When you marry, do you have to marry the family too?
I married Andy, the youngest of eight, and from the very beginning I knew I was marrying his family, but it’s been a blessing in more ways than the number of us that have multiplied over the years.
I’ve been particularly blessed to know his nephew Nate, and his wife, Dawn, who are the Godparents of our oldest son, Danny.
Below, I’ve written a brief highlight of how my friendship with them has grown over the years, and in the spirit of giving thanks, I asked Dawn to write a guest post.
Andy and I spent a lot of time with his nephew Nate (who is more like another brother) and Nate’s now wife, Dawn.
I remember being in the hospital after delivering my first son, Danny, and overhearing whispers of a conversation between Andy and Nate.
I couldn’t make their words out clearly, but I remember thinking: “Why is no one getting me some hot soup?”
Unbeknownst to me in my freezing cold, hermetically sealed hospital room, it was over a hundred degrees outside and unbeknownst to Dawn, Andy was helping Nate coordinate his proposal to Dawn, which happened the following day.
No sooner were we home with Danny, Nate and Dawn came to meet him and share the news of their engagement.
Andy high-fived his surprise.
As Dawn sat on our big oversized chair, Nate squeezed in easily next to her.
Like two little lovebirds, they cooed sweetly, as I placed Danny into the palms of their hands.
It was no secret.
They dreamed of the day they would have kids of their own, but they were going to enjoy planning their wedding and wait a few years before starting a family.
A sense of peace washed over me as I watched them.
I knew how lucky our first born son was to have these two people in his life and how lucky their own children would be someday to have them in theirs too.
Dawn came to help me every day for the rest of that summer – changing Danny’s diapers, bathing him, strolling him to the park, holding him, hugging him, reading to him.
She actually took our laundry to the local launder mat (with Danny in tow) and typical of Dawn, she came back all smiles one day and said, “Oh, Mo, I just love doing your laundry because when I’m folding Danny’s clothes, I know people are staring at him because he’s so cute and I think to myself how great I look for having had a two week old baby!” (And I was happy that she loved doing laundry!)
She brought her diary and photo albums over to share some memories of her courtship with Nate.
As I rocked Danny to sleep, we giggled like school girls and laughed at pictures of Nate’s not-so-stylish high school mullet and prayed for Danny’s sake, the mullet would never be back in style.
Later that year I would join her in her search for a wedding dress. She would decide against a big, full skirt because she wanted to dance closer to Nate on their wedding day.
But after several years of marriage, Dawn’s teaching elementary school, and Nate’s graduating from chiropractic school, there was no news of pregnancy.
And there wouldn’t be. They found out they wouldn’t be able to have kids of their own.
It was a crushing blow to them, and to everyone who knows and loves them.
But after many conversations on love and life, marriage and children, they found their silver-lining.
It’s one of the many reasons why Nate and Dawn – not related to me by blood – are just as much family to me as my own.
Despite their challenges, they remain steadfast and loyal to each other, to their families and friends, and to their faith.
They always manage to catch life’s curveballs, and now they are blessed beyond their wildest dreams with plenty to laugh about everyday!
So in the spirit of giving thanks this season, below is a little bit of their story.
by Dawn McGowan
Every time I sit down at the computer, my mind gets overwhelmed by what to write.
I sit and stare at the screen and then I end up deciding to try again another time.
It’s difficult to figure out where to begin. There are so many things to say, as well as a roller-coaster of emotions.
As I sit here tonight, I am thinking back on our journey and reminded that God does have a plan for us.
Fortunately, for our family, that plan included adoption and it has been our biggest gift.
So here it goes…
…Nate and I were married for a few years before we started trying for a family.
We were both young and healthy and figured we would get pregnant right away.
We were excited, but that soon turned into sadness when months passed with no positive results.
We prayed about it, but the prayers were always focused on what we wanted. We questioned why God wasn’t listening to us. We didn’t understand why everyone else was able to get pregnant and we were having all this trouble.
It didn’t seem fair. There were many tears and even more frustrations with God.
I can still feel our sadness as I venture back to that time. But Nate and I are both really positive people and decided to start focusing on all the good we had in our life.
We poured our love into each other, into our family and our friends, and found joy and humor inside of the pain.
We began to appreciate the small things.
Our relationships grew deeper.
While undergoing many tests and doctor appointments, we discovered that Nate was a carrier of cystic fibrosis. After doing a little research, we discovered Nate’s sister, Kate, had many of the symptoms we were reading about, as well.
We chatted about our discovery with her and she called her doctor to do tests. Her results came back positive for cystic fibrosis. She was able to start receiving treatments to help maintain her lung function.
She would say, “It was a God thing.”
We found out shortly after that time that in vitro fertilization would be our only chance to get pregnant, so we began the next phase.
There were many letdowns and stresses involved in this process.
Regardless of the outcome, we prayed even harder and found a church in our town because we knew we needed God to help us through this. We started talking with God in a different way and our relationship with Him grew deeper.
We were listening and realizing that we didn’t have the control. We couldn’t plan everything.
After many failed attempts at IVF, our hearts were sad, but still filled with love.
We started to feel like God was telling us He had different plans for us.
As we listened more, we heard more and more about adoption.
We were scared, but felt a strange sense of peace.
Nate and I knew we were in this together, but now we knew that God was in it too.
He was leading the way – our way.
It was in His hands – not ours.
We had to have faith.
I Choose You
This led us to working with two different adoption agencies, and eventually, three beautiful and selfless women whose children we would choose to adopt.
Each experience was quite a journey.
All three of our childrens’ birth moms prayed for guidance and strength during their respective pregnancies and with God’s help, they were able to make the biggest, most loving sacrifice that anyone can make.
They chose adoption too, and our connections with them remain filled with love and gratitude.
We look back now and are in awe at how everything unfolded.
Each adoption taught us something, and now, each child does too.
God helped us grow in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise imagined.
Blessed with a family now, we will continue to be forever grateful.
Until next time…
…Cheers to good cooks and turkey trots, crazy families – by blood and by not, and necklace gourds that can apparently be carved to resemble the Mayflower!
And, to believing in something that is greater than ourselves.
With love and kindness,
Photo Credit: Nate and Dawn McGowan