Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Officially a Conger

Nearly a year ago my husband and I took one of the biggest leaps of faith ever in our married lives and turned in adoption papers. We had four wonderful children of our own--two boys, two girls--and felt life was pretty much perfect. Our youngest was four years old, growing more independent every day, and so it seemed we were entering a more comfortable stage of life. That's when it happened. You know, that nagging inside that tells you something is missing. My husband told me he kept walking into the room and feeling like someone wasn't there, but then he'd look around and notice we were all accounted for. He thought it was kind of strange; I knew it had to be something more.

And so, we prayed about it and decided to take the plunge one more time and get pregnant. Three months later, when it seemed everything was working against us, we reevaluated our decision. It just didn't feel right, and when my back flared up, making it difficult to function, we realized sadly that my body just wasn't up to another pregnancy. We were reminded of other health concerns and sadly accepted the fact that we would not be welcoming another child into our home. It was a poignant time in our lives. On one hand, we were so grateful for the four healthy children we had been blessed with. And it wasn't that they weren't enough. They were. But, when you feel in your soul that there's more out there for you, it's hard to ignore the prompting.

That's when I began to seriously think about adoption. We had discussed it a couple of times in our married lives, but since we had been blessed to have our own children, it never became a matter of serious contemplation. Now it was. What started as a tiny idea began to grow in my heart and mind until I could hardly think of anything else. There was just one problem. Money.

Adoption is a very expensive endeavor. We were barely making ends meet as it was. It seemed impossible. That's when I ended up in a Wal-Mart check-out line one evening behind a woman with two heaping shopping carts. As I helped her unload her groceries, I couldn't help but ask if she had a large family. She proceeded to tell me about her seven children--four biological, three adopted from three different venues. I told her we had considered adoption and she said, "Then it must be right for you. Not everyone feels that way. Don't be afraid to really pursue it. It's such a wonderful thing." I've never seen this woman again; I don't even know her name. But I do believe we were meant to meet. You just never know what can happen at Wal-Mart!

I went home and told my husband my experience and we began to pray sincerely for answers. It took a lot of faith to even ask, because if the answer was affirmative, we had no idea how we would make it actually work. As the provider for our family, my husband was especially hesitant. I, on the other hand, was ready to move forward full throttle. I knew if God had told us to do it, He would then provide a way to make it work. That's all the answer I needed.

Two months later, we handed in adoption papers. I was ecstatic! Dan was petrified (kind of like when I found out we were expecting our first child:). Six weeks later we were offered an unexpected situation. It was Monday. Two little girls, one three months old, the other 17 months old, would arrive on Friday. Did we want them? Wow! We certainly hadn't expected two. We had only one afternoon decide. It would mean a new vehicle since we didn't have one that would fit us all. It would mean two in diapers. It would mean a major change! We thought about all of this--and said yes.

Four days later we anxiously awaited the opportunity of meeting the birth mom and taking home our two new little girls. They never came. Days went by and we never heard from them again. It was excruciating. We were heartbroken. It was hard to keep moving and going on with life as normal when inside I felt a part of me was gone. I fell to my knees time and time again, seeking strength and understanding from a Source who knew the bigger picture. Peace always came. I decided to simply trust.

Less than a week later, we were offered a new opportunity. A birth mom was here from South Carolina. Her baby was due in 10 weeks. A girl. Did we want to be matched with her? It was a difficult decision. On the one hand, I was more than eager to get ready for another baby; on the other hand, I was still mourning what we never even had and scared we might have our hearts broken once again. That's the risk you take any time a baby is coming into the world; it seems like an even bigger risk with adoption. It's tough when the final decision isn't resting in your own hands. We prayed, we pondered, we discussed, and we prayed some more. Then we committed.

Our beautiful baby girl was born May 5, five weeks early. Weighing only 4 lbs, 13 oz. at birth, she was the tiniest package I'd ever brought home from the hospital. She was a miracle to us. My heart was so full of gratitude. Our other children welcomed her with open arms and loved her immediately.

Berkley Maya Fern Conger

Life changed forever. Not only did we now have a tiny baby to care for, but we had to make some pretty big sacrifices to meet the financial obligations we now had from the adoption. We felt prompted to move our family of seven to our basement and rent out the main floor of our home. It seemed a little crazy, but we did it and found that we are just as happy downstairs as we were upstairs! We have all sacrificed time, sleep, energy, and more for this little girl to be part of our family. The crazy thing about sacrifice is that, if it's for the right reason, it ends up feeling like it's not a sacrifice at all.

This past month it all came together. We woke up one morning, got dressed up and went to the courthouse to have the adoption finalized. It was a short, simple, yet wonderful experience. Our children were as excited as we were to finally have Berkley an official member of our family. But it was what happened 11 days later that made everything especially worth it.
Inside the courthouse--with the judge

On Saturday, November 26th, we went as a family to the Bountiful, Utah temple, where Berkley was sealed to us for eternity. Words cannot describe the joy that filled my heart. I felt it would surely burst in gratitude and pure, complete happiness. When our children were brought into the room, all dressed in white, I caught a glimpse of eternity and felt a fullness of joy like I've never felt before. It was one of the most beautiful, sacred experiences of my life. Berkley smiled sweetly the entire time, like she knew exactly what was happening. I realized in that moment that surely we had been missing something. Now we felt complete and whole and oh, so happy.
Outside Bountiful Temple

I think there are few times in our lives when we really grasp what life is truly about, when we see things from God's perspective, rather than our own limited and flawed point of view. When those moments come, you wish to bottle them up, to hold on as tightly as you can so that you won't ever forget them. But life moves on--all too quickly--and time, energy, and resources are in constant demand. Then, before you know it, special feelings, events and memories have been pushed too far back to recall them at a moment's notice. That's why I forced my heart and mind to take a picture--not just a picture, but a 4-D memory--so that I will never forget the way my children looked, arrayed all in white, bright smiles gleaming on their faces--like angels; the way my husband gazed at me--like he loved me more than anything else in the world; the way our families and friends gathered around us to share this special event--like it meant the world to them, too; the way I felt inside my heart--like I was the most blessed of any woman.

How grateful I am for those gnawing little feelings that tell you something is missing and that just won't go away until you carefully consider what they are trying to say. How grateful I am for answered prayers, to know that we never have to make decisions on our own with our limited knowledge, experience and expertise. God will always direct us if we ask, and I know I can trust Him implicitly. After all, He's a parent, too, and only wants what is best for us, just like we do for our own children. And how grateful I am for a beautiful brown baby girl who is now "officially a Conger" as my nine-year-old son wrote in his journal. She's the greatest gift in our lives since . . . well, our last child! Five amazing, challenging, wonderful children. All unique and different in their own way. All sent to teach me.

I must have a lot to learn!


Julie Thurgood Summerhays said...

Such a great adoption story - love it!! She looks like such a sweetheart - so happy for you guys!