Sara shares her family’s steps toward their eventual union with their first child through domestic adoption. The growing of their family did not go the way she expected; in fact, it was wrought with difficulty and suffering. After becoming a family of three, she was able to see that it is often coming to the end of ourselves where God meets us with what we’ve hoped for all along.
I was sitting across from the doctor when he told me the bad news.
“There’s not a whole lot more we can do for you. You’ll have to see a fertility specialist.” My heart fell at the words. We had been trying for several years to get pregnant. Our doctor had run some basic tests and everything had come back normal, but we were still not pregnant.
Why this? Why now?
We could not afford a specialist who wasn’t covered by insurance. And I knew I didn’t want to go through the heartache of more tests or take the risk of failed IVF treatments.
I knew, leaving the doctor’s office that day, that I would not be going to a fertility specialist. We had already decided that we would start the adoption process if we weren’t pregnant after doing these basic tests.
Months later, after a flurry of paperwork and meetings, we had completed our home study with an adoption agency and were on track to be matched with a baby from Korea.
But then one night, Sam started having back pain. When it became excruciating, his doctor sent him to the ER where we learned the devastating news: “You have cancer.”
My husband, weak and pale, looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry.”
He knew that we were going to be going through some tough months, but he also knew that this would disrupt our plans to adopt.
We couldn’t understand the timing of the diagnosis. Once again I was wrestling with the same questions as before: Why this? Why now?
When we called the adoption agency to tell them the bad news, they told us we could not continue in the Korean adoption program. The country had strict rules about their adoptive parents’ health and a recent cancer diagnosis would not be allowed until Sam had been in remission for several years. Even if we had already been matched with a baby, they would have to decline the match. There was nothing they could do.
In a matter of weeks, our adoption had fallen through and my husband was fighting for his life. One of those surprises alone would have been hard, but both at the same time devastated us. Not long before this, I was imagining us as a family of three, but now I didn’t even know if we would remain a family of two.
Somehow, in the midst of walking through my husband’s cancer, I still held on to hope that even though my life might be a mess, God still had a plan for our family. We had been told there was a good chance that my husband would beat cancer through the latest treatments that were available.
When we told our adoption caseworker this news, she replied, “Call us as soon as he is cancer-free.”
Her words offered a sliver of hope that our adoption journey was not over.
After months of chemotherapy and surgery, we got the call that Sam was finally cancer-free.
When we called our adoption agency and told them the good news, they told us that unfortunately, his remission would not be good enough for Korea’s stringent health standards.
Our adoption agency had another solution: to switch over to the domestic adoption program in the U.S. We would have to redo some of our paperwork, but at the time, they needed more families in the program because they currently were working with an influx of birth mothers.
We quickly submitted our updated paperwork and within a few months, we got a call that a birth mother was interested in our family. We met with her and realized that maybe, just maybe, this was where God wanted us the whole time.
Several weeks later, we brought our new little girl home and adjusted to life as a family of three. We couldn’t believe how we had come to this place, but somehow, the cancer journey had led us to our daughter.
One day, we stopped at a restaurant after one of Sam’s follow-up oncology appointment. Our new daughter was with us, her milky brown skin shining in the light.
We sat down in a booth where we met our waitress, Marsha, an African-American woman with wide eyes and a smile to match. When Marsha returned with our drinks, she looked at my daughter and then asked slowly, “Are you babysitting or is she your daughter?”
“This is our daughter,” Sam said.
When I looked back at Marsha, she was still smiling, but now she had tears in her eyes. She told us how much she loved to see families come together through adoption and asked to pray for us.
In the middle of the restaurant, our waitress knelt down at our table, held our hands and prayed a blessing over our family. We thanked her before she went back to the kitchen. My husband and I looked at each other and then glanced down at our daughter. Whatever I was expecting from our waitress that day, I wasn’t expecting this.
The complexity of our journey suddenly seemed to come together, like the pieces of a puzzle snapping into place. My questions of Why this? Why now? had been answered. Without cancer, we wouldn’t be this family. Without heartache, we wouldn’t have walked this road.
Sometimes in the deep spaces of heartache and loss, we find our way to the place where God wanted us all along.
In our brokenness, we find healing.
In our loneliness, we find love.
Sara R. Ward is the author of the book Made for Hope: Discovering Unexpected Gifts in Brokenness. Made for Hope shows us what God has to offer in the midst of our brokenness as we grasp to make it through a difficult season. Through a heartfelt and vulnerable story, the book provides hope for those who have gone through grief.
Sara also speaks to women’s groups about cultivating joy and faith and shares encouraging resources on sararward.com. Sara has been published on the Today Show Parenting Team, Focus on the Family, Adoption.com, and (in)courage. She is a wife and mom to three children, including a son who passed away from Leigh’s disease in 2012.
Learn more: sararward.com
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