I should have somehow known my children wouldn’t come to me biologically. I was a horrible patient (still am) and detest any type of medical procedure. The Lord looked after my health in extraordinary ways, it seems. I’ve never had a broken limb, a single surgery (yep, still have my tonsils and appendix), or braces as a child. I was quite fortunate, I recognize, especially when I reflect on the memories of my youth playing in creeks, jumping out of tree houses, and being a kid of the seventies—running amuck outside until my mother hollered for us to come in at dusk.
My point is that I should have maybe surmised that delivering a baby wasn’t in God’s plan for me. In fact, I pretty much lacked the motherly instinct altogether for years. I remember watching a dear friend, in our late twenties, read What to Expect When You’re Expecting. As she researched pregnancy, I simply shook my head in disbelief, unknowing why she was so interested in babies, when I was completely (sadly) absorbed in my own dreams and materialistic expectations. But, thankfully, that would all change.
My Idea of Family Planning
At one point in our early thirties, my husband, Jim, and I decided—since our friends were all having children—that maybe it was time to start our family too. However, pregnancy wasn’t happening for us after several years of the “infertility drill” of buying ovulation test kits, tracking cycles on the calendar, and trying to figure things out on our own. With my Type-A personality, and in an effort to take matters into my own hands, I formulated a new plan.
My plan “A” involved two rounds of artificial insemination, and my plan “B” was fixed on one round of invitro fertilization, if all else failed. But, in my head, I never thought it would come to that Plan “B”, because, as you now know, I wasn’t a fan of anything medical.
We found a specialist who was on our insurance plan. Even so, we were prepared to spend a significant amount of money on this new path, since most of the services weren’t covered. When we entered into the beautifully-decorated, warm and fuzzy doctor’s office, Jim and I felt pretty good about it all. I mean, it certainly looked like a successful and comfortable way to go, with pictures of healthy babies hanging on every wall.
When we met with the medical team, I specifically requested that they not take scientific measures to help us have a baby. I had obviously not done much research on all of this and the fact that it was all scientific by design. I had just “felt” like it was a viable path for us. The interesting part was that, inside, even without a Catholic Faith-based compass at the time, I knew that I didn’t want “science” involved.
I asked the nurse if they could refrain from sperm selection and also asked that they not inject me with any type of hormone that would make me feel all gross and bloated and unnatural. In a weird way, it was kind of like I wanted to go through with the medical procedures, but I also wanted God to be the one to make it work, not the doctors. (Please, I share this with absolutely no judgment, sisters. We all hold our own stories.)
The Holy Spirit Wrecked My Plan
We reported to the office promptly when it was time. But, oddly, it didn’t feel like it was time. We went into the exam room, and I followed the instructions of the nurse to lie on the table while the procedure began. And that’s when it happened. As I was lying there, with my supportive, loving husband by my side, I suddenly felt a very strong sense that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I heard a voice say, “Go and don’t ever come back.”
It shook me to the core. I know now that was the Holy Spirit, but I wasn’t aware of it then.
After the nurse finished the procedure, I got dressed and we left that office. We headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and that’s when I told Jim what had happened. Not only did I know that both my Plan “A” and “B” had just been foiled that morning, but I also knew inside that pregnancy would not take place on that day. We decided to stop actively “trying” to get pregnant altogether.
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God’s Good Plan
Several years later, God would reveal His plan. The Lord pricked our hearts in a massive way through the loss of a precious boy’s life. Stephen was six. He fought cancer hard, but he took his last breaths with his family and friends by his side. And when his brave Mama stood up at the podium on the altar and consoled the masses in attendance at his funeral, she reached a different place in my heart. It was a place that screamed, I want that. I instantly longed for her faith that seemed unwavering in her darkest hour. I longed for her selfless and overflowing love for her child, the way Mary loved Jesus. That experience changed my life and ultimately led us to the Catholic Faith.
Several months later, I went to my annual ob-gyn appointment, and my doctor began grilling me with questions. “Do you want a family? Do you want kids?”
I still wasn’t sure how we would even get to that with our pregnancy failures. But I did know one thing with all my heart – my husband would be the best dad in the world, and I wanted that for him. The doctor handed me a large white packet from an adoption agency called Wide Horizons for Children and gave it to me to take home and look over. They’d just received it in their office that week. Coincidence? Nope. His timing is always perfect.
I took that packet home and studied it for days. Jim studied it, too. We read up on all the various country programs and options available. But God. God had planted a seed in my husband at the young age of fourteen years old as a high school student in Clawson, MI.
As a ninth-grade student, he’d remembered learning about the “Dying Rooms” in China—rooms where countless unwanted baby girls cried and cried, until their little bodies had no more fight, and they cried themselves into the arms of our Lord. Jimmy knew that he wanted to go to China to adopt one of those baby girls. And I was perfectly content with that plan.
So Much Better than I Planned
It took time and glorious unfolding, but I look back now in awe, thirteen years later. We’ve now completed five adoptions and the Lord has changed the course of our lives forever. These children have blessed us beyond measure, and then some. They may not have my blood, but oh they are mine. All because I listened to the Holy Spirit that day.
This is for you, weary sisters in the midst of family planning struggles. Take heart and rest in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
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Lisa Murphy is a Catholic convert living in South Florida and the Founder of Open Hearts for Orphans, a 501c3 non-profit organization created to care for orphaned and abandoned children and provide financial grants for adoptive families. Learn more at about Lisa’s ministry on the website, Facebook page, and Instagram. Lisa is also the Author of With an Open Heart, a true story of love, loss, and unexpected blessings, available on Amazon, chronicling their family’s adoption of their son Daniel. Additionally, Lisa is a founding partner of a new Catholic, pro-life adoption ministry called ARISE for adoption.