Monday, December 22, 2014

A Father's Letter

Dear Melanie,

I knew what the news would do to you.
How could I not? It had been quite the frenzy recently. With only a month to prepare, your mom had come. There was excited shopping to do and a baby shower from our church family to attend. Just a joyous time. Everything was ready for the big day. Mia was coming home! Everything in the house was ready for the daughter you would soon adopt. The baby blanket was draped expectantly over the rocking chair. Mia's name was pinned to the wall in letters lovingly chosen along with the butterflies that symbolized your heart taking flight in the promise of a coming child.
So much history came to bear during that time. I was there for all of it. Marriage seven years earlier along with the hope of an immediate pregnancy. Do you remember talking about five future kids? I know you pictured it and prayed for it. I know it's all you really wanted to do outside of being a wife.
I know it was hard for you to wait to see doctors when pregnancy didn't come. Three years you patiently waited. And even then there were no answers for you. None. The tests explained nothing. Your exploratory surgery was inconclusive. Finally, you sought out the best of the best in fertility medicine.
I know you remember sitting in that quiet, meditative office with the green walls and the upbeat staff. I know you remember the plan the smartest doctor you ever met laid out to treat the infertility. I know you had hope. Lots of it. I know you remember how each time the doctor met with you he'd say, "Now, let's get you pregnant." And you'd hope.
That's how it was. Each month there was so much hope. Let's try this. Let's try that. Maybe this is it. Maybe that's it. And it never, ever was. Each month there was more pain, more tears. Each month another disappointment. I was there for all of it.
I saw the mixed feelings you experienced at a Facebook birth announcement or the news of an unwanted pregnancy. I saw how some of it was envy you fought and some of it was sharp pangs of longing. It felt like a desperately dehydrated desert traveler who looks on as another person is showered with water—water that is always just out of reach. Then there were the well-intentioned comments that felt like daggers, "When you decide to start a family . . ." or "Someday when you have kids . . ."
I also knew how the tears, the pain, and the deep disappointment withered hope in those years. Yet it grew Hope. Do you remember that? Do you remember how right there in the ashes of burnt dreams grew beautiful, gleaming Hope? So counterintuitive to what you'd been expecting. So freeing. So beautiful. Those moments of pain became defining moments for your Hope in Jesus. You rejected a worldview that said, "Life is unfair. This random infertility is only an unfortunate circumstance to fix." You embraced a divine view that said, "This is an intentional, designed pain in my life that is here to do one thing: send me into the arms of Jesus." And I got a front-row seat to watching you step closer and closer to Jesus, painful month after painful month. I saw your conviction grow and heard you say, "What I really need is Jesus. He is all I need." Right there in the ashes of burnt dreams grew the greatest gift of all—Hope in Jesus.
That's why I knew what the news would do to you. You were ready. The phone call came. "She decided to keep the baby." You were numb at first, and really sad later, but never defeated. Never devastated and never in despair. You didn't have hope just for a baby. You did, however, have Hope. You trusted that despite all appearances there was a master plan that kept your best interests in mind. Yes, I think we both know that on the day this hope died, Hope lived.
As time passed, for the first time in your life you could talk about being a childless woman and that it was okay. It really was. You were even trying to figure out when and how you could share this conviction with your mom, who had been on this journey with you. Remember the conversations about not only accepting a childless life but actually celebrating it as a gift? Remember that? Yes, hope had died, but Hope had grown strong.
I know you now see how divine and necessary it all was. You wouldn't be the woman you are now if none of this had happened. You wouldn't be so confident in adversity. You wouldn't be so peaceful when the going is tough. You wouldn't be so focused on the finish line of heaven's gates unless it had happened just this way. You can see how the identity of motherhood was chiseled, hammered, and pried away from your soul. You can see that as that identity was carved away, your true identity took a firmer shape in your soul and came into greater focus in you. It became your anchor, your lifeline in life's greatest waves. 
"I am a blood-bought child of God," you'd say as if it was the only thing that mattered in the world. And it was. You came to see those circumstances as tailor-made to drive you to your gospel-centered mantra: "If Jesus would care to forgive me and resurrect me, then he certainly would care to bless my family life—perhaps with no children." And, yes, it is true that you came to believe that too would be a blessing.
And that's when I knew you were finally ready to get a different bit of news. You were ready to be the kind of mom that my Holy Spirit had shaped you to be—a woman who is my child first and now happens to be a mother.
Melanie, you and I both know that it wasn't a coincidence that another pastor asked your husband about your story. I was in that. I personally saw to it that just days later that pastor would come across a young lady who needed to place her baby for adoption. And, remarkably, it was just three days later when Elliana's birth grandma called and said, "Melanie, we want you and Jonathan to be the parents." A few hours later you were holding Elliana with all the love, tenacity, and strength only one of my children can have. I know you remember and treasure deeply that first moment of motherhood. You always will.
Just as you held her in that moment, I have always and will always hold you. Don't see pain, failure, or disappointment in any other light. Its intent is always to drive you to my gospel. And there, my dear daughter, you will always find all the love, comfort, identity, joy, and strength you'll ever need.
With Love,
Your Father
Author Jonathan Bourman; his wife, Melanie; and their daughter Elliana live in Aiken, South Carolina. Jonathan is pastor at a new mission congregation in Aiken.
To read this article as it originally appeared, click here. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Battling infertility, Bobbie Thomas shares big news after months of IVF

I am a huge fan of infertility stories in the media -- but even more so when they are this real and when the person delivering the news acknowledges all the people who aren't sharing in the good news. One of the most real infertility stories I have ever seen. Click here to read. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


This week I received three different pieces of amazing news. Three women that I have stood along side from the very beginning of their infertility journey received news that was finally not "no."

One friend, who had found out she was infertile long before she met her husband, found out that she was in fact pregnant this week after a final try with IVF. She and I met in Minnesota through the infertility Support Group I helped start. 

Another friend, a childhood friend that I have watched face years of disappointment and negative attempts, is expecting a child after many failed attempts with IVF. 

And a third, a woman walked through infertility with me in Minnesota, was left with no choice but to have a hysterectomy a year ago. And this week she received news that the adorable little toddler they have been fostering for many months, will in fact be eligible for them to adopt. 


And yet, while some celebrate, others remain waiting. Others received not so good news. I have a friend waiting to start IVF again after many fails. Another childhood friend was told that the little boy she had been fostering will, in fact, not be staying with her. And a third friend is still waiting for a birth mother to pick them. 

I don't need to call out their names. They know who they are.

A picture of me before heading in for one of my four failed attempts with IVF in Minnesota.

I recently stumbled upon a letter from one infertile woman to another. It was written for Mother's Day, but I wanted to share a few excerpts from it now in hopes that if you find yourself on the other side of the positive news today, you feel encouraged. 

To my Friends who find themselves childless on yet another Mother’s Day:

Take a deep breath. I understand and I promise you’ll survive. Well, there was one year I thought I might not make it, but I pulled myself out of the pit and I lived to see another day. If I can do it, you can too!

I know, you’re getting older. I am too. It seems like the biological clock has started ticking twice as fast as it used to. You have finally realized that when/if you have kids, you’ll be the “older parent.” The one that people mistake for the grandma! Well sister, I hope I’m standing right there next to you! I hope we both get to attend our child’s wedding, even if we are both retired!

On Mother’s Day I feel like a little girl jumping up and down and waving my arms—“God I’m over here. Pick me! I want to be chosen too! I know I won’t be a perfect parent, but I’ll give it my best shot.” Do you feel left behind, like you’re the one who will get picked last—or not at all?

Remember our identity is not “Infertile,” it is, “Beloved Daughter of the King.” Our identity is not found in what we can or cannot accomplish, it is found in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.