Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tender Mercies

In the April 2005 General Conference of our church Elder David A. Bednar gave one of my favorite talks ever.  This is one of those talks that I think of often and really helped me to understand even more how much the Lord loves each of us.  You can read the full talk here (and I would suggest you do).  Elder Bednar gives his understanding of what tender mercies are which I have included below.

"the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ."

Today I want to share a few more things that I truly consider "tender mercies" that have happened during our  journey to where we are now.  There might be a few of these posts, because life is full of these things if we are just keeping our eyes and heart open to seeing them.

Through our journey with infertility we have had many ups and downs.  I think the biggest down for me (and probably Ben if you asked him) was when our IVF cycle failed.  You can read about that here.  The weekend after IVF failed was Mother's Day.  I got a call that day and was asked  to give a talk in church a few weeks later about cheerfulness.  When I got that call, I literally almost started laughing.  It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard in my life.  The last thing I was feeling was cheerful.  I was feeling more sadness than I had ever experienced.  But being asked to give that talk was a tender mercy.  Through preparing for that talk I learned about the true meaning of happiness.  I received a true testimony of the Savior and the fact that He has given me everything I need through His atonement.  I could be happy and cheerful because of my Savior.  I cannot even express the difference that talk and what I learned from it has made in my life for the past two plus years.   I have had my days and my moments where I have been frustrated and upset by my struggle with infertility (amongst other things), but it is nothing like it could have been.  Before that talk, I felt anger when I would hear of another friend or family member getting pregnant.  I didn't enjoy Relief Society because I felt like a failure and like I didn't fit in.  It really affected everything in my life.  After our failed IVF that should have been worse, but it wasn't.  It was so much better..  Since then, I can feel true joy and happiness for other peoples good news.  I can be around mothers, fathers, babies and not feel like a failure.  It's hard to explain, but it changed me.  To me, this was a tender mercy.

I mentioned in the last post that we had talked to a birth mom last year before we moved to the Philippines.  She contacted us 11 days after our profile was live.  We talked with her for a few weeks, emailing back and forth and getting to know each other.  We also had a meeting with her at LDS Family Services and went to dinner with them.  She wasn't looking at any other families, so that seemed pretty hopeful for us.  We enjoyed talking to her and getting to know her, but never felt extra confident about anything.  After a few weeks our caseworker let us know that she had contacted another family and was going to be meeting with them and then would be making a decision which family to place her baby girl with.  Obviously we were nervous and hopeful.  During that time I was invited to participate in our Stake Relief Society Conference where we would be acting as women from the bible and church history.  During the practice I had a weird impression.  Ben and I have discussed baby names from the beginning of our marriage.  We had girl names we liked and boy names we liked.  While I was sitting there one of the women got up and was acting as Adah from the Bible.  The name just stood out to me as such a great name for this baby.  I immediately texted Ben and said "What about the name Ada"?.  This was not one of our names.  This was nothing we had even thought of before.  I have a niece named Addy, Ada is very close to that.  It didn't really make sense.  But I went with what I felt.  We were informed within the next few days that this birth mom had chosen the other family to place her baby with.  We were sad.  It was another "failure" for us, but we moved forward.  A couple of months later I emailed this birth mom just to find out how she was doing.  I knew she would have already had the baby and just wanted to check on her.  She wrote me back telling me what was going on with her life, how she was doing, etc.  Toward the end of the email she said "I just visited Ada and she is so cute and doing great.".  I literally had to go back and read that line a few times.  I had never mentioned the name to anyone other than Ben.  I could not believe it.  The adoptive family had named her Ada.  At that moment I KNEW that this baby was with the family she was meant to be with, that was the name she was meant to have, and that the Lord was aware of her and me. Talk about a tender mercy.

I know this post is already very long, but I have one more experience that I want to share.  I will save the others for a later post.  After my last post I realized that I told you S, the birth mom, looked very Filipino but I never mentioned what ethnicity she actually is.  She was born in Hawaii and her mom was born and raised in Hawaii.  S is part Chinese, Caucasian, Hawaiian and Mexican. You have no idea how excited Ben was when he realized his baby boy was going to be Polynesian.  He immediately started looking at Hawaiian names.  Well, in that first week he found THE name he wanted.  He told me and I laughed and said no way!  Haha.  I couldn't even say it right.  Strangely, Ben was really set on that name.  It was the oddest thing because he is normally so laid back.  I kind of just figured he would get over it and moved on. One week after being chosen we were meeting S and her mom face to face.  It was a nerve wracking experience, but so much fun to get to meet them in person, hug them and just get to know each other better.  Her mom totally looks and acts Hawaiian and she and Ben totally hit it off.  S was just so sweet and thoughtful and wise for her young age.  The meeting was going well when S asked us if we had any ideas of names for the baby.  Ben jumped in with how he had been looking at Hawaiian names and how he had found one that means warrior(or something like that).  They asked him the name and he said, "Kekoa".  Let me tell you, that moment will be etched in my mind for the rest of my life.  S (the birth mom) and the caseworker looked at each other in awe and S turned to us and said "That is the name I had written down for his middle name.  It was my cousin's name who passed away".....Obviously, I am not Hawaiian.  I do not know if this is a common Hawaiian name.  What I do know is that we had no reason to pick this name.  Ben had no reason to like that name as much as he did other than he felt drawn to it.  In that moment we knew why.  It was a tender mercy of the Lord for every person at that meeting.

The Lord is so very aware of each of us.  This road has been long and hard.  We have people in our life that are set on focusing on how hard it has been. What we focus on is that without infertility, without this struggle, we would not be where we are.  We would not have had these experiences.  We are where we are supposed to be.  Thank goodness for tender mercies to help us see that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Story

So, it's been a little over two weeks since our big news and life is moving forward.  It has been an amazing couple of weeks and we have felt so much love and support.  We have always known that we have a lot of people rooting for us, but it's almost overwhelming to really see and feel the excitement of so many people.  One of the things that is hard about infertility is feeling like there are so many other people that are affected by our inability to have children.  It is hard to continually feel not only your own disappointment, but to know that you are also causing sadness and disappointment for others.  Now we are seeing those same people who have hurt with us and mourned with us share in our excitement and joy.  It is an awesome experience!

We have already felt the Lord's hand  in this experience.  Through this whole process of us deciding to come home from the Philippines, to move forward again with adoption, to contact a private agency, and so on and so forth, we have both felt the spirit guiding us.  I know there are people reading this that maybe don't believe in such things, but I do.  I know that the Lord wants each of us to be happy. I know that He guides us when we let Him.  He lets us go through sorrow that we may feel joy.

Eight months ago I had an experience that solidifies this knowledge for me. We had returned  to the Philippines after Christmastime in the States and I was excited to be back in Cebu.  I had been visiting with the poor people in the ward, I was given a calling, and I felt like I was good to move forward with our plan to stay for two years.  But then I got sad.  It was that weird kind of feeling that something was just not exactly right. It had only lasted a few days at this point, but I was really feeling down.  I was sitting on my bed feeling this way while Ben was at work one day and then a thought came to me.  "I want to go home".  It was like a light bulb went on.  I felt happy.  I thought it was crazy.  I had been the one that would not even let such thoughts cross my mind.  We had made a commitment to stay for two years and were going to stick with it.  I was feeling good there, so why would I want to go home?  But, it just felt good.  When Ben got home from work that day I told him "I want to go Utah".  I think he thought I was kidding.  I wasn't really sure what I was thinking, I just knew how I felt.  We talked about it a little bit but he felt like maybe it was just me having a bad day and we didn't need to really entertain the idea.  I started thinking about adoption and the fact that we would be able to move forward if we went home and I felt such excitement at the idea.  I thought to myself "maybe this is that sense of urgency that you hear adoptive parents talk about".  It felt good, but I felt like I should not push the idea with Ben (this is new for me, I ALWAYS push my ideas on Ben).  So, I didn't.  I waited a few days and then one morning he said to me "I feel like this is our chance to move forward with adoption.  I can't get it out of my head."  I knew we felt the same thing.  We started talking about how we felt that if we went home it could happen pretty fast.  We also both had the idea/thought that it would be a boy.  I remember telling my sister in law, Tiffany, that we were thinking about coming home.  I wrote to her on skype, "I feel like if we come home now we will have a baby by the end of the year".  Her response was, "that would be all the confirmation I would need."  I still was worried about moving forward with such a big decision and about the disappointment of not having things happen like we were hoping. We fasted, prayed, and went to the Temple with this in our minds.  I think we both knew we were leaving, but it wasn't until I was in the Temple that I felt a complete sense of confirmation that this was the right thing.  I let my boss know and at the end of May we came home.  It was hard to explain to people why we came home early since it  really was to move forward with adoption. We had already been on that path, why would we have left if we were just to come home and do the same thing?  We had the same questions, but we just felt like it was the right time and that we would have an answer to those questions in time.  For now, we just moved forward with what we felt.

When we got home we proceeded quickly.  We felt that we would adopt through a private agency so we didn't even look at LDS Family Services at first. We met with two private agencies in the first week we were home.  I decided to call LDSFS just to check and the timing of everything was amazing.  We were right on time for their once a month orientation to happen the next week and their once a quarter training weekend just two weeks later. It was like everything was just falling into place.  Of course, it couldn't go fast enough for me.  I just wanted to be done with our paperwork and our home study and get ourselves out there.  We worked with an amazing caseworker who helped us make our profile the best it possibly could be.  There were moments I almost hated her for not just letting us be done, but her expertise and advice were just what we needed.  Finally, on August 31st, our home study was approved and our profile was up online.  We were ready!  The whole adoption process is a scary one.  We had been here before.  We had been approved before.  We had talked to a birth mother before.  She had chosen another family. It is scary to put yourself out there like that and go through the disappointment and discouragement of not being chosen. We had our days when we felt that fear grip us and make us feel like the whole things was hopeless, but we moved forward.  I knew what I had felt, we both did.  I knew that this was our time.  I felt that sense of urgency that I had heard about so many times.  Ben and I discussed and decided we would stick with LDSFS until the first week of November and if nothing happened we would work with private agencies and their outreach programs.  Our drop dead date was November 4th.  Three days after our profile went online we had our first contact from a birth mother.  We emailed back and forth and even met her and her family.  It was exciting and scary all at once.  The situation was a little odd and we didn't feel extra comfortable about some things.  Then she stopped contacting us.  That familiar feeling of frustration and sadness came over us. We didn't tell most people we had even been talking to her.  After that I got inpatient.  I called a few private agencies and just felt frustrated with their lack of helpfulness as well as overwhelmed with the costs.  I had just finished three months of paperwork and processes.  I wasn't sure I could handle anymore, so I never moved forward.  I did go online and search for available adoption situations.  I emailed a few agencies about these and didn't hear back.  Then, at the beginning of October I saw a few situations with an agency in Nevada that looked like they could be good fits for us (and us for them) so I called this agency.  The person who helped me was so sweet and helpful.  She said she would love to present us to these couples and asked us to send over our profile.  They were so easy to work with and we felt excited again.  Then, the couple we really were excited about stopped contacting the agency and never saw our profile.  We were disappointed but knew this was just the world of adoption.  About two weeks after first contacting this agency I emailed them again, just to see if they had ever heard from the first couple.  She let me know they had not, so I asked if they had any other situations available.  She immediately wrote me back with a situation, pictures of a birth mother and asked us if we would want to be considered for this situation.  The girl in the pictures looked completely Filipino.  I kind of laughed and showed Ben and asked him what he thought.  She was due with a baby boy on December 30th.  I thought of that feeling that I had had that we would have a baby by the end of the year.  Wouldn't that be cutting it close?  Also, that it was a boy.  A few of the other situations we had been considered for were for girls and I would think to myself, "maybe the whole boy thing was just me imagining things, it probably wasn't any type of impression".  So, we wrote them back and told them we would love to be presented to this mother.   They let us know the caseworker would be picking up the profiles the next day.  Let's just say I was anxious!  Every time my phone would ring I would think it might be them letting us know what she had decided.  Every time I saw someone else's name on the caller id I would get upset.  haha.  I was definitely not patient.  So, when the caseworkers name came up on my phone that Friday, October 14th I was ecstatic .  I will tell you though, there was that complete doubt that came into my mind that made me think "she is just calling to tell us in person that she chose a different family."  I was preparing myself for bad news so when she said "she really liked your family", I was just waiting for her to say "BUT....", but that never came.  She proceeded to say how she was going to have the birth mom's caseworker contact us to set up a time for a conference call and maybe even a meeting.  I didn't even know what to say.  Tears came to my eyes out of pure excitement.  We still weren't out of the woods, but this was moving in the right direction. She wanted to talk to us, maybe to meet us!  Woohoo!  I had just returned to work from my lunch break when I got the call but I didn't care.  As soon as I hung up the phone I RAN out of the office to the car and drove straight to Cascade golf course (Ben's work) to share the good news.  He was extra busy and I just wanted to yell at him "She LIKED us!  She wants to meet us!".  But, I had to wait my turn.  I quickly shared the good news and Ben was extra excited, but had to get back to work.  I drove directly back to work.  Ten minutes later my phone rang again and it was the birth mothers caseworker.  She was so nice.  She asked me "have your feet touched the ground yet"?  I let her know we were extra excited and starting getting to know her a little.  We found out she is from very near to where I lived growing up in Eastern Canada.  We talked about S (the birth mom) and her situation and then I proceeded to ask "what happens next?  We have been here before  where a birth mom liked us but decided to move forward with another family.  Is she still looking at other profiles?.."  J, the caseworker, kind of stumbled over her words and said "Oh, my gosh, I thought you knew.  No, she is not looking at any other profiles.  She PICKED YOU!!!!", not even sure how to explain the emotions I felt in that moment.  I was in a conference room at work and all I wanted to do was DANCE or SCREAM or something!  I honestly can say I had doubted we would ever hear those words.  Someone was telling me I was going to be a mom!  It was the most amazing feeling!!!  We talked a little bit more and then I got off the phone and tried to call Ben.  No answer.  I response.  He didn't contact me back for hours.I walked around in a daze.  I wanted to tell someone, but it had to be Ben first.  I wanted to yell through the office "WE"VE BEEN PICKED"...but I couldn't.  I was getting texts from the case worker with pictures of S and her pregnant belly.  She was beautiful! It was all completely surreal.  It continues to be completely surreal.  I could not concentrate one bit the rest of the day at work.  I was finally able to tell Ben on our way to dinner that night.  I bought him an early birthday present, THOR on Blu-Ray and gave him a card.  In it said "She didn't just like us, She PICKED us.  You're going to be a daddy".   The tears in his eyes said it all.  This was the moment we had been waiting for.  We are going to be parents!!!!

Throughout this whole experience we have felt the hand of the Lord.  As the last two weeks have gone by, we have had more miracles and small moments of reminders that the Lord is very aware of each of us.  We have been getting to know the birth mom, S, her mother, C, as well as the caseworker, J.  All of them are amazing women that we are so amazed by.  We feel a connection with them.  We have been talking, exchanging phone calls and texts, pictures and so forth.  We are moving forward on our journey to being parents.  I was explaining to my mom that I feel very much like I did when Ben and I got engaged.  I was waiting for this HUGE thing to happen, like I was expecting my single self and my engaged self to be completely different.  I wasn't.  It's the same now.  I think I was expecting fireworks when we were picked and the situation was right.  Instead, it's like it was with Ben.  Everything feels the same, but better.  Things are falling into place.  Instead of fireworks, there is a peaceful contentment and feeling of complete trust that this is the right thing.  We have had a few moments of miracles, where each person involved felt that there was something else at play here letting us know this was the right thing, but mostly it has just felt good, calm and peaceful.  It has felt right.

We know that there are many of you who are feeling fear for us that things may not work out.  S always has the option to change her mind.  We understand those fears.  At moments, we feel them too.  But, we also feel like even through the fear we want to feel the excitement, the anticipation of being parents for the first time!  We deserve that.  We feel good, we feel like the Lord has been leading us to exactly where we are.  We know there is the possibility of loss, but isn't there always?  We are choosing to enjoy the experience, the happiness and the joy of this experience.  So far it has been better than we could have ever expected!

Isn't he beautiful?