To Everything There Is A Season
I met Cathy through our church pastor Rich in 2014. At this point in my journey, David and I had experienced two miscarriages and were looking for hope. Cathy, in her mid-50s, had moved beyond her own journey to build her family and was now willing to meet with other women on their fertility journeys and offer a listening ear and prayers of hope. Cathy supported me through the joy and loss of our son Roo, and she and her husband Brian began leading an infertility group at church shortly after our loss, which we attended regularly with a handful of other couples on their journeys to try to build their own families.
“Infertility impacts every part of your life. It is such a highly emotional, multilayered, disenfranchised grief. It is extremely difficult to compartmentalize and can color your whole world at times."
Cathy and Brian’s journey to grow a family began over 30 years ago. They now have three beautiful children that came to them in different ways during their 15 year quest to build their family. They started trying to have their first child when Cathy was 26, and 3 months before her 40th birthday they welcomed their third child into the world. Cathy reflected on their story and explained, “We are a unique couple because we’ve done it numerous ways - medical intervention, adoption and a natural gift at the end.” Cathy and Brian’s story is extraordinary - not only did they live their own 15 year journey, they now serve and support couples on their own fertility journeys. I asked Cathy how they decided to step back into the fertility world and she told me, “In pain there’s purpose. Infertility is a hard journey and I think standing beside others on their path redeems our story and redeems the pain we went through. I have always felt like God is in these spaces - these sacred and holy spaces of people's lives - and to me it is a privilege to be let into them.”
Years 1-6: A Season of Feeling Left Behind
Cathy recalls going into their journey with no concerns. “I was the person that thought I could get pregnant from a door handle. My mom had 4 kids, why wouldn’t I think that would just naturally happen?” Month after month Cathy and Brian tried to conceive without success. The months got longer and turned into years, and they went in to the OB to have fertility tests done. With no clear infertility diagnosis, they continued to try and slowly incorporated medical interventions, including Clomid and IUIs into their cycles.
I asked Cathy how she and Brian dealt with the disappointment for so many years and she explained that Brian was steady - a flat line - and Cathy would surge up and down the waves of her emotions. Cathy reflected, “I think as a woman, it is really easy to isolate. And I did some of that - I was getting up in the middle of the night and going to the basement crying and not letting Brian into that space, and the minute I let Brian in, it becomes less gripping.” After a miscarriage and five years of trying, Cathy and Brian were once again pregnant and went on to have a healthy baby girl named Maddie.
“Our friends were having kids, which as you know, makes it hard. We wanted to join along in the season of sharing that with our friends, of being excited and joyful with and for them but it becomes a season of feeling left behind.”
Years 7-12: A Season of Surrender - IVF Dead End & The Uncharted Path to Adoption
After their daughter Maddie was born Cathy and Brian knew they wanted to continue to try to grow their family, and based on their history, they didn’t waste any time in starting the process again in hopes of having a second child. They tried naturally, restarted Clomid and IUIs, suffered a miscarriage, and continued to try without success. After a couple years, they decided to do IVF, which at this time in the late 90’s was not very common, hoping IVF would be their route to success.
Cathy explained, “I needed to go to the end of whatever the end was to know I did everything I could so I would never regret our choices. Our finish line was IVF and when it didn’t work I sat there at the end for a long time. It was mostly about my faith at this point. I can clearly remember saying to God, “Okay, I am going to follow you, but I’m still really mad.” The visual I have is sitting at the end of a road with barbed wire and blinking lights and there was a dark road to my right that I was being asked to turn to go onto and a seemingly secret gate that other people could use to get around the barbed wire and lights, but I couldn’t figure it out. And I just sat there for a long time because I just didn’t want to take that turn and go down the road because I didn’t know what it held, and I couldn’t see very far down that road. But eventually, the desire to have a child was so great, the means didn’t matter as much as the end. At that point, I was trusting that God would make peace with it, and I thought, “Okay God, you’re sovereign, however this goes this goes, Thy Will be done,” and so I turned, and brought my other half [Brian] with me.”
Cathy and Brian moved ahead with a local adoption agency, completed their home study and were in the book of waiting families hoping for a match. Cathy felt optimistic about being in the book, but also remembers feeling like a can of corn on a shelf just waiting to be picked. Then, one summer day, while Cathy, Brian and Maddie were vacationing up north, Cathy got a call from their pastor Rich. Through church, Rich heard of a birth mother that had just given birth to a newborn boy and was looking to place him with an adoptive family. Cathy and Brian talked about it, asked their 5 year old daughter Maddie if she wanted to have a baby brother, and they unanimously agreed.
“I had gone down to the lake to pray about it and was skipping stones and then saw this little rainbow between two clouds on this perfectly sunny day. This is the most mysterious thing that has happened in my faith life, and it has never happened again, and I’m old now. I was praying Lord, is this the one, I don’t know - I have no clue, and I felt like this rainbow was confirmation from God assuring me that He’d never leave me in this.”
Cathy, Brian and Maddie quickly packed up from their vacation and went home to meet the birth mother on a Monday. On Tuesday evening Cathy and Brian watched the baby because the foster family caring for him had a prior commitment. Cathy laughed remembering that she wrapped the baby in one of Maddie’s old shirts still stained after a diaper blowout years ago because they didn’t have any baby clothes, and hoped the foster family wouldn’t give them a bad report. The next day was Wednesday, and miraculously they brought their new baby Zach home, 3 days after they got the call from their pastor Rich. Cathy reflects, “I just say that can only be God, because real life doesn’t happen that fast, in a nanosecond you don’t have a baby.”
Interestingly, when Zach was in elementary school Cathy and Brian were discussing Brian’s childhood and the 15 year age gap between him and his older brother. Brian’s mother had fostered many children prior to and throughout Brian’s childhood, and Cathy and Brian started to wonder if it was possible that Brian was adopted. By this time Brian’s brother and parents had passed on, so Cathy called Brian’s widowed sister-in-law, and she confirmed that Brian was in fact adopted. Once Brian and Cathy processed the information, they shared it with their kids, and Brian and Zach are able to bond about being adopted.
Years 13-15: A Season of Surprise - God’s Grace & Faithfulness
Cathy and Brian had now adjusted to life as a family of four with Maddie and Zach. They poured their energy into the kids - Cathy started an interracial adoption support group at church and they were thoughtful about how to continually strengthen their family. Then, one day, 14 years after they had started their fertility journey, Cathy found she was pregnant, completely naturally. Cathy, now 39, said this is a sign of God’s faithfulness throughout their whole journey, and joked comparing her and Brian to Abraham and Sara in the Bible [Genesis 17-21]. They were thrilled, and Cathy explained, “This is a little gift from God at the end. They are all gifts in their own way, and this was a little surprise gift in the end. I am so grateful for the grace of God and how it’s all worked out. I’m very thankful.” And so, three months before Cathy’s 40th birthday, they welcomed their third child, a son, Charlie into the world. Cathy said, “I have learned over time that God sees us, know us and answers our prayers just not always in the way we may want or the time we think is right. But according to God’s perfect plan.”