The sacred calling of parenthood is not always straight forward. Many righteous men and women struggle with infertility and the trials that go with not being able to conceive. The unknowns of adoption can be barriers to those looking for answers to their prayers. Hoping to shed some light on the process, Marilee Matenga and Tracy Marshall answer questions on the ups and downs of becoming parents through adoption.
What brought you to the decision to adopt?
Marilee: IVF was unsuccessful for us. Knowing that you cannot physically have children hit me hard. I grew up in a big family and always wanted to have lots of children. Not once did I think that I would have any difficulty let alone not be able to have any at all - especially as my siblings had no problem having children.
Adoption was the only option left. I was ready to jump into it as soon as possible but my husband Kelvin needed a lot of process time. This was mainly because he is a very cautious person and adoption is a huge unknown. After much prayer, fasting and patience, waiting for my husband to be ready, it was finally time to take the plunge.
Tracy: In the earlier years of our married life, we had no reason to adopt, we believed we would have our own children and medically, professionals couldn’t tell us why we were unable to conceive. There were so many unanswered questions and so much heartache. Finally, an answer from the Lord came. It was not what we wanted but what we needed to soften our hearts and prepare us for what was to come.
My cousin in the UK had lost her four children to the State. We had not been open to adoption before, but these children were family and they needed a home, they needed to be loved. ALL children deserve a loving home! And there it was, the softening of the heart that we needed. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be this time as the opportunity closed before us only two months after it had opened. I had opened my heart fully and was vulnerable and it seemed that the door had been slammed in our faces. I poured out my heart to the Lord and asked Him what He would have me do now because I am ready to shut my heart up again and close the door on ever being a mother here on earth. After 15 years of wanting and waiting for our turn, it had come to this moment.
Just in time, a phone call came a few hours later, after my pleading prayer, it was my sister. She had been in conversations with a close friend whose daughter was pregnant and was making the hardest decision of her life, to adopt out her child. Six months later, we become parents to the most gorgeous baby girl. I know the Lord’s hand was in all the details over those 15 years of our married life. He knew exactly how things needed to work and He had never forgotten us; He was preparing us.
What were the hardest moments and how did you get through them?
Marliee: The waiting was the hardest. Even though our son Talmage came to us only eight months after submitting our adoption profile, it felt like an eternity!
Even harder than that, was the waiting between meeting Talmage and taking him home – 15 days later.
So many things go through your mind during these waiting periods - will anyone pick us? Will they change their mind? How long is this going to take? We got through it by immersing ourselves in our work, our callings and service. I took my nephews and nieces out to keep busy.
Tracy: One of the hardest moments was when we lost all contact with the birth mother during the pregnancy. Out of respect and love for her, we honoured her request for no contact. Not a day would go by that we didn’t worry. We constantly feared that she would change her mind. We had no way of knowing how she was doing emotionally and what she was thinking. The only thing we could do was to fast and pray on a regular basis, that the birth mother would be at peace with the decision she had made. Our prayers seemed to have the same words every time, that she would “feel peace in her decision.”
After months of no contact, we finally received a message from the birth mother. It was a short message, but it was all we needed to hear to renew our hope and know that the Lord was still very much a part of this journey. Her words to us were “…I am at peace with the decision I have made…all is going well”. The exact same words that we had been using in our fasts and prayers. One of the hardest moments had turned into one of the sweetest. Fear had diminished and hope was restored.
What were the most wonderful moments?
Marilee: Meeting Talmage for the first time. His birth mother had wanted to meet us so she and some of her family came to see us and they brought Talmage with them. We were not expecting her to bring him, so we were very pleasantly surprised. I tried hard to not look at him too much because I didn’t want to get my hopes up. He was so handsome, and his big brown eyes melted my heart. He needed to be fed during our visit and she asked if I wanted to give him his bottle, which of course I did. I fed him as we spoke and later found out that, other than his birth mother and her mum, Talmage normally would not go to anyone without a big fuss. He was eight weeks old at the time. For his birth mother and me, this was a defining moment.
Another wonderful moment was the day we were sealed as a family in the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. The feelings of joy we felt are indescribable.
Tracy: There are many, but I will mention only one. Meeting the birth mother for the first time and seeing how amazing she was. Instantly we loved her, and we were so blown away by the strength and maturity she showed with the remarkable decision she had made for her unborn child. Choosing to adopt out your child, when you know you cannot give them what they need, is such a selfless act of pure love. We still have so much love and admiration for her – we always will.
If you could send your past self a message what would it be?
Marilee: Honestly, I believe that the experiences I have had so far in my many years on earth have been something I have needed at the time. Perhaps I would simply tell myself to live life!
Tracey: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path” Proverbs 3:5-6. I spent too many days and nights worrying and fretting over things that I didn’t have but yearned for. Instead of being present in the moment and in the season of life I was in. I would tell myself to see my time serving in the Church as valuable preparation for when I did become a mother. I resented too many things. The Lord prepares His children to receive each blessing that we are entitled to. However, it’s done in His time and according to His will, not ours.
Did you feel the Lord's hand in your journey?
Marliee: Most definitely! Very strong and at every step. The Lord has blessed us so abundantly! I know without a doubt that Talmage is meant to be with us. I know that the Lord led his birth mother to us and blessed and helped her in her decisions and she will tell you the same. She is a very special person to us. We know that the Lord’s hand was in every stage of this process and feel very humbled and blessed to be a part of it.
Tracy: Absolutely! God was in every part of our adoption journey. However, I didn’t always see it or acknowledge it. I am grateful that I kept a journal because I have been able to look back over this time and see how the Lord has comforted me, blessed me, and strengthened me beyond my own abilities. He put the right pieces of our adoption puzzle in place. I know my time to become a mother was foreordained and that getting me to the moment I would hold my baby for the first time wasn’t just a nine-month journey.