Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A marriage examined: Part IV

Part I

Surrender is hard.
When God asked us to surrender our traditional views on contraception, we did. It was a process, and it took time to wrap our minds and hearts around the idea of being open to life within our marriage. But we could see the good in it. And were filled with hope.

When God asked us to surrender our very ability to conceive, that was much harder. I'd lost my baby and couldn't get pregnant. Yet nothing was physically wrong with me. Many times I found myself asking, Why?

And somehow, as the months ticked by, we came to find peace. We saw that being open to life meant ultimately being open to God's timing, and to Him saying no. It also meant being open to carrying a baby that may not live past twelve weeks in the womb, and enduring the pain that came with that. It meant saying Lord, I trust You with the growing of our family.

So we trusted. Continued hoping to get pregnant, but stopped worrying about it so much. Essentially, we moved on. We had a beautiful daughter afterall.

Then one day something happened. I was in the shower (isn't that where YOU do YOUR deepest thinking?), Kevin was at work, and Anna was napping. And in a deep place in my heart, I felt God speaking the words "international adoption." I KNOW that sounds crazy. I DIDN'T hear an audible voice, or have a weird vision. But suddenly I began thinking about something that I had never, EVER thought about before.

I literally knew nothing about adoption. So I hurried through the rest of my shower, got dressed, and got online. (Thank you Google.) What's the deal with the worldwide orphan crisis? Are there kids in orphanages needing homes? What does it cost and is it something we could maybe do someday?

As I sat reading adoption stories on agency websites and looking at photolistings of waiting children in developing countries, my stomach churned. My eyes filled with tears and I thought of my precious daughter sleeping soundly in her room...warm, content, with a tummy full of food and two parents head-over-heels in love with her. I thought of my 2200-square-foot, four-bedroom home that would be considered a major luxury in most parts of the world. And I thought of all the children who had, well, nothing.

We have to do this.

But what would Kevin say? God had been so unbelievably faithful in bringing both of us to the same convictions in the past...but would He do it again? Both of us really valued being on the same page. Anytime we've had a disagreement, we've worked at reaching a mutually agreeable resolution. So I instant-messaged him some stuff I'd been reading while he was still at work. I told him what I'd been thinking, etc. When he got home that day, we talked some more. And, amazingly, he was on board. He too felt that this was God's work, God's very heart.

Yet again, the Lord brought us to the very.same.place. Brought BOTH of us, because neither of us had started out there. The first seed had ultimately been planted a couple of years earlier when Gary Haugen gave a sermon at the church we attended in Santa Barbara. He posed a question that had stuck with us ever since: Do I care about what God cares about?

Through our research, we found ourselves compelled by the African AIDS crisis, so we made the decision to adopt from Ethiopia. We completed a homestudy, were approved for two siblings ages 3 and under with mild to moderate special needs, and only 7 months from the time we began the homestudy, traveled to Ethiopia.

Met our sons.

Visited two orphanages, including one caring solely for HIV+ orphans.

Attempted to process what we saw and how it inevitably changed us.

Yosef and Biniam were 16 months old when we brought them home. We know their background, their story, and it's tragic just like they all are. But still these boys were happy, and sweet, and ready to join a family.

And, yes, there were struggles. Biniam was sick and somewhat developmentally delayed when we picked him up. He had some emotional issues revolving mostly around food. We spent a bit of time wondering what his future might hold. I must also say that having THREE children ages 2 and under was HARD. Some days I don't know how we made it. But, we did. My sons today are healthy, happy, and loving. They're smart, funny, and kind. Biniam more than caught up developmentally and is actually the sole extrovert in our family of seven. God is good.

Four months after returning from Ethiopia, I became pregnant. Nine months later, Kaitlyn Jane entered the world!

We felt so, so grateful to have received another sweet daughter. To know we could become pregnant again. For the first time ever, Yosef and Biniam were big brothers. Oh how they adored their baby sister! And having a normal, healthy pregnancy and delivery was so healing for us, after our last pregnancy ending in miscarriage.

Life post-adoption (and post-child-number-four) was hectic to say the least. We were tired, and stretched. BUT...

I think our marriage got even better. We came to experience God's faithfulness and goodness and mercy in amazing new ways. We got to see God's heart and His provision for His precious children. In parenting so many little ones, including two who came to us with grief and trauma issues, we had to somehow die to self. Every single day. We had to trust that God's grace would be sufficient for us, because we knew we couldn't do it on our own.
And I came to respect my husband even more than I already did. He worked hard during the day (commuting over an hour each way) and worked hard at home. He changed diapers, emptied the dishwasher, took responsibility for the kids. I got to fall in love with him again and again as I saw his passion for our family and also for the many orphans around the world. We so cherished our quiet evenings together when all the kiddies were in bed, and we could talk and laugh and just be together.

All of this felt so right. It felt like this was how life was supposed to be.

Because God is in the business of making beauty from ashes. You see, the VERY SAME MONTH that I tragically miscarried what was most likely a twin pregnancy, twin boys were born in Ethiopia to a woman who, tragically, would need to place them for adoption. We'd be united as a family many months later. And shortly after they joined our family, God blessed us with another pregnancy, another child by birth. Nothing is too huge for God. There may be hard times, but we're not supposed to be shooting for an easy life. God is, thankfully, not content to keep us complacent for long...


Kevin Heldt said...

4 years ago, yesterday, we met our sons in Ethiopia. What a fun and fulfilling ride it has been!

Jeannett Gibson said...

love you guys! :)

Shana said...

I KNEW there was a connection between your first miscarriage and the birth of your sons!

Joanie said...

Brianna, I had no idea you experienced such gut wrenching infertility. But I do remember when you brought your twins home and meeting them for the first time in the cry room. So exciting!

I love your entire story, but I think this chapter gave me the most chills. Same month - wow.

Brianna Heldt said...

Yes Joanie it was strange...because nothing was actually physically wrong, I didn't talk about it all that much. We just knew it was taking forever and believed, like the Bible says, that God opens and closes the womb. Since that time I've met numerous people who struggle with conceiving again with no physical reason why. God's ways are not our ways, and each and every baby is such a miracle!!!!

Kristen Borland said...

beautiful. you seriously should write a book someday.

and a side note, mike just now received a call from cal poly for money. still waiting for mine...

Danni said...

Brianna - i have a couple questions for you about adopting siblings and whatnot. We are approved for siblings 3 and under, much like you were. Is there an email address I can contact you at, or maybe facebook?


jenny said...

Oh I love this story. God is using you and your story in my life Brianna. Really. Thanks for sharing all this.


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