Giving Birth to Air: The Labor Pains of Adoption & Foster Care

Christian Life & Theology, Motherhood

I’m thrilled to welcome my dear friend Michelle to the blog this week. Her story of loss and surrender is inspiring no matter what stage of life you are in. If you struggle to leave your dreams in the hands of God – and understand the grief and pain that often accompanies surrender – this post is for you.

In light of Phylicia’s current condition, I thought it may be appropriate to share my own labor pains.  When we met (online) two years ago, we were both expecting baby girls, just 1 day apart.  We didn’t have chance to meet until after her Addie was born, and eerily enough, she had no idea my baby girl would have been called Addie, too.  I am so grateful for her friendship, especially as we walked through the trials that child-bearing has brought, and so excited to share with you, her readers, today! My purpose is tri-fold – to open your eyes to adoption and foster care, to give testimony to God’s faithful sovereignty, and to celebrate labor pains.

As a woman with child and about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, O Lord.  We were with child, we writhed in pain, but we gave birth to wind.” – Isaiah 26:17-18a

Though I know the prophet Isaiah is writing about the work we do to earn our salvation (works are meaningless), this scripture broke me when I first read it last fall.  We had been trying to adopt through domestic infant adoption for two years, and to date, our preparations had been completely pointless.

The first birth mother that had selected us to parent her baby completely scammed us.  After building a relationship with her for five months, I found myself with a nearly-expired car seat installed in my car, walking around with her in the middle of the night to “try to get labor started.”  The next morning, my world came crashing down when we discovered that she was not pregnant at all.   Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and now I can see red flags waving everywhere like the end of Les Miserables, Act I.

The second expectant mother that asked us to parent her child made a decision that was much less dramatic and surprising.  She decided to parent the child herself, and to which we said, “We wish you the best of luck.”  We truly cared for her and the baby and wanted what was best for each of them. However, she did not keep in touch with us, we found out about his birth via Facebook.  I would have gladly returned the car seat she had gifted to us, but she never asked.

These were my labor pains.  Maybe not physical, but emotional and spiritual.  And at the time, it felt like the only thing I had birthed was wind, like Isaiah writes.  The weight of the grief was debilitating. All our preparations had been pointless.  All the emotional roller coasters had been for nothing.

In the midst of grief and panic – the sovereignty of the Lord provides stability.  I took refuge in God – I laid my brokenness down and asked Him to use it for His glory.  As one of my favorite songs  says,

If it all falls apart will I trust in God?

If it’s all good, do I need Him at all? 

That’s when I found the beauty in between”

I discovered the beauty between things falling apart and everything working out the way I hoped was a place of brokenness.  But thankfully, somehow, miraculously, in brokenness we become stronger.  Think of the way scar tissue over an old wound is even thicker than the original skin.  Or the way the testing of our faith produces character.

I was truly at a place where I could trust God to give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40).  I had the chance to experience peace that passes anything I could understand (Philippians 4).

Another year passed, and the labor pains began again.  This time, labor came quickly and unexpectedly, just like a mother who doesn’t know she is pregnant until d-day (yes, it really happens!).  We had mentally abandoned the idea of bringing home a newborn, and worked towards getting certified to be foster parents.  All we wanted to do was honor God and parent more kids.  Once we laid aside the idea that it would be a newborn, doors swung open – why would we not parent anyone who needed us?

The call came on a Thursday night.  My seven year old and husband were at soccer practice.  I was waiting at home for our social worker who would put the finishing touches on our foster care home study.  The number of the agency flashed on my phone, but I had long since gotten over the excitement of their call (I’m sure you can understand why).

“Hi Michelle!  We have a situation to discuss with you…”

They went on to tell me about a precious baby born 24 hours prior, waiting for someone to come snuggle him.  His situation was incredibly unique – he was currently to be a foster care placement, but within a few weeks, they expected his birth mom to make an adoption plan, therefore transitioning him from a foster to a domestic infant adoption case.

Because his birth mom did not want to pick a family herself for adoption, protocol said to call the longest waiting family.  Three years into adoption waiting meant that that family was us.  In the meantime, they needed to find a foster certified family until his status has officially changed.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  – James 1:2-4

Previously “giving birth to air” had led us to get foster licensed, meaning that we were dually certified (foster and adoption), which was incredibly rare, just like this little guy’s needs.

The previous labor pains I had experienced along the way of our adoption journey gave me the strength I needed to face the real labor pains – the fruitful ones that ended with a baby in my arms and my heart.

The previous labor pains taught me to more fully trust God, so that while I sat in the NICU, rocking a premature baby,  tears stinging my eyes, I could be sure in God’s sovereignty and love for me, even though I was unsure of the future of this baby and his role in our family.

The previous labor pains built my muscles – made me strong enough to tell well meaning naysayers,  “Yes, I know my heart may get broken again, but this baby needs us now.  He needs are greater than mine.”

The previous labor pains which I faced with clenched fists and white knuckles helped me to walk through a time of uncertainty with open hands, waiting for God to give and take away, living in surrender.

The previous labor pains gave me confidence to know that God would carry us through whatever came next.

Oh, and the previous labor pains provided us with a really nice car seat.

When the weight of this journey take it’s toll

You are the joy the moves me beyond control.”  – Kings Kaleidoscope

When I writhed in pain, it was not in vain.  Each step of the journey, each contraction, was necessary.  Necessary for provision, and necessary for spiritual growth.  When my labor pains ended this time – I held in my arms a three month old baby, who is now moving towards adoption, whom I had had the joy of nurturing from the beginning of his life on the outside of the womb, a chance I would have missed if not for all the other parts of the journey.

Michelle is a musician turned teacher turned blogger turned mother who writes at  She and her husband, Herb, met on the first day of band camp in college, quickly became best friends, and have been married for 11 years.  A pretty great kid named Levi (age 7) calls her Mom, and he loves being a big brother to Baby J (age 4 months). When she’s not swishing prefolds and prepping bottles, she enjoys substitute teaching at Levi’s school, giving guitar and piano lesson, and reflecting on God’s faithfulness.

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