Ben and I have been planning our family since the day we got married in October of 2005. We pictured ourselves in different settings with our imagined family: at the beach, camping in the nearby mountains, snowboarding, all the things we love to do and wanted our children to be a part of. Among many other reasons you can imagine our grief when those dreams seemed to be dashed time and time again with the ebbs and flows of infertility. We watched and waited as friends and family around us seemed to be moving forward, having children and us feeling left behind wondering if a family would every be a part of our reality. The years past and after several miscarriages and an international adoption that was a losing battle we felt led to LDS Family Services. I was discouraged, I had read that they only place with 10% of their couples, but Ben had enough faith for the both of us. We submitted our paperwork and started the wait for a baby the week of Christmas 2009. We attended a class a few weeks later in January about adoption options and I felt like maybe we should just go back to international. With all the training we'd had, we were better prepared for international adoption than domestic and there is such a need for families for millions of orphans world wide. It was a way to pursue a child rather than a wait to be picked and in an underlying way it felt a little more controllable. I wrestled with what we should do and desperation and worry seemed to rule my every decision. One day, after only a month with our profile on the LDSFS website, out of anger and frustration at everything we were going through and an attempt to control the situation as much as I could I called Ben and told him I was taking all our paperwork out of LDSFS and changing agencies for international adoption. Of course he was hesitant and with good reason, we had only just begun and my faith had worn thin, feeling like the Lord had forgotten us after so many years of praying for this blessing. I called our caseworker with a heavy heart with every intention of telling her to take our profile down and to my surprise when she answered the phone and before I could get a word out she greeted me with, "Oh, hey! Did you get that e-mail from the Birthmother that is trying to contact you?" Of course I was in shock and feeling a little sheepish for not trusting the promptings we had had for LDSFS. It was everything I could do to not open the e-mail that night before Ben got home from work. In apprehension and excitement we read the letter that changed our lives forever. With teary eyes we hung on every word from Cassie and cried and cried when we read her last sentence "I don't know how to say this, but I know you are the parents of my baby" immediately we knew we loved her and would never be the same.
In the following weeks we made plans to meet with Cassie face to face and tried not to let our nervousness be so apparent. We e-mailed frequently and slowly got to know each other. Cassie had been told by a doctor in the past that it would be difficult for her to ever bear children so when she was told she was almost 6 months pregnant it had come as quite a shock. As the miracle of her pregnancy settled in she knew she had to weigh her options. Cassie prayed for the first time in a long time and felt the spirit so strongly when she prayed about adoption she knew it was what she wanted to do for her baby. She called LDSFS the night she found out and realized it was almost 8:30 p.m. and the offices were most likely closed. Mary Anne just happened to be in the office that night, picking up some forgotten paperwork when the phone rang. They talked about making a plan for Cassie and meeting to discuss, but in the mean time Cassie could view the website and also adoptive couples if she was curious. The night she went to the site and typed in her preferences we were the first couple to come up. She said she just knew it was us, simple as that. Cassie looked through other profiles, but every 3rd or 4th one she wanted to view ours again and finally she made the decision that would shape the coming events. I'm sure Mary Anne was shocked when Cassie told her she had already found the couple after only one conversation, but Cassie is strong and steadfast in her decisions and it felt right to her.
In the last few months we have spent time e-mailing and going to some great restaurants, Cassie is something of a connoisseur when it comes to food in Salt Lake City. Our relationship grew and was not without it's ups and downs, but like every strong relationship, we were defining who we are and developing a new normal. Trust is an amazing concept. Ben and I trusting Cassie with our hearts and her doing the same after only having just met. I don't think it would be possible had the Lord's hand not been present and looking back at everything leading up to this moment he has truly been guiding every experience. As we became more and more involved Ben and I realized that Cassie had become apart of our family and it felt right, like that's how it was always supposed to be. We met her family and fell just as hard for them and we knew we had made this plan in another life and here it was unfolding before us so beautifully. Explaining open adoption has proven to be difficult when faced with so many notions and worries from others who care deeply for us and are afraid we may get hurt. What I can tell you is that Cassie and her family have far more to lose than a broken heart and yet they choose to sacrifice their feelings for this tiny baby, how could we not feel the same? How could we not love them endlessly for such a decision? Cassie has demonstrated Christ-like love in it's most pure form and I have never felt more joy and happiness in setting aside our insecurities and embracing what has been laid out before us, God working miracles in us all.
Cassie went to the doctor on Wednesday morning and after an anxious week overdue we finally got the call that it was time to go to the hospital. She looked like an angel to me sitting in that bed, nervous for what was to come. We had taken a birthing class together to prepare for this moment, but now that it was here I felt completely ill equipped to comfort her. Ben and I, Mary Anne, and Cassie's mom and step dad watched and waited and laughed to pass the time. They told us stories of Cassie being a naughty teenager, stealing her step dad's car to go on a joy ride at fifteen, and we shared funny experiences of our own. We watched Wheel of Fortune and Etertainment Tonight and ate popsicles and stared at the monitor to time contractions. The anesthesiologist arrived with an epidural and we were all relieved to see him. As the contractions got stronger and closer together the anticipation began to build and we could see the worry on Cassie's face. She turned to Ben and asked him for a Priesthood blessing. I cannot explain how it felt to be in that soft quiet room and see my husband give a blessing of health and comfort to the mother of our child, such sacred responsibility. The spirit was strong and it was then that things began to progress. Ben and Cassie's step dad left the room, worried and anxious as ever. Cassie worked tirelessly and I felt a little helpless as we watched her intense pain grow as the epidural had worn off right before the time to push. With some assistance from the doctor little Isla made her entrance into this world at exactly 3:00AM. It wasn't without concern though as the umbilical cord was wrapped so tightly around her neck the doctor had to cut the cord three times in order to remove it. She finally took a breath after a full minute of assisted breathing and we were relieved to hear her cry, literally music to our ears.
Ben and I accompanied Isla to the NICU and anxiously waited for the moment we could take her back to the room to meet Cassie. As I held this perfect baby in my arms for the first time it was love at first sight. She is so tiny and sweet. The most perfect thing I could ever imagine. Ben is already wound tightly around those tiny little fingers. We wheeled her back to the room and joined Cassie. The room was quiet, everyone but Mary Anne had left, and we all sat together and watched as Cassie met this little one she'd carried for 9 months. Love filled the room exceedingly and our hearts were bound with everything we were experiencing together. Bittersweet joy and unconditional love I didn't fully understand until now.
Isla Grace Garner
6lbs 14 oz