I had been married for less than a year the first time somebody at church asked me when I was going to get pregnant. I was just 22 and working full-time as my husband started his degree course.
Over the next few years this question came up time and again, phrased in different ways, but always with the same emphasis: surely this is the route you will be following.
I once posted on Facebook that I would soon “start spreading the news” – because I was about to go to New York and thought it was a funny way to tell people. In retrospect it was not funny and my newsfeed was immediately filled with people jumping to entirely the wrong conclusion… I deleted that status soon after.
The question is rarely, if ever, asked by anybody who knows anything about us, because they know that our heart has never been to have birth children, but to adopt our family when we’re ready to offer our future children the stability and security that they’ll need.
I wouldn’t for a minute suggest that adoption is for everyone – although I probably would ask everyone to at least consider whether it might be – and I absolutely understand that for many individuals and couples the desire for birth children is natural and wonderful. I celebrate with each of my friends as they fall pregnant and I love their little ones – many of whom are my favourite people in the world.
I have also wept and prayed with those who long for pregnancy and birth children but are not yet experiencing that in their journey, whether because of infertility, miscarriage or perhaps not having the required relationship status. Their pain and this struggle is entirely valid, because it is a God-given desire that we might want to procreate and experience the joy of having birth children.
But it is also entirely valid to not want this.
It doesn’t make me less of a woman, less of a wife or less of a mother to desire to build my family through adoption – and thankfully my husband agrees with this wholeheartedly and we have been able to make every decision together. For us, adoption is our first choice. Something we believe God has called us to, and we hope and pray He will equip us for, because we know it won’t be an easy road.
But will the Church recognise this too – and celebrate it with us? Will we broaden our understanding of family, of marriage and parenting, of womanhood and personhood, to allow each one of us to follow our unique path without the weight of assumption on our shoulders?
Because I’ve found that for us, and many others choosing or unfortunately experiencing ‘unconventional’ routes to family, some people in the Church don’t always ‘get’ what we’re doing.
We assume that boy meets girl and they get wed, and within a few years they easily and happily fall pregnant. When it’s expected that girl stays home, or maybe returns to work part-time, and that boy will earn the pennies. When it’s anticipated that baby number one will be joined by a younger sibling within a two-year timeframe. When any or all of these assumptions are given space to exist, or other ones like them, and when we foster them within our churches, we are limiting the possibility of God’s creative potential and the unique callings He places on His people.
Who knows what He may have for you, or for those around you?
What about the incredible single person who would make a fantastic parent, who God is calling to adopt a child who desperately needs a home? What about the couples who have come to the mutual decision not to have children because God wants to use them a different way? What about the dads who have a God-given desire to stay at home and play a more significant role in raising their children, or the mums who God wants to use through their career?
What about those of you who may be called to foster and adopt, but have never even considered this because these things are simply not talked about enough in our churches in a positive and life-giving light? His ways are limitless. They are far beyond my understanding. And yours.
For more information about fostering and adoption, visit www.homeforgood.org.uk.