By Kateri, mother of Alayna from China with cleft lip and palate
I remember after Kyrsten was born, whenever someone would ask, David and I would firmly say “we’re done.” Troy and Kyrsten were only 22 months apart. And even though we both work full time, children are expensive. There would be no more Lambrose children.
Both of my deliveries were considered traumatic. Troy was initially thought to have permanent nerve damage in his arm that would have rendered it useless for the rest of his life. Kyrsten, among other complications, was not breathing and had to be resuscitated. With my background working with special education students, I knew that when both children were given a clean bill of health, met all of their developmental milestones, and proved to have no learning difficulties, the Lord had truly blessed our family. I was so moved by the gift that we had been given… two healthy, beautiful children… one for each hand… and we were done!
In December of 2004, after watching a Christmas special about adoption and the many children all over the world that need families, Troy and Kyrsten, then 6 and 4, asked if we could adopt a child since there are so many that needed a family to love them. I remember looking at David, not really knowing how to answer, but sure that a seed had just been planted. I know now that God spoke to our hearts through our children that day. From then on, even when I wasn’t sure which country our child would come from, where we would get the money to complete the process, or how we would ever put another child through college, I knew in my heart that He had led us to adoption and that we would bring another child into our home. And when the faces of the thousands of abandoned baby girls kept me awake at night, I knew our daughter was waiting for us in China.
God laid adoption on our hearts in 2005 and then used the next year of waiting to work on the patience part of my character that has always been a bit lacking. He watched over us and gave me the strength I needed to get through the paper work that took us 7 months to complete. But His role in our adoption story was never more evident than in October of last year. Our 12 month wait for our daughter should have been coming to an end but the wait for a child from China had grown longer over the past year. It was now 24-36 months to be matched with a child! My heart was aching and I was struggling. My positive attitude was quickly being replaced with negative thoughts and hopelessness. At some point in November I realized that I had to turn this situation, our daughter, our path, over to the Lord.
I started to pray A LOT! Slowly I started to find comfort in my ability to hand my sadness and uncertainty over to Him. I was reminded a lot about God’s plan for our lives and how we don’t always see what He has in store for us. He quickly led me to Proverbs 3 verses 5-6… Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. I printed that passage out and posted it everywhere… in my car, on the refrigerator, on my bathroom mirror. Every time I read it I felt renewed in my faith… reminded that our adoption was His plan… and that His plans are so much greater than mine. Living Hope, got a new group of special needs children that were available for adoption. When you adopt from China, you have to state whether you want to adopt a “healthy child” whom they refer to as Non-Special Needs or you can put your name on a list that allows you the opportunity to adopt a child with a special need. From the very beginning, David and I were firm that we were requesting a non-special needs child… we really felt like my role with special needs children was through my career, not necessarily through adoption. Little did I know… the Lord had other plans for us!
In December when our agency got their quarterly list of children that were available through the special needs program, I was overwhelmed by the thought that I needed to see that list. I impatiently waited the few days that it took the agency to post the pictures and information on each child on their website. As I scrolled down the pictures of these beautiful children, looking at faces only… not really focusing on birth dates or needs… I stopped on the face of a little girl in a walker. There was nothing terribly remarkable about her picture but something stopped my heart, stopped my eyes from looking beyond her face. I had this indescribable reaction to her picture. Now, looking back, I strongly believe that God had His hand firmly planted on me and this child because there is no other explanation for what happened next.
Without speaking to David first, I impulsively emailed our adoption agency. I told the coordinator that I knew that we weren’t on the special needs list, that I understood that there were 24 families that had “first dibs” on her, but if by chance Fu Chang didn’t find a home with one of those families, we would be interested in learning more about her. She quickly told me that Yes, another family already had her file but that she would send us an application for the special needs program. She encouraged me to get on the list for another child. It came as no surprise. I knew she would find a family quickly. Why not… her needs were minor in my eyes, she was young, and she was cute:) That said, I never even mentioned her to David.
I did however tell him that night that I thought God had been working on my heart for a while. I told him that we should consider putting our names on the special needs list. He was hesitant and I understood. God had been working on me for awhile now… my prayers changed that night… “Please Lord, if this is what you want for us, you have to start working on David’s heart too.”
The funny thing was, I couldn’t get Fu Chang out of my mind. I would pray for her often, finding myself staring at her picture on the agency’s website. My head screamed at me to let her go… she’s found a family… she’s not your girl. But my heart was telling me something different.
The application to join the other 24 families on the special needs list came in the mail on Christmas Eve. I looked at it briefly and then tucked it away in my “pile” of things to get back to over the Christmas break. That evening I found my thoughts wondering again to Fu Chang. Christmas Day I silently prayed for her as I pulled her picture up on the website, as if checking on her… once again wondering which lucky family had decided to adopt her… thinking about how this would be her last Christmas in an orphanage… praying that she wouldn’t have to be there much longer. The whole time, I kept having this thought… Maybe she is ours. Maybe she hasn’t found a family yet. Maybe no one else will be led to adopt her. Christmas night, after things had finally settled down, I sat down and filled out the application by myself, still not knowing whether we would ever send it in.
The next morning, December 26th, it was business as usual… cleaning and organizing, when the phone rang. The caller ID read Living Hope and I immediately started to shake… THEY NEVER CALL!!!! There was no reason for them to call… it could only be one thing.
It was the special needs program coordinator calling to tell us that Fu Chang’s file was going to be fed-exed to us immediately… she was ours if we wanted her! Talk about surreal! We thought we had one or two or more years to wait for our girl… now we had two weeks to decide if we wanted to adopt Fu Chang. And all I could think to do was THANK GOD! I had no question in my mind… it was all clear now… this was His plan all along!
Her file arrived the next day. We found that her full name was Ning, Fu Chang and she was in a subtropical area of China called Nanning City. Her name, which translates to “She grows up to be a beautiful and blessed person who lives a better life” was given to her by the orphanage staff when she arrived on September 25, 2006 after being abandoned by her biological parents. It was determined by the condition of her umbilical cord that her birth date was September 23… just two days before. Fu Chang had bilateral cleft lip and unilateral cleft palate… meaning she had two clefts in her top lip and a moderate sized hole on the one side of the roof of her mouth. She was placed in foster care on December 25, just two months after arriving in the orphanage. On July 4, 2007, doctors from a charity organization called The Smile Train repaired the left and more severe side of her lip.
We took some time to pray, educate ourselves about her special needs, have a near breakdown in church that Sunday, pray some more, and then we took it to a family vote. On January 1, 2008, by a vote of 4 to 0, our family officially decided to adopt Ning, Fu Chang.
We named our daughter Alayna Fu Chang Lambrose. David, Kyrsten, and I spent 10-14 days visiting Beijing, Nanning, and Guangzhou in April while we bonded with our 18 month old daughter. Alayna had surgery in November, while still in China, that completed her lip repair. She required surgery in August to close the muscles of her soft palate and to place bilateral ear tubes. She was in good hands with the plastic surgeons and nurses at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. but we got a greatest comfort from the knowledge that she was really in the Lord’s hands!
When the Lord calls, you answer! And we have… with shouts of joy, tears of relief, and stomachs full of butterflies. Our adoption journey has certainly not been easy. We have had massive financial hurdles, delays that were completely out of our control, a couple of years of waiting, and a daughter that was grieving the loss of the only family that she had ever known when she was placed in our arms. There are still days when David and I truly feel the weight of the tremendous responsibility that He has placed on us. Alayna is now receiving weekly speech therapy for an expressive language delay, the craniofacial team that provides her care is two and a half hours from our home, and she has at least one more surgery in her future. I find great comfort, however, in the fact that God continues to give us the courage, patience, and love to get through the rough days and the amazingly blessed days… so that we can become a family of 5, just the way He planned it!