” in November of 2019. We created a profile book for the agency, which they would show to pregnant women considering adoption. We were just waiting to be “chosen” for a possible interview by one of these women. Over the next couple of months, we heard from the social worker occasionally. We were notified whenever our profile book was being shown, and then we waited—waited to see if they liked us enough to talk to us in person, waited to see if we would be blessed with another child, and waited to see if our prayers would be answered. I’ll be honest—I struggled with the waiting. I got my hopes up every time we were told that someone looked at our profile book. I was devastated when we didn’t get any follow-up news. I started to think we had maybe wasted our money coming this far in the adoption process.

As the invoices came in at various points throughout the process, we found that we always had what we needed. Yes, we buckled down a bit and did what we could to save some money, but we were also blessed tremendously through the generosity of others. Whether it was a financial gift or someone reaching out with encouragement at just the right time, God provided exactly what we needed. We continued to wait.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

At the end of May 2020, we finally got the call we were waiting for. An expectant mother wanted to meet with us! We would be meeting with her and the social worker at a park mid-June, and she was due on July 10. After waiting for so long, we had hope that this could actually be happening quickly!

The day we met Tara (name changed for privacy) was a day that we’ll never forget. I was so nervous that she would meet us and decide that we weren’t “the ones,” or that I’d say something to scare her away. It turns out that those fears were all for nothing. Within minutes of meeting Tara, we were comfortable and relaxed. We just clicked. About twenty minutes into our conversation, she said the words that I will forever hold in my heart: “I’ve already picked you guys.” I was in shock and holding back tears. Tara proceeded to invite Ellie to talk to her new brother/sister, and to touch him/her if she wanted to. It was incredible. Here we were, meeting this woman for the first time, and she was giving us the gift of a lifetime. As we left the park, Tara told us that we could go ahead and call our family and friends and share the good news. Although it still seemed too good to be true, those words gave us confidence and reassurance that this was really happening.

The next few weeks were a blur of excitement as we made final preparations for Tara’s (and our) baby to arrive. Clothes were washed, the nursery was prepared, logistics were figured out (not easy with COVID-19), and we waited once again. On the evening of July 6, we found out that Tara was in labor. We headed downtown to Hutzel Women’s Hospital. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, we had to wait in the parking garage for several hours. Around midnight, I was allowed to go into the hospital, but Ryan had to remain in the car.

Due to some unforeseen medical issues, Tara had to have a C-section. After a scramble of phone calls between myself, the social worker, Tara, and the hospital, I was able to head up to the operating room to be Tara’s support person. At 1:35 a.m. on July 7, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The moment the doctor held him up felt like the culmination of all the waiting we had done. Tara and I were both teary-eyed as we talked about how beautiful he was and waited for the doctors to check his vitals. Elijah was a healthy baby boy! Texting my husband a picture from the operating room wasn’t exactly how I envisioned things happening, but we were over the moon excited that this precious gift had arrived. After spending a few more minutes together, Tara was taken to recovery, and I was sent to the NICU waiting area.

I was fortunate enough to be with Elijah in the NICU, but it was several more hours before Ryan was allowed in. We talked with doctors and found out that Elijah would need to stay at the hospital for at least ten days for precautionary reasons. We were so thankful that he was healthy but also concerned about the tests and things the doctors were watching for in the coming days.

Elijah ended up being discharged after ten days. Those days were exhausting—the hour drive to and from the hospital, the fact that only one of us could go at a time due to COVID-19 restrictions, not being able to hold our baby boy due to his IV placement and having to leave him every night—but we were incredibly thankful for his health and that the hospital stay wasn’t longer.

The day we brought Elijah home was an incredibly special one. Introducing Ellie to her new brother was one of those moments that I will cherish forever. After years of waiting, praying, and wondering, we finally felt that our family was complete.

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).

Elijah’s adoption finalization took a bit longer than expected, largely thanks to the courts being backed up due to COVID-19. However, we were very fortunate that everything went pretty smoothly with that process. The waiting game was much easier now that we had our little boy in our arms. On April 28, 2021, we got the news that his adoption was finalized! It felt like the final step in the adoption journey was complete, and we could breathe a huge sigh of relief, knowing that Elijah was now ours forever!

Tara and I have communicated several times over the past year. Nearly every conversation we have ends with us going back and forth thanking each other. We both feel that God brought us together at just the right time and that this whole adoption was His plan. I cannot fathom life without Elijah, and we owe that to Tara. She chose life for her baby. She chose us to be his parents. We can never possibly thank her enough for the gift she has given us. I do not know what the future will hold in terms of our relationship with Tara. But I know that she loves Elijah every bit as much as we do, and I know that we love her and will always appreciate the tremendous blessing that she shared with us.

Looking back on our journey, it is easy to see God’s hand at work. Had we gotten pregnant when we wanted to, we would not have our sweet Elijah. The heartache and the waiting were absolutely worth it. Would the waiting have been easier if I had been confident that God had a plan for our family all along? Absolutely. Maybe God wanted to give me some practice in patience, maybe He wanted to help me learn how to trust Him more completely, maybe He will use this experience to allow me to help someone else going through a similar situation—whatever it may be, I believe that God uses the trials in our lives for good. In the times when I felt that our prayers were going unanswered, God already had our little boy picked out for us. He knew exactly what our family would look like, and He knew exactly how it would come together.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

I am still a planner. I still like to set goals. Is that a bad thing? No. But I will try to remember that sometimes, when my plans don’t seem to work out, it might just be that God has something better in mind. I have read many examples in Scripture of the beauty of God’s timing, and I have now experienced it in my own life. Rather than praying for God to fulfill my plans, I will pray for God to help me trust His plans. For those who are struggling with unfulfilled plans, keep praying. Keep trusting. God DOES have a plan for each of us, a purpose for every life, and an answer for every prayer.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Mandi Wesley is coordinator of the Life Ministry Team at Our Redeemer, Washington Township, Michigan.