Written by S. J. Duca. Originally published in Family Foundations.
You’ve probably heard of our third couple, popular Catholic writer Emily Stimpson Chapman and her husband Chris. A new-ish mom of three, Emily graced the PeakDay podcast recently to share the couple’s adoption story.
When Emily and Chris married in their 40s, they hoped for a pregnancy, but were also open to adoption to grow their family.
“When you’re trying to conceive later in life, every month feels like a year,” she described. As weeks went by without a pregnancy, Emily and her husband dug deeper into their desire to be parents, and what it might be calling them toward.
“When you have a desire to be a mother and that is not happening, it’s good to say, ‘I have this desire, Lord, is this from You? How do You want it to be fulfilled?’” Emily said. “Infertility is an invitation to say, ‘’Do I want to be pregnant, or do I want to be a parent, to love and welcome a child into my home?’ That was for Chris and me the defining question that led us to adoption.”
As soon as Emily and Chris opened the door to adoption, it was as if God started handing them babies — the couple found themselves adopting three children in three years.
Adopting children so close together has been an incredible gift, though incredibly intense. While adoption doesn’t take the same toll on a body as physical pregnancy, Emily described it as “a spiritual pregnancy, spiritual labor. It took a huge toll on my heart.”
It’s also been one step on climbing a lifelong ladder of trust. “Trust is the biggest lesson I’ve learned in life with God,” she said. “It’s not just about adoption, it’s about your plans for marriage, your plans for fertility, your struggles with infertility.”
She continued, “With each of our children, you can see how beautifully His plan has come together, in ways that are blessing us now, blessing them, blessing their birth parents, and blessing more people than we can imagine.”
Just one example: the sheer number of families that Emily, with her online following, has encouraged to consider ethical adoption – something she never could have done if she and Chris hadn’t adopted.
“We get very focused on what we see right in front of us and panic because it’s not what we were expecting, but God sees it all,” she said. “That lesson of trust He’s been weaving through my life, and adoption is just one of the ways I’ve had to work on that lesson.”
For women discerning adoption, Emily offers these reminders:
- “Your fertility is not dependent on you doing every single thing right. There really is a balance between healing your body and relaxing into life and trusting that the fate of your fertility is not ultimately up to you, it’s up to God.”
- “One of the mistakes we make in our culture is thinking there is a perfect time to have a baby. Whatever age you have your babies, there are going to be great joys and great struggles.”
- “Spiritual motherhood isn’t a consolation prize. Spiritual motherhood is what all women are called to and it’s what physical motherhood is a sign of…. How are you called to nurture and nourish life around you? That’s the heart of spiritual motherhood. It’s not just a distraction, it does fulfill you.”
- “Adoption is not a ‘cure’ for infertility, it doesn’t allow you to conceive and bear babies. But infertility often is an invitation to adoption. Or, you might have children already and feel the call to adoption on your heart. I don’t think there can be enough good, faithful families for expectant mothers who are considering adoption to choose from.”
Emily shared that many people are curious whether she feels like she’s missed out by not experiencing pregnancy.
“I don’t at all,” she said. “I’ve had a different experience of motherhood but different isn’t lesser. I think that’s a real fear of a lot of people before they adopt, that they’re not going to love their kids as much, that they’re going to feel like they missed out. When you’re doing God’s will, you don’t feel like you’ve missed out on anything. You feel like you’ve been given exactly what was the very best for you and your children.”
For more of Emily’s story (it’s a great one!), head to the PeakDay podcast.
S. J. Duca – Savanna is a writer and creative strategist with a special interest in art, film, and entrepreneurship. Her favorite authors currently include Evelyn Waugh, P. G. Woodhouse, and Marilynne Robinson.