OK, enough procrastinating. I'm going to write this thing in installments. Forgive me if it's not as organized as it should be. I'm fitting this into the nap schedule, you know. I don't have time for extensive editing. It's more like a free-flow of thought.
My plan (ha!) is to complete the "Openness to Life" series on March 25th, A.K.A. The Feast of the Annunciation. It seems appropriate since Mary's openness was kind of important in the whole story of Christianity, so why not devote this little writing project of mine in honor of our Blessed Mother.
So, Openness to Life. In the popular understanding of that term, it means allowing every act of marital intercourse to remain open to the possibility of conception. This DOES mean avoiding any physical or hormonal barriers to conception. It does NOT mean that you are obligated to constant childbearing. There's this thing called Natural Family Planning (NFP), and when used correctly it is pretty darn effective at avoiding or achieving pregnancy (at least for all the couples I've taught...I can't really speak from experience...infertility, you know). But the idea is that even if you are trying to avoid intercourse on fertile days to avoid pregnancy, you are still not putting up any barriers. Husband and wife give themselves completely to one another, holding nothing back. The couple remains open to the possibility of pregnancy, even if pregnancy is not their intent at that time.
I have known many, many couples who have fully lived God's call to be open to life in their marriage. Some of these couples have a house full of children. Some of them have struggled with infertility and have remained faithful to the Church's teaching on life when dealing with infertility.
We used NFP from the very beginning of our marriage. When we decided to start TTC, I remember going out that very first month to buy some pregnancy tests. Oh, I was so naive. I also stocked up on soda crackers and ginger ale in preparation for the morning sickness I knew I'd have. I researched natural childbirth and those nursing tank top-thingies. I laugh to think of all the time I wasted researching early pregnancy symptoms.
Over the next two years, we rode the infertility roller coaster and researched adoption. At first, we dismissed adoption as too expensive. But as infertility treatments and surgeries started to empty our savings, we realized that expense was going to be a part of our journey. Was it worth it? We decided that it was, and we made the commitment to pursue BOTH fertility and adoption.
That was something of a radical decision on our part. We weren't ready to give up on fertility just yet, but we knew that if we signed up with an adoption agency and spent money on applications and a homestudy and THEN got pregnant, that money would just be GONE. We could continue to sink money into fixing fertility with no guarantee that it would ever be fixed. Either way, we were looking at dishing out a lot of cash.
But suddenly it just seemed like the right decision to make. Open all the doors and let God pick one to walk through to bring you a child. Basically, we decided we must be open to life, however God decided to bring it to us. He must have been working very hard on both of us to bring us to that realization at the same time because...
The week after making this decision, we got a call from a counselor friend. A new pregnancy client of hers wanted to make an adoption plan for her baby. Would we be interested in being presented to her as potential adoptive parents for her child?
Let's talk for a minute about what it means to be open.
When we were first researching agencies, we decided that we weren't "ready" to be open to having an African-American or biracial child. We had conciously made that decision. It felt uncomfortable to me...to disqualify an entire group of children in need of families, but my husband argued that we weren't prepared to parent a child so dramatically different from us, and his arguments made sense, so I agreed.
The counselor friend had called ME to explain this opportunity, and the FIRST thing she said was, "Now, I just want you to know that this baby is biracial. We don't have any families on file who are willing to accept a biracial child, so I thought I'd talk to you before looking to other agencies." My heart sort of jumped and sank all at the same time. A child in need of a family! But we've already disqualified such a child from becoming a part of our family. I told the counselor I'd need to talk to my husband and get back to her.
So I called him and explained the whole thing. Counselor has birthmom who wants to place baby for adoption. Birthmom due in November. Birthmom wants to meet us in person to decide if we are right for her baby. Baby is biracial.
Without hesitation, my husband said, "Ok, call the counselor and set up a meeting." I had to confirm that he had heard me about the biracial thing. He had.
We were both thinking the same thing. God handed this to us. How can we say no?
Like Mary at the Annunciation, we had a choice. God gave us free will. We could have continued to follow our pre-planned path to our perfect little family. But He was handing us another opportunity. Could we trust that it would be even better than the plan we had made for ourselves?
You know the story...we said yes, and here we are. But we would not be a family of three today if we had not been open...to the idea of adoption, to the movement of the Spirit in our hearts, to the idea of becoming a transracial family.
But that's not all. We also had to be open to abandoning fertility. That's not to say that we are no longer "open to life" in that respect. We still don't use physical or hormonal contraceptives and we never will. Pregnancy is always possible, even if not probable. But after Olivia, we had to make a decision. Her adoption was expensive. Subsequent adoptions would be expensive. Pursuing fertility continued to be expensive. Where was God calling us to focus our financial energies? How does He want us to build our family?
I'll go deeper into that in the next installment. And for those of you who stuck with me through this whole post, here's a picture for your enjoyment (because we all know that's why you keep coming back here).
Mary rocks! And for more pictures, go here.