This is the first of my sisters stories. Out of all the women whose stories I tell in the next two months, Linda is the only person I actually got to sit down with in person to hear the story.
I heard it for the first time over a year ago. I wanted to write it then. It just wasn’t time yet.
Linda is from South Africa, and the moment you sit down with her, you are completely taken in by her beautiful accent and ability to infuse each molecule of air with warmth and joy. I felt instantaneously grateful to have met her.
She agreed to allow me to share her miraculous journey to motherhood. Because the story has so many twists and turns, it will take me two days to finish.
Linda moved to America in 2001, the same year her future husband was diagnosed with cancer. After a year away from her homeland, she decided to throw her hat in the dating ring. Her not-yet husband, after months of rigorous treatment, found himself cancer-free and ready to dip a toe in the dating pool himself. I could write a whole post about their love story alone, but this story is about their family. They met in the summer of 2002, were engaged within a year, and married eight months later.
They both wanted children but knew the cancer made it more complicated. So a year after they married, his cancer doctors sent six vials of frozen sperm to the fertility doctor who would extract Linda’s eggs for an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) transfer. Linda never doubted they would have trouble getting pregnant. After all, all the ingredients were there and they were still in their early 30s.
Little did she know that in the first IVF round the doctor would go through all six vials only to find that no viable sperm thawed. There were no quality embryos to transfer (though they transferred a few bad ones because she was there).
The biggest pit of despair in the entire process was after this first round of IVF. I was devastated that we would be unable to have children biologically my husband’s. I thought he was the most perfect man I had ever met. It was all so unfair. I asked God, WHY NOT ME? I’m SO imperfect. Why HIM?
After the heartbreak of processing that their children wouldn’t be his “biologically,” Linda and her husband went through several rounds of IUIs and two rounds of IVF with donor sperm. They even adopted embryos. Nothing.
With their savings drained, and their hopes dashed, they decided no more.
They knew they wanted children and believed that adoption would, eventually, grow their family. As they were discussing adoption options, a colleague happened to see a pamphlet on her desk and mentioned that a friend of his had just adopted and said Linda should call her.
Little did she know how that divine appointment from a colleague she barely knew was God’s messenger.
That same week, Linda called the newly adoptive mom who invited her to an open house at an adoption agency where she’d be speaking. That. Saturday.
On Monday, two days after the open house, the agency called them. Linda had filled out no forms. She had completed no book. She just went to the open house to get a little information. They. Called. Her. “We have a potential match,” they shared. “Get your forms together.”
Linda stayed up late nights all week pulling together her forms and her book and fed-exing it off to the pregnant mother. The birthmother was reviewing three prospective families. While she was reviewing books, Linda received another call from the agency: “This first mom is a little iffy. But we have a second birthmother who will be giving birth and she would be a certain match.”
Still, instinctively, Linda believed she had to wait. She told the agency no to the second birthmother and then called her best friend in tears. “I felt like I had turned down a gift from God, and now I would never get a chance to be a mom.”
Three days later, the agency called to tell Linda and her husband that the first birthmother chose them. God knew all along. God provided the strength, beyond all knowing, for Linda to find her no, only to be given her ONE TRUE YES.
Linda didn’t know at the time, but the birthmother had first selected another family. A family who had adopted her first child. This is what Linda shared with me: They had had a very friendly relationship and our birthmother knew that the couple badly wanted more children. The adoptive mother agreed, excitedly, because the babies would be exactly two years apart. However, a week after they decided to adopt the baby our birthmother was carrying, they found out that they too were pregnant! After years of fertility treatments and then adopting their baby girl, they got pregnant “accidentally!” They then told our birthmother no and she contacted our agency to find a match. That other couple gave birth to a baby boy just a month before our birthmother gave birth to our son. Their miracle became MY miracle too.
The birthmother was still early enough in the pregnancy that Linda could attend all the prenatal visits. She was in the room when the doctor said, “it’s a boy!” She and her husband took the birth parents out for dinners in the months leading up to the birth. The birthmother and Linda became friendly.
I had lived such a homogenous life. I had grown up in this middle class society. Never having seen beyond the walls. I got to know these people who were funny and smart and hardworking but never had opportunity or education. I looked at this woman willing to give her son up for a better life and knew that ‘There but for the grace of God…’
Linda stood at this mother’s side in the delivery room. Linda’s were the first hands to ever to hold Cole. Her first born. He is perfect. And so loved.
Here was Linda’s miracle. But not her only one.
As time passed, they felt their family wasn’t complete. Cole needed a sibling.