Called to Adopt
5/1/2017by Bethany Meola
Our adoption pilgrimage has opened our hearts and deepened our faith
Four years after our wedding, my husband, Dan, and I were still childless despite our fervent desire to be parents. After prayer and discernment, we decided to embark on the journey of adoption — specifically, domestic infant adoption. We quickly learned that welcoming a child through adoption is a calling. It requires sacrifices of time and money, as well as the willingness to open your relationship, health, home and finances to evaluation. We call our adoption journey a pilgrimage, a walk of faith, with daily — sometimes hourly — opportunities to deepen our trust in the Lord.
Like all pilgrimages, our adoption journey has included challenges. Beyond the mountains of paperwork, the most difficult part was the waiting after our home study was approved. Dan and I created a profile book with pictures and a narrative about ourselves. Several times, our book was considered by birthparents choosing a family for their child; hearing that we weren’t chosen was heartbreakingly difficult.
Finally, we received the call: An expectant mother chose us to adopt her baby girl, who was due on April 1! Since I’m writing this column in March, many things could still happen between now and then, and after the baby is born. Her biological parents will have a period of time to affirm their adoption plan, or to decide to keep the child. No matter what happens, this prospect of becoming parents through adoption has brought Dan and me so much joy.
I am profoundly aware that our future child, who will bless me with the beautiful name of “mama,” will have known another mother’s presence for nine months in utero. In an era when abortion is easily accessible and even encouraged for mothers in crisis, a birthmother’s choice to continue a pregnancy is truly courageous. With deep admiration and gratitude, I recognize that our happiness entails sacrifice and suffering by our child’s birthparents. For this decision, they will always be our child’s first heroes.
In time, we pray that our joy will be their joy. They will know that their child is safe, greatly loved, and given a stable home. In our case, open adoption will allow us to remain in contact with our child’s birth family, and we believe this will be a blessing for all of us.
Years of infertility also remind me what a gift children are — never to be taken for granted, and certainly not “owed” to me or to anyone. Dan and I are very aware that the number and timing of our children is not fully up to us. We will receive our child from God, and do our best to nurture her God-given identity and vocation. Unlike most parents, we’ll have no genetic clues about our daughter’s personality, natural talents or even looks. Already, we marvel at the delightful surprises this fact will hold for us, as we get to know this little person we had no part in creating. And if stories of other adoptive families are true, Dan and I may even fight over who gets to change our baby’s diaper because we are so grateful to finally be parents!
We are supported and comforted by the words of Pope Francis, which we hope will also encourage other couples facing infertility: “Adoption is a very generous way to become parents. I encourage those who cannot have children to expand their marital love to embrace those who lack a proper family situation. They will never regret having been generous” (Amoris Laetitia, 179).
Indeed, our adoption pilgrimage has opened our hearts. For close to six years, we have prayed and waited patiently to be a mother and a father. We know that all the waiting has not been in vain, but has rather served to strengthen our love for our future child.
BETHANY MEOLA is an assistant director in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Her husband, Dan, works at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine and is a member of Sacred Heart Council 2577 in Bowie, Md. They have chronicled their adoption journey at adoptionpilgrimage.blogspot.com.