Our eldest daughter was baptized in Abbotsford, BC, when she was 19 years old. Speaking to the parents of the infants who were also being dedicated to God that day, the Pastor told them that raising a child is a joy-filled and awesome adventure.
Next, the parents of the soon-to-be-baptized teens were given the opportunity to say a few words. When my turn came to speak, I told my daughter that raising her had indeed been an "awesome adventure"--my inflection and tone on the words "awesome" and "adventure" said it all. Everyone laughed. They knew I was talking out of love, but they didn't miss the point: when it comes to raising children, things don't always go according to our perfect plans or dreams.
A perfect ten
By the time our eldest daughter turned 16, my wife and I saw our life as pretty well perfect. We had three great kids, a hobby farm, good neighbours, and we were happily involved in our church. Our children grew up attending church where, in particular, our eldest child was almost always considered the Sunday school sweetheart.
Then the phone call
Following her seventeenth birthday, our eldest daughter asked if she could spend an extended summer with relatives in California. Her mother and I gave the trip our blessings. We were in no way prepared for what was about to happen.
I was home when the call came from California. My wife answered the telephone. I saw the blood drain from my wife's face; I felt the moment of tense silence; I heard the gasp, and saw her simply drop the phone on the floor. Our perfect world crashed with two simple words: "I'm pregnant."
Our shattered world became more intense when our daughter refused to come home. Even though we begged, cried, and assured her of our support and love, we ended up waiting four months before we were able to pull her into our arms. Was her refusal to come home based on fear of a judgemental church? I can't speak for her, but I can say that my wife and I became very afraid of how our religious community would react.
Right away our daughter made up her mind that abortion was not an option. She immediately contacted Christian pregnancy counsellors for help and surrounded herself with a supportive church in California.
Meanwhile, deeply afraid of what we thought would be a judgemental reaction from our church and friends, we foolishly kept her pregnancy secret.
But we were wrong--when we finally talked about it, we were shocked and greatly relieved by the love and support we received.
By the eight month of pregnancy, three issues were established. Our daughter had made a choice, but God brought healing and she was forgiven; the child growing in the womb was not a mistake and clearly recognized as a gift from God; and adoption was our daughter's considered choice.
A Christian adoption agency provided supportive counselling and led her through the difficult and emotional process. Only after counsellors were satisfied that she fully understood her options, was she given the opportunity to choose a couple that would eventually adopt her child. She received several anonymous letters from hopeful families stating why they should be chosen.
I can't recall how many letters from potential parents we struggled through. I can certainly recall the three of us sitting night after night, praying, crying, and reading heart-wrenching letters stating why they would be our daughter's best choice.
Then, one letter simply jumped out from the pile. With instant unity, we clearly said, "Yes!" These were the people God was leading our daughter to share her precious treasure with.
The birth and placement
The pregnancy was extremely difficult but made bearable--almost joyful--by friends, young and old, including a large group of church peers. A beautiful baby girl was born that spring.
Ten days later, an unsuspecting couple received a phone call from the adoption agency--they could drop by the office and pick up their newborn baby girl the very next morning!
The arrangement was for the birthmom to physically place her child into the arms of the adoptive mom. Before the baby was brought into the room, five people sat facing each other. On one side, a young first-time mom, grandmother, and grandfather. They were red-eyed, shaking, and unable to hold back their tears. On the other, two people who could hardly contain their joy. With less than 24-hours notice, they were about to receive the precious gift of their first child.
Their joy was about to be complete--ours felt like it was being snatched from us.
My daughter asked me to pray. As I began to pray, the adoptive mom reached over and took hold of our daughter's hand. As their hands touched, a miraculous transfer of emotion took place. God gave us their joy, and they began to understand our pain. The emotion of the room leapt to a new dimension. The baby was brought in and by God's grace was placed lovingly into the arms of her new parents.
We believe we were in God's perfect will, but I can't tell you how lonely we felt driving home from that meeting.
Twelve years later
The child never left our thought or prayers. The adoption agreement allowed for regular anonymous letters and pictures. My wife's mother became very ill just before Christmas, so she sent the child a photograph and shortly history of her birth great grandmother. All communication passed through the agency, and we soon received an unexpected response. The child would like to meet her birthmom and meet her birth great grandmother.
For my wife and I, this second meeting was almost as difficult as the first. Would a wound be ripped open? Would a missing heart-link be broken for a second time? We were wrong again.
The second meeting affirmed God had been in control from the very beginning. Sitting before us was a beautiful family--a perfect 10! If there had been any remaining wounds, they were healed instantly. We were as thunderstruck with affirmation as we were when God led us to their letter 12 years earlier--God ordained this child to be with this family.
My wife and I still consider our family to be a 10! But notice that I didn't say, "perfect 10."
Four years have now passed and we have had the amazing opportunity to get to know our beautiful granddaughter. Her life appears to be filled with joy, faith, and family. God chose the prect family for our first grandchild and our affirmation only grows.
Can you ever have too many grandparents?
Sixteen years ago, the concepts of open adoption were relatively unknown. Our daughter chose a path that by today's understanding is closer to being a closed than an open adoption. The heart connections, especially felt by my wife for her first granddaughter, are undeniable. We sadly missed the first 12 relationship-forming years. We certainly feel welcomed in our granddaughter's home, but we can't deny that we yearn for a strong relationship and greater heart-connection that only a lifetime relationship builds. You can never have too many grandparents. Our prayer is for others considering adoption--if you are hoping to adopt a child, don't allow your family to miss out on the awesome love and relationship birth grandparents can give.