Chelsea Patterson Sobolik recently wrote, "No one should be forced into lifelong parenting if they don’t want to take on that role." She was writing in regard to the strict anti-abortion laws recently passed in some states.
"My own birth mother was unable to parent me," she wrote. "However, she didn’t abort me in the womb. She made the brave and courageous decision for me, and allowed me to be adopted by a couple in a position to love and raise a child."
The author of "Longing for Motherhood: Holding on to Hope in the Midst of Childlessness," Sobolik explains in the book how she spent her early days in an orphanage in her native Romania. "The majority of children placed in communist orphanages weren’t actual orphans; they were simply children whose parents were unable to care for them. Such orphanages were known as ‘slaughterhouses of souls.’
"I was one of those babies whose mother couldn’t afford to keep her child," Sobolik writes.
The couple who would become her adoptive parents desired children, but they suffered the pain of infertility and miscarriage. In the midst of an "excruciatingly long" domestic adoption process, they wound up watching a "20/20" documentary called "Shame of a Nation" about Romanian orphans. "The documentary introduced the world — and Bobby and Christie Patterson — to these children, struggling to survive," she writes. Five weeks later, the Pattersons were on a plane to Romania. After visiting several orphanages and meeting several birth mothers, they found Ana and her daughter and "immediately began the necessary paperwork to legally adopt" Chelsea. After five weeks, the new family flew home to North Carolina.
The Pattersons would go on to adopt four more children internationally.
Fast-forward to Sobolik at age 19 — the same age Ana was when she placed her Sobolik up for adoption — when a doctor delivered the brutal news that Sobolik, who was raised in a family of six children, who baby-sat and volunteered at summer camps — would not be able to have biological children. "I’d always anticipated the day when my husband and I would find out that I was pregnant, share the good news with our friends and family, and start planning and preparing for our little one to enter the world. This was the natural course of life I was expecting and longing for," she writes.
She writes tenderly and transparently of her experience. Hers is a uniquely powerful voice in conversations about women and motherhood today. She writes about spiritual motherhood and mentoring. She has a sensitivity for women who don’t feel called or ready to be mothers, for women — and men — hurt by abortion, and for imminent parents desperately in need of help and resources.
Further, she points out that "childlessness touches the lives of many women, and the precious people who love them. Infertility alone affects approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population — that’s more than one in 10 couples.
Out of the depths of love and pain, Sobolik, who is policy director for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, uses her voice to offer us an opportunity to think about the children in need of a loving home, the women and men in the world with broken hearts for children — both out of loss and longing — and invites us to enter a conversation about life, love and children and family.
There’s so much more to life. And a longing to get on with it.