This Time it was Different


My wife Leanne, before a 5k last year

It all started on a Monday afternoon back in September of 2014 when Leanne and I were on our second date. It was only our second date but we showed our hands- opening up about our pasts, recognizing where we were in our present and detailing what we wanted for our futures. No bluffing. But if one of us didn't like what we saw on the table, it was time to fold and save some chips, in the form of pieces of our hearts, early. Yes, I just used a poker analogy, but we were both going on 34 and were both over and done with playing games when it came to our relationships (and yet irony that I used a card game to describe it.) We did what is usually taboo when it comes to just the second date- instead of just trying to portray our best self, we showed our true self and what we wanted out of life, out of any potential relationships. One of the things we talked about was how neither of us was willing to budge when it came to having a family.

Fast forward to about 27 months later, 7 months into our marriage and 7 months into trying to make that non-negotiable happen. The weather wasn't the only thing that felt bitter that cold, January morning. It was the morning that we found out that the future we had dreamt of, hoped for and planned on wasn't going to happen for us. We were given a 5% chance of having our own baby, and even if we considered using IVF to help, it would only raise our chances by 2-3% at best. Attempting IVF would also be shooting Leanne's cancer risks through the roof due to family history.

People were incredibly sweet sharing stories of hope and "miracle babies", offering prayers and other words of encouragement, trying to lift us up. Unfortunately some people were also, albeit unintentionally, rude and ignorant, missing the points we were attempting to make by probably not even reading articles we shared detailing "what not to say" to people in our situation- and they said those things. We understand they were trying to help, and we appreciate that. But words of advice: don't take the time to leave a comment if you're not going to take the time to read the article you're commenting on. And 2nd bit of advice: allow people to mourn before you try to help them move on. Telling a couple that dreamed of birthing and raising their own offspring that "you can always adopt" in their grieving period is like telling someone that dreams of playing professional sports that they can be the beer guy during the games. Or telling a widower to get on a dating service the day she puts her beloved in the ground. A little blunt? Yes, but I'm intentionally doing so to get my point across.

In the time since we got our news my wife has been a trooper and we've both felt an enormous array of emotions. We grieved and mourned. We experienced denial and intentionally tried anyways. Grieved and mourned again. We've felt anger, confusion, jealousy, joy for others and also complete numbness. It has been a winding road, for sure.

But one of the days each year where we've been even more aware of our situation has been Mother's Day. Leanne puts on an incredibly brave face as she heads to work as Director of Children's Ministries at our church, where she helps the kids make little gifts for their mothers, knowing that she's not going to get one. The fact that she has a heart of gold and loves those kids and seeing them light up as they can't wait to give their moms their little drawings or crafts makes my heart swell for this woman. But I also do what I can to protect her heart. Thankfully, I haven't been alone.

For one Mother's Day after we found out, my sweet sister-in-law, Jackie, gave Leanne a frame with pictures of Leanne with each of her 3 kids, our nieces and nephew, and a sweet card.

One time my mother helped hatch a plan and I helped coordinate the execution of said plan when we got Leanne's mom, two sisters and one brother-in-law to show up from out of town at the finish line of the 5k race she ran that weekend. She also received a sweet Mother's Day gift from a couple of close friends at church who asked us to be their son's God-parents that year.

Then there's this year. Our life is taking a different turn this year as we are awaiting, any day now, notice that our license to be foster parents has been approved. Early last fall, after more unforeseen circumstances cemented the fact that it would just be Leanne and I, we were preparing ourselves for a life with no kids. Our hearts were prepared for this in a hardened way, I guess. But then when we adopted our fur-baby, Eva, she softened our hearts like we couldn't believe. She made us parents.

And then we realized God was calling us for so much more than being parents of our own kids- He was calling us to help His children, the children of others, to get off on the right foot in life. We bought this house with the idea of one of the bedrooms becoming a kids room- that was still possible through fostering. We still have love in our hearts to share with children who need cared for and protected- that's still possible through fostering. The job as a parent is to protect and care for a child as long as you can and love them all your life, even as they grow up and move away- that's still possible through fostering.

We don't have word yet that our license has been approved and clearly we don't have a placement yet as a result. But this year for Mother's Day, we have been trying to prepare ourselves for the surprises and unknowns that go with being a parent as well as trying to find ways to be more organized and make life simpler. Instead of flowers this Mother's Day, I went with getting my wife a rose gold smartwatch. It helps her to do a lot more on top of being able to track her steps and read her messages, which will hopefully make some tasks easier for her when we have a little one in our care. Her face lit up when she opened it and she has been showing it off left and right, and I love that. But I have no doubt that it will pail in comparison to the way we'll feel as we are caring for whatever kids that are placed in our care. I'm sure we won't experience anything quite as rewarding or as challenging as what's ahead for us.

This Mother's Day was different. And none of them will be the same again.

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E-mail: dustin@stepuptogreatness.com  Phone: (440)759-0695  Cleveland, Ohio

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