God’s will is a difficult thing to fathom. We know that it is never God’s intention for a child to need a new home. Indeed, amongst the joy of adoption, there is always an element of grief – for relationships broken, for all the things that were not as they should have been for that little child. But God is in the business of redemption:
“to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:2-3
God invited us on a journey that led to us becoming Emma’s parents. What a journey so far! And we have a long way to go. What a privilege to know we are part of God’s redemptive work in Emma’s life – just as she is in ours.
All my life I have been attracted to the idea of adoption. Before my husband and I were even married we discussed adoption as a real possibility if we found ourselves unable to have biological children.
We were a good number of years into our marriage before it seemed practical to think about starting a family, and it was when we were away on holiday that we began to have serious discussions about it all. On long walks through European towns and cities, we delved into all the big topics of parenthood, from ideas about names we liked, to deep theology. For us it came down to the unconditional love expressed by God, and our desire to try to emulate that with our children. We talked a lot about what might happen if things didn’t go smoothly, and both agreed that we would want to adopt to offer that love to a child even more in need of it. At this point we asked ourselves whether it was even right to try to have our own biological children, if we knew there were children out there who needed homes, and we felt we would be able to provide that. But we felt at peace that it was also okay to desire biological children. So we decided that we would have the best of both worlds – we planned to have one or two birth children, and then adopt. It all seemed so simple at the time!
As the months passed, we initially brushed each ‘failure’ off, knowing that it can often take a while to conceive. But as time wore on, it seemed harder to believe that was all there was to it. After a year, we went to our GP. With a cheery ‘I’ll refer you on, but I’m sure I’ll no sooner have licked the stamp on the letter than you’ll be coming back in here to tell me you’re pregnant’, we were on the waiting list for an appointment at the infertility clinic. Tests were done prior to the appointment, and when we arrived, the kindly older doctor gently explained to us that the results showed it would be impossible for us to conceive without medical intervention. I still find it odd, looking back, that after all our discussions and the long build up to this point, we were both quite taken aback by this news. I think we were both genuinely expecting a simple solution. More blood tests were taken to determine what medical interventions would be possible for us, and we were to return a few months later for our next appointment.
They were a rough few months, there’s no denying it. But throughout it all, we felt the gentle love of our adopted heavenly Father holding and sustaining us through it. Family and friends stood by us and supported us. I most appreciated those who were not too scared to ask how we were, not because they had any answers or solutions, but because they cared and were willing to listen. Those months were a time of deep delving into the theology and beliefs that were so easy to hold to when they weren’t personal – like, it’s easy to stand against abortion on the premise that life begins at conception, but what does that mean when the medical options being discussed involve creating numerous embryos and then destroying those not used? Ultimately it was a time of grief, and of learning to rely on God in a more substantial way than our fairly smooth-sailing life to that point had required. There were times when continuing to believe in the faithfulness of God became a choice, not a given. I remember standing at a Casting Crowns concert as they sang ‘I will praise you in this storm’, my hands in the air and tears streaming down my face, knowing, at the depths of my being, that God was still God, that He was still on His throne, and that also He was right there, weeping beside us, and had a plan and a future for us.
Once the initial intensity of pain at the news began to ease, we knew that our decision was a straightforward one. Our parenthood plan had always been a two part process… we just hadn’t realised we were going to skip straight to part two.
By the time we returned to the clinic for our second appointment, we were completely at peace with our decision not to pursue medical intervention, and were really just going back out of curiosity at the rest of the results. The doctor tried to gently break it to us that the next batch of test results were not good news – but to us this was only confirmation of the path we already knew was ahead for us. We thanked him and told him we were going to pursue a different path to parenthood, and as we left the hospital I felt a sense of relief that all that was now behind us. Now we could look ahead to the exciting journey of adoption.
So, we contacted the Social Work department and attended an information evening. Everything we heard only strengthened our knowledge that this was the path for our lives. God had been inviting us on this journey for many years, and He was right there with us every step of the way. The process is a long one, but initially it seemed that the stages were passing quite quickly, and soon enough we had been allocated a social worker to come and complete our assessment. We quite enjoyed the assessment – getting to talk about yourself for an hour or two every couple of weeks was almost like therapy! Our social worker was lovely, and was incredibly supportive of us throughout the whole process. Eventually the assessment was finalised, the reports were written and we were up in front of the panel. This was quite a daunting moment – even after all the months, the questions, the depth of probing, now, here, it was this group of eight or ten people who would decide whether they felt we were fit to be parents to a child needing a new family. They asked a few questions, then we were sent out of the room while they made their decision – thankfully soon after our social worker came out to tell us we had been approved! It was such a happy day, and we just couldn’t wait to find our who our little son or daughter would be.
One question I had asked the panel that day was how long we should expect to wait to be matched with a child. ‘Not long,’ came the reply. ‘I would say four to six months.’ My sense of excitement only grew. I felt like we’d suddenly found out I was five months pregnant. The waiting was nearly over!
Or so I thought. But once again, the months came and went, and there was no news. Our social worker continued to come to see us regularly, sometimes with news of children we had been put forward for, only for another couple to be chosen to be their parents. We knew we could trust God, that He was there beside us, but it was hard. We felt we were living in limbo – unable to plan anything more than a couple of months in advance, always waiting for the phone call that would turn our world upside down. Four months came and went. Six months came and went. A year. Eighteen months. By this time we were really struggling. We knew this was the right thing for us. We had thought, prayed, longed for this for years. We had read up on all the issues that are common in adopted children. We had tried to prepare ourselves to offer the best to whatever child was placed in our care. I continued to pray, as I had all along, for the little life I knew must be out there somewhere, for whatever they must be going through at that time. But it was becoming difficult to believe it would ever happen.
The hardest part of our waiting was that it became apparent that a major factor in why we were waiting so long was that the social workers of the children were being put off by our faith. They would read our assessment, and recognise that faith was an integral part of our lives, and see this as a negative, rather than a positive thing. We felt like we had been approved by the panel, only to be dis-approved by the social workers themselves.
And then, one day, our social worker came out for a visit and told us the news that would change our world forever. There was a little girl who needed a new mummy and daddy. And we were her social worker’s top choice. We could scarcely believe it. Could this really be finally happening? Our social worker described this little 16 month old girl, Emma, her daily routine, her personality, her appearance. I tried not to let myself get too emotionally attached – what if this didn’t go ahead? Could I cope with another disappointment? The next day Emma’s social worker came to see us, to see if we felt like such a good match in person as we had on paper. How daunting! What a final test! And as she sat on our sofa, she told us that one of the things that had drawn her to us as parents for Emma was our faith. She felt we could offer the stability and love Emma needed, and saw our faith as a real strength. After the visit, she was even more convinced, and the couple of months that followed were so exciting, but still difficult to wait – now we knew who our little daughter was, we were desperate to meet her. First we got photos, and then, finally, the timeline was set, and we went to meet Emma for the first time.
There were so many thoughts, questions and emotions running through me in the lead up to meeting Emma. We knew unquestioningly that this was a journey that God had invited us on, that he was there beside us, that he had been preparing us, and Emma, for our new lives together. Before we met Emma, we had already made our covenant with her – just as God did with us, and just as my husband and I did when we got married. We had already chosen to love this little girl for the rest of our lives, when that was really hard as well as when that was easy, with all that that would mean. But what of the softer questions? Would she like us? How long would it take to feel a bond with her? Would she cry when she left the comfort and safety of her foster carers? How long would it take our emotions to catch up to the commitment we had made to this little girl?
And then we stepped into her foster carers’ living room – and there she was. Our daughter. From that first moment our eyes met, she had more than the depth of our commitment to love her, she had our hearts. And surprisingly quickly, she began to give us hers too. Over the next week, we saw Emma for longer each day, and then came the most amazing day, when she came home with us for good.
It was such a blessing that Emma’s transition to our care went incredibly smoothly – we know that this is not always the case. We are so grateful to her foster carers for the stability and love they provided for her, and for preparing her so well for her move. We are also so grateful for the many prayers of family and friends, for the love and support shown by everyone around us, and, hugely, for the love and care of our wonderful God.