What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by  Rev. Jacqueline Hope Derby.

As I write, my husband and I are beginning our third round of collecting everything needed to update our Home Study for our adoption. Doing the Home Study three years ago was a daunting task—especially as it signaled the end of our quest to overcome our infertility medically. How much money do we really have? How much do we owe? Doctor’s checklists, background checks, proof of identity, interviews, and more fingerprinting than this good girl ever thought she would experience in a lifetime—all to bring home a baby who is still not here. Which is why we are back at this again, and why it is so very hard that having a family has not come easily.

Becoming parents has been a winding uphill road for us.

Our journey to become parents has been riddled with all sorts of craziness. Some of it has been hilarious—like the time I watched the fertility urologist groping my husband’s manly bits. Some of it has been physically painful and pain freeing—like when I had a hysterectomy. That was also very funny because this good girl on drugs thinks “Baby Got Back” is her song at three in the morning in her hospital gown! It has also been joyous—like when we matched this last January with a baby boy due at the end of April. The day I walked around the hospital where I worked as the Chaplain for Labor and Delivery and told my staff that I was going to be a mother was one of the most beautiful and happy days of my life. This journey has also been all sorts of heart-stopping, screaming and crying in pain gut wrenching—like when the day after that little boy was born his Mama decided to parent.

When you wait a long hard time to become parents it makes you question life.

Some people adopt strictly because they feel called to it. I understand that, because I feel called to adopt. To my husband and I, adoption feels like God’s choice and call for how we will complete our family. Giving birth for us is not possible, so sometimes it feels like there are not very many babies and adoption has become this trendy thing to do. It can be hard to hold in one hand the knowledge that I can never give birth to a child, and then to hold in my other hand those who adopt who can have biological children. I know they feel called too, but sometimes that scary voice of scarcity and lack lies to me and tells me that there will not be a baby for us because all the younger Fertile Myrtles are adopting them up! I never want to begrudge someone their family, but I also want one of my own. Adoption and infertility bring to light lots of places where I have to hold in tension things that feel opposite to me and trust that which I cannot understand.

Waiting to become parents stretches you body, mind, and soul.

I love my friends dearly, but there are ways almost all of them just don’t get it. As a minister, I fully believe we all have the capacity to create healing bridges between one another by remembering our own painful places. I may not know what it is like to lose my mother to cancer, but my own losses can help me show someone who has lost hers radical empathy, compassion, and curiosity for what it is like for her. What this journey to adopt has shown me is that all too often—even lovely and kind people—forget to remember their own places of pain and reach towards the one who is hurting. I get a lot of “solutions” from some of my friends (Have you thought of…why don’t you…), but less unwavering “You will be a mom! I believe!”

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Of course, they may be saying this sometimes, and my pain over our two failed adoption matches keeps me from hearing them. The problem is that all those “solutions” feel threatening. We have put our life savings, our souls, our hopes, our dreams in a basket called “domestic infant adoption.” We did that after a year of deep prayer, soul searching, and Spiritual Direction. We did not come to this lightly, and the fact that it has not yet worked out does not mean it will not. We are counting on it working out, actually. So all the advice—which we know is meant in love and because our friends and family hate seeing us in abject pain—distances us further than we already are. And why are we distanced? Because they just don’t get it. They don’t get having an empty nursery month after month or having a little stuffed bunny for three years that waits for tiny arms to hold it. So if you don’t get it, please ask us what it is like for us. And then listen. Just listen, and hold that our truth is our own.

The longer it takes the more it stretches you body, mind, soul and wallet.

This journey with infertility and adoption has been expensive. Specialists were not covered by insurance because infertility rarely is. That time with the urologist groping my husband? Over two hundred dollars right out of our pockets, or as I thought of it at the time: There goes the food budget! We lost an additional $20k from the first failed adoption match ($12k to birth mother expenses, $5k in two trips to FL, and $3k in lost maternity leave coverage). TWENTY FREAKING THOUSAND DOLLARS! Did I mention that I am a minister and my husband is a writer? We borrowed against our future retirement to make adoption happen. Losing that much money was rough. Like call my mom and ask for money on our knees rough. But you know why she is the only person we would ever ask, and quite frankly one of only two people who have ever helped us with our adoption? Because she gets it. She gets how hard on us financially this has been, and that every time this costs us even more money we lose hope that we will become parents because it gets further away from us. (And mad props to our other friends who helped. Why did they? He is adopted, so they get it too.)

Wanting to have a family for a really long and difficult time will break you down sometimes.

I have hard days. I have days full of joy and hope. I have days where the nursery door is open, and I whisper into it a sweet prayer for our baby. I have days where I cannot bear to open it even a crack. On those hard days, I do not call anyone but my mother. I probably won’t answer my phone. I try and protect everyone—even my sister and best friend—from my fear that we will never become parents. I also try and protect myself from solutions or having my feelings of fear brushed aside. Being scared does not mean that I think God does not love me. It just means that I am scared that we won’t become parents. And until we do, being scared of that comes with the territory.

Waiting can break down your sense of where you belong in your community. 

We were expectant parents, but we did not bring home a baby. We have deep faith, yet we have been asking lots of hard and good questions about how life works and how God does or does not intervene. I have often been the one to help others through difficult times, but my own ability to listen recently has been really off. I have needed to be heard. The flow has needed to come our way, but it has left us feeling like we don’t belong anywhere. And my poor Beloved has been left out almost always of any comfort. Yes, he is a guy. Yes, guys don’t always know how to be there for one another. Yes, he is an introvert. Yes, he is hurting and hurting deeply. All of this has left us uncertain where to stand. When it takes a long time to complete your family, you feel lonely and isolated. We cherish being invited for dinner. My Beloved cherishes being invited for a beer—even if this whole adoption thing never comes up, beer is good. 

In order to have hope, we continue to believe it is worth it.

We have been on a long journey, and I know others have had it even more arduous than we have. What I want you to know about not having a family come easy is that it has taught us a lot about ourselves and what we are made of. We have found strength and creativity—and humor—in the most unlikely of places. We have found perseverance. We are totally clear about what we want, and we are willing to make sacrifices as a family to be a family. For us, adoption is worth our all. Even when we are broken down. Even when we are sacred out of our minds. Even if we have to work until ninety-five before retiring. Even if we never buy a house. Even if we cry…again, and over again. Even if we don’t want to make any plans because the only plan worth making right now is for our baby. Even if we don’t do your solutions. Even if we fall down. Even if we have to have funerals for our dreams. Even if we seem a little down and not as fun as we normally are. Even if we need you to come to us and can’t find our way to you. All of these little heartbreaks are worth it because we know our family will not be complete until we have a child we can raise to be silly, teach to be kind, and show God’s amazing loving hand to over and over again.