Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Discerning Transracial Adoption

First comes infertility.

Then comes discerning whether or not to adopt.

Then comes:

To transracially adopt or not to transracially adopt?


When John and I first set out on our adoption journey, we were pretty unsure about transracial adoption.

By the way, when I say "transracial adoption," I'm talking about specifically about White parents adopting Black children. While transracial is defined as "across or crossing racial boundaries," and this can cover tons of different combinations, the transracial adoption we've discerned only relates to us adopting a Black child.

Also, I mean no offense using the terms Black and White. I prefer to use Black over African American since a child of color may not have any connection to Africa. Also, I make it a point to capitalize both Black and White because it makes it more formal and respectful when you do it that way. Hope you don't mind!

Alright. Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the heart of it...

At first, John was actually a fair bit more open to transracial adoption than I was. We had discussed it a little bit, but I was just so scared of doing something so different that I basically ignored it as an option.

During one of our home study visits, I remember saying to our social worker, "Adopting a child of a different race just seems too... foreign to me." I think that was my polite way of saying "I'm uncomfortable." The honest truth was that I just hadn't given it much thought yet. Which I think happens to a lot of adopting couples. It's not that they couldn't adopt a child of another race. They just hadn't really given it much thought since it's not how "normal" families look.

And that's where I was about 5 months ago. Until one special day, when I received one ever-so-slight call from above. All it took was a moment downtown, realizing that all people, no matter their color or race, need love and care and Mommies and Daddies. Seeing the diverse crowd around me changed my heart. My eyes were opened.

That's really when our discernment process began.


Now that we're on the other side of our discernment and I can firmly say, "We're called to transracially adopt," I feel comfortable writing about this. But while we were still in the middle of processing, it was hard sharing these many feelings. No one wants to seem close-minded, or disrespectful, or even *gulp* racist. So I get it if you're feeling that way too. Lucky for you, there's hope yet! Be assured that as long as you go about this the right way, you are likely none of those things.

I hope you don't mind me sharing a few things we've found helpful while discerning transracial adoption. While we are not experts by any means, and will spend the rest of our lives becoming experts on this stuff, I have a few things to share that we have enjoyed discovering in our discernment process. If you have any points where we differ or have other observations, please feel free to chime in in the comments.

Think: what would Jesus do?
John and I recently went to a great talk about discernment. During this talk, the priest recommended this as the first step in any discernment process. Actually, he said it's more like: "Think: what did Jesus do?" Or basically, go grab a Bible and start reading! We've got many stories from Jesus' life to reference as prime examples of how to live a good life, so let's turn to them when we're trying to figure out what to do.

Ok, so here's where that gets complicated. Jesus never had children and he definitely didn't adopt. BUT, what I do know is that he loved children. This verse points directly to that:
"And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he became indignant and said to them, 'Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.' Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them." Mark 10:13-16
He loved them so much that he said the Kingdom of God belongs to them and then embraced and blessed them. That's some serious love he's showing those kiddos. And when I think, "Would race have changed the way he interacted with/loved those kids?" the answer is a loud and firm: "NO WAY!"

While it's not exactly the same as adopting, it's the best we've got from Jesus' life. We'll take that into consideration as we ponder the next points.

Talk to the experts.
Ask your agency to connect you with couples that have already adopted transracially. These folks have been great resources for us in our discernment. We've asked them several question including: If you could start all over again, would you still choose transracial adoption? What have been some of your biggest challenges? What hurtful comments have you heard from strangers? And so on. Every transracial adoptive family we've spoken to has been nothing but kind, and honestly, all of them are still very happy with their decision to transracially adopt. You won't trust me 'til you hear it for yourself, though. So call your agency today and ask them to help you make a connection.

Read the experts.
Some experts aren't available to meet up for chats at the nearby coffee house, but they have still some great books you can read. While I haven't finished an entire book about transracial adoption yet, two of the ones I'm reading through (and highly enjoying) are:

Come Rain or Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children by Rachel Garlinghouse
Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? A Parent's Guide to Raising Multicultural Children by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

The first book is specifically about White parents adopting Black children and all that that entails (from how to care for Black hair to how to incorporate elements of Black culture into your family). The second is written by a White mother who married a Japenese man and therefore has multicultural children. She interviews several multicultural families in the book, including adoptive families, so many of the points made, while not always directly related to adoption, are very helpful.

I also recommend the following blogs, written by mothers of transracial adoptive families:

Grace in My Heart
Isaiah 55:8-9
Small Things with Great Love
White Sugar, Brown Sugar (by the author of Come Rain or Shine)

Think about your family and friends.
This one hit hard when we first reflected on it, so don't be surprised if the same happens to you. I think it's normal.

Think about your family. If you had to summarize your whole family (including parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents), would you consider it White, Black, or mixed?

Now do the same for your friends. Are your friends mostly White, Black, or mixed?

These are the people your child will be spending the most time with, so it's important to consider what races will be represented when they're around their loved ones.

If you're like us, your family is all White and your friends are almost all White too. That worried us a bit at first, but what's most important to consider here is how accepting your family and friends (no matter their race) would be. While it's important that your child is not surrounded only by White people all the time, it's most important that they're surrounded by loving, accepting people.

So consider if there are members in your family who would (sadly) be racist or not accepting of your child. You would need to be willing to cut ties with this family member. I've heard from a few people that the family members or friends they're most worried about end up falling in love with their little one once they join the family, 'cause... who doesn't love a baby? But still, it's something to consider.

Think about your community.
The same applies to the community you live in. What is your neighborhood like? How about the schools you'd send your kids to? Your church? You want to make sure you'd be open to sending your children to schools that are diverse, attending Mass at a parish that is well mixed, even moving to a different neighborhood so that more races are represented. Your child needs to feel like they are a real part of their communities, and they're going to do that best in churches, schools, and neighborhoods where there are folks who share their race.

Think about how you'll handle negative (or positive) attention in public.
This was a big one for us. I'm an introvert. I don't really like interacting with strangers much and I certainly don't like being the center of attention. But realistically, adopting transracially will make you stand out. You will always be on display. You will not be able to hide the fact that your family was formed in a non-traditional way. (Unless, of course, most strangers assume you're the babysitter, which does happen to transracial adoptive families... but that's a story for another time.)

While I am not entirely comfortable with this prospect of extra attention on our family, I'm willing to do it for our child. That is something you must consider for yourself though. What would you say if someone said something offensive about your family? How would you feel always getting attention going out in public, even if that attention is mostly positive? What sorts of responses should you have ready for the personal questions folks are going to start asking? All worth pondering!

Answer this: Would you be open to a second transracial adoption?
I read this advice in Rachel Garlinghouse's book, Come Rain or Shine. If your first adopted child is Black, would you be open to adopting a second Black child? I assume, though I haven't exactly done great research here, that having two (or several) children of the same race in a family would be very helpful for both (or all) children. They would feel less alone in the challenges they'll encounter (e.g. growing up having parents of a different race) and be able to face their non-traditional worlds together. In my opinion, this would be one of the best things you could do for your transracially adopted child. So, ask yourself: If you are open to adopting transracially once, would you be open to it again after that? The answer here should be yes. While it may not be entirely in your control, you should still be open to it.

Really think about why you want to transracially adopt.
We were really blessed to find an adoption agency that does not charge different prices depending on the race of the child. This is becoming all too common with other adoption agencies and it makes me sad. Because Black and biracial children are less adoptable, agencies will lower their charges to make their adoptions more attractive. But folks, this is the wrong reason to adopt transracially! It's also wrong to consider adopting a Black child because the wait is shorter. I understand why both of these reasons are so tempting; a shorter wait and lower price tag sound great! But imagine what the child would think if they found out you adopted them because of those reasons. Instead, make sure your desire comes from a good place: wanting the best for that child. If you're sure that's it, then the lower costs and shorter wait will just become lovely little (but not necessary) bonuses.

Know that love is actually not enough.
So, many folks have said to me, "If you love that child like they're your own, it'll all turn out just fine." Have you heard this before? It makes me roll my eyes.

First of all, they will be "my own," so we can just crush that right now, thanks. And second, the old "all you need is love" adage is really, honestly, truly just not enough when it comes to transracial adoption. Sure, love is HUGELY important here, but you HAVE to be committed to do more than that.

For the rest of your life, you must be dedicated to learning about transracial adoption. You must be willing to research all the best tips and advice for raising a well-adjusted transracially adopted child. You must be committed to spending every step of the way continuing to read the experts, finding support in the right people, including Black role models in your child's life, and finding the best communities for your child to flourish in. You could definitely chalk all that up to love, but I'm not sure it's what we traditionally refer to as "love." So be aware that your journey will be different and traditional love will not "just be enough."

Bring it to prayer.
This one goes without saying, right? Pray before you even start discerning, pray through the entire discernment process, and then pray once you think you've come to the right decision. Pray, pray, pray! With any hope, you will have a peace in your heart once you've truly made the right decision. If God is with you through the whole process, He won't steer you wrong.

To conclude, I must stress again that we are not experts, not by any means! In fact, we know we'll spend the rest of our lives trying to become experts on transracial adoption. This is all just the tip of the iceberg. I suppose that's all that discerning is -- smartly deciding whether or not it's alright to dive in. But once you dive in, it's a whole new world ahead of you, bringing with it lots of unknowns and curveballs along the way. I'm hoping that's part of the fun, though!

Also, please keep in mind that I have certainly not covered everything you need to discern here in this post. These are just the big points that came to my mind now, but I'm sure there was more to it for us and there'll be more to it for you too. If you have already discerned this and would like to add some important points to consider, I'm sure we'd all be happy to hear your input in the comments!

Transracial adoption seems like one beautiful, scary, loving, joyful, challenging, awesome, life-giving adventure. If you're starting to think the same, maybe it's meant for you too!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Little Happies -- Even When Things Get Tough

Last week was hard. Really hard. If you missed my last post, basically... we didn't get chosen by the birthmom due mid-May. I'm still feeling really pretty down about the whole situation, so I'm actually really glad past-Stephanie came up with this Little Happies link-up idea. 'Cause otherwise, I would NOT be looking for any blessings in my life right now, no way, no how. I'd just be one big sob story 24/7.

So they're not my best, but here are the little things still bringing my joy amidst this tough time...


The night we found out we didn't match with the birthmom and baby, John's coworker was so kind and let him leave early. This was a HUGE blessing. Normally, he wouldn't have gotten home until 8pm or 9pm. Instead, he was home before 7pm. I NEEDED this. I needed to not be suffering at home alone. I ended up distracting myself by talking to a few friends, eating some of my favorite snacks, and watching Parenthood on Hulu. I know, Parenthood sounds like a bad choice, but it's actually one of my go-to favorites these days.

When John pulled up to the apartment, he had me hop in the car and he took me to the nearest hibachi grill. It was so nice to just get out of the apartment and enjoy a very tasty meal together. Just what my hurting heart needed. 


Writing the post about not being picked by the birthmom was actually very good for me. While the post itself is not a Little Happy at all, I felt better almost instantly after posting it, and that is a huge positive. That's never happened before with this here blog, so I'm happy to know that's an option when things get really tough. While it's one of the saddest pieces I've ever written, it was very healing. Thank you for all the support and love you showered me with. I appreciate every one of you more than you know. Hugs!


Pic stolen from Joy the Baker

THESE! Cadbury Mini Eggs. Oh My WOW!! I eat about 5 each night before I got to bed and I do not regret it one bit. Hands down, my favorite Easter candy. Possibly my favorite candy of all time. And definitely even better seeing as I bought them the day after Easter and they were 50% off. Though, I'd pay full price for these puppies any day. Just sayin'. 


THIS recipe. Another Oh My WOW! Gluten free mac and cheese (plus peas and left over Easter ham). Here's the original recipe, but you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be sharing my own Stephanie's Recipes version of it soon. Doesn't make me miss gluten AT ALL. 

And yes, this was my lunch every day this week. Not sorry at all. Comfort food for the win!!


I was on a teen retreat all weekend, Friar Fest. So much adoration, lots of great faith-talk, lots of love for Catholicism, an awesome healing service where we actually got to touch Jesus, and all run by the sweetest Friars and Nuns. While I didn't get as much out of it this year (seeing as I'm in a weird emotional place right now), it was still a good place for me to be and mostly a good distraction. Spending time with Jesus in adoration is always time well spent.


At the end of each long day, I know I can trust Ariel to cheer me up. I had completely forgotten about this pillowcase, which I'm pretty sure I've had since I was really little, until recently. We were cleaning out our spare closet to make room for all our baby items, and I found her!! So I immediately replaced one of the pillowcases on our bed with this one. She's been there ever since. John finds it a little weird, but he knows it brings me joy, so she stays. Love her. 

That's all I've got for now! Hopefully by next week, I'll have some more cheerful Happies to post about. Until then, your cheer will have to hold me over. Don't mean to put the pressure on! I'm just REALLY looking forward to reading about what's making you happy this week! Cheer me up, will ya? :)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Birthmom Chose...

... another family.

And we're pretty bummed.

Our agency was very kind through the "rejection" process. They even told us a few details about the adoptive family the birthmom ended up choosing, to let us know that it really wasn't anything wrong with us that made her choose otherwise.

The baby's future family already has children. He'll have siblings. They live on a farm. They homeschool.

This is obviously not us. And at first, that was very comforting. Our childless home in the city just wasn't a fit for birthmom and baby.

But the more I thought about it, the more bummed I got. What an unfair disadvantage we have! And out of our control! We would be just like that family with several kids, homeschooling and living on a farm, if we could just get pregnant or just adopt already. We've tried nearly everything in our power to make pregnancy happen, and now we're working really hard to make adoption happen. So overall, it just left me feeling more like a failure than ever.

We are not yet the family we want to be. And the family who is everything we want to be just got chosen to parent the baby we've always wanted.


Ok, so I'm being a bit dramatic. Maybe we don't quite want to live on a farm. But I do want several babes. And I've definitely given some thought to homeschooling. AND I wouldn't mind owning a few chickens.

Double sigh.

This whole experience just leaves me with a bunch of WHYs.

WHY did we even show our profile? 

We told the agency we weren't going to really be ready until mid-June. So...

WHY did this "perfect" situation have to pop up?

We should have avoided hearing about this baby all-together. We should have just put our foot down and said: "No profile showing 'til mid-June!!"

WHY didn't God protect us from more heartache?

He already knows how much we've hurt in the past from all our failed cycles of TTC. Couldn't He have saved us from more heartache and just left this situation off our radar?

WHY do we never get a turn?

Are we going to be childless forever? Will we never get pregnant? Will we never be chosen? Will we never have our day of celebration and complete joy?

WHY did I let myself get so excited?

The agency was almost certain we'd be chosen. I could tell by what they said to us on the phone and through emails. My mother just knew this would be our little one. All of our friends and family were praying for us or thinking of us. We bought all the essentials. We just had a feeling we were finally going to have our day. And then...

WHY did she have to choose a family that already has children?

Ugh. Dagger to my already wounded heart.

WHY can't this just be easy?

I thought I had more control in adoption. I thought it would be less painful than TTC. Turns out I was wrong. This has just added to our sadness, anger, despair, doubt, hopelessness.

WHY must I find always find blessings in the most painful situations?

I just want to be a mom. Is that too much to ask?

Here are some more positive thoughts I'm having now, a few things I'm continuously telling myself so that I can feel better...

--That family the birthmom chose has definitely been waiting longer than us. Perhaps a very long time. It was just their turn. They are celebrating today. At least they have joy.

--Perhaps this little guy would have had challenges we couldn't have met. Or perhaps the adoption is going to get really complicated. I did ask God to place him with another family if it was going to be a hard ride. I'm clinging to the hope that us not getting this child was His was of protecting us. But I suppose we'll never know that.

--Other birthmoms will like that we don't already have children. Their little guy or girl will get lots of attention from us. And they'll like our home near the city. It'll mean that we are close to lots of museums and big parks and other fun family activities.

--Our friends and family have only been loving and supportive through this whole ride. I have leaned on many, especially John, since we found out yesterday. It's nice to know how many people truly care for us.

--I've learned how to better offer up my anxiety, stress, fear, sadness. Lots of you got prayers yesterday. Lots of you will continue to get prayers. I wish I could say they were selfless prayers, but they're not. They make me feel better. Thank you for letting me pray for you.

--This has all helped John to be more ready. We have not always been on the same page about adoption. I've always been the dreamer while he's been the one to bring me back to reality. He was very hesitant to show our profile. Attending the Empowered to Connect conference helped. Talking about where we see ourselves in 10 years helped too. And last night, after hearing that we were not chosen, he realized just how excited he had gotten, how ready he had felt. He was just as bummed as me. This "rejection" has helped him realize that he does really want adoption. And that's probably the best thing that's come out of all this.

So where do we go from here?

Well, we're back in the waiting pool. But instead of our agency having 3 other waiting families, now there are 2.

We now have time to take a newborn parenting class scheduled at our local hospital for the end of May. I was wondering how we'd get a chance to learn all those skills if we had matched with this baby due mid-May. So now I don't have to stress about that.

I think I'm going to take a trip home to see my family. We don't have to worry about staying put in Memphis anymore, so we might as well travel and see some loved ones before we do get matched.

I'm going to try to ignore the fact that we have a closet full of baby essentials and a crib set up in our spare room. It'll all get used soon, right?

And I'm going to keep trusting in God, as hard as that is for my human mind and heart to do. I'm going to trust that this little one really wasn't meant for us and that our day in the sun is coming soon. We will get to rejoice. We just have to keep remaining patient.


Mary Undoer of Knots, pray for us.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen! FTW!

I LOVE me some Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen!! Seriously! Fulton is one of our top baby boy names, no joke. What a great man and a great person to be named for, don't you think? If you don't know who I'm talking about, google him, watch some of his old videos on youtube, and be ready to be impressed. I'm sure this great man will be a saint soon.

I stumbled upon this inspiring quote by him on Facebook yesterday. It ties together Easter and Infertility Awareness Week (or just infertility in general) SO WELL! I just had to share it! Thanks, Archbishop. You rock!

Or if the font on the graphic is too small, here's an easier-to-read but slightly-more-boring version:
If a man is ever to enjoy communion with Christ, so as to have the blood of God running through his veins and the spirit of God throbbing in his soul, he must die to the lower life of the flesh. He must be born again. And hence the law of Calvary is the law of every Christian: Unless there is a cross there will never be the resurrection, unless there is the defeat of Calvary there will never be the victory of Easter, unless there are the nails there will never be the glorious wounds, unless there is the garment of scorn there will never be the robes blazing like the sun, unless there is the crown of thorns there will never be the halo of light. For the law laid down at the beginning of time, which shall be effective until time shall be no more, is that no one shall be crowned unless he has struggled and overcome. 

My dear friends, let us keep on struggling on, for the "crown" on the other side will be well worth it.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Infertility Resume

We are a special creature, us infertiles. I've been thinking about typing up my resume of skills acquired through all our infertility trials for a while now. What better time to post such a list than during National Infertility Awareness Week! Laugh with me here...

Spouse: John
Religion: Catholic
City: Memphis, TN

To make a baby with my husband.
To survive life as an infertile in the mean time.

July 2011 - present (and forever)

Being Infertile
November 2012 - present

Patient of a NaPro Doctor
May 2013 - present

Home Study Approval for Adoption
August 2013 - January 2014

  • Knows how to time intercourse perfectly for conception. Is also willing to stand on head to move those swimmers along.
  • Can balance taking several medications at different times over the course of a cycle and never miss a dose!
  • Knows how to reconstitute a medication, fill a vial with it, then stick belly with the needle and inject. All with eyes open and minimal squirming/screaming.
  • Functions at work without skipping a beat while new medications are making me bonkers.
  • Maintains a smile while listening to ridiculous advice from people who know nearly nothing about what it means to be infertile.
  • Has an extensive list of pick-me-ups, such as silly TV shows or delicious recipes or a favorite wine, to ease the pain of another cycle day 1 arrival.
  • Lets it roll off my back when someone says I'm a CRAZY CATHOLIC for not considering artificial reproductive technology.
  • Has a glowing review of NaPro prepared and ready for sharing whenever necessary, especially when IVF comes up.
  • Is willing to travel hundreds of miles to see a NaPro doc, a doctor who'll actually treat my broken body, not just try to place a baby in there and hope it grows. 
  • Rocks some legit laparoscopy or laparotomy surgery scars. Is sometimes even brave enough to show them off in a bikini. We are warriors! See our scars! 
  • Turns even the worst of situations into a cheerful lesson, so as not to let on that deep sadness is stewing inside.
  • Can avoid taking a pregnancy test for as long as humanly possible. After all, we all know taking a pregnancy test just encourages your period to arrive an hour later.
  • Super in tune with every sign the body can produce.
  • Can change diet at the drop of a hat. If it means babies, it's worth trying!
  • Can find gluten free options at any restaurant, no sweat. (Wait, what do you mean sushi isn't gluten free???)
  • Will consider adoption even if adoption was never on the radar before marriage.
  • Knows how to politely correct someone when they say, "Oh, after you adopt you'll probably get pregnant right away!"
  • Knows how to politely avoid people who say, "Just relax and you'll get pregnant!"
  • Has a 6th sense for picking out the infertile couples in the room. Will engage in loving/compassionate conversation with any other infertilies encountered. May overshare at times. Worth it.
  • Still learning how to support others in carrying this same cross.
  • Offers up prayers regularly for infertile (or subfertle) friends never met in real life, but friends who are closer to my heart than many in real life.
  • Makes friends with every infertile, especially the Catholic ones.
  • Makes friends with every adoptive couple.
  • Allows myself to hope, even when things seem impossible.
  • Has learned how to draw closer to God even through this difficult trial.
  • Has learned how to really live out that "in sickness and in health" vow said at the wedding.
  • Can write a blog about all these experiences.

Whew! We sure do juggle a lot! I bet you all can come up with even more infertility related skills you've perfected over the past few years. What would you put on your infertility resume?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Infertility Awareness Week 2014: A Catholic Perspective

If you're here from a post about Infertility Awareness Week: Welcome!

The following is a FANTASTIC essay written by several women in the "Secret" Catholic Infertility Facebook group. I take no credit, just fully support everything they've written. If you are struggling through infertility now, I hope you find comfort in these words. If you know someone struggling, please feel forward to share this post or send them to Rebecca's wonderful blog; she spearheaded this whole thing. If you are not connected to infertility in any way, please read on and learn how to better support folks carrying this heavy cross.


One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of "unprotected" intercourse, or 6 cycles using "fertility-focused" intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has "primary infertility" and a couple who has conceived in the past but is unable to again has "secondary infertility." Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

This week, April 20 - 26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.

If you are experiencing infertility, please know that you are not along. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey.

The Experience of Infertility

In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of, "what if we get pregnant right away?" There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you'd announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for must couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in sex couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered "infertile" by doctors who understand charting of a woman's pattern of fertility. At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark, the couple "earns" the label from the mainstream medical community as "infertile."

As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors' appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teaching of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with opinions that are not options for us and are told things like, "you'll never have children," and, "you have unexplained infertility"; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, "How are you and your husband doing with all this?"

We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our childlessness (primary infertility) or small family (secondary infertility) makes us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teaching of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that make us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet "no" or "not yet" or "maybe never" from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.

Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose not to say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don't want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.

One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husbands and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a find line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins -- with cramps and bleeding and tears -- we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be "best" for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.

Our faith is tested. We ask God "why?", we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of "Happy Mother's Day" that surrounds us at Mass on the second Sunday in May will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.


  • Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.
  • Do not make assumptions about anything -- not the size of our family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.
  • Do not offer advice such as, "just relax," "you should just adopt," "try this medical option or that medical option" -- or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.
  • Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a call and should be discerned by every married couple. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.
  • Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the "real" answer. Often times we answer, "OK" because that's the easy, "safe" answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.
  • Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint's intercession. Most likely we've prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercessions on our behalf.
  • Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say, "No, thank you" to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.
  • Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be paitent and kind if we don't respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don't "like" all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.
  • Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.
  • Do not ask when we are going to "start a family." (We started one the day we got married.)
  • Do not ask which one of us in the "problem" -- we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.
  • Do not say things like, "I know you'll be parents some day," or, "It will happen, I know it will!" Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to, "just adopt and then you'll get pregnant" (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds; please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.
  • Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our  faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here or on earth or in Heaven, we will see and understand God's plan.


Bloggers who contributed to this article:
(Those with an * have children after primary infertility or experiencing secondary infertility. They are marked as such so that if you aren't up for possibly seeing baby/child pictures today, you can meet them on a day when you are, but please do take the time to go and visit them.)

There is also a "Secret" Facebook group with over 150 members who contributed to this article as well. For more information or to join the group, email Rebecca at

Monday, April 21, 2014

Little Happies -- One Joyful Easter

I hope you all had a wonderfully joyful Easter Sunday! Alleluia, Christ is risen!

John and I had special visitors with us throughout the Easter Triduum: his parents AKA my awesome in-laws! We had a lovely time relaxing with each other, exploring downtown Memphis, attending various Masses/services, and even doing a little baby shopping! It was just SO great that I have SO many Happies to share with all of you!


Playing a new favorite game with two of my favorite fellas -- husband and father-in-law. Don't you just love their goofy faces? Also, you know I stood on a chair to get this picture for you. You're welcome.

Btw, this game is called Bohnanza, and it's a GREAT party game! There's not too much to it -- you basically just plant, grow, and sell bean fields for coins. But then there's also a lot of wheeling and dealing and luck of the draw. And the illustrations on the cards are a hoot! Stop by sometime and we'll play it with ya!


When we told John's mom & dad that we could possibly be adopting in mid-May, they were SO excited and then insisted on taking us to Target to stock up on the essentials! Car seat, diapers, wipes, binkies, diaper pail, crib sheets, formula, travel changing pad, an outfit for baby to come home from the hospital in -- they were just SO generous! And my mom & dad bought us a beautiful crib!! I can't believe we own so much baby stuff! If you'd told me just a month ago that I'd be buying baby gear, I would have told you you were ruh-diculously crazy. And I would have been totally wrong. Mea culpa.

I think we're ready for baby now! And all thanks to excited future-grandparents. :) 

So now we just wait and see! The birthmom I mentioned in my last Little Happies post will probably be shown 3 profiles (including ours) on Wednesday. Ahh! Praying for patience, patience, and more patience! 


The Rock n Soul Museum in downton Memphis is super cool! We took Mom & Dad Saturday afternoon and they loved it! I obviously had to force John to pose in front of this ridiculous costume, once worn by Elvis himself. We bee-bopped our way through the whole museum, learning about the history of rock and soul music in Memphis while listening to some great classic tunes. We highly recommend it if you ever visit Memphis!


After the Rock n Soul Museum, Mom wanted to grab a drink on the rooftop of The Peabody Hotel, a hotel famous for the ducks they let swim around in their lobby fountains. We were 13 floors up! And the weather was perfect! Check out the view! 


The Easter Vigil is always beautiful. I especially love when the church is lit only by candlelight. I wasn't able to get a great picture, but I can still feel the inner-happies I experienced surrounded by the warmth of the glowing candles. 


This little creature was randomly formed by the dripping wax from my Vigil candle. What do you see?

I see a t-rex!! See the little arms and the long tail? Wait, did t-rexes have long tails? Oh well! I think it's super accurate and cute!


John, Stephanie, Mom-in-law, and Dad-in-law after the Easter Vigil. So lovely!


I made my Sriracha deviled eggs for the Easter party we attended yesterday. They were a huge hit, gobbled up very quickly! I may have gobbled 4 myself. Mmmm! 


Our friends have a hilarious birthday gift tradition. Since they're all at the point in their lives where they really don't want/need gifts, they instead just give (or re-gift) gag gifts to each other. Above you see Mr. D showing off this silly Italian chef with fish statue, re-gifted from some friends that are moving and don't want to bring it to their new home. We all had a good chuckle out of it.

There are some gifts in this circle of friends that have been re-gifted at least ten times. They're all so familiar with these re-gifted gag gifts that the birthday boy or girl will try to guess which gag gift is in the bag before they open it. Ha! I think this tradition is great because it takes the focus completely off gifts (AKA material possessions) and puts it on the truly important stuff: quality time and good laughs with family and friends.


Speaking of traditions, here you see us showing off our Easter baskets! Growing up, my parents would hide Easter baskets for each of us and we'd have a basket hunt around the house early on Easter morning. We didn't hide our baskets this year, but we still get a little something for each other to celebrate this great Holiday. This year was blu-ray themed (since Target had a sale)! Nothing says Easter like Despicable Me 2 and The Little Mermaid, right? :P

Happy Monday, friends! Can't wait to see your Happies!! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Little Happies -- 1,000th Day of Marriage!

Happy Monday, everyone!

This post was inspired by Amanda's Little Happies post last week, where she wrote about celebrating her 500th day of marriage. Soon after reading her post, I was curious. So I found a website that calculates this stuff for you, and wouldn't you know, John and I had been married 998 days! So I waited two days to say anything and surprised John with a message on our bathroom mirror, just like Amanda's husband did to surprise her! And the fun didn't stop there. The rest of the day had a few more awesome surprises, all that I chock up to God taking good care of us on our special 1,000th day. Here's what happened...


The mirror message! John wakes up waayyyyy before me when he's working and goes straight for the shower, so I knew a mirror message would be the perfect way to announce our special day! He loved it! I purposefully snapped this pic when the mirror was foggy so you could make out the goofy messages I wrote.


And then I got this email! Every time someone signs up for Stitch Fix through my referral link, I get $25 toward my next fix. I really wasn't expecting to get many referrals, as I don't have tons of friends signing up. (And that's fine by me, since I'm going to keep on fixin' even if I don't get referral money.) But apparently posting my link on my last blog post was a good idea, because 4 people in the past month have signed up with it!

Was it any of you? If so, THANK YOU!! Otherwise, it's just random folks who've found my blog through a google search. My second Stitch Fix post has over 350 views, which is more than double the views of my other popular posts, meaning I'm getting lots of random google search hits. So, thank you blog followers or internet strangers! Y'all just bought me a pretty dress or something fun from my next fix, which arrives May 1st, btw. You rock!


Thinking this day just can't get any better, I hop on the scale for the first time in MONTHS and BAM. Much lower weight than I was expecting. Thank you, gluten free diet!! A diet that helps my infertility problems AND keeps my weight down sounds like a good diet to me! Have any of you lost weight going gluten free?


Alright, so this one isn't from our 1,000th day of marriage, but it's a super cute little John story I've been meaning to share with you for a while. I got the above card this past St. Valentine's Day, and inside John wrote 11 facts about how I make him feel. The first two are my favorites (and a glimpse of just how silly/cheesy his humor is):
Fact #1: I love you more with each day that passes. It's like a balloon that we put some more air in every day.
Fact #2: That balloon is three times the size of Jupiter (minimum). 


And then he came home with the prettiest yellow flowers to celebrate our 1,000th day. What a thoughtful guy! Normally he can't get away with surprising me with stuff like this because I know exactly how long his commute home is. So if he takes 10 minutes too long, I start to worry and call him. But lucky for him, I was very distracted writing this blog post, so I didn't even notice how long he was taking. What a sweet surprise!


Alright, so this happened earlier in the day, but I saved the best 1,000th day goody for last!

I talked to our adoption agency in the afternoon to let them know just how much we LOVED the Empowered to Connect adoption/foster conference we attended. I let the director know we'd still like to wait until mid-June for our profile to be shown to birthmoms, just so we can really be ready for baby, unless there's a baby that the agency really thinks is perfect for us.

That's when the director started telling me about a baby who would be perfect for us.

John and I chatted a long while about what that baby, AKA the baby we would not need to wait until mid-June to show our profile for, would look like during our 4-hour car ride home from the conference last weekend. This birthmom/baby the director told me about met every one of our criteria. EVERY ONE! It was almost as if God was listening to our "perfect baby" conversation and answering a prayer!!

I won't go into too many details to protect the birthmom and her little one, but it's a boy! Due mid-May (ahhhh!)! From what the agency can tell, she's had a very healthy pregnancy and is very certain about her adoption plan. The birthfather situation is not complicated, considered low risk.

John and I had a long discussion on our 1,000th night of marriage to decide if we really should show our profile. We talked lots about the way we see our life playing out over the next 10 years and decided 1 month is nothing in the grand scheme of things. So we're going to show our profile!!!!!

I'm trying not to get too excited or attached, because birthmom may not pick us, but I can't help it! Though, if this baby isn't meant for us, I have found a silver lining in all this -- if birthmom doesn't pick us, it means we get to go on our awesome mission trip with my youth group teens this summer. So that'll hopefully keep my spirits lifted if this doesn't work out. But still, SO EXCITING!

I'm not sure how long it'll take for us to know if we've been picked, but I imagine we'll hear within the next two weeks. Until then, would you mind praying for some special intentions? For the birthmom to continue to have a healthy pregnancy, for her to make the best choice for herself and her baby, and for us to either be truly ready if we get the yes (!!) or not too sad if this baby is not meant for us.

Also, please pray for all those discerning adoption, all those working on their homestudy, and all those in the waiting-for-baby stage. I feel like there are a bunch of bloggers out there currently in the adoption process, so let's shower them with prayers too!

Thank you, friends! Have a blessed Holy Week!

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Life was Changed by This Conference, Part 2

Empowered to Connect -- A Conference Review

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed reading through some of our newly acquired knowledge yesterday. Are you starting to see why we thought this conference was so awesome?! Ok, maybe not yet, but I'm almost positive once you read these last four wisdom nuggets and then attend the conference yourself, you're going to be blown away. Just like me, you'll be saying," Dude, that conference changed my life!!"

If you missed the first post and have no idea what I'm talking about, no need to stress! You can find it right here. Once you're caught up, come on back for the wrap up, which can be found by reading the words directly below these words. :)

"It's much more about me becoming his than him becoming mine."

This was one of my favorite quotes from the weekend. When thinking about his relationship with one of his adopted sons, Michael Monroe made the revelation that we, as parents, need to be flexible. We need to let go of what we thought parenting was going to be like and just be the child our parent needs. So what if you thought Johnny Jr. was supposed to be like x (x = genius, doctor, soccer player, movie star)? He's not! So redefine what a "Smith" looks like in your mind. Or in your case, change "Smith" to your own last name. And remember -- that kiddo's a part of your family now, so make sure the family evolves to embrace him, instead of forcing him to fit your family's specific mold.

"We learn how to parent from those who parent us."

This part of the conference just about blew my mind! Through studies done on 1-year-olds and their mothers back in the 80's, Dr. Purvis and company have determined four different types of attachment styles (secure, avoidant, ambivalent, and unresolved) between parents and children. The study went a little something like this:

Mother and 1-year-old child play together in a secluded room with toys. Within a few minutes, Mom leaves the room and baby is left alone to react. After 3 minutes of watching the child's reaction (or a shorter amount of time if baby is really sad), a stranger enters the room. The child/stranger interaction is observed. After several minutes, Mom returns and stranger leaves. Child's reaction to Mom returning is noted. Then later, Mom participates in a follow-up interview.

So what does a securely attached (aka connected) child look like? He cries a bit when Mom leaves, not too inconsolable, but still sad. When the stranger enters, baby keeps on crying a bit. When Mom returns, baby rushes over to Mom and holds her tight. That's a child that will likely have success in future relationships, and therefore, life. Secure attachment comes about when the mother meets all the child's needs: body, soul, and spirit.

The avoidant attached child does not cry at all when Mom leaves, continue playing with toys, and remains the same when Mom returns. Though, a heart monitor on the child shows majorly increased heart rates through the entire process of Mom leaving, stranger entering, and Mom returning. So the child really wanted to be connected, but Mom wasn't providing the right care to be securely attached. These mothers tend to only meet some of the child's body, soul, and spirit needs. Typically, avoidant moms make materialism a priority, while relationships are secondary and impoverished. (E.g. Mom gets mad when baby innocently scratches new furniture).

The ambivalent attached child cries inconsolably when Mom leaves the room, runs toward her when she returns, but still is not consoled by her affection and attempts to soothe and does not make eye contact or snuggle close. Ambivalent attachment occurs when Mom is passive-aggressive, giving off mixed signals to the child, sometimes present and sometimes not. This Mom might be overworked, have a drug or alcohol addiction, or a bad marriage.

Finally, the unresolved attached child acts very confused when Mom leaves, starts to run to Mom when she returns, only to turn the other way as soon as she gets close to Mom, and runs after the stranger when stranger leaves the room. Unresolved attachment (AKA disorganized attachment) occurs when Mom has a big unresolved trauma in her own past (abuse, neglect, death of a loved one, psychiatric disorders).

Avoident, ambivalent, and unresolved attached kiddos will likely struggle in relationships with others as they get older.

After the experiment, the mothers were interviewed and typically the way they answered the questions about their own mothers lined up with how their 1-year-olds reacted in the experiment. In other words, as the above quote says: "We learn how to parent from those who parent us." I suppose that makes a fair bit of sense, but how many of us are guilty of saying/thinking, "When I'm a parent, I will NEVER raise my kids the way my parents raised me!"?

(Ahem... Hi, Mom! I know you're reading. This is just a normal thing people say. Still love you!)

The point is this: you are most likely to parent the way you were raised, and connect to your child the same way your mother (or father) connected with you, even if you promised you'd never be like them.


You're probably thinking, well, how do I break the mold if I wasn't thrilled with the way I was parented? Great question. First, you need to be more mindful -- be aware of the way you were parented and how it's affecting your parenting now. And second...

"You cannot lead a child to a place of healing if you do not know the way yourself."

We all get stuck in our past. We all have examples of grief and loss that haunt and follow us. For example, I've got infertility taunting me. Dr. Purvis explained that grief and loss manifest in three different ways -- linearly, developmentally, and circularly.

The grief you experience will always be with you, everyday, as part of your timeline, making it linear. You will also experience and process your grief in different ways at different points in your life (e.g. infertility will hurt differently when you're 20 years old vs. when you're 40 years old), making grief developmentally dependent, or dependent on how your mind can process it at the time. And grief will come back to bite you in cyclical ways, for example, when Christmas comes around or the scent of Spring is in the air, reminding you of the suffering that happened during a Christmas or Spring long past. That makes grief/loss circular. It's no wonder our infertility grief (or any grief/loss, really) hurts so much!

Grief is a journey. Grief/loss doesn't go away overnight. It will, unfortunately always be with us. Our job, though, is to keep working through it. Keep processing. As the quote above says, we cannot lead our children through their healing if we haven't journeyed through our own healing ourselves. Notice, we don't need to get over our grief/loss. That's just not possible. It'll always be there. No, we just need to make sure we keep pushing forward on our journey toward healing. We need to be honest about our past so we can own our history. And once we can do that, we can help our kids through their own hurts and histories.

I say all this because it makes the point that even if you have some skeletons in your past, making it hard to securely attach to your child as discussed in the previous nugget, it's not the end for you. You are not defined by your past.

If you and your mother had an avoidant, ambivalent, or unresolved attachment, it's not too late for you and your own kids, even if your own kids are long grown. Take an honest look at where you stand now as a parent (or as a child -- how were you attached to your own parents?) and start processing. Be mindful. Only this will help to change your parenting and connections in the future.

"We're all made to be connected."

With a name like "Empowered to Connect," you'd probably expect the experts to talk a fair bit about connection. And you'd be exactly right. The overall message for the weekend was: it's important to connect with your child AKA connecting with your child can make a world of difference. Let them know they are loved, they are precious, and their needs will be met.

For an adopted newborn, this means making lots of eye contact, responding to every cry within the first 30-60 days of life, and plenty of skin-to-skin contact. For children adopted well after birth, this means giving them a voice to tell their story, helping them through sensory processing overloads or other behavioral issues, sometimes reverting to actually coddling them like a newborn to help them live the experiences of connectedness they never had. And keep in mind, none of this specifically applies to adopted/fostered children. The importance of connecting applies to every child, no matter their past.

The best way to summarize the weekend is with Dr. Purvis's own words: "Our children must see how precious they are in our eyes."And let your children know, "If it's in my power, I will move Heaven and Earth to meet your needs." Because if they know that to be true, then you're on your way to creating one happy family.

Still with me down here? So that went on a little longer than I thought, and included wayyyy more  details than I intended. But I'm pumped about this stuff! It gets me excited. It makes me want to tell the whole world. And it's pretty much because it all just makes so much sense.

So how did it change my life? Well, there are (very hopefully!) going to be children in my future, and with all this in mind, I know I'm going to have the right focus as a parent. Much better than what I would have come up with on my own. My future is changed because I'll now be much more mindful of the connections I'm making with my children. Connection is key, so I'm going to strive to do it right! And my overall takeaway is... there's hope for every child. So while adoption/fostering can seem intimidating and a daunting task, it doesn't have to be. This stuff we learned can work with any child, even the toughest, 'cause like I said, all they're looking for is love and connection. We can provide that, right?

I've got to take another second here blast this reminder: I am not the expert. Chances are I quoted a few things incorrectly or explained them not-quite-right. So how do we fix this? We plan on attending an Empowered to Connect Conference in the future, that's how! Or, at the very least, we read more. I'll close with a ton of awesome recommended resources to help us continue learning about all this great stuff:


The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, David Cross, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine (we bought this one and are in the process of reading!)
The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz and Lucy Jane Miller
Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell
The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bayne Bryson
Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray
Empowered to Connect website -- videos, audio, articles

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