We’ve all got plans. From vacation details to home remodels, from which car to buy to how to lose ten pounds. For many of us, we also have a plan for our families – when and how to achieve family life and what we’d like our family to look like. For some, adoption is part of the early dream or not part of the equation at all. For others, adoption is a growing seed, one that takes root and blossoms in due season. In sharing more about adoption discernment, particularly for married couples, I’ll do so through my story and offer some words of encouragement.

Having met in college, gotten married, and taken a few years to navigate careers, my husband, Mark (not his real name), and I settled into growing our family. We’re both Catholic and dedicated to the Lord’s will in this (and all) areas of our life together. As we looked around, we saw our friends and family trekking into the world of babies and family life, all with advice to share. We took our time, hoping and praying that many of the health concerns that had crept up would work themselves out with some nudging from our physicians and our own hard work. In the midst of what would become a long season (years) of doctor appointments, medications, dietary adjustments, mental and emotional anguish, and wrestling with the Lord over this cross of infertility, we kept hearing from the well-intentioned people around us to “just adopt.” You’ve heard the one: “as soon as you start the adoption process, you’ll probably get pregnant.” Family life isn’t a riddle; it’s not a case to be solved.

While Mark and I had always been open to the idea of adoption, we were completely clueless as to where to begin the process and, perhaps most importantly, never wanted to adopt as a back-up option in the face of our infertility. We did not want a child coming into our home as a “Plan B”, a sort of “we can’t have our own, so you’ll do.” We also believe that we are not entitled to children, so there was much to do in our discernment. With that, we dug deep and began doing the spiritual work, seeking the Lord and His will for our family. After intentionally taking a step back from all things medical and fertility-related, we gave our heads, hearts, bodies, and souls time to slow down and listen to God.

The wounds of infertility don’t stop just because we begin a new process. We owed it to ourselves, to each other, and to our future family to do the work and allow the Lord to begin healing these wounds. I had to renounce the lies that I couldn’t be a mom, would never be a good mom, and that there was a reason I couldn’t have children. These lies clouded my vision and calloused my heart. Time and space to heal became a necessary pre-requisite for taking active steps in the adoption process. I firmly believe that God’s plans are best revealed to us in clear, consistent, and peaceful ways. The anxious, unhealed, and controlled heart is no fertile ground for God to sow his seeds of provision, clarity, and abundance.

While we kept this discernment at the forefront of our prayer and asked for specific intercession from others (and the saints), we felt a tug to do something. To do something and not just keep things at a spiritual and cerebral level. For us, that action came in the form of an Instagram post. I had no idea where to start and was sort of afraid that any step would immediately send me kicking and screaming down a path I did not want to traverse. I happened to stop my scrolling on a post by a Christian leader and influencer who referenced an adoption consultant group used by his daughter’s family. After clicking “follow” on the account, I had the sense that the Lord was offering me an open door. While I still researched and dug into other consultant groups, this particular one spoke to my head and my heart. I told Mark that I wanted to look into it, and he was on board. Side note: much of this process was happening before the pandemic hit, but with extra time on our hands during the shut down, our adoption discernment became a main focus. Each step along the way, Mark and I checked in and encouraged each other. Every week, we’d talk about adoption: what was the Lord saying and what were our next steps. While we had side conversations throughout the week, these once-a-week sessions were critical for us to get on the same page spiritually, mentally, and practically. One of the best pieces of advice we’ve ever received became our rallying cry: “don’t discern discerning. Just take a step forward and let the Lord do His work!”

Following a big move (selling and buying a house in the pandemic market), we immediately signed our consultant contract and began the daunting task of becoming an active client. This began a six-month process of the home study, background checks, fingerprints, health screenings, financial statements, fundraising, reference letters, and developing a profile. For us, these six months were a season of rich clarity, increased conviction, and deep longing. Going through the checklist opened us up to the deeper call of adoption. The Lord was cultivating a new reality for our family life, the reality He designed all along. Adoption was not our Plan B; it was our Plan A! We needed the time to ask, seek, and knock. We needed to give the Lord space in our hearts to enlarge our longing for Him and for His call. Mark and I look back on this time of preparation as the necessary active discernment to reshape our plans, our expectations, and our hearts.

This post will be continued in Discerning Adoption: Part Two.

Lori has been married to her husband for seventeen years, and they live in Minnesota with their one-year old son. Lori is originally from the South and has managed to stay alive in the frozen North for over a decade! She loves being a high school history teacher and all things tennis. Lori and her family enjoy time outside and dance parties in the kitchen.