Rushing from adrenaline rush to adrenaline rush…mountain top to mountain top…we tend to abhor what we label (mis-label) as everyday, boring tedium. Washing dishes, folding the laundry, washing the car, fixing the gate to the yard, chopping carrots, putting kids to bed, re-organizing our closet…
We want to do “big things.” You know, like watch a great movie (ha). We want a “chicken soup for the soul,” “hallmark hall of fame” moment to wash over us every day. If we don’t feel the electric tingles or the weepies we think a moment must not have been “real” or “worthy” of retelling. And maybe it’s not worthy of retelling…at least in the awesome dinner story around the table. But it’s the everyday stuff that is most definitely real. Maybe even more real, real-er, than those “precious moments” that we like to romanticize. Maybe the campfire Jesus sat around with the disciples was just as real and worthy as the miracles the disciples witnessed. Maybe taking a meal to a family is just as (more!) worthy than starting a charity.
Janna and I started the process to adopt through the state of Georgia 13 months ago. It began slowly. An application packet received, then a 16 hour intro class, then we stalled. Life got in the way. We already have 2 kids and a busy life. We went on a marriage weekend retreat and one of our assignments was to take a walk together and discuss the future. We decided to finish our application packet by Christmas 2010. We did. Then it took 3 1/2 months for our fingerprints to come back (yay govt budget cuts and red tape). We finally got an email stating our file was complete and someone would call us to schedule a home visit. That was over a week ago. So we wait. On one hand, we do have things to do. We’re not sitting around waiting for a child. We have 2 of those. We have jobs. On the other hand, we are waiting. And it can be annoying. The state (DFCS, Dept of Family/Children Services) has billboards all around saying “Foster or Adopt Today.” Yep. Maybe not today. And now I hear my 2 year old saying “Dada!” from the bedroom and my 8 year old is awake. THAT will not wait. Gotta go.
Filed under: Fighting Inertia
“Winners never quit” is a dumb phrase. I quit all the time. Like today. I’m done. I’m sure I’ll re-sign-up tomorrow. Maybe. Probably. But today I’m done, finished, through. I have plans for tomorrow though. Tomorrow I will wake up, drink coffee, read some more of a book I’m 3/4 through, drink coffee, stretch, pray, take a walk, have a good conversation, pray, read, and maybe walk some more. I’m pretty sure I’ll re-sign-up after that. But tonight…I quit.
The following is our story. It is not meant to teach or be a how-to manual. It’s just our story. Our adoption was very unique but our infertility struggle was not. After telling this story many times I was encouraged to write it down. It’s the most personal thing I’ve ever put in public view. The picture is a picture of a Polaroid picture taken within minutes of meeting our pretty baby.
Before I was a dad, even before I was a husband, I knew I wanted to be both. I wanted to be a dad. When Janna and I were getting to know each other, it was obvious that she also wanted to have children – to be a mom – a Mama.
We got married on June 22, 1996 (that’s another story) and moved to Augusta, Ga. We decided it was probably a good idea to postpone having kids at least for a while. We need to get to know each
other, enjoy being married, all the standard reasons.
Just before our first anniversary, we helped plan and lead a camp for inner city kids 9-13 years of age – Camp Flood. During that week, we were able to have a rare private conversation, and we decided to start “trying” to have a child when we returned. It had been a year and who knew how long it might take. We had friends who had had trouble conceiving. Why wait any longer? Interesting note: In a rare private moment at a youth camp in July of 1995, we talked and nailed down the fact that we were “best friends.” Four months later we were engaged. Maybe I need to go to camp with my wife more often.
During the next year (June 97-98) several things changed in our lives. We came within 4 hours of signing a lease on a house and moving to Marietta, GA (3 hours away) to help with the youth group at the Marietta Vineyard Church. What stopped us? I was offered the youth pastor position at our church in Augusta. We felt it was the right thing to do – to remain where God had us – so we unpacked our apartment (we had totally packed up thinking we were moving shortly), we signed another year lease on our apar
tment, and began to prepare to work with the youth full time. Oh, and Janna was offered a position at a school – a position that was just created – and no other applicants were considered. The rest of the summer was somewhat relaxing as we unpacked and got ready for a great new year. The previous year, our first year of marriage, had been really tough. We discovered we didn’t really know each other that well. I HATED my teaching job – maybe I was young and naïve, maybe the school was poorly ran, maybe it was a tough area, maybe I was in a new city with few friends, or maybe I wanted my mom – maybe all of the above.
But that was over now. I was taking my dream job – working with teenagers in a Vineyard Chu
rch that not only would allow me to do ministry my way, but also shared the same values. In April 98, we bought our first house – a very cool (dare I say “cute”) bungalow that was 1 mile from the church and 2 blocks from Janna’s school. There wasn’t a door on the guest bedroom but it had a nice-sized yard, real wood floors, a deck, and a fence in the back yard – for dogs…and maybe kids.
I loved my job, the teens, my co-workers, my wife, my house, my small group at church and life was trucking on.
But month after month, very noticeably, we weren’t getting pregnant. It wasn’t a huge thing until a year went by and we wondered – “maybe something is wrong.” Our home group and certain family members were praying for us…but…nothing. We took some advice from friends and sex-perts and such…but…nothing.
Finally, we sought professional help. A friend from church was a “lady-doctor” [OBGYN] an
d Janna felt very comfortable with her. Her initial advice was to “take off our wedding rings, move to a bad neighborhood, or have sex in the back of Janna’s dad’s truck” and see if that worked – it seemed to work for other young ladies. Ha. We love her.
So, we did all of those things (not really) and moved on to the next steps. The temperature readings, the hormone medicine (aka “the devil medicine”), the phone calls at inopportune times for me to “come home now” (let the reader understand), the strategies, etc, etc, etc. “Scientific sex” as folks called it was not natural, sometimes laughable, and not producing a darn thing – except anxiety and that empty feeling. Other friends were having babies…why not us? Invitations to baby showers were coming in the mail…the “club” was getting bigger…but Janna was not. I took the liberty of throwing a few invitations in the trash before Janna knew about them…only to have her find out
later and get angry with me – not because she didn’t know about them and go, but because others might think she knew about it and blew it off – on purpose. I was trying to be a good husband…but the whole situation was just tough. We were beginning to feel the identity of “the couple that can’t conceive” and we didn’t want that. We were Kent and Janna – or rather kentnjanna – not “the barren couple.”
Our dogs helped though – seriously – I miss Buford and Millie, the basset hounds. They traveled with us, slept at the foot of our bed, had 2 litters of puppies together, barked a bit too much and got out of the fence occasionally, and were generally awesome. By the way, there is NOTHING cuter than a basset hound puppy.
After some time (I forget the actual time line), we decided to take the next step – see a specialist, one whom our friend/lady-doctor recommended, and go from there. Dr. [Frenchman with cold hands] was su
per. We tried a few things but the next big step was artificial insemination – which is just as unnatural and weird as it sounds – like something that happens on a farm with test tubes, latex gloves, and turkey-baster-type instruments. “Hi, honey. Was it good for you?”
Now, I have a whole stand-up comedy routine based on this experience, but I’ll save that for another time. It’s rated PG-13, but it is hilarious and real. Basically, I had to humor myself to get through this completely embarrassing and invasive ordeal.
On to the story. Over the course of the next 2 years we tried A.I. 3 times.
Each time the doctor told us the same thing – it all looks as good as it can, it’s never 100% sure, but close enough. And each time, about 2 weeks later, Janna discovered she was not pregnant. The first time was tough, but “ok, we’ll try again.” The doctor suggested trying it 2-3 times. The second time was tou
gher, but “ok, let’s give it one more shot.” The third time was a whole different experience. We knew going into this that it would be the last time we tried using this method. We felt good about it. We would go for the procedure then head out of town for annual staff retreat at the beach – a good time to relax (especially for Janna who didn’t have to attend the business type meetings) and just see what happens. 2 days into the retreat my wife feels ill and vomits. I immediately think, “my wife is pregnant! I’m going to be a dad. It worked.” I went to the store to get Sprite and crackers while she calls her doctor to ask some questions. When I return she says the doctor feels it’s too early to experience morning sickness. She was right – Janna simply had a virus. So, the first time my wife vomits in about 10 years happens to be 2 days after A.I. – we feel like a cruel joke is being played on us.
I also need to insert a side-story here. In the weeks leading up to the procedure and retreat, we discovered that Millie, our 3 year-old basset, had lymphoma. The vet says it usually works its way through the body quickly and we had two basic options: spend a few thousand dollars with a specialist and she might live a few more years, or see what happens but she’ll probably die soon. We did NOT have thousands of dollars for our dog – as lovable as she was – and opted for the latter. John Wesley was known to pray for his horse, so I prayed for my dog. But, Millie got worse. She was soon blind and ate very little. It was sad.
A few days after we returned home, a full 2 weeks after the procedure, Janna woke up to discover that, again, she was not pregnant. And to compound the atmosphere in the Moore-house, Millie could no lo
nger even get up and walk. I scooped her up and took her to the vet. I called Janna to say that it was over and we really needed to put her to sleep. She chose not to be there when they did it nor help with the burial – choices I fully understood. So, I had our Millie put to sleep, brought her home and buried her in the back yard, called in to say that I would not be working that day, turned the phones off, pulled down the curtains, and watched bad movies with Janna. It was a dark day – maybe the darkest – for the Moore-house. It was tough, very tough.
Buford, our male basset (whose middle name was “Belvedere” – I had the official paperwork to prov
e this – did I mention we didn’t have any kids?), was a lonely little hound dog. If you can imagine a basset hound looking more mournful that it already does…imagine that. He wouldn’t eat much and stayed very near our sides…and whined a lot through his nose – and oh the howling…
After two weeks of this, I was through. I announced, “We have to get another female basset” – to which Janna responded, “we can’t afford it” to which I responded, “I don’t care – sometimes you have to use the credit card.” So I made phone calls to the 2 kennels where we found Millie and Buford. Let me add here that they were both family owned kennels – out on the farm, treated well, and the kind of families you’d want to have over for dinner – not pet
The kennel where we bought Millie did in fact have a female basset puppy available so we loaded up the car and drove 1.5 hours to the country, bought the puppy, and drove 1.5 hours back home. We named her Lula Bell (or LuLu as she would be known). At first, Buford, who was 3 years old at the time, wasn’t so sure about this little girl but he warmed up to her and she brought some joy back into the Moore-house.
The next step for us, according to Dr. Frenchman-cold-hands, was in vitro fertilization – a procedure t
hat would cost us about $10,000 (if I remember correctly) and have a slightly higher chance of success as A.I. I am very aware that in vitro is in a moral and/or ethical gray area for many people – and I get that (unused embryos, etc). We decided NOT to proceed with in vitro – it was a gray area but we didn’t feel so much that we would be violating ethics but merely that we could neither afford it nor did we want to go through the hope-roller-coaster again. In other words, we opted not to do it, but neither do we judge others who have tried in vitro (success or not).
So, we basically had two options: just resign to the fact that we may not have children (unless God allows us to get pregnant some day) or go the route of adoption. We opted for both.
Through a recommendation, we called an adoption lawyer in town and made an appointment – it wa
s in the early spring of 2002. Our appointment was an introduction and overview of how her system worked. She was not an “adoption agency” per se but did have a list of couples that we could join. Through various ways and means, she did occasionally get word of a baby that needed a family and we could be on that list. We talked about how adoption works, open or closed, racial concerns, handicap concerns, and all sorts of other topics. Along with being on her list, she wanted us to do something else: write 2 letters. One letter would be written to a “Dear Contact Person” – a Contact Person could be anyone who might hear of or be involved in a situation where a baby needed a home – a doctor, lawyer, social worker, nurse, teacher, etc. In this letter we were to write about who we were (jobs, ages, family) and why we wanted a child. We were also to include her contact information and our own.
The second letter was to be attached but it was to be written to “Dear Birth Mother.” It would be a very similar letter as the first but much warmer. “We know you are going through a tough time” – “We are so thankful you are giving life to this baby” – And it would also include who we were, how we would love to have this baby in our family, and some of the other information. We were to make lots of copies of these letters and give them to anyone and everyone – and ask them to do the same. Then we were to pray, wait, and go about our lives. My mom handed one of the letters to her doctor – the man who delivered me 29 years earlier.
In the meantime…
There was a young couple at our church that had just gotten married. They had a 5 year old (from
her previous relationship) and a 6 month old (theirs together). Long story short – they were in some medical debt and were trying to get by. Janna and I prayed about it and asked them if they would like to move in with us for 3-4 months, use what money they would have paid to rent and bills to pay off their debts, and then find a new place to live. They said “yes!” and moved in with us – into our 1300 sqft, 3-bedroom/1 bath, home – in the fall of 2002. It was kind of exciting and kind of stressful, but we felt like we were doing what we supposed to do. Later, a friend of ours told us that when she found out we asked the family to move in with us, she told her husband, “God is going to give them a baby.” Thankfully, she was mature enough to not say this to us. We had experienced our fill of “
words from the Lord” (or whatever) concerning God giving us a child.
Note to anyone who senses God is telling you something similar to this: Don’t share it with the couple. They are experiencing some pain and a generally rough time with not conceiving. If God decides to bless them with a child, great. But if He doesn’t, they really don’t need your well-intentioned words of joy…because they won’t be words of joy. Maybe you heard from God correctly…but maybe you didn’t. Write it down and share it later…when it’s a joyous time…and not in an “I knew this already” type of way either. Humility goes a long way…so does just silently being someone’s friend – or talking about a movie or the big game or the new restaurant that just opened.
Back to the story…
After about a month of co-housing with our friends and the bumps and jolts and good times that go along with that – things changed – big time.
It was November 22, 2002 at about 10am. I was at work, in my office at the church. Actually I was taking a break from work and was playing guitar. Specifically, I was working on a song based on Psalm 139 – you know, the poem about being fearf
ully and wonderfully made…in the womb…
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My phone rings in the office and it’s Janna – who is hysterical…in a happy way. Let me try to re
-create the conversation:
“This is Kent.”
“Kent, there’s a baby.”
“[The doctor]* just called me from his office and he has a baby.”
(*I’ve withheld names I don’t have permission to share)
“What do you mean ‘he has a baby’”?
“He delivered a baby 2 days ago and the birth mom is a college student and isn’t able to do this and asked what to do and he gave her our letter and she said ok they sound perfect and he wants to know if we can come today to get the baby.”
“What?! Sure! What?!”
“He said if all is ok then his nurse will call us about noon and give us some details but we need to call our lawyer and all of that.”
“Umm. Ok. So what do we do now?”
“Come home and maybe we’ll go eat lunch or something and wait on the call from the nurse. Ok?”
“Ok, what do I say to folks here at the office?”
“Don’t tell anyone, yet. Ok? Just say you’ll see them later.”
“Yeah, yeah. Ok. Alright, babe. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
“Ok. I love you.”
“Love you, too, babe.”
So, I slowly laid down my guitar and half-thought/half-prayed something like, “What. In. The world?” I packed up my stuff, told the secretary (and friend) that I had some ‘errands’ to run and that I’d be out the rest of the day, but that I’d see everyone Sunday if not before.
“Ok, see you later, Kent. Have a good one.” (yup)
And went home to get Janna and go grab some lunch. Janna was trying to call our lawyer, but she was in a real estate closing that might take some time.
We sat down with some wonderful comfort food at Silver Bullet Burgers (an amazing joint even though it was usually connected to a gas station) and sat and waited by the cell phone. If I remember correctly, we didn’t talk a whole bunch – just ate nervously. I can’t fully remember. It was a bit of a blur.
Finally, the nurse called from the doctor’s office…I wish I knew her name. She said we could co
me anytime to see the baby – and off we were. As we pulled on to the freeway leading out of Augusta, I remember asking Janna if the baby was a girl or boy – and then I remember being surprised at my own words – because the question hadn’t even occurred to me in all of the chaos. Actually, I think I remember saying, “it’s a girl, isn’t it?” I’m pretty sure Bess was a “Daddy’s girl” before she was named. In the words of a friend of mine, “a pretty girl will make you do a lot of stupid stuff.” Indeed.
We discussed names. You’d think we would have had a top-10 list of names but we didn’t. Maybe we hadn’t discussed names too much because it was too personal. To pick a name inferred that there was a child
to name…and until 2 hours ago…there wasn’t a child – at least that we knew of. Whatever the reason, we needed to name this baby girl. We each threw out a few names (I mean, it was a 2 hour trip) and discussed them. As usual one of us would like a name and the other wouldn’t. Than Janna said, “what about Bess?” I said, “Bess sounds great.” Janna had a friend named Bess – she wasn’t that close to her but really liked the name. I knew of one other Bess – a daughter of a friend of my parents – but that was it. It was a pretty name – a little bit country, a little bit vintage, short, sweet and it seemed to fit. Of course, as soon as people heard the name and responded it soon morphed into “Miss Bess” – a title that seems to fit her.
On the way, Janna got on the phone and began to call her family. At that time all of her family lived nearby: her parents were near the town, one grandmother lived next door to her parents, the other lived with them, one brother was married with a little baby boy, and the other brother was dating (or engaged, I can’t remember). Somehow, some way, she was able to get the ALL to a restaurant because “we were coming into town briefly and wanted to eat with everyone.” Of course there was something fishy in her voice…something excited and urgent…and they all showed up. We called my parents to tell them we were coming into town and “could we spend the night?” Of course we could.
About halfway there our lawyer finally called us. She had been in a long meeting but did get our message. She was thrilled to hear about this baby but there was no way she could drive all that way in the morning. We would need to find a local lawyer – and quickly. For some reason, I do not remember panicking on
this issue. It would get done.
We drove into the town early in the evening and met everyone at the restaurant. It was a large crowd to get seated, but we beat the rush. Everyone was starting to look at their menus and such but we had this “nervous-I’m-going-to-explode-giggly-oh-my-gosh” look on our faces, so I told Janna, “go ahead and tell everyone what’s going on before we explode.” I got everyone’s attention and told them Janna had some news to share.
Now remember…we were the couple that couldn’t conceive. We were the ones that had people praying for us. Our sister-in-law was so cautious about our feelings that she told us about her pregnancy (our nephew was a few months old at the restaurant) before she told her own mother. So when Kent and Janna get the world together at a restaurant and say they have news…well…good, specific news was expected. 16 eyes were focused on Janna (Levi couldn’t focus yet, ha).
“It’s a girl.”
(various yells and questions from the peanut gallery)
Yay! Woo hoo! What? How long have you been…? How do you know it’s a girl already? Wait? Where is she? What? Yay. What?
“She was born 2 days ago. [The doctor], ‘Miss’ Jean’s* doctor, delivered her and called us this morning. We haven’t even met her yet.”
*(Janna still calls my mom ‘Miss’ Jean – sometimes ‘Mama Jean’)
Janna’s mom began to be the spokesperson now. “Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Well Levi will have a little cousin about his age won’t he? A baby, a baby, a baby girl. Well when do y’all get to see her?”
“Tomorrow morning we need to find a local lawyer because our lawyer can’t make it from Augusta. We’ll figure that out in the morning.”
And the meal went on…happy times.
Just a bit of a reminder: We were celebrating a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, and a cousin –
a girl named Bess – a girl we had not seen yet. She was only an idea, the hope of words spoken by a doctor and a nurse. And yet she was very, very real.
On to my parents’ house.
We got there and brought our stuff inside and I told my parents we had some news for them. We all sat down in the den facing each other – us on the couch, them in the 2 big chairs. I got to the point and echoed Janna’s words. “It’s a girl.” The same basic conversation ensued which we had down by then. Ha. My mom told us to call my brother and sister – and to make sure I called my sister first, which we did. When we got to the part about needing a local lawyer my parents said they would call a family friend – “he was a pall bearer at Mimi’s funeral you know.” Really now.
In the morning my mom got on the phone and contacted the lawyer’s office – he quickly got back in touch. He headed down to the hospital and we waited. And waited. And waited.
About noon, 3 hours later, we got a call from the lawyer. The reason things took so long was basically
because he had never done an adoption before. He had been back and forth on the phone and fax machine with our lawyer in Augusta. But, everything went smoothly. But…in the meantime…Bess had been flown via helicopter to the Medical College of Georgia – in Augusta – where we lived. She was a few weeks early and they needed to get her to the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit). Yikes. If we wanted, we could drive to Augusta and go see her…you know, the town where we lived. She had been checked in under her biological last name and that’s how we could find her. So off we went.
About a mile down the road I grabbed the cell phone to call my old college roomate and solid friend since 2nd grade.
“Heyyy man, guess what?”
“We are adopting a little baby girl!”
“No way! How old is she?”
“3 days old and she’s at the hospital in Augusta. We’re heading back now from my parents’ house.”
“Is she white!?” (A little explanation here: Often, with me at least, he says whatever he thinks without a filter. You really had to be there to hear how he said this. It caught me off guard in a really funny way. My response caught him off guard maybe even more.)
“I…I don’t know. I guess so.”
“What? You don’t know!? What do you mean ‘you don’t know?’”
“I don’t know. We haven’t asked. I guess she is. I mean, the doctor knows my family and all and hasn’t said anything or asked anything, so I just assume she is.”
“Well what if she isn’t?”
“Well we’ll figure that out when we get there.”
“You’re crazy, man. Congratulations. Keep me updated.”
“Alright, man. Will do.”
To be honest, I don’t remember much about the trip there. Not much at all.
I do remember pulling into the parking lot of the Children’s Hospital and walking through the McDonald’s (which was part of the hospital…don’t get me started…a place of healing and health with a franchised fat-seller inside?). I remember finding the arrows pointing to the NICU. I remember holding Janna’s hand as we walked down the hall and saying, “we’re going to meet our little girl.” Janna was very quiet, very happy and as always, beautiful.
We found our way to the check-in window at the NICU and said we were there to see “Baby Girl ____” (biological last name withheld). They let us in. We washed up at the “Wash Up” station – HOT water and soap. A nurse asked us whom we were there to see and we gave her the name.
I will never, ever forget her response: “oh, the pretty baby.”
We are biking around Savannah’s downtown squares tonight. Must quit eating fat. Must move more. Moving about Savannah sans automobile is incredible. Might post pictures. My tires are flat but I’m borrowing a beach cruiser from a neighbor. Do it. Savannah in spring time is prettier than your city. Embrace that.
A lot of folks my age (or not) are rejecting formalized religion for various reasons. Even fellow Christians who would agree with the Church on all basic points are opting out of regular church meetings (services, gatherings, celebrations, et al). They are looking for more “organic” forms of following Jesus. I guess the operating definition of “organic” seems to be something along the lines of natural, unforced, free range, leaderless, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about love, generosity, prayer, worship, service and/or wisdom-passing happening spontaneously. It should. We should hear about a need and seek to help. We should be teaching our kids outside of a classroom setting. We should be neighborly and love our neighbors. But to throw out regular times of meeting is a pipe-dream. I have no hope, nor should I, that I/we can maintain a completely random, spontaneous life. So, am I saying that God only shows up at 10:30am on Sunday at our church gathering? No. Am I saying that God is more present at those gatherings? Not really. But one thing I like about our 10:30am Sunday worship time is that everyone knows that no matter how crazy their week is or how chaotic life gets…we’ll be there. Someone will. Actually a lot of us will. The same goes for a regularly scheduled weekly small group, pickup basketball game, or mommy group. Unless you like it 100% organic…which means you might get together with others…unless you don’t. Celebrate the spontaneous and natural but don’t knock the regularly scheduled times.
Filed under: Fighting Inertia
I often describe my almost 2 year old nephew as appearing as he’s always running down hill. He’s just in motion all the time and if he’s coming your way you need to brace for it. My son, just a few months older, is similar…especially when he’s wearing “slidey” socks on hardwood floor. Inertia is funny and everywhere…when you’re moving it’s hard to stop and when you’re still it’s hard to get moving. Janna and I should get our federal background checks back soon as we are close to adopting again. Adopting Bess was a huge step for us. A few years later we proceeded again and it was like, “oh yeah, we’ve done this before.” Now we’re like, “hey, we’re not getting any younger and we have an extra room.” Might as well keep moving. I can stop when I’m dead.