One couple’s adoption story
MB Herald associate editor Karla Braun asked Quebec conference minister Stéphane Rhéaume and his wife Annie Labelle to reflect on their recent experience of adopting an infant.
What is the history of your adoption story?
Stéphane: We began to think about adoption about seven years ago. We had two options: assisted reproduction or adoption. We knew that the former raises ethical questions. After reflection, we took some steps with a fertility clinic, but had no success. At the same time, we decided to sign up for adoption in Quebec. At the beginning, I was not very favourable toward the idea of adopting a child because I hadn’t yet reconciled myself to giving up the biological link, but all the same, we decided to apply for adoption.
Annie: I’d always had an interest in adoption. I said, why not apply for adoption right away? We could change our minds along the way, but we’d at least be moving along the list of applicants. (They told us the wait could be 8–10 years.)
Stéphane: Last February, Annie and I received a call that changed our lives: a baby awaited us. A young couple, who had just given birth to a little girl, had signed a consent for adoption. Dropping everything, we went straight to the hospital to make our acquaintance with the one who is now our beautiful little girl, Emma. She was only four days old.
What were some of the challenges you experienced?
Annie: The most difficult part was the first weeks. The birth parents had 30 days to reconsider their decision. But we were already so attached to Emma.
Stéphane: Before Emma’s arrival, I hadn’t been able to make sense of our failure to have children. We have lots of love to give, and we are a stable and happy couple. I’d always hoped to have children, but it seemed I had to accept my life, our life as a couple, without children in the picture. This is not how I’d imagined things. I didn’t see it as a punishment, but as a blessing withheld.
Annie: In that respect, I approached things differently. If God didn’t want to give us a child, that was probably the best thing for us. Also, I told myself that I was already happy with my husband; I didn’t want to wait to have a child to be happy.
Stéphane: For the future, we face the challenge of explaining Emma’s adoption to her. How will she react? We hope that she will consider her adoption as divine providence. We want to show her how God has directed her life and that he loved her from the very beginning.
Describe a joyful moment.
Stéphane: The first meeting with Emma was unforgettable. We were very anxious to see her, and it was love at first sight. A tremendous wave of love inundated our hearts for this beautiful baby – 7 pounds, in good health – who was simply waiting to be adopted. We will always remember that moment. We looked upon this child with wonderment. We couldn’t hold back our tears as we took into our arms this fragile being for whom we had waited for so long.
Annie: I simply never expected to have a baby like Emma. She is truly a gift from God, a great miracle in our life. It’s like we were given a diamond of great value. She arrived at the moment when we had stopped believing. Psalm 40:5 expresses well what I feel: “Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”
Stéphane: I find it so wonderful to see her grow. Day after day, there is something new in her development. And to think that a few months before Emma was part of our lives, I suggested to Annie that we should take our name off the adoption list! I thought it had taken too long and I was too old. I realize now that there are advantages to becoming a father in your forties.
What are the reasons – both practical and theological – to adopt a child?
Stéphane: Even today, I can’t explain why we wanted to have a child so much. One could say that adopting a child is an egotistical gesture, something one does for oneself, to meet a naturalistic need. Be that as it may, we hope that by this action a little girl can be filled with love and may grow up in safety. I can’t stop thinking of God and what he has done for his adoptive children. (See Romans 8:14–17).
Annie: I hope our life experiences will be useful to Emma and that we can transmit to her a living faith. For me, having a child by adoption [instead of birth] makes no difference. Strangely, other people tell us that Emma looks like us – which makes us smile!
Stéphane: We thank God that he entrusted the life of this child into our hands. It reminds us how we also depend on God for everything. During our first visit to the fertility clinic, the doctor who met us had the arrogance to tell us, “There’s no need to pray; we will make you a baby.” But, despite the advances in medicine, it’s God who gives life; no one else.
What advice to you have for the church regarding infertility and adoption?
Stéphane: We think of the couples who haven’t been able to have children. For many, this is a source of great internal suffering, grief, broken dreams. I believe it’s important to be sensitive to this reality and to walk with compassion with these people who often suffer in silence.
We had the privilege to be cared for during our wait. We thank our family, friends and church for sharing their prayers, care and affections on this long journey to our current joy. We have always had the impression that Emma is not merely adopted by us but by our community.