A grand, continuing journey is set in motion when a woman and man marry–one encompassing countless other, briefer journeys that over the years a couple undertakes together.
In “While We Wait,” religion writer Heidi Schlumpf recounts one such journey within her marriage. This journey, however, proved not at all brief. After taking the first steps to adopt a child internationally, a taxing process lasting more than three years unfolded before she and her husband Edmund brought their first child home, a baby boy from Vietnam.
Schlumpf, a Catholic journalist for some 20 years, teaches communications at Aurora University outside Chicago. In brief, easy-to-read chapters, “While We Wait” reveals not only the patience and persistence international adoption demanded of this couple, but how, viewed in faith’s light, the process shaped their lives invaluably. The couple “learned to lean on each other during the hard times and to seek support from family, friends and faith.” Schlumpf says, “I won’t say it was easy, but yes, it was so worth it.”
A couple’s decision to adopt often comes, “as it did in Edmund’s and my case, after months or years of infertility problems, miscarriage or other pregnancy difficulties,” Schlumpf writes. She tells of beginning their “adoption journey having barely healed from the grief of infertility.” At the same time, they realize in the most positive terms that choosing life is their journey’s authentic focus. Schlumpf says: “It all starts with a desire for new life. Having been loved ourselves and having loved each other, Edmund and I want to share that love with someone else–a child.”
How did the couple cope during the long wait before receiving their first child? “Not always that well,” Schlumpf recalls. More than once when she wanted to give up, Edmund “was strong for the both of us,” she says.
Yet, while one’s spouse “may be a great source of strength and encouragement during the adoption process, the stress of so many disappointments and frustrations also takes its toll on our relationships,” Schlumpf observes. Moreover, added to the adoption process, which is “a huge stress,” are “work pressures, extended family troubles and daily frustrations.”
A brief prayer concludes each of this book’s chapters. In one prayer Schlumpf pleads: “Help me to remember that we are in this together and to be compassionate toward one another.”
The author speaks of the financial challenge adoption can pose. She and her husband earn “modest salaries and live in an expensive city.” Indeed, the whole process required some “penny pinching and creative financing” on the couple’s part.
Apparently the lengthy international process required some creative management of emotions, too. “Edmund and I have found that our adoption journey has taken us all over the emotional map,” Schlumpf says.
In light of their experiences, Schlumpf hopes that at some point “Edmund and I will be good friends to others going through this.” She hopes, as well, that her reflections will help others survive their wait to adopt “with intentionality, prayerfulness and hope.”
Could the couple’s wait for a child have been briefer? Though their journey was peppered with frustrations, Schlumpf happily notes that, in the end, she and Edmund could not imagine having “any other child but this one.” Of course, she adds, “it wouldn’t be this child if our wait had been significantly shorter.”