“It felt like a sick joke. We had a name picked out, the baby was beautiful, and the mother was amazing. But she changed her mind, and we were left wondering where God was in all this.”
The moment the caseworker walked into the room, Patrick and Jessica Dunne knew something was wrong. The couple had spent the last 48 hours feeding and changing diapers for a baby they were told they would take home from the hospital. The Dunnes had been part of sonograms, doctor’s appointments, and the birth of the baby. But that day as they pulled away from the hospital, their car seat was empty.
“It felt like a sick joke,” said Jessica. “We had a name picked out, the baby was beautiful, and the mother was amazing. But she changed her mind, and we were left wondering where God was in all this.”
When Patrick and Jessica met, they were both on a journey to reconnect with Christ after years of distraction and wandering. When they married in 2014, they had a picture-perfect life planned out – they’d do the “DINK” (dual income/no kids) lifestyle for a couple of years, then buy a house, and start having kids. But as time passed, friends started having babies while they remained childless.
Patrick and Jessica pursued treatment in hopes they could conceive, but still, they waited. “Infertility was such a hard journey, and I needed a place to share my feelings about it with others who would understand,” said Jessica, “so I went to Shiloh, Watermark’s ministry for women facing infertility and miscarriage. It was helpful to be around other believers who had faced similar circumstances and know I was not alone. It was great to be reminded that even when the answer to our prayers seems to be, ‘no,’ God is still trustworthy.”
After looking into fertility treatment, the Dunnes looked at domestic adoption and took part in the Foster Care & Adoption class at Watermark. “I was adopted, so I thought I had a pretty complete view of God’s purpose for adoption, but this class was a paradigm shift for me,” said Patrick. “Our infertility could be used as provision by the Lord for a child who needs a family,” said Patrick, “but either way, adoption and foster care are about God’s bigger purpose and not our own.”
As the adoption paperwork was completed and they worked with an agency to be matched with an expecting mother, the waiting was difficult, but Jessica looks back on it fondly. “As I hoped for the phone to ring, I would pray for peace in the waiting. The Lord gave me a heart to trust Him in all circumstances – in the miscarriage that we endured during the adoption process, and after the mother changed her mind.”
When Patrick and Jessica returned home from the hospital without a child, their community at Watermark supported them. “They listened, reminded us of truth, and connected us with others who had been through the same thing,” said Jessica. “It felt as painful as a death, but it wasn’t. God just had a different life planned for that child than we did.”
As Patrick and Jessica grieved, they also continued their connection with Watermark’s Family Restoration ministry. They learned that we are both instructed to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27) and be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Part of that reconciliation is to strengthen struggling families in Christ.
“Family restoration is often part of God’s plan,” said Patrick. “I started to dislike it when people would say what a great life the baby could have had if he had ended up with us. The great thing that happened, in this case, is that a mother did not lose her biological child. It was a journey for us to truly understand the beauty of family restoration, but God got us there.
By the time the Dunnes were matched again to an expecting mother, they felt even more equipped. “She was in a no-win situation, which made me empathetic even as I was full of anticipation at the prospect of adoption,” said Jessica. “When Samuel was born in December 2017, we were openhanded to what might happen if she changed her mind.”
The adoption of their son, Samuel, is a beautiful picture of what God’s love does. “We are connected to Samuel’s birth mother, who has been amazing in her concern for us,” said Patrick. “We couldn’t love each other sacrificially without the sacrificial love of Christ. Had we not gone through a failed adoption, perhaps we wouldn’t have had the empathy and compassion for Samuel’s birth mother that we do. But Christ’s love allowed us to see the world and our circumstances very differently.”
Jessica says that the most important part of their story is not that they successfully adopted Samuel, although they are overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of his life. The biggest blessing is understanding God’s faithfulness at every point of their journey. “Even as we celebrated Samuel’s arrival, I have had miscarriages since then, and it’s heartbreaking to get excited about another child only to see that hope be taken away,” said Jessica. “I’ve learned that in this broken world, we will face adversity, but God is worthy of our praise in both joy and mourning. God has helped me find my peace in Him, even in circumstances that could have wrecked me. Our attempts to reconcile families, adoption plans, and pregnancy can fail. The only lasting hope is in Jesus.”