Episode one is up and out. Disclaimer: This is a long one.
Well, a part of our story. In this first episode, we felt it appropriate to share where The Not So Perfect Plan came from.
It came from our adoption story. A time in our lives when we had a plan. A clear plan at that. We had a dream and we knew the path we were going to take to get there.
Only the path didn’t look as straight and smooth as we envisioned. It rarely ever does, does it?
What’s a dream you’ve had?
Maybe your dream looked something like ours. We wanted a family. We talked about how many boys and girls, what their names might be and what they would look like. We’d have a couple biologically and then adopt a couple more.
It would be perfect.
Only it wasn’t.
Like so many of our plans. Ours and yours, you map it out and make all the to do lists. Then what happens?
You get punched in the face.
Am I right? It seems that when things are good, and when you’re on a roll is when it happens, and happen was what it did. We were met with obstacle after obstacle. One bigger than the next.
Obstacle #1: My health
By the time Pete and I were married, I was no stranger to bad news. I’d gotten pretty good at taking it. So, when the doctors told us not only did they not want us to get pregnant but that the possibility would be slim and dangerous at that, we listened.
But to hear and to listen are very different.
To listen is to (in our case) think, okay so not right now. No biggie, we’ll adopt.
Then we’ll have a baby.
The first obstacle was one that pushed things back on the timeline but didn’t end the dream. We pivoted. We flipped the plan and pursued adoption first.
If you’ve ever walked the path of adoption then you know. Nothing about it is easy. There’s paperwork and interviews, home visits and questions about your personal life, your marriage and your ability to be a parent. You’re inspected from the inside out. All the way to references whom will be asked similar questions you were. And after all that’s done and the fees are paid, then you are ready.
For us, the wait wasn’t long. A month after everything was approved, we got a call.
“Do you want the baby?”
A crazy and unnatural question. But one that came with the territory. And of course, we said, “yes”. She was perfect. We named her Emma and we loved her instantly. And then…
Obstacle #2: Loss
Three days after we’d brought our sweet baby home, we received a call..
“The birth mom has changed her mind.”
Devastation doesn’t even touch what we felt. We were wrecked. Heartbroken and gutted.
Our plan had started. We pivoted and then got a baby. Instantly, she had our hearts and we had hers. And now we have to give her back?
Have you ever been so close you could taste it? The thing you had wanted and dreamed about for years was in your grasp? You could see the future and believed nothing in this world could steal the joy you felt only to have it ripped away?
While ours was literal (she was taken from us), so many of our plans happen this way. After overcoming an obstacle, you get it. The thing. And then when the plan couldn’t go any better, the floor falls out from under you?
Has this ever happened to you?
Well it happened to us, only instead of the floor, it was our hearts. They were ripped out of our chests when those words came through the phone and then they were splayed across the conference table when we had to return our sweet baby girl the next morning.
It was in that moment, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, I said six words. One sentence. And to this day I have no idea where I found the strength. I said,
“Thank you for the last three days”.
This was our chance. It was our out. The time we could have said, this is too much. It’s too hard. We’re done. But we didn’t.
And ten months later, we received, yet another, call.
“Do you want the baby?”
Again, a question we’d heard before.
Obstacle #3: Fear
What if it happens again?
It was a fair question. The entire six-hour drive through the mountains Pete struggled. What if it happens again? And then he heard something. A still small voice. A voice we call The Holy Spirit. You may call it your intuition or a higher power, but he heard that voice we all have access to and he heard it clearly.
“The baby is yours, and it’s a boy.”
We arrived at the hospital, met the birth mom and an hour later a baby boy was born. We named him Keeton and we were reliving something we’d experienced before. We loved him. He was ours and we were his. And the fear was strong. The more Pete fell in love the more the fear took over.
It was crippling. And yet we had to make a choice. Allow fear to consume us, or continue?
When day three came, Pete was paralyzed but no call. Then days four, five and six, still no call. Then day seven. The day the paper work could be filed and the birth mom couldn’t change her mind. We were safe. We’d made it.
We now had our perfect, beautiful baby boy. The plan was back on track. Different than what we thought but heading in the right direction.
Fast forward, sixteen months. It wasn’t a call this time, it was a friend. He’d told us about a family friend of his and how their daughter was pregnant. He wasn’t sure what she was going to do but he wondered if she did choose adoption if we would be willing to talk to her.
We had a plan. Four or five kids we thought. We had one. Finally. And now we are presented with another.
A few weeks later, she’d made a decision and we found ourselves on another journey. One that would take us another step closer to our dream. To the plan.
And five months later, we received, yes, you guessed it, another call.
The baby was coming.
Within hours we were on a plane and on our way to Nashville with our twenty-month old son. Shortly after landing and sending our little boy to stay with a friend, we were off to the hospital where we would meet our baby girl just hours later.
We named her Mia Joy and again, it was instant. It’s funny how that happens. People ask, can you love a baby that isn’t your flesh and blood the same and the answer is a resounding, “Yes”.
Yes, you can.
It had now happened for the third time. Mia came out fighting. All nine pounds thirteen ounces of her. She was determined to let us and the world know that she had arrived and we couldn’t have been any more ready.
We were a family of four. A boy and now a girl. The perfect little family. If we stopped here, while it wouldn’t had been the plan we thought, it would have been enough.
Five days later we were in a hotel ready to fly back to Colorado with our little family of four when the headaches began.
Obstacle #4: Crisis
The headaches were the beginning of what turned out to be a stroke. I, a new mother of two and only thirty-one years old was having a stroke in a hotel room on the other side of the country.
Over the next two weeks, I’d be intubated and in the ICU where my kidneys would fail and my brain would swell. My body was failing and Pete was forced to make a decision.
As he sat across the cafeteria table in Vanderbilt Hospital, my mom asked him a question no parent should ever have to answer.
“Are you ready to be a single parent to two babies?”
Again, a point in the plan where he could have stopped, turned around and ran away. He could have given up. Overwhelmed by the weight of the truth that he could lose his wife at any moment.
It was another moment, with a decision to make.
“I am.” He said and then began a fight.
A fight to keep me alive and to care for the two babies we had been given. Over the next two weeks he’d go from the hospital to the hotel and back to the hospital, switching back and forth with my mom and grandmother. All trying to do what they could to make sure our family of four got on that plane and flew back to Colorado. Together.
Not only did we fly home to Colorado, but I walked out of that hospital to nurses and doctors who didn’t believe I would survive let alone walk on my own, cheering as we left.
I understand our story is out of the norm. We faced some pretty devastating and critical blows on our journey to follow the plan, but it doesn’t mean it’s not relatable. Many of you reading this today may not find yourselves on the same exact journey but you’re working toward a plan. That thing that keeps you up at night. That thing you want more than anything, and if it hasn’t already happened, it most definitely will.
Life will punch you in the face.
It comes to throw you off course, to make you believe that what you have been working so hard for isn’t meant to be, or that it isn’t that important anymore. But we are here to tell you that,
Whatever it is, whatever that thing is that was placed in your heart, whether it’s a job, a relationship, your health, or your path to build your family. Let me tell you, if you stay the course, if you push through, pivot and remember why you wanted it to begin with, it will be worth it.
And would you believe we are only half way to our plan?
Three years after we brought Mia home, somewhere in Colorado Springs, another baby girl was born and a year later we would again, get a call.
“There’s this baby…”
Just like each situation before, this one was completely different than the last. This call was from another friend who knew of this baby who was in the foster system. She was born at twenty-three weeks and was what they call, “medically fragile”. She didn’t know much but asked if we would be interested in meeting with the foster mom. Again, we said,
Shortly after that day, we found ourselves meeting with this sweet baby girl’s doctors.
Obstacle #5: Doubt
When I tell you, the doctors didn’t even try to sugar coat this little girls situation, they didn’t. They told us things like, “She may never walk”, and “she could be on oxygen for years or forever”. Each prognosis was worse than the one before. Each thing they said was meant to plant doubt. And I’d lie if I said, it didn’t work from time to time. But when it came down to it. To our plan. We knew what we had to offer. We could love this little girl and we would care for her in whatever way that looked like. We decided, to yes…
and we began the process to foster then adopt this sweet little girl who was already named the same special name we gave that first baby that was taken back all those years before.
Today, Emma is seven years old. She walks, talks, and while the first couple of years were hard, she hasn’t been in the hospital in over four years.
And if we had listened to those seeds of doubt that could have caused us to walk away, we wouldn’t have the small firecracker that we do today.
So, that is five. Five obstacles. You’d think five would be a good number to stop at. But again, our stories rarely work around our schedule.
We now have Keeton who is ten, Mia is eight and Emma is six and Pete and I are forty. We have three beautiful and perfect for us children. We’re a family of five and feel our dream has come to be. We built a family. It might not look how we thought it would. But it’s ours.
And then it happens.
After twenty years with Lupus, multiple courses of chemo and a kidney transplant I find out I am indeed,
A biological baby was part of our plan, but a baby at forty? That was not. And why would we assume our plan would look anything like we originally planned when every step of the way looked completely different?
Obstacle #6: Disbelief
Now this one is on me. Pete was ecstatic. He knew that some way, somehow, even after doctors had told us that getting pregnant either naturally or with all the medical help we could afford, was not possible, we were pregnant.
It just happened.
Typing this, I still have a hard time believing it. I went to my first appointment and then the second, and third. Each one I told myself when I get to the next milestone, I’ll be excited. And each milestone I’d say, the next one, then I’ll be excited. By now, the doctors couldn’t argue the fact that there was a healthy baby growing inside me, this time it was me.
I was the one who doubted.
So, I had to make a choice. I had to decide that instead of doubt, I would speak life. Instead of saying, if this than that,I started to stop the thoughts and say the opposite. And nine months later after a perfectly healthy and wonderful pregnancy, Shiloh Grace was born.
The body that had failed me so many times before, had now created life.
The plan while not what we thought, was perfect. It was our very own,
Not So Perfect Plan.
And that brings us to here. To this podcast. It’s our own little way to honor, that while the plan wasn’t perfect, instead messy and devastating and scary, it actually turned out to be something bigger than we could have ever imagined for ourselves.
But I won’t leave you there. Not with a story and a list of six obstacles. I’d like to share what we learned and how we continue to carry these lessons from this one plan into the new obstacles that come our way.
What we learned:
– If we could get through what we had, we could get through anything together.
– That you can always find something to be grateful for in the midst of loss or disappointment.
– Trust your intuition and the words you hear in your heart.
– Don’t let labels, opinions or percentages stop you from pursuing what’s in your heart.
– We all have the power to control our narrative. We can choose to speak life into our situations.
And last but definitely not least,
–Miracles still happen!