Question: I’m wondering if you might consider doing a post on being open to pregnancy after having a special needs child. I know that you are nearing the end of your child bearing years, but I have several friends who have had special needs children as their first or fifth, and they are now struggling with the issues of having more while caring for their little one.
Answer: I first received this question nearly a year ago. Guess I waited too long to answer it, didn’t I? *grin*
From what I’ve observed, I think it may have been tougher for us if Verity had been our first child, or had been born when our oldest was still quite young. As it was, she was born into a “village,” with multiple ages, personalities, and talents all part of the mix. And as parents with young adult children, we were operating more and more from a trust in God and less and less from some pipedream of parental perfection.
Verity and Katie have brought only good to our family, and it has been only good for both of them to be in our big family. We had no question about whether we wanted more children, our question had to do with when. For more on that question, read on.
Question: I just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying following your journey, and how encouraging your story is to me. We have three small children, all adopted. I wondered, if possible, and if you have time, if you could answer a question for me. Your children with special needs, are they good sleepers? Our special needs child suffers from excessive muscle tone at night, and it is resulting in not a lot of sleep for everyone. It does get me discouraged as I would love to have more children…but we are so weary right now. I’d love your thoughts.
Answer: Bless your heart, thank you so much for writing! You are in one of the most difficult mothering seasons, that of having all your children be very dependent. Even without having a child with special needs, the years when all the children are very young and dependent are exhausting ones, as I well remember. But those years move so quickly, and are all the more precious for being so fleeting.
About the sleep, that is a hard one I know. We’ve been through seasons of severe, long-term sleep deprivation–for almost two months after having the twins and for weeks after Verity was born–and it is very difficult. We would just encourage you not to make any permanent decisions during the hardest times.
Remember that just because you might decide this year that you’re not ready to add another child doesn’t mean your decision will still be the same next year. Or other issues may arise that make that decision still the best one five years from now. You don’t have to decide the next five or ten years at this moment. Right now you and your husband can decide for right now. At the same time, we’d urge you to keep your hearts open to God and any changes He makes to your plans.
We believe that these decisions, and your underlying motives for making them, are between you, your husband, and God.
Question: This may be too personal a question (or just not relevant enough) and I will understand completely if you choose not to answer it, but it’s something I’ve always wondered about. I am guessing from your family size that, at least prior to Katie’s adoption, you were of the “open-to-life” or “quiver-full” (for lack of a better term) persuasion. I am wondering if God’s call to adopt has changed your perspective on welcoming further biological children at all. In particular, what advice would you give to a family who is typically open to pregnancy whenever, but are in the process of adopting and could potentially delay or even derail their adoption process if they were to become pregnant?
Answer: Even before we were married we hoped for the privilege of rearing many children. So a few years ago, we were surprised to learn that “quiverfull” was a movement and that according to the official rules of the club, we did not qualify to be members! We found this amusing, considering that we were the parents of eight children with another one on the way.
We’ve always deliberately planned space between our children for breastfeeding purposes and a couple of times for health reasons. We’ve taken it one child at a time, and waited until we both felt ready to try for the next baby.
At the same time, we deliberately hold our plans in open hands, knowing that God could change them at any time.
We see it a little like gardening. One year, we might plant an acre of vegetables, while another year, we might consider that we could do justice to just a few rows. Or we might not plant anything at all.
We can bear witness to the fact that if God chooses to bless us with more increase than we’d previously thought we could handle, He is very free to do that, and indeed has done that. We wouldn’t have Joshua, Peter and James (our twins), or Benjamin if God hadn’t superseded our plans.
Conversely, one year we planned our garden and He sent a scorching drought. He allowed us to lose one of our unborn children and then kept my womb closed for nearly a year when I was still young and yearning for more children. He taught me first to honor Him in my grief, “I am just as worthy of praise now when you are hurting as when you are rejoicing.” And then, gently but firmly, to relinquish my stubborn grip on my own vision for my life, and begin to learn to live life open wide to whatever He chooses for me.
Our trust is set firmly on Him to put our family together just as He pleases. As we have stayed open to Him, He has often chosen to stretch us way beyond comfortable. And then we get to see what He can do–so much greater than our plan for what we can do.
How does this relate to pregnancy during adoption? He’s in charge of that just like He’s in charge of everything else. He can use a pregnancy to delay an adoption for His own purposes. Or He can bring both to fruition as He did with Tommy and Benjamin, using agencies that judge each case separately and do not have automatic rules against pregnancy while adopting.
“No problem with pregnancy during adoption. Full speed ahead!” read the email I will never forget.
While I don’t see child-bearing or adoption as a “duty,” I am commanded to do everything without complaining or arguing. I am commanded to trust and not be afraid. I am commanded to rejoice always.
At times during these past months, I have needed to deliberately turn my eyes away from my own limitations and my ears away from the hateful lies of our critics, and soak in the truth of who my heavenly Father is and what He has promised to His sons and daughters.
And if need be, purposefully choose to open my mouth and sing the truth out loud.
To all the mothers who are reading this–Happy Mother’s Day!
With much love,
A happy mother of children