Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Building a Family the American Way

In a way, we are building our family in the time-tested tradition of many modern American couples. For our first few years of marriage, before we started TTC, I would joke with my husband:
“First you get a plant. If you can keep it alive for a year, you move on to a pet. If you keep that alive for a year, you can try for a baby.”

It seems that we are following in the footsteps of many couples before us.
1. Keeping a plant alive – check! This was actually harder than we had expected. We have been through several different plants and only one has managed to flourish under our care.
2. Adopt a pet – check! After more than 5 years of begging, my persistence finally paid off. My husband broke down and decided that we could adopt a cat as part of my 30th birthday present.
3. Have a baby – not happening! At least not yet. We have been TTC for nearly 3 years with no “take home babies” to show for it. Our first two babies are now in heaven – a source of both hope (yes, we can get pregnant!) and sorrow.

Feeling pretty confident in our abilities, we originally tried to skip directly from Step 1 to Step 3. This is partially because my husband is allergic to cats, we can’t have a dog in our current housing situation, and other pet options (anything that lives in a tank or runs in a wheel all night) just didn’t seem appealing.

Alas, we were meant to go down the same road as many American couples as we try to build our family. The plant, pet, baby thing does have some practicality to it. Our sweet kitty has taught me a lot about my own self-centeredness. Sometimes he is ready to play while I am trying to work on something (sometimes important, sometimes not). Guess who usually gets the short end of the stick – poor Herbie! I am learning that I still have some growing to do before I am ready to be a parent. But what couple is ever “ready?” I think having a baby is always a shock to the system, no matter how long you’ve tried, or how much you’ve desired parenthood.

So, we will keep trying. I know that God has sent us on this journey as a means of personal growth. My challenge is not to be complacent, but to keep pushing myself in areas where I know I need to change (being other-centered vs. self-centered, offering my sufferings to the Lord, developing a closer relationship with God, my spouse, and others, etc.)

As a quick side note, it is now only four months since we adopted our cat and I am sorry to report that the plant is almost completely dead. What was a flourishing plant a couple months ago is now just some dried up stalks and a tiny shoot desperately clinging to life. The future does not look bright for the cat if/when we do bring home a baby. But I think he is heartier than that!

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the LORD, and I will change your lot…” -Jeremiah 29: 11-14a

Reflection Questions:
1. How have I dealt with the challenges of realizing and accepting that I wasn’t going to be able to get pregnant according to my own timing?
2. What can I do now to prepare myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually to start a family?
3. Are there areas in my life that need improvement or goals that I can achieve during this period of waiting?

Lord, I know you have placed this challenge in my life for a reason. Show me the areas where I need improvement. Guide me in using this time of waiting productively. Most of all, help me to trust in your beautiful plan for my life – a plan for my welfare and not for woe! Amen.

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