It’s a pleasure to introduce you to Jessica who’s sharing her unique journey to and through motherhood as part of our month-long guest post series, Special Mamas. I first met Jess three years ago at (in)RL Minneapolis, an “in real life” gathering of women who met and engaged with one another online. Anyone who knows Jess knows she’s equal parts smart and sweet. She’s mama to two boys and one girl, and today she’s sharing the undeniably divine story of how each of their three children entered this world – quickly, patiently, and unexpectedly. It’s a beautiful story filled with twists and turns, and proves that God’s plans for our families are higher and greater than our own. Please extend a warm welcome to Jessica! She’s undoubtedly one very special mama. (Pssst…Jessica’s giving away a bracelet, so be sure to read all the way to the end and enter the giveaway for a chance to win!)
If you would have told me as a new bride full of grand expectations and anticipation for a someday family based on my plans, I would have scoffed at the idea of having an eight year old, a five year old, and a newborn. My plan was to have three or four biological kids and then consider foster or adoption to grow our family. My plan would be to continue to teach in an elementary school so I could savor the summer days and nights with my family and live a contented and seemingly “uneventful” life.
Looking at what my days hold now I can see His Plans are higher than our plans and His Thoughts higher than our thoughts.
My journey to motherhood began as my plan intended…we welcomed our firstborn son in September 2007 with little to no complications and it was beautiful. He allowed me to understand the meaning of the quote by Elizabeth Stone, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” There he was, a piece of my heart in my arms. A blessing then and still to this day.
Then there came an unforeseen change in my plan. My husband was a navy reservist and was called up to deploy to Iraq when our son turned one year old. It was a season where my son and I thrived on routine. Thankfully I was still teaching full time so our days were busy with work, a few hours at home together, time at church, and me growing in ways to be a provider and playing the role of mom and dad. Thankfully our son was young enough that when his dad returned nine months later it did not take long for us to reconnect as a family of three. While Paul was overseas, we discussed the desire to grow our family and anticipated little to no troubles in doing such when he returned home. My plan was to have a summer due date in order to have more time home with the littles and all would be well.
Oh friends. His Plans are higher than our plans and His Thoughts higher than our thoughts.
Months passed along with those planned “summer due dates”…and then with those for fall, winter, and spring. Since I was in my mid-twenties we had to wait for a year of “trying to conceive” before we could be recommended to any specialists for fertility issues. This began a series of doubts, questions, and fears in my heart and mind. I would search the internet for answers—which looking back, I would discourage anyone struggling with growing their family from ever doing—there are so many ideas, tricks, supplements, advice and wishes from those who mean well, who are grieving, who are angry, who are searching for the same reasons as you. Instead of providing comfort for my confused heart, it only created more questions and uncertainty into what was happening. I didn’t understand why we were undergoing this struggle when we already had one babe fairly seamlessly. I didn’t feel like I truly fit in with those who cried out because they were unable to have a baby, because I did have one. And I didn’t feel like those with multiple kids because they seemed to conceive simply when they held their spouse’s hand. I was there–somewhere in the middle–trying to be content and savor my time with my son who was growing and delightful and amazing, yet feeling a wound grow deeper for more to hold.
While we passed through that first year of “trying,” we were then referred to doctors who would run tests and could not find any reason for our inability to conceive. We were diagnosed with “unexplained secondary infertility” which really did not give us any answers. We tried a few months of hormone shots, a round or two of prescription meds to increase egg production, and a lot of hope and prayers. Nothing resulted with that coveted “+” sign. It was hard. I dreaded my cycle. It came and went each month like clockwork. Again I mourned the unknown. I did not want to wish the days away with our sweet boy, but I was struggling with God’s goodness. Why was this happening to us? Was there a deep-rooted sin I was harboring? Was I cursed? I was both of the “haves” and the “have nots.”
After the year of “trying with interventions,” it came to a point where we could no longer put our hearts and our finances on the line each month. I needed to come to a place of accepting this was what our family was to be and move forward. Time to look up and not down. Time to embrace the child I was given and give praise and thanks for life. My husband felt contentment with our family of three. I could accept it, to a degree, but always felt a stirring for more. In Summer 2011, we made our annual trek down to the cornfields of Illinois to attend a Christian music festival. This particular year I went to a seminar on adoption under the blazing summer sun. Waving a makeshift paper fan, under the striped circus tent, I found my heart began to bear a new hope. A new plan. I believed our initial “want” of adopting that was fairly lofty in our dreams as a young bride and groom were resurfacing. Was this what we were to step into? Was this how our family would grow? Was this why those years of trying and waiting had resulted in a void?
His Plans are higher than our plans. His Thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
Two full years after Paul’s return from Iraq, we began to pursue adoption as the means to growing our tribe. Through beautiful and intentional circumstances, we learned about a little girl who was just over two years old in Bogota, Colombia. She had several medical needs but was described as, “happy, healthy, oh so sweet!” Nine months passed from the time we started our adoption journey until we were back home with her in our arms. Nine months for an international adoption to occur. Nine months that takes for a babe to grow in a mama’s belly was the same duration it took for this daughter to grow in our heart and be home in our arms.
Becoming mom to an instant toddler is not for the faint of heart, let alone a toddler who needed to be seen by various medical doctors and undergo a few minor surgeries in her first months with us. I left my full-time teaching job to create a space for time to attach and bond. Add in all the expectations and ideals you have for becoming a family of four and it can make for some challenging situations in your heart and home. When I wrestled with the desire to have more babes in my home and arms I never anticipated what it would look like to raise a child from a hard place. She was greatly loved in the orphanage that cared for her before we could get to her, but I needed to remind myself that while I had wounds from a desire to grow my family, she too had wounds from a desire for a family, and we both needed healing. We have been home with her for nearly four years now and the days are sweet, but they are also hard. Unique behaviors and mindsets arise when raising a child with a history you know little about. There have been tantrums and meltdowns—from both of us—but I am slowly putting more tools in my parenting toolbox as I become vulnerable and transparent with my struggles. I know this girl is meant for us…there are too many fingerprints of God on her story and His provisions and timing to deny it. But I am learning more about how to coach and guide my children as their mom and not to be the ‘warden’ for their behaviors. These ideas have come to me from help in the form of books and connecting with communities of mamas that have walked a similar road. However, the biggest surprise came in the form of a fresh baby boy.
In March 2015, that “+” sign I desired for so many years showed up in a most unexpected time. There was contentment that this was our quad and we were pressing in and on in our normal days. I was still home, keeping tabs on my then first grade son and pre-K daughter when His plans collided with my own. There was so much fear of loss at first. What if my body could not do this? Could I handle such grief? Was this really happening to us? Could I entrust this new life to Him and remember His plans prevail? Would I be able to trust Him in the good, the bad, the raw, and the beautiful? I did. I had to. What else can we do? My body sustained this new hope and this new life as we welcomed our third into our home on a warm November morning. Boaz Josiah Deem—a namesake to remind us of our “kinsman-redeemer” and that “the Lord heals.”
When I caress Boaz’ cheeks, draw him close, breathe in his fresh smell, and stare into his eyes I am reminded that my daughter may never have had such moments in her own fragile stages. I needed to do the same for her in all the same ways. Hold her face in my hands, whisper how beautiful and precious she is to me, and breathe life into her with my words and actions.
Each one of my children came into my arms in ways I never expected: quickly, patiently, and unexpectedly. There are moments I still meltdown; I struggle with what I want to do above what He is calling me to do, but I know I need to hold all of these days with them in my home as ones that are fragile and forming. We are certain to have days full of beauty and love and light, and those that are hard and dark and challenging. In them all may I strive to follow His Plan above my own, that He may make His Thoughts known to me and guide me in this journey of motherhood. It is a coveted calling and gift I will not take for granted.
Jess describes herself as a daughter, a wife, a mom, a teacher, a student and a friend. For the past three years she has worked as a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope to spread awareness for their artisan partners and support their work through sustainable business opportunities. Her main objective as a Compassionate Entrepreneur is to help families remain intact and prevent child relinquishment due to poverty. Jess is giving away one Trades of Hope Pure Love bracelet to one reader. It is made from cereal box beads that were rolled by the hands of mommas in Haiti. If you would like to enter the giveaway for the bracelet, please complete the Rafflecopter form below! You can find more information about Jess’ work by following her Facebook page at facebook.com/JessArgetsingerTOH or on Instagram @jess_sharinghope. Professional photos courtesy of Shelby Wright Photography.
This post is part of a month-long guest post series titled Special Mamas. The series runs all May and is in honor of moms who have unique journeys to and through motherhood. To read all 10 posts in the Special Mamas series, CLICK HERE and you’ll be directed to the introductory post. There, you’ll find all guest posts listed and linked for easy reading!