The Desire of My Heart

By Renée Luwis

Building a Family

Even before I was a committed believer I leaned to the pro-life side of the abortion debate. I couldn't deny the fact that no matter how desperate a woman's situation, abortion was taking a life. My belief was confirmed in college when so many of my friends would tell me tearfully of their abortions and the resulting anguish that tormented them was so often apparent in their behavior. If abortion was so widely accepted as a good thing, why did these women feel shame and abandonment?

These memories stayed with me until years later when, one Sunday morning at our church, a board member of a local pregnancy center came to speak and invited anybody who was interested to investigate volunteer opportunities. The work there appealed to me. My desire was to minister to women in this difficult situation. I volunteered and served there for ten years. It was actually while I was volunteering as a counselor that my director asked if I would be interested in adopting a child.

At the time Brian and I were in the thick of our struggles with infertility. My director was aware of this. She too had wanted a child, yet she and her husband remained childless. We commiserated often about how hard it was at times to be the one to tell a woman she was pregnant and never be able to receive the same news. And how difficult it was to counsel a pregnant woman and remain objective when all you wanted was that same thing-to have a child.

God was teaching me that it wasn't about me…that I was there to share His love with these women…and that if I would, "wait on Him, He would indeed give me the desires of my heart."

Those were dark days for me as I dealt with depression and loss associated with the inability to conceive. But on this day my director told me of a birthmother who had been referred to her. This birthmother wanted to place her unborn child for adoption. She was not connected with the center, so there would be no conflict of interests. I went home and told Brian. His response was, "Sure, let's give it a try." We contacted the birthmother's social worker, and she told us how to proceed.

Six months prior to this, I had left a full-time career as an architect and began to focus on starting a family. It became obvious that it was going to require more than the usual amount of effort for Brian and me. We endured the usual infertility testing, but did not feel led to pursue advanced treatment.

By now, we agreed that adoption was right for us. We disagreed on when to move forward. Brian was content to wait on the Lord for a child by birth and later add children by adoption to our family. I was not.

I began to investigate the adoption option on my own. I made phone calls and attended an orientation meeting. Brian was mildly interested when I would show him brochures covering several different adoption methods. It wasn't until the opportunity arose with this birthmother that Brian began to focus on adoption as a solution to our infertility. We interviewed the birthmother in the eighth month of her pregnancy. After she placed the child with another family, we swallowed our disappointment and decided to keep opening doors.

As we wrestled with God's plan for our lives and our hopes for children, Brian finally lost all hesitation. Because our experiences thus far with private domestic adoption had been painful, we turned to international programs. At that time we had no idea how many orphans existed in the world. We only knew that we desired to have children. Our adoption investigation led to various countries. We learned that China had recently re-opened its doors to adopting families. There were infant girls available for immediate adoption. Relative to other international programs, China's adoption system was the most affordable. The fact that a reliable track record had not been established at that point was somewhat disconcerting to me. Brian was completely undaunted. I was just thrilled that we could get a child so quickly.

We moved forward with the help of a friend who worked in China. After eight months of tedious paperwork and what seemed like endless waiting, we arrived home from China with our beautiful, outgoing, cartwheel turning daughter, Fei. The joy that we have experienced upon returning with Fei and ever since has made apparent to me God's purpose in bringing us through the tremendous sadness of infertility. He knew it was the intensity of that longing to be a mother that made me press on to adopt this incredible child who is clearly a part of His plan for my life. I may otherwise have been content to continue on childless, or wait until God provided a child by birth. I simply cannot imagine my life without my (now four) children from China.

More changed for Brian and me than just our obvious status from a couple to a family and all that family life entails. It was some months after we returned with Fei that we began to realize that we couldn't visit an orphanage where over seven hundred children lived without the love of their own family and not be touched in some way…especially when we realized that if not for God's grace, our Fei would still be there. And we would still be childless. Brian truly became burdened when over and over he imagined Fei still back there in that "children's welfare institute," as orphanages are called in China. I knew that somehow this was of the Lord because it was so unlike Brian to dwell in the past and remain so despondent.

Brian responded to this prompting of God by resolving to get the word out to as many families as he could. He began by holding seminars, informing couples of the process and the affordability. Brian and I were moving forward on a course clearly re-directed by our Creator. Interest in adoptions steadily increased and we continued to ask ourselves, "What could God be thinking using two architects and new parents themselves to help grow families?"

Well, two years later Brian and I decided to adopt a second child. Her paper work was completed and processed. Then, after what seemed an eternity once again, Brian stepped off a plane at our local airport to place into my waiting arms my lovely, gentle-spirited, pondering daughter Gwenn.

Until this point, God had used me to intervene in the lives of other women with unplanned pregnancies, first in my work at the pregnancy center, and then in the lives of two women in China I would never meet. Next, it would be my turn.

I learned I was pregnant with our third child. After the shock and morning sickness began to wear off, I was struck by the most consuming joy I have ever experienced. Not because this child was more wanted or anticipated than the other two. Actually, the opposite was true. My two girls, Fei and Gwenn, were more desired of my heart than any children could be. They fulfilled my every need to nurture and be called "Mama." No, I believe my joy came from knowing that my God had more good for me than I could have ever planned. I tell my husband that I love surprises and God, of course, would know this. His love and blessing for me, Renée, was over the top. Our Sophia, as we named her, was pure bonus, unplanned and unanticipated. Not only had God answered our prayers twice already to give us children, He continued to answer them even after we had stopped praying them.

Now that we have a child by birth as well as children by adoption, Brian and I are often asked about our experience and what God has revealed through our struggles. We've found that many couples face the same fears and have many of the same tough questions: "What do I tell my children about adoption?" I always answer, "We have made adoption part of the children's vocabulary from an early age. We answer any and all questions about their adoptions positively and truthfully because we know that, "all things do work together for good."

A conversation I had with Fei when she was about five went something like this.

Fei said, “Mama?”
“Yes?” I answered.
“You know, that lady?” Fei asked.
“What lady?” I asked.
“You know,” she said.
It dawned on me what she was getting at.
“You mean the lady whose tummy you grew in?” I asked.
“Yeah, what do I call her?” she asked.
I said, “You can call her your birthmother…”
But you’re the regular Mama, right,” she interrupted confidently.

After bearing a child I can now understand questions like, "Will I love and bond to a child of adoption in the same way as I bond to my biological children?" I don't tell people that the bonding is the same. The bonding is different, but can be every bit as complete.

The first time I saw Fei's photo and learned her name, she was "mine." And the first time I laid eyes on her I knew I would die for her. I knew those things as sure as I'm here…and yet we had not bonded yet. That process was gradual. She would come to trust me as her first and last line of defense. I would come to predict her reactions and learn to interact with her personality. The bond was established as she discovered that I was there day in and day out and sensed in me the desire to meet her needs. This has been true with all of our children by adoption.

With Sophia this was obviously not the same. By the time she was old enough to be aware of who I was, that trust and bond were already established. I had unconsciously decided to love her before I met her, as I had done with Fei and Gwenn.

I think our fears over being unable to love and bond stem from our pride as parents. We want to be that child's whole world, number one in their world from the moment of birth. We cannot imagine that our precious little child could make it in a big world without us. Fortunately, that is not what God is calling us to as parents. He reserves that position for Himself.

There are many things to discover in the adoption culture:
…how we tell the children their story,
…how we talk about it with others,
…how we create a home environment that embraces the differences in our children,
…and the nuances of language that send a positive message.
These are all areas that we as adoptive parents need to learn to work through.

So I came full circle, from lives of other women, to my own life, and back to those of women in China who have given me a most precious gift and who I may only meet in heaven. My heart breaks for these women who did not have the love and support of parents, of husbands, and of friends that value human life as God so wondrously created it.

When I look back, I see how God prepared us to start the ministry of America World Adoption. Brian and I began with limited experience in adoption ministry. We had a heart for parents and orphaned children. It is God who has done this work. We simply walked through the open doors. He has given Brian faithfulness and vision that are a constant source of amazement and inspiration to me.

We have a team of people across the country conducting seminars hoping to reach families with the message:
…that God is calling us to visit His orphans;
…and that we ourselves can be so much more blessed than we could ever bless others.

My prayer is that God touches you with his Spirit of adoption and that you will experience His boundless love in your life.