Plan B

When adoption wasn't part of your plan

By Belinda Lanning

When did my Plan B become my Plan A? Only God knows.

You see, I came to the adoption world kicking and screaming. I’m not proud of it, but I hope that God can use my story as an example and testimony to His glory. So I admit it humbly: adoption was not my first choice.

Oh sure, in my younger years, when not faced with the threat of infertility, I spouted that if we could not have children “of our own,” we’d adopt. No biggie! Just flip the switch from “biological” to “adoption.” But when we didn’t immediately get pregnant as per our plan, when the months turned into years and the word “infertility” was dropped like a bomb, adoption lost its appeal. It seemed like a scary unknown, and with other options available, we’d consider adoption . . . sure . . . after we’d done everything humanly possible to avoid it.

We started our infertility journey with the greatest of intentions. “We’ll only take this as far as God lets us. He’s in control.” “We won’t go beyond the limits of our marriage. When it starts affecting us negatively, we’ll stop.” We began with God, but somewhere in the midst of multiple infertility treatments and disappointing (devastating) monthly pregnancy tests, I left God behind. Since He wasn’t getting us anywhere, I thought I’d better take over.

Our eight-year journey also took us down a dark path in our marriage. How could it not? I grieved repeatedly – monthly to be exact – while the chances my husband could “fix” this decreased with every passing month of failed treatment. It was excruciatingly hard on us, both individually and as a couple. It seeped into every aspect of our marriage. And along for the ride down the tubes was our relationship with God.

All that negativity should have encouraged us to quit, but for us, it was frighteningly difficult to stop infertility treatments. It seemed like such sad finality to all the turmoil and pain we’d endured. What would we get for all our time, money, emotional upheaval and discomfort? Nothing? All those hopes we’d put into one egg basket (somewhat literally) would just be dashed? I wasn’t quitting that easily. My mind played convincing games: “Sure, a percentage of couples do not get pregnant, but the odds increase in our favour with every treatment.” “We couldn’t be the one couple who never gets pregnant, right?” “There are so many signs we should do this! And we’ve prayed about this so we just have to be more patient and diligent. It will happen!” “Celine Dion got pregnant after nine treatments; we’re not giving up yet!”

So when the specialists asked if we’d like to try again, or try a new method or treatment, how could we say no? I couldn’t.

Along the way, we toyed with the idea of adoption. Well-meaning loved ones would attempt to broach the subject . . . until we’d hear about another celebrated treatment option. I could not even consider adoption seriously because the thought that the next infertility treatment could be the one was too enticing. It became a part of our lifestyle, the drama in our lives. I couldn’t imagine what we’d do if we stepped off that treadmill. Its rhythm was all we’d come to know: treatment, failure, agony, renewed hope, then we were right back where we started. Adoption seemed foreign, an abyss into the unknown. At least with infertility, we knew what we were facing.

Finally, God intervened. Scratch that. Finally, we noticed Him trying to intervene. We’d been travelling two hours each month to a new fertility clinic when the specialist did a 180 on us. He’d earlier told us we were not good candidates for IVF (in vitro fertilization). This was not a revelation to us. We’d already tried three times elsewhere and had figured this out for ourselves. But we were there to explore an alternative treatment and after six months, clearly we weren’t great candidates for that either.

The specialist said, “This treatment isn’t working for you. It’s not the right treatment. But I think we can still get you a baby. Why don’t you try IVF?”

We left, shaking our heads in confusion. What? But finally, one of us got it. I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t me. In the parking lot, I turned to my husband and said through tears, “So what do you think? Should we try again?” and between heaving sobs I added, “At least he gave us hope.” My husband stopped dead, looked me in the eye, and compassionately said, “Oh Sweetie, he’s not giving us hope. He’s giving us opportunity.”

That was our final meeting with the specialist. And the first day of our adoption story . . .

At last we realized that these specialists were never going to say no to us. If we were desperate enough, we could have continued down the path of treatments indefinitely. And God wasn’t going to shout from the mountaintops that we should get off the train either. Likely He’d been trying to, but we hadn’t been listening. We had to stop and realize this was no longer God’s plan for us. It might be for others, but no longer for us. I had to give up trying to control what our family would look like.

We met with our pastor, prayed, grieved and closed that chapter of our lives. Soon after, we booked a trip to Cuba to launch our journey into the adoption world. Adoption didn’t feel like “the great unknown” anymore. It didn’t seem so daunting and ominous. On a catamaran in the middle of the ocean I announced to a hundred strangers, “We’re going to adopt!” and it felt like hope. For the first time in years, we finally had real hope.

Infertility treatments offer much promise to couples, and for many, an answer to prayer. For others, the end result can be heartbreak and brokenness. It’s not for someone else to decide when a couple is ready to close the door and move on to other options such as adoption. But I’m so thankful we finally got off the infertility train. Adoption is our lifestyle now and God made it abundantly clear to us.

One year after that announcement on the catamaran, an old friend called. We’d earlier shared with her our dreams of adopting. Now her niece was facing an unexpected pregnancy. Five weeks later, our beautiful girl Jayden was born. Two months after that, we found out Jayden was deaf. God seemed mighty quiet during the dark years of infertility, but now He was speaking loud and clear!

You see, God’s provision for Jayden, whose name means “God has heard,” was so great that He brought her into a family who already knows sign: I am a sign language interpreter and work in the deaf community. The birth family’s adoption practitioner also worked in the deaf community and Jayden’s Christian foster parents who cared for her briefly also had a daughter who is deaf. And these are just a few examples of how God has provided. There are so many more “coincidences” in Jayden’s life; she is a living testimony pointing to Him.

Yes, I came to the adoption world kicking and screaming. It definitely was my Plan B, something I’ll have to contend with when our daughters come to the age when they ask why. But I will be able to share this: God was in control throughout our journey. Always. I do not regret the choices we made with infertility treatments. God weaved so much goodness out of everything and His timing is perfect.

So where is my Plan B now? Six years after Jayden’s adoption, I met a friend at a coffee shop. She and I have shared in our infertility struggles and even though my husband and I have moved on to adoption, infertility never leaves you. My heart particularly aches for those still in the midst of it. My friend had heard about a new herbal infertility remedy that was all the rage. “Do you want to try it?” she asked.

“What?” was my stunned response. “Oh no,” I said. “I don’t want to get pregnant anymore. I just want to adopt again. Adoption is our story. The only time I think about pregnancy is when I’m frustrated that our second adoption hasn’t happened!”

I left that coffee shop praising God. I couldn’t believe how I’d changed. I’d known from the moment we adopted Jayden that I would forever be an adoption champion, but this instinctive response solidified it for me. I prayed, “Wow Lord! When did you change my Plan B to Plan A? Thank you!”

And my second prayer was “So, what gives already?” By this time, it’d been three years of waiting for our second child. (I never said adoption was easy!)

I got into my car, checked my phone, and there it was: a message from our adoption case worker. We got the call. Soon we would be the proud parents of another beautiful girl named Alena. 

Plan B has worked out very well for us, all in His good timing.

Belinda and her family live in Ottawa, ON, and continue to be passionate about adoption.