[This story first appeared in the May 2013 issue of Sagemont Life magazine.]
On the surface, it may seem as if you’ve heard their story before: Couple wants a baby. Couple can’t have a baby. Couple prays for a baby. Couple gets a baby. Couple and baby’s story appears on a blog to encourage others.
The real story, however, is never that simple, never that easy, and never that emotionally neutral. But had I written Chuck and Misty Williston’s story last year, that might have been the story you would have read. However, as it turns out, it would have only been Part I.
The Broken Road
When Chuck and Misty met almost ten years ago, both were coming from seasons of hurt, brokenness, pain, and divorce. It was a place that neither expected nor wanted to be. Chuck knew firsthand how divorce affected a family. His father left when he was five, and he hasn’t seen him since. But even though his childhood was difficult and painful, he promised himself even then that if he ever had kids, he would never abandon them like his father had abandoned him.
Chuck was in his first marriage for the long haul, having two children, Maddi and Mason, with his first wife. But when they were 4 and 1, his wife left, leaving Chuck with full custody of the kids. He fumbled through the first few years as a single dad, and he admits that he made some bad choices, but soon he turned his life back to God and determined in his heart to raise his son and daughter in the Lord, even if he had to do it alone.
Misty’s childhood was almost the exact opposite of Chuck’s. Her home was a Christ-centered home, and all of her friends navigated towards her family and her parents, Martin and Patti Reim. “We weren’t perfect, but my life was full of the Lord and full of good,” she said. She thought her own marriage mirrored her parents’ picture-perfect union, and for awhile it did. But as time went by, Misty’s easy, perfect life was shattered by secrets, lies, and ultimately divorce, leaving Misty scarred, broken, and determined that she would never date or marry again.
When someone suggested that she meet Chuck several years later, neither was even willing to agree to a blind date. Instead, they agreed to what they called a “blind hangout.” But the more they got to know each other, the more Misty saw that Chuck was like her father, very sweet, very emotional, and very loving. “God used his personality traits to break down my walls,” she said. Their relationship developed slowly and cautiously from friendship to love, and they were married two years later. “Just because you’ve been through a divorce doesn’t mean you can’t come through that and find second chances. God hates divorce, but for whatever reason He allowed good to come out of it for us.”
In some ways, their blended family of four was as challenging as all blended families are. But for the most part, it was just as normal as any other family with regular, normal fights sprinkled throughout regular, normal great times. With the drama and difficulties of their previous marriages behind them, they embraced their new family dynamics with thankfulness and anticipation at what God had in store for them next.
The Roller Coaster
From the beginning, they hoped that God’s plans for their new family included more children. Chuck had always wanted to have four kids, but circumstances in his previous marriage made that desire impossible. And while Misty loved being a mom to Maddi and Mason, she longed to experience traditional motherhood as well.
They knew that they would have to seek medical help in order to conceive, so they took those first steps not long after they were married. After much time, many tests, and no favorable results, they learned that a natural pregnancy was unlikely on both of their ends. Doctors told them that their only hope for a child would involve entering the expensive, sterile, cold world of fertility treatments.
Anyone who has been through infertility knows how trying it can be. It’s a cycle of ups and downs. It’s a roller coaster of scary emotions that can turn on a dime because of the drugs involved. It’s a merry-go-round of trial and error with each turn costing thousands and thousands of dollars.
But because it gave them hope, they journeyed on.
“You’ll never understand walking into a fertility clinic unless you actually have to do it,” Misty said. “You can always spot red, puffy eyes from crying. If you know to look at arms of the girls, you’ll always see bruised blood draw sites from the every-other-day blood work. You see hopeful. You see discouraged. But you see longing in the eyes of all.”
Over the years, they went through several rounds of treatments, but nothing worked. It was a very difficult time for Chuck as a husband because there was nothing he could do to fix the situation. He admits that hearing about other couples getting pregnant was difficult for him, and he had to try very hard to keep resentment at bay. “Resentment would be my downfall,” he said. “The minute it gets into me, I’m done. I can be the meanest and most negative person, and I knew I couldn’t let that happen. It was hard for me to draw that line.”
So he and God had a lot of long talks, and not all of them were pretty. “A lot of my beef with God was about Misty,” he said. He questioned and rationalized with God over and over again saying, “Here she is, the perfect woman who would make the perfect mom. She’s worshipped you her whole life. You’re her God, and you won’t give her a baby?”
But God never explained why He lingered, and Chuck and Misty had no choice but to embrace Him and His plans even through their doubt.
The Plan to Adopt
After their last IVF treatment failed, they found themselves completely spent. They escaped to Galveston for a weekend and spent time mourning, grieving, and comforting each other as they accepted that God was choosing to close this door for them. “That was the point for us when we decided, no more!” Misty said. “No more fertility treatments. No more of this roller coaster.”
But with the end of that chapter came a new hope. “I remember seeing a family [in the hotel] who had just adopted a little Chinese girl and they were just bringing her home. And I remember thinking, ‘That’s what we’ll do!’ We’ll adopt!”
They came home from Galveston and spent the next three months seeking God, considering adoption, and releasing all of their hurt and pain by focusing on a bathroom remodel project that proved to be very therapeutic. By the time the remodel was done, they were in agreement that God was leading them to adoption.
Never the type to be accused of doing things halfheartedly, they redirected all of the efforts that they’d previously spent on fertility to getting qualified for adoption. And at last, it seemed, the Lord was moving quickly. In just a matter of months, they were already chosen by a birth mother.
Something happened, however, that caused the birth mother to take off from the maternity clinic and never return. So before they even got a chance to truly anticipate that child, he or she was gone and they were back to the beginning.
A little girl they named Sadie was next. They met the birth mother and kept in contact with her through the agency for the entire last trimester of the pregnancy. They were prepared, anxious, and excited to meet the little girl as soon as she was born. Finally, the mother delivered, and they made an appointment to go and see this brand new baby that they would call their daughter. But the night before they were to go, the mother changed her mind and decided not to put the girl up for adoption after all.
They knew that the mother’s circumstances were volatile and unstable, so they were crushed for baby Sadie. “I cried and cried,” Misty said, “because my mind was on that baby who I thought was going to be ours, who we were going to take care of and love, who was now going back to that situation.”
After Sadie, Chuck and Misty were chosen once again, this time by an unmarried, sixteen-year-old couple who didn’t have the family support to raise their child. They never met the couple, but were on-call to go to the hospital and pick up their newborn. Again, however, the birth parents changed their mind. “I couldn’t do it either,” Misty said, “so I completely understand and don’t blame them for changing their mind.” But understanding didn’t keep them from being devastated all over again.
After that third failed placement, they decided to take a break from the whole process. It was early fall, so they called the adoption agency and told them to take them off the list until after the first of the year. They’d put it out of their minds for awhile, get through the holidays, and revisit adoption again in January.
The agency agreed, but with God moving behind the scenes, never actually removed them from the list.
They were completely surprised, then, when the agency called them about a month later and asked if they could come up to the office for a meeting. In an unusual situation, Chuck and Misty had been chosen by a birth mother who had already given birth to a little boy, but had not yet signed the papers for adoption. Currently, the week-old boy was in foster care waiting for the birth mother to make her decision final.
The first thing they said was, “Can we meet him?”
They drove several hours to the baby’s foster home that very weekend. “It was the weirdest thing,” Misty said. “When we met him, we just knew he was ours.” They immediately called the agency and told them, “The minute the birth mom signs the papers, let us know and we’ll come get him.”
At last, they got a call that the birth mother signed. “The report from our social worker was that it was an emotional, difficult time for her. I can’t even imagine,” Misty said. “I know I’ll be praying for her the rest of my life. I’m grateful to her, and even more grateful to the Lord who had this in mind from the beginning. I pray that the Lord will put people in her life to love on her, show her a clear plan for her life and that she will live for Him. That will be my prayer each time I think of her.”
Finally, on December 7, 2011, after more than six years of praying, waiting, and longing for a baby, Chuck and Misty got to bring home their perfectly healthy, absolutely beautiful, adopted baby boy, Levi Nicholas Williston.
“We knew right away why God had brought us through all those years of heartache,” Misty said. “I remember apologizing to God like fifty million times and saying, ‘Wow, You really do know what you’re doing, don’t You?’
“And that’s kind of like the end and the beginning of our story.”
[Click here to read Part 2]
[all images from Chelsea Davis Photography]
Q: How has your life been blessed by the gift of adoption?