David and I met in college. He was going to school on a music scholarship, and I was there on academic scholarship – so we both lived in the scholarship dorms on campus. After being called as the ward mission leader at church, he took it upon himself to get to know everyone in the ward by knocking on doors – starting, of course, with the girl’s dorms. After knocking on my door, he stayed for about 45 minutes getting to know my roommate and me. We found out that we had a lot in common with our musical interest, and ended up being in many of the same classes. Because he had keys to the music building, he was able to let me in after hours to practice the piano. He always stayed to “chaperone” and the more time we spent together, the more time we wanted to spend together. We got to know each other and quickly became each other’s best friends. We sang in choirs together, went for walks in the evenings, studied together, and talked about everything. We have yet to figure out when our “first date” was, because we just spent time together and ended up falling in love. We dated for a year and a half and we were married in the Logan temple on December 27, 2001.
Life was wonderful. I graduated from nursing school and Dave was transferring to USU to finish his schooling. I quickly found a great job working as a nurse and Dave was selling pianos to make ends meet. We had very few possessions and very little life experience, but we were completely happy and felt like life was moving along exactly as planned. We both felt very strongly about wanting a large family, and started officially trying to have a baby after we’d been married for a little under eight months. Everything happened so quickly. Another eight months passed and I missed a period. I took a pregnancy test, and David and I watched as the plus sign showed up – indicating that I was pregnant. We were completely overwhelmed with excitement. We were thrilled that we would be building our family. We knew we would be moving soon, so I wanted to wait to see a physician until after we’d settled into our new place.
I felt like everything was moving along perfectly over the next three months. I was having all the symptoms of a normal pregnancy, and made sure to take good care of myself. On Mother’s day, we announced to our families that I was pregnant. We thought it would be a fitting day, and had no idea at the time that the pain of that memory would haunt us for years after.
We moved to Logan. Dave filled his pickup truck with our limited possessions and drove them to our new apartment, then left for a few weeks for work. I was going to get things in order for the new addition to the family.
Since Dave was gone on a piano sale, I went to the hospital with my sister to have blood work drawn to confirm my pregnancy before I went to the doctor. My sister was a few months along in her pregnancy, and had been a great support to me while David was out of the state. We took pictures of our bellies together, to show the progress as the months went on. We shared stories of morning sickness and exchanged baby names. I started setting up the apartment, making sure to leave room for the crib and imagining the world surrounded by baby stuff. I made baby blankets and sweaters. I stopped at garage sales and shopped in the baby sections of stores watching for the bargains.
After waiting until I knew the results would be in, I called the lab to get my test results. The girl on the phone spoke as though the answer was completely expected and exactly what I’d been hoping for. It sounded like she did these tests all day long, and didn’t realize how the outcome of that little test would change my world. She happily told me that the test had come back negative. Not pregnant.
I didn’t feel any pain or sorrow at first. I felt completely numb, but the tears came anyway. I couldn’t stop crying as I felt like my life had taken a very unexpected and unpleasant turn. My sister and her husband just watched helplessly as the pain started to pierce through me. I felt a very real loss for someone I’d never met. In fact, I felt cheated – knowing I’d never even met this member of my family – and now I never would. I called Dave and told him what was happening. He calmly told me to call a doctor and get in as soon as possible, and that he would be home with me soon. I was so confused. If I had miscarried, why did it seem like nothing had happened? Could the test have been wrong? What was I supposed to do now?
I called my sister’s doctor, who couldn’t see me for another six weeks. I set up the appointment anyway, but continued to find someone who could see me sooner. I went to see another doctor two days later. Because I didn’t have health insurance, he had his resident see me. They told me they wanted to keep my costs down so they would do as little testing as possible. He didn’t perform any kind of physical assessment at all. The resident told me I’d miscarried, and if I didn’t naturally pass the baby within the next week, they could do it hormonally. He tried to be comforting, saying if this was his daughter, he would tell her the same thing. To wait it out. No ultrasound was done, no repeat pregnancy test. Nothing. I was still in denial, and certainly didn’t want to end my pregnancy hormonally if it was still viable. I waited to see the other doctor for a second opinion. Nothing changed. By the time I saw my sister’s doctor, it had been 4 ½ months since my last period.
This doctor performed a vaginal ultrasound, and immediately told me that I was not pregnant, and had never been pregnant. This news hit me like a brick. I thought there must be some psychological problem with me. That I had somehow wanted to be pregnant so badly I had convinced my body to act pregnant. I felt like I was going crazy, and I couldn’t connect everything that was running through my mind. I continued to try and make sense out of what was going on when the next brick hit me. The doctor went on to tell me it would be very difficult for me to conceive. My ovaries look like Swiss cheese and the lining on my uterus was all wrong. She offered to start me on infertility treatment immediately. This was so different from what I’d been expecting to hear, I couldn’t make sense of it all. I asked her how I had a positive pregnancy test. She told me that my condition caused hormonal changes in the body that mimic pregnancy. I asked her if I would be able to get pregnant without infertility treatment. She said maybe, but not likely. I asked her how much the treatment would cost. She told us it would cost a lot. She was right.
I went in to the doctor’s office expecting to hear that I’d miscarried or had an ectopic pregnancy. I went in there expecting to come out feeling like I had answers. Instead, I came out of the doctor’s office feeling more confused than ever.
David and I didn’t have the money we’d need for infertility treatment. I tried to convince myself it was OK. “I’m only 21 years old. I have plenty of time. We don’t need to hurry.” We barely scraped up enough money to fill the 10 day prescription from the doctor to restart my system. We continued on with our lives. Every month I hoped for a change. I wanted to feel the joy I’d felt before, when I was planning to be a mother. Instead, every month added pain to the loneliness I already felt. I became more and more hopeless. I felt like part of me was missing.
I starting putting everything I could give into my work. I picked up every hour I could to add to my paycheck. Dave picked up odd jobs in and out of the state and sacrificed a lot to make sure we could save money. After another year passed, we went back to the doctor ready to start infertility treatment. I thought we could just try this for a few months, end up with twins or triplets, and get back on track with our happy life together.
The meds made me feel horrible. I was angry all the time. Every morning, I was so dizzy I’d nearly pass out climbing out of bed. On occasion, I actually did. I couldn’t exercise. Nothing tasted good anymore. My treatment was very expensive, so even though I felt terrible, I went to work every day and tried to put on a good face. I told myself that I would be sick if I was pregnant, so this was just like an extended pregnancy. It was just part of the process. For a while we were spending $15 a day on pills alone, not to mention the doctor visits, twice monthly ultrasounds, and the procedures. Nothing was covered by our health insurance. The months continued on with no pregnancy. The doctor’s office staff knew my cycle better than I did, and frequently commented about how they couldn’t believe I wasn’t pregnant yet.
I was very sensitive to everything people said to me. People would talk about how lucky I was I didn’t have kids. They would talk about how Dave and I should stop “waiting” to have kids. They would tell me that if I wanted to become pregnant, I should just relax and stop trying so hard. Or that we’d get pregnant if we were more obedient to the commandments, by quitting my job and being a stay at home wife. We’d sort of left some people hanging when we’d thought we’d miscarried. Many people came to me to offer words of comfort saying, “at least you know you can get pregnant.” Everything they said made the sting even more pronounced. I was becoming bitter toward everyone. I didn’t want to talk about my infertility, but I couldn’t think about anything else.
I worked every moment I could to save up money for the next month’s treatment. I picked up every minute of overtime. I picked up a second job. There was a stretch of time where I literally worked for over 180 days straight. I felt like Dave didn’t understand anything I was going through. I felt like the pressure was unfairly distributed in our marriage. It didn’t seem right that I was working so many hours and so many days, taking pills that ravaged my body, and dealing with daily agony from the side effects. Not to mention scheduling doctor visits without drawing attention to my infertility, having rods and needles stuck in very awkward places, and having every ounce of modesty ignored as I exposed every body part to physicians and nurses. It seemed to me that David’s only role was to make love to me on the schedule outlined by the doctor. I didn’t feel like he could possibly understand the pain that I felt. Our marriage began to suffer. We couldn’t think about anything else besides having a baby. We hurt whenever someone announced their pregnancy. We ached whenever we heard about people “accidentally” getting pregnant, whether single or married. Our family was very supportive, but it didn’t seem to matter. Dave and I were exhausted and depressed. In the end we had given our doctor an entire year’s income, and the only thing we got in return was sickness and heartache. This continued to be the story of our life for the next three and a half years.
Our doctor retired. He referred us to a new physician, but it didn’t matter. We didn’t have any money left. We’d even gone into credit card debt hoping that the next month would be the month the treatment would work. Even if we’d been able to come up with more money, we didn’t have any strength left. We made the decision that we would stop our infertility treatment. We told ourselves that we could try again later, even though we knew we wouldn’t. I quit both of my jobs, and took a job at a nursing home that would only require me to work 3 nights a week. We moved on campus, and Dave started working for the University. We had started attending a married student ward. With over 22 children in the nursery, it came as a shock to us when we found out that there were many couples in the ward and stake that could not get pregnant. Word got out that we had gone through a lot with infertility. Being married for four years without children in a married student ward definitely makes you feel like the outcast. Or at least like you stand out – which we did. It was amazing how it seemed like everyone knew that we’d been trying for years to get pregnant. People we had never met would send us e-mails or call us. Ward members started coming to us, to ask questions about our treatment. We began to share our experience, and offer support and love to others in our similar circumstances. The Relief Society asked me to speak on infertility at an enrichment night. I studied everything I could, and shared my experiences with the women in the ward. I taught about how to be sensitive to others. I talked about not being offended. I was asked to speak again. I was asked to teach lessons on infertility in our Sunday meetings. More and more people starting coming to us for help. The years continued on, and many of those couples from the ward that had dealt with infertility were able to bear children.
As we were able to help others around us, it helped us to gain a purpose for our situation. We felt happier. Our marriage became much stronger. We began to understand each other better. It didn’t feel like one sided pain anymore. I knew that David had gone through as much pain and suffering as I had. We stopped worrying about cycles and timing. We didn’t compare who was working harder. It felt more balanced. We were called to serve in the nursery together, and loved every second. We attended every marriage and parenting class we could. We studied The Family: A Proclamation to the World and everything it meant to us. We learned about the type of parents we wanted to be. Our financial position started to improve. We paid off our debt and even started saving money for the first time in our marriage. We realized that just because our neighbors were pregnant, it didn’t make me less pregnant. (I know it sounds stupid, but that was the thought process). Rather than being sensitive to other’s comments, we became sensitive to other’s feelings. Even when people said the wrong thing, we knew what they were trying to say. I feel very blessed to have been able to find some light and peace through our hardships. We went to the temple regularly, and prayed constantly for a family. In the temple, we had an amazing experience. During a prayer, the temple worker asked for those in this room who were awaiting a child to be blessed with comfort and health. During that temple trip, Dave and I realized that we would definitely be parents, it just wouldn’t be on our timeline.
Even though we were finding peace, we could tell we weren’t there yet. It bothered us when people hesitate to tell us they were having children, and it bothered us when they announced it from the roof tops. We were undoubtedly jealous, but wouldn’t admit it. At times we would tell ourselves that we would be better parents than ‘so and so’. We had reached a plateau in our progression, and seemed to have settled for only being a little miserable.
David’s brother announced they were having a baby. We were excited. My sister announced she was too. We thought that was nice. My brother found out his wife was also expecting a baby. We were OK with that. Each announcement came days after the previous one. We knew each of our siblings would be amazing parents, but we could feel our strength dwindling. We’d had other nieces and nephews arrive before, but this many at once was definitely harder for us.
Shortly after my brother’s announcement, I had a dream that changed me. In my dream, David’s other brother (the only other married sibling) had announced his wife was pregnant. In my dream I was completely overwhelmed with anger. I broke. I screamed and yelled about how they didn’t deserve it, because they had only been married for eight months. I screamed that they hadn’t earned the right to have a baby. It seemed like the dream lasted the entire night, and my anger and pain grew more and more intense. When I woke up, I had come to an absolute knowledge of two things. First, I knew without a doubt that my sister-in-law was pregnant. I don’t know how to explain it, but I knew it was true, and given to me for a reason. Second, I knew the kind of person I wanted to be. I knew that I had the choice to be angry and bitter, or find joy in the things of God. I realized more strongly than I’d ever known before, that motherhood is sacred. Even if I wasn’t the mother. I knew that our family had received tremendous blessings, and it was time I started to show that by my actions. We called David’s brother, and congratulated him. He was a little surprised that we knew his wife was pregnant. He thought his wife must have told us. They hadn’t told anyone yet. They had been thinking about us, and wondering how their announcement would affect us. They had been praying that they would know how to tell us they were pregnant, so that we could celebrate with them. They prayed that they could be sensitive to us so that we would not feel pain while they were building their family. I have no doubt that my dream was an answer to their prayers. I have no doubt that the Lord was teaching me how to become the person he wants me to become. With her announcement, I was finally able to feel the same joy I’d felt when I thought I was going to be a mother. But this time it was for someone else. It was bigger than me. I wasn’t just celebrating one person as a mother. I was celebrating motherhood. That next spring, every married sibling had a baby girl within one month. And every occasion brought me true joy. I was finally able to recognize the blessings of mothers in my life. I could feel myself becoming more whole, and closer to our Father in Heaven.
Dave and I had talked about adoption, but I think we needed to learn more about families before we felt a confirmation of this prompting. It hadn’t really been something that had felt right to both of us at the same time. After our 6th wedding anniversary, it finally felt right. I don’t know how to explain it. David and I each felt it on our own, so when we talked about with each other we knew we were ready. It just hit us one day. Our baby was coming. We didn’t know when, but we finally knew how. It wasn’t from pills or injections or procedures. Our baby was coming to us through adoption. And we had never felt happier. It wasn’t the “next best thing.” It wasn’t the “last resort.” It wasn’t a temporary fix until we could get pregnant ourselves. It was THE thing. It was THE way our family was going to be built. We didn’t want someone else’s child – we wanted our child. And when we realized it, we started to find joy again. We went to the adoption agency immediately and starting filling out the paperwork. W e paid our deposit, and actively worked on every detail. The hole that had been a part of our family was beginning to fade.
We hit a few rough patches. Our caseworker moved, our file was lost, they switched the paperwork from hard copies to computerized. They forgot to call us about the required classes, so we had to wait until the next classes started. Our new caseworker was seemingly less effective. She wouldn’t return my e-mails or phone calls. She didn’t have the answers to our questions. But in spite of everything, we didn’t lose hope. It felt OK. There was no more question about if we would be parents, it was just a matter of time. My mom found a crib and changing table set at a garage sale. She picked it up, and we set up the crib in our second bedroom. We laid outfits on the mattress, and bought little toys. We made pass along cards that we mailed to everyone we could think of.
In October of that same year, we received a call about some twins that had already been born. The family was trying to find an LDS family to adopt them. They told us they would do everything in their power to see us get these babies. We were completely excited, and contacted our attorney and caseworker. The family gave our name to the judge, only to find out that the children were already assigned to a foster family who would likely adopt them. The ups and downs of adoption continued.
Dave was accepted to law school in Florida. We knew this would cause us to be ineligible for adoption for a while, until the new home study was completed. We also knew that moving would involve a fee for transferring our file, but we were ready for that. Dave had taken a full year off from school to save up money for adoption, and since the close call with the twins- we saved up double just in case. As soon as we moved, we saw a huge increase in the number of times our profile had been viewed. We heard about people who were looking at us. Our slightly less effective case worker had left our profile online, even though it was supposed to come down as soon as we moved. People were still looking at our profile. Friends and family would call up and tell us about how they had given our card to a really amazing woman, and they really hoped it would work out for us. Even though there were ups and downs, we only felt the ups. We were completely happy. We no longer felt any bitterness. We developed a strong love and admiration to birth moms. We joined with excitement as infertility treatment worked for so many of our friends.
On August 18, 2009 I came home to find an e-mail from a birth mom. She wanted to know if we lived in Logan or Florida (so I instantly knew she lived in Utah – other people would have said Utah or Florida), and she wanted to know if I would be staying at home with our baby after placement. I let her know the bad news. W e lived 2500 miles away in Florida, and I might have to work after placement (temporarily). I never expected to hear from her again. But she wrote back.
Although we were aching to know more about her pregnancy, I really wanted to know if she was even real. I wanted to know what this person was like. I wanted to know everything about her. I was completely wrapped up in every e-mail, and read into everything she said. We asked her questions to get to know her better. We didn’t know if she would choose us to be parents, but it didn’t matter. We felt like we were writing to a best friend. We loved to read her responses, and wondered if it was all really happening. The more details she shared with us, the more similarities we found. After a couple of weeks, I began to be skeptical. I couldn’t believe that there could possibly be a person in this world that I had more in common with. It was like she had taken cut outs from my history and pasted them into her e-mail as her own. I googled her name and looked her up on face book, just to see if she was real. She was. She told us her name was Sterling. (A long time favorite name of my sister). She was going to school at USU on a music scholarship. She participated in scholarship programs (me too) over the last few years. Like me, she loves the Skippy Jon Jones books read in a terrible Spanish accent. We found out that Dave had worked with her brother-in-law selling pianos, and that both of our families purchased a digital Baldwin piano from that store years ago. Dave even remembered that he had fixed her computer while they were both working for the housing department at USU.
The birth father’s life paralleled David’s life. They were both from Wyoming, went to school on music scholarship, majored in Law and Constitutional studies, and planned to attend law school. Every detail she shared made me a little more skeptical, and a little more excited. I was not looking for a birth mom who was just like me. I was not looking for a birth mom who would become like a sister to me. But with every e-mail, I became overwhelmed with our similarities. It felt as though my entire life had been prepared for this moment. My ENTIRE life. It was not a series of coincidences, but a series of perfectly orchestrated events that were clearly designed by our Father in Heaven. We didn’t know if she would give birth to our child, but we felt completely overwhelmed with gratitude to have her as a part of our lives. We knew that even if she didn’t choose us, she would make the right decision for her and this baby. We knew that even if she didn’t choose us, we would look back on this moment for the rest of our lives, and know that our Father in Heaven is looking out for us. It was a testimony to me of how right adoption can be. I realized that I didn’t need to have all of these details in common with a birth mom, but the more we got to know each other, the more humbled I became. It was like we’d known each other our whole lives. It felt like we had been seconds away from each other in everything we did. We continued to e-mail back and forth, sharing stories and thoughts.
Sterling had mentioned in one of her e-mails that she wouldn’t be able to choose a family until she had met them in person. We went for almost a month without contact, and Dave and I were missing her. We decided that we would head back to Utah for Thanksgiving, and see if she would like to meet us while we were out there. We e-mailed her to see if that would be OK. Our case worker got wind of this, and wanted to make sure that we weren’t going out there specifically to meet Sterling. She wanted to make it clear that Sterling hadn’t even decided to place her child, and we should not be making a special trip out there to see her. We assured our case worker (just a tiny stretch of truth) that the entire reason we were going out there was to see our family. And while we were there, we thought we’d make the most of it by meeting Sterling. Sterling agreed to meet us. We decided to meet at Chili’s the day after Thanksgiving.
We were terrified. As we tried to make ourselves look our best, we kept reminding ourselves that this is a FRIEND of ours. We decided that if she likes us, it should be for who we are. We kept telling ourselves to act normal. That if she was going to choose us, she deserved to know everything about us. No exaggerations or partial truths. Just plain old David and Amy sitting before her, ready to answer any questions, and ready to meet our new friend in person.
Just meeting Ben and Sterling would have been enough. Even if we’d never heard from them again, it would have been worth it. But just in case she was carrying our baby, we decided we owed it to our child to do our part in bringing him home. We originally bought a box of chocolates for them to share, but didn’t feel like that was good enough. Who would pick a couple that gave them chocolate? We gave the chocolates to Ben. We decided to be a little more creative with Sterling’s gift, a fact I hope she will laugh about now. At the last minute we stopped at Borders and purchased one of my favorite CDs by Celtic Woman. As a classically trained vocalist, I thought she’d appreciate the music. But that wasn’t my only reason. I thought that if Sterling ate the chocolate, she would think about us once. But if she listened to this CD, she’d think about us each time. And with any luck, maybe one of the songs would get stuck in her head! I pictured her out on the road delivering pizzas for work, listening to beautiful music that brings out peaceful emotions. I thought maybe she’d think of us, with peaceful emotions too! I can honestly say that my tactics were completely ridiculous, and did not make any difference. But we really did let our insecurities make us over-think every detail of our interactions.
We arrived at the restaurant first. The workers sat us at a table, and although we never do this, we asked if they could find us a booth for more privacy. We had just sat down when we saw Ben and Sterling walking toward the entrance. We’d seen pictures, so we knew we’d recognize them. But when they walked into the restaurant, we recognized them as though we’d known each other forever. Our fear left us, and we felt completely at peace. We acted just like we always do. We talked too much, listened too little, asked personal questions, talked over each other. And it felt perfect. We felt like we were sitting with our best friends in the whole world. The poor waiter had to come back three times to take our order because we were talking so much. None of us really ate anything. Sterling told us she told us she was having a boy.
Although I was hoping we’d get stuck in her head, she was actually stuck in ours. We checked our e-mail constantly, hoping for a new message in our inbox. Every time I heard a Celtic Woman song, I thought of her. Actually, almost any song would make us think of her. I was an emotional mess. Anything and everything would bring tears to my eyes. At least I could chalk it up to Christmas spirit.
David’s little brother came home from his mission in Thailand. We decided to make another trip out west to see him, and hoped to catch up with Ben and Sterling over New Year’s sometime. We figured that since she’d waited to tell us she was having a boy until we saw her in person, maybe she’d let us know her plans the next time we saw her in person. Our plans were to fly out after Christmas, and spend a week in Wyoming. I was on-call for work over Christmas so I could have the time off over the next week. I ended up working the day shift and the night shift before Christmas Eve. I had been awake for well over 24 hours, and finally laid down to sleep on Christmas Eve at about 9:00am. By 11:00am David came into our bedroom and woke me up. He told me we had received a package from Sterling. It said it was from “Santa”.
I was wide awake immediately. It was truly like waiting for Santa. It didn’t really matter how tired I was, there was something in this package that would mean a lot to me. The package said, “Do not open until Christmas Eve.” I was pretty frazzled, and didn’t want to informally rip open a package, even though I knew it was already Christmas Eve. I tried to remind myself of the ups and downs of adoption, and thought that maybe she sent us a box of chocolates or a CD or a fruitcake or something. I didn’t want my emotions to be all over the place. I was tired and emotional, and wanted to be ready for whatever was in that box. Whether it was a simple gift or something more, I wanted to be ready. I got up and took a shower. We walked the dog and played Christmas music. We waited until 5:00pm when we decided we were ready. We wanted to thank her for whatever this gift was, so we set up the camera to take repeat pictures on a timer while we opened the gift, so she could see our reaction.
Sterling had sent us the most incredible Christmas gift we could ever imagine. Inside the box, there was a pair of little fleece jammies, a homemade baby blanket, a willow tree figurine of a family, and CD of her singing “From God’s Arms, to My Arms, to Yours.” We cried so much we couldn’t speak. We didn’t say a word for over two hours. We held each other in our arms, and cried more tears than ever before. Every bit of pain we’d suffered over the last eight years was not just gone, but replaced with complete happiness. Of course we were excited and overjoyed, but we were also humbled, honored, and felt a heavy responsibility. We knew we had been trusted with something sacred. A family.
We wanted to call her. We’d saved her cell phone number from our trip to Utah. We could barely speak to each other, and didn’t know how to thank her in a way that didn’t sound trite – so we called our parents first. Dave tried to talk to his family, but couldn’t even speak when they answered the phone. They were extremely worried, and thought some enormous tragedy had hit. Dave has never been the type of person who is at a loss for words. He passed the phone to me, and I choked out a brief sentence or two about the gift we’d received. We cried with them for a while. We hung up the phone and cried some more. We repeated the same thing when we called my parents. We took a walk along the beach trying to gather our thoughts. We finally decided that we would send Sterling an e-mail. We knew it was impersonal, but we thought we’d send something simple. And we didn’t want to cross any boundaries by calling her on her cell phone. Our plan was to say something like: “Wow. We want to call you, if that’s OK (once we gain our composure).” We knew it was pathetic, but based on our prior attempts at conversation, we thought that would be the best we could offer right then.
We opened our e-mail to find the next amazing treasure. Sterling had e-mailed us. She told us that she’d hoped we’d opened at least one Christmas gift, and asked us to please call. We did. I wish I could say we offered some eloquent thank you. I wish I could say we said something of value. But I quite honestly don’t remember a single word that we said. But I remember her. I will forever remember hearing the sound of her voice. I could hear something in her voice. It was pure and sincere. She had given us the greatest of all gifts, and although I know it was not easy, I knew that she meant it. I knew that she had made this decision for herself, because she had felt a confirmation that it was right. I am so grateful to her. She made a completely selfless decision, and has changed our lives forever. This person, who was a stranger months ago, was now one of the most important people I’d ever meet. She is more than a best friend to me; she is a part of our family.
We flew out and met up with her the next week. We joined her at a birth mom meeting at LDS Family Services. One of the birth moms shared her story. I, of course, cried the entire evening. I was completely touched by the story shared. I became completely overwhelmed, realizing that I was sitting in the presence of some of the Lord’s elect. I know that many birth moms don’t see themselves that way, but I know that birth moms are some of the most incredible examples we have. These are women who have not only suffered physical pain of childbirth on behalf of their child. These are women who suffer physical pain from pregnancy and childbirth, and emotional pain from placement. They experience this pain, not for themselves, but on behalf of another family. And here I was, surrounded by people whose love and sacrifice will never be forgotten, women whose legacy will change generations.
Sterling’s mom and step-dad took us out for dinner. We talked for a long time, making some basic plans and talking about the next couple of months. We were so grateful that we could meet her parents. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but we’d already become a little protective of Sterling. It’s a very big brother/big sister thing. We wanted to make sure that she has a strong support system. She does. Her parents are every bit as incredible as she is. We were so grateful to know that there would be people surrounding her to give her love and support.
The next two months were full of sleepless nights, excitement, panic, joy, and exhaustion. We tried to think of everything. We packed our bags in case she went into labor early. We scrubbed the entire house several times over. We trimmed the dog’s nails as short as we could. We stayed up late and woke up early, making lists of things we wanted to remember to do. The time flew by, and dragged on at the same time.
Shortly before her due date, we received some news Sterling’s step-dad fell into a coma. Because of a very unique set of medical circumstances, his body was shutting down. We were extremely worried about her. We knew she already had so much on her plate and we didn’t know how she could handle any more. His prognosis was uncertain. We didn’t know what say to offer our love and support. We didn’t know if he would survive the next few days. All we could do was offer prayers for her and her family. She assured us that her plan for placement had not changed. That was comforting for us, but we felt helpless on how to comfort her. Although she’d already been in our prayers daily, the prayers changed. We prayed, not just for her, but for her entire family to have strength and peace.
As her due date approached, we started to try to figure out the details. We knew we would not be there for the delivery, but we definitely didn’t want to have our flight delayed due to a snow storm or anything else. I knew that I could leave work at any time and head on out to Utah, but Dave had to balance things a little differently with law school. He could only miss a week of school, so we if arrived early, those would be days spent without his son. With spring break approaching, we decided to head out to Utah. That would give David two weeks to stay out there before needing to come back to Florida, and we knew the baby would definitely come within that time frame.
Sterling was induced on Saturday morning, February 20th, 2010, the same day we flew out to Utah. She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy at 5:31pm. He was 8lbs 2oz, 20 ½ inches long. We were in Chicago for our layover when he arrived. She called us to let us know he’d arrived safely. We cried some more. We found our own corner at the airport and called our families to give them the update. Sterling sounded amazing. She didn’t sound exhausted from the hours of labor, although I’m sure she was. She invited us to stop in and see all of them at the hospital after our plane landed that night, although we were convinced that by the time we made to Utah, the exhaustion would catch up with her. We were thrilled to see this new little one, but we felt fine with seeing him on Sterling’s time. We had already decided that the hospital would be her time, and it felt right for us. We texted her when we landed, but the fatigue of childbirth had caught up to her, and she was ready for sleep. We spent the night at my parent’s house, and went out to the hospital the next day.
We hardly slept at all that night. We waited anxiously to meet our son. It was an amazing thing to think about – MEETING our son. Our SON. Wow. Years of waiting, and now he was here. Not in our arms, but he was here. We repeated this same conversation for hours – but it still overwhelmed us. We drove out to the hospital at noon the next day. We waited in the parking lot until they were ready for us to come up. We got a little lost looking for the room, but some good Samaritans helped us find our way. We knocked on the door. We were very surprised that Sterling opened the door. She was up and walking around in the hospital room. She looked beautiful and calm. Ben was in the room, sitting on the couch with the new born baby in his arms. He looked like he was in heaven – cherishing every second he had with this little guy. We couldn’t believe he was really there. We wanted to hold him, but as soon as we saw Ben and the look he had on his face, we didn’t have it in us to ask. It was like time stood still at that moment. This baby was in the arms of his father, someone who would do anything for him. Although we didn’t ask to hold him, we couldn’t help but touch him. Dave gave him a kiss while I looked at his long, piano player fingers. Sterling pulled off his hat so we could see the short brown hair that covered his little head. He was perfect. This moment was perfect. Everything about it felt right. We just had a short visit and decided we needed to let them have this time to themselves. We met some of the family, and caught up with the brother-in-law Dave had worked with years ago. Then we went out to the car and tried to catch our breath. Everything was perfect. We felt completely at peace. We decided to name him after my husband. Ben and Sterling agreed on the name. They’d been calling him Junior or David. We’d been calling him Bo, after Sterling’s middle name.
We tried to imagine our first night as a family. We had planned to spend the night at a hotel, so that our first night would just be the three of us. My parents wouldn’t hear of it. They insisted that we needed the rocking chair and the fireplace for our new baby. They found a hotel room and left their home for us.
We didn’t know if placement would be that day or the next, but either way it would be OK. We texted Sterling to see how the night went, but we didn’t hear back. We went out for lunch with some of our friends in Utah, but couldn’t really eat. While we were there, we got a call from Sterling’s case worker. She asked us if we would be able to be to placement at 5:30 that night. What a silly thing to ask. This was one of those moments we’d waited for our entire lives. We wouldn’t have missed it for anything. In fact, we showed up for placement an hour early. We knew Sterling would already be at the agency, and we didn’t want to interrupt her time, so we spent the next hour at the mall. The clock seemed to barely move. I’ve never felt a longer hour in my life. Dave and I both had butterflies in our stomachs. We hadn’t eaten anything all day. Our mouths were completely dry. At 5:20 we called her case worker to see how she was doing. The case worker asked if we could come at 5:45 instead. We sat in the car. We looked at the gifts we’d picked out, and felt like they were very inadequate. We drove over to the agency and waited a few more minutes before heading in.
The case worker took us back to an office where Ben and Sterling’s families were waiting. We met Ben’s parents for the first time. His sister was there too. Sterling’s mom was there. We all ached for her step-dad to be there. Her mom received periodic updates from family members who were at the hospital. We were able to get an update on his condition.
It was an incredible experience to get to know more about Ben. Although we already felt like he was a brother, we didn’t really know much about him. It was fun to hear more stories and see him from the eyes of his parents. We felt so blessed to have been able to get to know Sterling so well in the last few months, and loved hearing everything we could about them both as we sat with their families that night. Ben and Sterling were in another room, having their last few moments with Baby David.
Sterling’s mom was called into the other room. We were told Sterling was ready to sign the paperwork. More time passed. When Sterling’s mom returned to the room, we asked how Sterling was doing. She told us it was really hard. She told us that she was not worried about this little boy, because she knew he would be loved. She was worried about her daughter. We were too. We didn’t expect this night to be easy. I offered another silent prayer for her as we sat together in silence.
The family was called into the room with Ben and Sterling. They gathered together for a family prayer. David and I sat with the case worker for a few moments in the office, as she outlined the rest of the evening for us. We were so grateful to have someone keep the night moving. Every moment seemed difficult, and we were so grateful to Sterling’s case worker for her strength and experience. It was one of those bitter sweet moments that life offers us. We saw a close friend of ours have a part of her torn off and given to us. She gave us the most precious gift in the world.
When we were invited into the conference room where placement would occur, we started off with taking pictures. We visited for a little while. Sterling shared her pregnancy and delivery experience. Every person in the room had an opportunity to share their hopes and dreams for little David. We all wanted the same things. We want him to have a testimony of Jesus Christ. We want him to live the principles of the gospel, serve a mission, and marry in the temple. We want him to develop a love for music, listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. We want him to be kind, and live his life in a way that will enable him to return to our Father in Heaven. When it was David’s turn to share his hopes and dreams, he agreed with everything that had been said. Then he made a promise that he would do everything in his power to raise this son up to honor the priesthood, and teach him everything he needs to know to accomplish everything the Lord has in store for him.
We exchanged gifts. Our feelings of inadequacy overwhelmed us again. We gave Sterling a memory book of all of our e-mails back and forth. We also each wrote a letter to her, sharing our hearts. We had given her a charm bracelet over New Years. We added a charm to it at placement. For Ben, we gave him locket cuff links, with pictures from the hospital of him and little David inside. We hope he can use them when he becomes an attorney. We also gave him a gift that David had received before going to law school. It was a desk set of the scales of justice. David told him that lawyers frequently get a bad reputation, but the reality is that they are following in the footsteps of our Savior. Our Mediator, Jesus Christ, helps us to have a chance at eternal life. We wrote letters to him, too.
They gave us gifts, too. They had made a build-a-bear named Junior, with two hearts inside. Ben gave baby David “Baloo”, a long time companion, stuffed animal from his own childhood. Sterling gave us an incredible hand-made quilt. The first she’d ever completed and finished that day for placement. There were a lot of clothes, books, blankets, hospital records, The Jungle Book movie, and letters to us and little David. Everything we were given is a treasure.
Ben and Sterling stopped and looked at each other. Ben nodded, and they both stood up. David and I stood as well. In a single motion, we embraced and Sterling placed our baby into my arms for the first time. Time stood still again, as I looked into my arms to see the long awaited, perfect little being that was entering our family. He was a perfect fit into the spot in our lives that had been missing. We had been waiting for him. Not waiting for a baby. We were waiting our whole lives for this baby, our son, David.
After more hugs and heartfelt words of love, Dave and I were left with little David in the conference room. It was our first moments together as a family. We cried some more, as the realization of everything we’d been through together sunk in. It had all been worth it. Every tear cried, every pain felt, every moment of longing was worth it. In a single moment, the pains we had suffered were replaced with joy that was even more exquisite than our pain. Our lives will never be the same. We have truly been changed by what we have experienced.
We signed our paperwork, and fumbled around with securing David into his car seat. We bundled him up so the cold air wouldn’t touch him, loaded him into the car, and drove at grandma speeds back to my parent’s house for our first night. He was awake for the entire hour long car drive. I was able to sit in the back next to him. All I was able to do was stare at him and sing primary songs to him. We arrived at the house at about 11:30pm. We took some photos of the three of us settling in, and sent them to Ben and Sterling. The first night was magical. We hardly slept at all, and we hardly cared. We didn’t want to miss a second of that night.
The next several days were intense. We had family coming from everywhere to meet their new nephew, grandson, great grandson, cousin, and more. The visitors started arriving early, and stayed late. An impromptu baby shower was thrown for us before we left for Florida. We got our clearance to head home after eight days, a miracle of its own. Sterling contacted us and asked how we’d feel about one quick visit before we flew home. It had only been about a week and a half since little David was born, but we wanted to see her and Ben again. We met at the LDS Family Services Agency in one of the offices. It was incredible to have a few more quiet moments with all of us. We updated them on all of the bowel movements, burps, and sleeping patterns. We took pictures, and passed the little guy around for lots of love.
The three of us were able to fly home together, and have a couple of days of quiet before Dave headed back to law school. We sent off pictures and e-mail updates to Ben and Sterling as scheduled. It was so fun choosing the pictures to send and writing down the cute little stories that only birth parents would appreciate. We wrote about how much he was eating, and each little milestone he reached. We continue to stay in contact with them and exchange e-mails, gifts and occasional phone conversations. We have a memory book started for our son, so that he can cherish these memories as much as we do.
We know our adoption story is not over. In fact, we know it is only beginning. We have an open adoption with our son’s birth parents. We are so thankful for Ben and Sterling, who have lived their lives so that we know they will be an influence for good on our family. We have no doubt that they will teach our son the principles of the gospel by the choices they have made. We have no doubt that they are leading and will continue to lead exemplary lives. We are grateful for the experiences that we have been blessed with. We feel like the Lord was looking out for us, specifically. He created the perfect family for us. We know that the ups and downs will continue throughout our lives, but we look forward to facing those challenges as a family. We have learned so much about trusting in the Lord with all our hearts, and hope that our story can bring hope to others around us.