Fingerprints

(This story was first published in Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother’s Soul)
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My husband and I got married in 1986, a year out of high school. Despite marrying so young, and both being stubborn firstborns, we’ve spent the majority of our marriage getting along pretty darned well. Babies came steadily, 4 in 6 years, two girls and two boys. A perfect number, we agreed.

But by 1997, when our ‘last’ baby turned 3, I realized I wasn’t ready to be done with babies. I wanted to renegotiate our deal. I longed to adopt a baby.

John wasn’t remotely ready to renegotiate. “Are you crazy?” he said. “Don’t you think four kids is enough? Besides, we don’t have that kind of money!”

I repeatedly tried to explain my logic, but John was unmoved. He honestly thought I had a screw loose. It was horrible. In the past, when we’d disagreed, we’d always been able to find some middle ground. But not this time. You can’t adopt half a child. And to be fair to another child, my husband would have to enter into parenting wholeheartedly. That seemed impossible.

When all my logic and all my tears and all my persuasion failed to move him, I gave up and just prayed. Not only for the baby who by this time seemed alive in my heart, but for unity between us. If adoption was really right for us, then a power higher than my own was going to have to notify John. So far there was no sign of that happening.

Many times during those long slow months, I wondered if I was crazy to be nurturing such a dream. In fact, several times I asked my longing to be taken from me. Yet every time I resolved to give it up, God placed another reminder in our path. It seemed adoption was not meant to fade from our minds.

So I waited. Prayed, fiercely at times. And finally, after an endlessly long impatient wait, a miracle began to happen. My husband began, now and then, to ask a question about adoption. I’d answer, affecting a nonchalance I was far from feeling. Then I’d mull over each casual question for days, afraid that I‘d attached too much significance to it.

But then would come another question. And another. Real discussions followed—cautious, theoretical — leaving me both jubilant and riddled with uncertainty. Could he be seriously considering it?

When John asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him all I wanted was his fingerprints– for the criminal background check, the first step in the adoption process. When he didn’t get upset at my request, my hope grew. But there were worrisome moments too, normal moments all parents have, with kids fighting or vomiting or hunting lost shoes. Then he would turn to me in a huff. “We don’t need another kid!”

“No, “ I would say, “But a child out there needs us.”

During this uncertain time, he asked me several times to expand my Christmas list, probably hoping I would request a crock pot or a computer, not a child. I insisted that his fingerprints were all I wanted. By Christmas Eve my stomach was all knots, but I vowed to graciously accept his decision, whatever it might be.

In the happy bedlam of four kids ripping gifts open as fast as they could, John casually tossed a tiny gift into my lap. Fingers trembling, I ripped it open. Inside was a little gold key chain with a coin-shaped gold medallion on it that said, ‘God keeps His Promises.’

It was sweet, and I forced enthusiasm into my voice to thank John, thinking, oh, that’s not it. I reminded myself what an enormous thing I was asking him. Maybe it was just too much. Maybe my dream-child was not meant for our family.

But John was still watching me. “What’s on the back of the key chain?”

Heart thudding, I flipped the medallion over to look at the back.

There, etched in the smooth gold on the back of the medallion, was a single golden thumbprint.

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Links to the rest of our adoption story

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  1. That story is such a familiar one… It was 7 months of prayer for Him to either “take the desire away from me or bring us to unity” before we were both on the same page… That was almost 5 years (and three children!) ago…

  2. I love this story- it is ours as well- and thankfully ended with another child…..thanks for sharing!

  3. What an sweet story, thank your for sharing.

  4. From your prayers to God’s ears….to his heart. I love that!

    Blessings from our family to yours today!
    Staci

  5. Mary, thanks for sharing your story again. My husband and I have three biological children and in November, we adopted a 7 year old from the foster care system. It’s been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but I’m so glad we did it. My heart is towards adopting more, my husband’s isn’t there. I have hope. God changed his heart the first time, He can do it again! Was John hesitant for each adoption? I’m excited to read how you financed it! My heart is led to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. Our social workers would love to see us adopt more from foster care. We supposedly have a “gift” in parenting kids from foster care. Again, thanks for sharing, it sure hit home for me!

  6. beth p. says:

    I have 5 bio kids. I, too, started the adoption discussion when my youngest was 3 – she’s now turning 11! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried, prayed, bargained with God. God must certainly be trying to teach me patience. He hasn’t removed the desire from my heart. So, I go on praying and hoping and learning. I know he has some plan for our lives. I’m excited to discover what it is!

  7. What a testimony of faithfulness. It must have been a huge step of faith for your husband as well.

  8. Wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

  9. Beautiful story. Just the thing this expecting mama likes to read now!

  10. What a wonderful story. And the beginning of your next adventure, I suppose.

  11. This squeezed my heart! I can’t wait to read the other installments.

  12. Can’t wait to read more of the story!!

  13. I remember reading this for the first time over 2 years ago, shortly after my husband informed me that he did not share my desire of adopting a child. Two years later, the desire still burns within me and I pray daily for God to either take away that desire or to place that same desire upon my husband’s heart.

    Today has been one of those days when my heart aches because my husband and I are not on the same page with this. Your re-posting of this story was very timely for me. It gave me hope and at the same time reminded me that God will answer my prayers one way or another. May I have the wisdom and grace to rest in His will, whatever it may be.

  14. i have been an internet friend of mary’s for many years. since before the time she was cradling her first Korean baby and wearing her sweet white hat. i was “there” online with her when she was going through the times “pre Fingerprint Story”. she already had four children and was so young! i was adopting our second child and she was pining for her fifth – hoping for an adopted child. it was just after Christmas when she joyfully wrote the first version of the Fingerprint Story (it was the accounting of what she got for Christmas!)and posted it to our online adoptive parents group. i am here to tell you that i felt the Holy Spirit in that story – I cried! We traveled to Korea to meet our children within a few weeks of each other. (we’d hoped our paths might cross there.) soon, she was embarking on a second adoption (her child # 6) and my heart was yearning for a third child (we’d agreed to two children and much like her John, my John’s heart wasn’t open to another. Great dad, just…done.) well, like mary and so many of you, i prayed and prayed, every which way, about it. prayed he’d change his mind. prayed i’d let go of wanting the third child. prayed we’d be in unity on the matter. Mary’s Fingerprint Story was always in the back of my mind…i think i started wanting another child the moment i got off the plane with our second child in 1998.

    so this doesn’t turn in to a blog post of my own here is the rest of the story, truncated version. 1998-99: husband listening, mildly agreed for a short time in which i hurriedly collected agency paperwork. 1999: job opportunity to move to Florida. 2000: move to Florida. Door slammed SHUT to another child. he would not discuss. (it was hard) i left adoption groups; it was not easy to be there and hearing all the “surprise! we are adopting again! stories”. i got into other interests but always hoped. i more or less, though, gave it up. one day in 2004 (at a Catholic marriage retreat, hmmm?!) there was a right moment so i asked, “why – you are such a great dad and so obviously love these kids – didn’t you want to adopt again?” i was genuinely curious. not even “asking to adopt”, just, really wanted to know.

    the answer surprised me: “i’d consider it.”

    WHAT?!

    Naturally i went into researching mode and we decided we were too old for a baby and didn’t need one anyway and long, long story short we found our daughter on a waiting child list in China and brought home a 3 year old in january 2005. So. God works in His own timing, ladies and if it’s really right for your family, it will happen. if it happened here, believe me: it can happen in your family, too!

    our third child is our most challenging of all. and not once has my husband ever been anything than 100 % there for her. he’s even better with her than i am some days! thank God for my guy, I could not do it without him (and here I thought I could. it took our third child to show me differently!)

    Praise God and keep hope alive in your hearts and do what i did: go on with your life (for a long time it was ALL i could think about but I finally let it go for a few years) and if it’s meant to be, it will!

    thanks for sharing the Fingerprint Story again, Mary. i always love to read it. my mom did too 🙂

  15. ahh! I love this story! I remember reading it before and it meant so much to me! It does seem like God often puts adoption on the heart of the woman first..what a blessing. thanks for sharing it. 🙂

  16. Yes, this is our story! I can remember being physically sick with longing and begging God to take away the desire. That I couldn’t live with the desire and my husband not agree. Every time I prayed, the longing grew so I prayed more for God to speak to my husband. Those were hard months. We are now waiting to adopt from Ethiopia (3 bio sons already.)

    Thanks for being open about your adoption and your kids. You have no idea how that has encouraged us! Three years ago the idea of trans-racial adoption was foreign to me. You showed me how normal it is.

  17. thanks for this, Mary. It’s really beautiful.

  18. Thank you Mary………….thank you.

  19. That is so neat – I think your story is wonderful – it’s great how God changed your husband’s heart – and probably yours in the process. 🙂 I have a heart for foster care & foster adoption…someday…but my husband isn’t overly interested, so this gives me hope that maybe someday he will be. 🙂

  20. multi-taskingmom says:

    Ahhhhh Mary I love this story every time I read it. I remember when we were waiting together (online) for our first babies from Korea.

    My story is much like your own (and many others I’ll bet)….when DH finally agreed on adoption – we agreed on 2. Well he did anyway, I wasn’t so sure I would be ready to be done after 2. I kept praying and here we are 11 years later….. we are almost paper ready for child number 6 (our oldest is married and has been on his own for several years now).

  21. That is an awesome story! I can’t wait to hear more.

  22. Now that is romance!

  23. Wonderful post! I have always wanted to adopt, but my husband did not. I too prayed about it, but never nagging him. Three years ago a situation arose that opened the door for us to talk about adoption. We finished our homestudy in February and now are waiting. It was God throughout it all for us! I love hearing your journey!

  24. I love this story….I’m waiting on a set of fingerprints myself. Dh agreed that we *should* adopt another child, but he’s worried about finances and doesn’t think we’re ready to start. It’s so hard to WAIT.

  25. This post was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  26. This is such a gorgeous story, Mary. Thank you so much.

  27. What beautiful words, and encouragement to my heart.
    Thank you for sharing your tender experience, and thank you for being willing to put your family in the spot light for others to learn from, what a Christ-Like example you are to me.

  28. Ohhhh those reluctant husbands…God put our son in my husband’s heart too! I prayed hard and asked God to remove the longing in my heart or to put it in his too… We now have a 16 month old sweet little boy!

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