As a little girl, Lisa Ann Bahrenburg always knew that she wanted to be a mother.
"When I was younger, I always wanted a house full of children," Bahrenburg said. "When I played with kids, I was always the mom. I always had 10 or more kids."
Having a family also was important to Bahrenburg's husband, Peter, who was one of five siblings, including a brother, Andy, who was adopted.
So the couple, married 22 years ago in New York, started working on building their family, a task that proved difficult. When Lisa got pregnant, the pregnancy ended with a miscarriage.
Never miss a local story.
"I was pretty devastated," she said. "I was trying not to lose hope."
Later pregnancies resulted in three more miscarriages.
"I'm a glutton for punishment," she said. "I was not ready to give up on a family. We knew we were going to have (to use) adoption in building our family."
They submitted adoption paperwork and watched three potential adoptions fall through before they say God sent them a baby, Juliana.
"I love you so much because you adopted me," Juliana, now 10, said.
Birthdays and holidays like Christmas are special, Lisa and Peter's son, Christopher, said.
"We get to have Christmas together; it's God's birthday," the 8-year-old said.
"I get to watch everyone open their presents."
Peter and Lisa have walked down adoption's road four times and are now parents to five children. Juliana's siblings include Christopher's sister, Alizabeth, as well as Natalia and Jadon.
"Natalia's name means God's precious gift of joy," Peter said. "That's how we look at all of our children."
Lisa remains in awe of being a parent.
"It's full of joy," she said. "We have so much fun. I could not imagine children more beautiful than what God has blessed us with. We are truly blessed."
Before Lisa knew the joy of parenthood, she wrestled with heartbreak over and over again.
Shortly after marriage, while working and attending college, Lisa and Peter started trying to grow their family.
"Figuring that we'd get pregnant and have the baby after graduation," Lisa said. "But it didn't work out that way. I wasn't getting pregnant."
They sought medical help.
"They ran some tests," she said. "Couldn't find out why I wasn't getting pregnant."
Lisa tried medical treatments to help start their family.
"Somewhere in my doing the treatments, I'd gotten pregnant," Lisa said.
Their excitement was short-lived.
"The next month, I was in tremendous pain," Lisa said. "I went in to see the doctor, and she said that I was having a miscarriage."
That was 1990.
After the miscarriage, Lisa "jumped back into life," graduating from college about six months later and moving into a human resources job. Though she stayed busy with work, one thing stayed constant.
"Wanting a family," she said. "I wanted that family that I'd dreamed about for so long."
Giving up on that dream wasn't an option, Peter said.
"It was a mandate - train up the next generation," Peter said. "If I don't have a family to train up, then we're not affecting a generation beyond our own."
So, they tried again.
"We continued with fertility treatments," Lisa said, "and the doctor still didn't know why I wasn't getting pregnant."
Then a blessing came just as some job-related stress kicked in.
"I found out we were pregnant," she said. "We had some stress at work because they were doing cut-backs. My position was being cut."
About two months into that pregnancy bad news came again.
"I started getting cramps," she said. "I must have been eight weeks to nine weeks along. I went to the doctor complaining that there was something wrong. They couldn't find a heartbeat."
This time, Lisa didn't bounce back.
"I didn't have much hope at that point," she said, her eyes welling up with tears. "I couldn't make sense out of it. I had a friend at church who was pregnant at the same time. It was really hard."
Peter thought, "Here we go again."
That was 1992. For Lisa, therapy was working 12- to 18-hour days. She kept that pace for nearly two years.
"I decided I was going to throw myself into work," she said. "I didn't deal with the miscarriage. I just stuffed it."
Stuffing the issue ultimately led to migraines that forced Lisa to give up her job in 1994 and take time for herself. In 1996, the family moved to Fort Mill. Twice more, Lisa got pregnant.
"Both of those ended within the first month or two," she said. Still, "I was not ready to give up on a family."
Building a family
In January 1997, the Bahrenburgs started the adoption process.
"We talked about adoption before we got married," Peter said. "We just didn't realize that adoption was going to be the way the Lord would use to build our family."
They completed mounds of adoption paperwork for the Department of Social Services as well as a home study and classes. They also secured their foster parents' license. Then, they waited.
"We had waited so long," Lisa said. "We had three adoptions through social services fall though. It felt like emotional miscarriages.
"We were sent some pictures, and we had already bonded with the children."
But they held onto their faith.
"Our time will come," Peter said.
And it did. In March 2000, a hazel-eyed baby girl was born, and an adoption board chose Peter and Lisa as parents.
"I was in shock," Lisa said.
Five days later, Peter held the infant they named Juliana.
"She's mine," Peter said as he held Juliana for about 10 minutes before passing her to Lisa.
Finally a mother, Lisa held her breath. Could motherhood be real?
"I was a little apprehensive," she said. "Going through all those miscarriages and all those other adoptions falling through, I kept waiting for someone to walk in the room and say, 'We made a mistake.'"
In 2002, Peter and Lisa started the adoption process again for a sibling for Juliana. In May 2002, a newborn they named Natalia joined their family. The following year, Jadon, a November baby, joined the family.
"I would just sit in my office and cry because God had blessed us with these babies, and I was at work," Lisa said. "So, in March 2003, I quit."
From 2003 to 2006, Peter and Lisa took in foster kids.
"We had 20-plus kids come through our doors," Lisa said. "We basically loved on every child who came through our door."
From those foster children, Peter and Lisa were linked with their next son and daughter, who happened to be siblings. These days, parenting is interesting.
"It's welcomed chaos," Lisa said with a smile and moist eyes. "There's good days and bad days."
Now, five children whose last names are Bahrenburg are content because they have a home. Jadon, 7, knows that his dad and mom love him a "whole bunch," and that leaves him feeling one way.
"Happy," he said.
Christopher and Alizabeth have been part of the family for four years.
"They care about me," Alizabeth, 9, said. "They protect me. They love me."
Christopher, once a foster child, knows that he is home to stay now that he has forever parents.
"They're special, and they're kind," he said of Peter and Lisa.
Natalia is especially grateful for two gifts from God.
"Mommy and Daddy," the 8-year-old said.
Big sister Juliana also is grateful for her very own family.
"Thank you so much for always loving me," Juliana said to her parents.
And finally a mother is content. Almost. She's five children short of the 10 she's always wanted.
"We're actually working on number six," Peter said, "if we ever get the paperwork done."