One of the questions Jackie and I have received now and then center on how we know we are ready to pursue adoption. If any part of what follows in this post sounds rehearsed it's because I've had the opportunity to repeat myself.
For me I really have to go back to the beginning of this particular journey, when we had our first miscarriage and the future suddenly seemed much less certain. I think there is naturally much focus on the mom in a miscarriage situation (and rightfully so), but often there is another side to that story. My side is this.
That first time around I wasn't ready. We had talked about having kids, but when Jackie told me she was pregnant I entered a rather tumultuous inner conflict about how I really felt about becoming a father. I knew I wanted to be, but the reality laying in front of me was so real I questioned some of my previously held assumptions. I'd assumed I'd be a responsible dad, a good parent, a loving husband. I'd assumed I would be a father (probably to several kids). When I found out that we were on our way toward the realization of those assumptions I wondered if I actually was responsible enough. How much would I need to change to really meet the bar I had set for myself?
I prayed. Hard. For those of you who pray you can probably relate to this. Inner conflict, lots of prayers, and finally God grants you peace. You may not have answers to the questions, but God somehow just lets you be at peace. God gave that to me after about a week and a half of me almost hating myself. I felt guilty at having reservations about anything related to fatherhood. It was like God just gave me the strength to accept fatherhood, and there was some sense of assurance that things would be okay.
The next day we miscarried.
Which, of course, brings up a lot more questions. Like, why would God allow that? Why would God finally give me peace and the strength to embrace fatherhood just to have it ripped away? Some of those questions still come to my mind once in a while. But, God gave me something that subsequent miscarriages and heartache have not taken away. I was able to taste, if even for the briefest moment, what it was like to start thinking like a dad. I remember how I started thinking about finances differently. I started applying myself to my studies with more rigor (I was finishing seminary at the time). My work ethic jumped as I started to walk toward the reality that more than Jackie depended on me. These were at the heart of some of my struggles, and God through that week before our first miscarriage started walking me through some of these changes until he gave me peace.
I didn't feel those things through the other miscarriages. It's like the pain of the first miscarriage kept me from allowing myself to go there. It was horrible. Hearing that Jackie was pregnant again should have had the effect of rekindling all those hopes. We certainly wanted to express joy. Instead, we expressed anxiety, maybe fear, and ultimately experienced pain and disappointment as we lost two more children. We went to doctors and our chances of successfully conceiving increasingly dwindled as we ran tests to see if we could find a way.
Which brings me back around to how I knew I was ready. Suffering miscarriages and not hearing good things from doctors is plenty of reason to pursue adoption, but it doesn't necessarily mean someone is ready. So when someone asks me how I know I tell them this: I'm starting to think like a father again. I can't really explain it much better. That short taste, the brief rewiring of my brain that occurred in the week before our first miscarriage, all that has been coming back. The way I think about my health, about money, about our living situation, about the value I bring to my work environment, my hobbies: it is all changing to what I recall thinking like a dad was like. That, to me, is the best, most hope-filled, exciting reason to move forward.
I'm a better man for all of this, and I am ready to adopt.