I joined the Church at age 16 and at 17, against all odds, left England for America to escape a life of poverty. I was completely alone and frightened, but I was determined. I had one plan: to become rich and famous. A few years before, I had seen a documentary about orphanages in Romania that deeply impacted my young, fierce heart. I was no stranger to childhood trauma, so I set a goal to get enough money to fund an orphanage and truly make a difference in the world.
I couldn’t have known then how different my life would turn out. I got married at age 25, and my husband soon joined the Church. By then I had managed to become quite successful, but I was still looking for true “success” (or at least what I thought was success at the time: fame and fortune). I longed to make a big difference. Strangely enough, I didn’t want to get pregnant, but I had a strong feeling that we shouldn’t do anything to prevent pregnancy. It turned out that my feeling was right because after about a year, nothing had happened.
Growing up, I always loved children, even though my plans didn’t include having more than one or two of my own in the far distant future. I didn’t think I’d be too disappointed if I couldn’t have children at all, but when suddenly faced with that very real possibility, I was devastated.
Over the next two years, I became angry, resentful, and desperate. Ironically, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” came out around the time I got married, and that message increasingly affected me in a negative way because I felt like I couldn’t fulfill my duty to have children. When my husband and I visited doctors, they couldn’t find any reason for the infertility. It seemed so unfair. I wondered why God had done this to me. Little did I know, my heart was changing. I had always been hyper-focused on success, but now, for the first time in my life, my heart wanted a baby more than anything else.
As time marched on, I felt more and more forgotten, desperate, alone … abandoned by God. I pasted on a cheerful smile, but no one understood what my husband and I were really going through. One day, I spoke to my husband’s grandmother, who was very wise and spiritual. As I shared my feelings with her, she said, “You know, there are many other ways to be a mother.” I felt her words penetrate my heart to its core. I was humbled. I knew this was an answer from Heavenly Father. I had only been fixated on having a baby through my own body. A glimmer of hope emerged as we considered other options. We became foster parents.
Soon our first foster baby, Benjamin, came to us. My bond with him was overwhelming, but I felt faint promptings that he wouldn’t be with us forever. I was heartbroken at the thought of him leaving us. And I was desperate for a baby I could keep. The Church’s Family Services was helping couples with adoptions at the time, so I went to my bishop to get information. The next week I got a call from a social worker who was looking to place a baby in a foster/adoption home. This was music to my ears. Despite the possibility of the baby having developmental issues, we felt the Lord’s hand directing us and we had faith to go forward. I’m not going to lie—I was scared. But it felt right, and baby Daniel was delivered to our home that very night.
Within days he became gravely ill, was hospitalized, and given a 50 percent chance to live. I sat by his crib for 11 days alternately praying and crying over him. I never once left the hospital. When Daniel’s birth parents came to see him (the adoption wasn’t final yet), there I was, looking like a complete disaster! But they seemed disconnected and showed no emotion whatsoever when they saw him.
This was a huge “aha” moment for me. I realized then that I really was Daniel’s mother! It didn’t matter that I hadn’t given birth to him—he was meant to be mine. I learned a lot about motherhood in those 11 days. I would have done anything for him.
Daniel’s life was spared. Benjamin returned to his biological family. But the Lord stayed by our side. Since then, we have adopted six more children and have miraculously had two of our own. I could shout from the rooftops about the miracles I’ve witnessed in my life. I have such a testimony of Heavenly Father’s promise to us that we can have the blessings we desire, even in ways we might not have originally expected or when we expect them (see 2 Nephi 10:17; Alma 37:17).
Having nine kids is hard at times. It’s nonstop laundry, it’s different personalities, and each child comes with different issues. But I know they were all heaven-sent. Honestly, it feels like my dream of making a difference and owning my own orphanage has come true after all!
My trial of infertility led me to my greatest blessings. I feel like I had to be truly humbled so I could submit to God’s will instead of my own. I experienced that “mighty change of heart” (see Alma 5:13). And through this kind of submission, He has guided me. He has blessed me with dreams, visions, and miracles that have led me to each child. He always had a plan for me! Even when I felt forgotten, He was there.
Infertility can be very dark and lonely. I think back on those days when it was hard to go to church without children—when the family proclamation held a bitter sting. I couldn’t see then what I see now. The loving words in the proclamation always applied to me. Regardless of our circumstances, we do each have a place in Heavenly Father’s eternal plan.