By Jennifer, mother to Abby Grace from China with complex unrepaired heart condition and unrepaired bi-lateral cleft lip and palate
In December of 2005 a little girl was born in the city of Ping Liang in GanSu Province China. A child that was not perfect in the eyes of man but perfect in the eyes of God. After four months of being with her family she was left on the doorsteps of the Ping Liang SWI on April 11, 2006. She was taken in and named Liang Wan Jian. She was suffering and malnourished most likely from her bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. Upon closer examination of the small baby she was also diagnosed with a heart condition, a VSD.
While all of this was transpiring in China the Lord was speaking to my heart and I was not sure I was really hearing him right. Adoption? Really Lord? Are you kidding me? We already have three wonderful children, could he really want us to adopt? I sat on that idea for a few days and then figured I’d look into it on the internet. I found many blogs and followed the journeys of a few families. Then I researched many agencies and had information sent to me from several. I settled on a small Christian agency , AWAA and finally worked up the courage to bring the idea up to my husband, Sean. I told him all about what the Lord had been telling me. We had a daughter in China that needed us. We decided to pray about it and attend an information seminar in the spring. We did not speak to anyone else about it nor did we tell anyone where we were going that day. Instead we wanted to really look at things before making this life changing decision. As we drove to the seminar I was already in tears. Was this really what God was wanting us to do? Me, a mom to 3 kids? What about the expenses? What about our children? We sat through a lengthy seminar and walked out dumbfounded. Knowing that yes, this is what He wanted us to do. As we made our way across the parking lot to our car Sean grabbed my hand and with tears in his eyes said, “Let’s do it!”
Fast forward eight long busy months to December 2006. We had all of our paperwork complete and were DTC December 15, 2006. We were requesting to adopt a healthy little girl 0-2. We were going to name her Abbigail Grace. We had a little celebration that night with our children, who by this time knew everything and were so excited to be getting a little sister from China.
Almost immediately after our dossiers took the little flight across the ocean I felt another little nudging from above. From the beginning of this process I had been dreaming of a sweet little baby girl with dark hair and perfect almond eyes. Slowly my dreams included faces of different children. Much different than I had originally planned. What are you trying to tell me God? I’ve listened to you and you have gotten me through the paper chase. You’ve provided everything we have needed so far. OK God, I’ll pray about it. We were ecstatic when received our LID packet telling us that we were logged-in January 15, 2007. Among the many papers in our log-in packet was an information flier about SN/waiting children. All right, God, I get it, I’ll do it. I brought the idea of looking into special need to Sean. For a brief moment I think that he though I had lost my mind. But through my tears I think he began to understand that this was where God was directing us to go. He asked me lots of questions about the different SN on our agencies list. I researched them on the internet, e-mailed a few families from on-line who had children with the needs we were considering. Out of the list we felt comfortable with some like CL/CP and club feet but were scared to death of others, especially heart defect. Now let me say, switching to or planning on adopting a special needs child had never before crossed my mind through the paperchase. In fact our social worker had mentioned it but we both said, I don’t think that is what we are supposed to do. But once I gave it to God it was evident to me that this was what we were supposed to do.
We applied to our agencies WC program, were accepted and began our wait. Many times through the wait we looked back at the list and thought about changing things. Again, we gave it to the Lord and continued to pray for our daughter nightly. As the summer of 2007 rolled around I began to hear him speaking to my heart again. Could you adopt a child with a heart condition? I don’t know father that is a very scary idea. What about all of the problems she could have, what about the complications, what about the surgeries? As we prayed about it for days I began to feel peace. He would not give us more than we could possibly handle. So I updated our list to include a yes to repaired heart condition and maybe to congenital heart defect. I then joined the China Heart group on-line and followed several families as they traveled to get their heart children in China. Gathering a folder full of information, just in case.
On October 3, 2007 our agency received a batch of SN referrals containing 21 girls and 14 boys. We had waited through three previous batches of referrals with disappointment. But this time I felt a sense of calm come over me. I told Sean she was in this batch. It would be six long days of waiting and praying before we got the call. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. We were both working that day and I had missed the initial call on my cell phone as did Sean. When I saw a message in my box and saw who it was from I knew this was “the call.” I quickly called Sean and asked him if he wanted me to wait and call once he could meet me or if he wanted me to go ahead and call. “Do it, what are you waiting for.” So I quietly walked to the lounge and dialed up our agency. I was briefly placed on hold then our FC said, “Jennifer, we have a file of a little girl with a bi-lateral CL/CP and a congenital heart defect we’d like for you to take a look at if you’re interested.” Interested? Are you kidding me? Of course we’re interested. Through my tears and sobs she gave me a bit more info and then e-mailed me her initial referral. I anxiously waited for Sean to arrive and together we opened the file and saw the face of our daughter for the first time. Tears filled our eyes and we knew she was the one. There was no doubt about it, she was the one.
We sent out LOI to adopt Liang Wan Jian. We met with a few doctors but knew they really could not tell us anything specific about her until we got her home. Five long months past from the time we first saw her sweet face to the time she was placed in our arms. We arrived home with her on April 11, 2008. Two years to the day that her birth-mother placed her on the steps of the Ping Liang SWI. She was finally home.
We spent the weekend with her getting to know her siblings and extended family. We took her to church for the first time in her young life. As she sat in my lap in Church munching on cheerios I remember praising God for this wonderful little girl. She was doing great, sleeping in her own crib, and eating everything in sight. Occasionally she got a little out of breath but was too interested in everything to take it easy. We went to her first check-up on Monday April 14th and were immediately referred to a pediatric cardiologist. We went to his office and he was shocked at how poor her little heart was doing. Her oxygen sats were in the 70’s but she was holding her own. He referred us to MUSC for a sedated echo and heart cath. to see if she was a candidate for surgery. It was at that point that we realized how severe her defect was. We went home in tears. We arrived at MUSC on Wednesday, April 16th in good spirits. We stayed with her until they took her back. Her procedures went very well and the doctors explained in great detail the complexity of her defect. She was a good candidate for surgery so we’d go home and schedule it for a few weeks out, right? Nope, her sats dropped to 54. They immediately put her on oxygen and scheduled surgery for the following morning. Less that a week later our sweet Abby Grace was up and running. We left MUSC knowing that we’d return some day for her follow-up surgery on her heart but knowing that she now had a life to live. A life that if left in the China would likely not exist today.
She returned to MUSC in the fall of 2008 for her CL/CP surgeries and is doing great. She attends speech class twice a week and is learning more and more words daily. Her therapist tells us all of the time how smart she is and how much she enjoys working with her.
As I look back on our adoption journey I hate to even wonder what would have happened to Abby Grace if we had simply said, “No, thanks. I think CL/CP and a complex heart condition are too much for us to handle.” Where would she be? Would everyone else feel the same way? I cannot imagine life with out this special and unexpected gift from God. We feel so blessed that God chose us to be her family.