A Message to the New Momma by Adoption

May 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

Hey fellow adoptive mama! I’m Erin. I’m writing this post today because I was asked to share what it’s like to have a large family by adoption. In the world of adoption, my family is considered fairly mid-sized: six kids and two parents. In March 2015, I jumped from mama of four to six when my husband and I adopted for the first time. Our kids are now ages 12, 9, 8, 6, 6, and 3, the youngest basically being developmental triplets.


We adopted our two six-year-old daughters from China, and they both have Down syndrome. People often comment about the size of our family and ask me how I do it. If you were sitting in front of me and asking me the same questions, I would first tell you that this has been a year of survival for me. Let’s say it together, “SUR-VI-VAL.” Then, I might tell you about a few practical ways we manage our home, and while I have implemented some time saving tips into my life – mostly like buying cereal and lowering my general standards – I am not convinced that any actually are legit or “pinworthy.” I decided to write you a letter instead. Here’s to you, new mama by adoption, who suddenly has what feels like a large family, whether you have two kids or twelve.

My Beautiful, Broken Friend:

Sweet friend, you are exhausted. I want to wrap you up in my arms and hug you. It is okay that you are not enough. Listen. Pretend that you are looking in my eyes, I am earnestly pleading with you right now; remember who you are and take a breath. You are daughter of the our Lord and Savior, King and Creator of the universe, Most High and Holy Father God. He is holding you now as He held you from the very beginning. Remember back when you first had this idea in your heart for adoption? That was Him. Remember the late nights while you filled out paperwork and waited for LOA and LID and DTC? Remember the times you didn’t know if you would have the money to pay for the next fees and yet you accomplished every step and goal? It was through His strength and by His grace and by His provision. Now, take a drink of coffee and sit down because this is not going to be easy. There are four things you need to remember as you manage this new family of yours:

1. This adventure surprised you. I want to remind you, God set this in motion; therefore, please remember that He has a plan. It may not seem like there is coherence or rationale behind anything that is happening in your life, but He is always prepared. You are on an adventure for which you were chosen. So, when you wonder what the heck is happening and why your plans keep failing, don’t be surprised because this wasn’t your idea in the first place. The fact that He has a plan gives you the freedom to accept this moment in all its messy glory, stop trying to fix it, and just breathe in God’s grace and love for you right where you are, right now, in the mess.


2. God is your stability. Forget your count down to normal. Forget what your family was or what you hoped it would be. Forget the impressions you had from your update letters, photos, and imaginings. Take one moment at a time and allow yourself to get to know your children – the real children – and allow them to know the real you. They are hurting. It is normal and good that you are hurting too. We hurt when our children hurt, don’t we? So stop worrying about when you are going to feel bonded or if/when you will ever want to serve your family in the ways that are demanded of you in this season. Stop dreaming about that day when you will feel like you have things under control; stop straining to fix things and just live today. Don’t worry, it never depended on you. It was never about your sacrifices, your attitude, or the way you can scrub poop off your floor in a housedress and pearls with a smile. This is not even about perfecting your Karyn Purvis impressions. No, friend, this process is not about you and what a good adoptive mama you are. This process is about love, and love is not a feeling. God is love. Since love is not a feeling, then you don’t need to worry about the fact that your feelings are all screwed up and hormonal and jet-lagged. You can just be you. Allow your children to be themselves, and allow God to be God, your Rock. So please, before you start reading that next book or blog post on how to be a better mom, get a friend to come over so you can take a nap, for goodness sake, and let your kids have a little break from you as well!


3. Jesus runs to you in your mess. Bask in and soak up the mercies of our LORD every single day. He doesn’t enjoy seeing you in your suffering, but He adores your humility and your brokenness. He desperately wants for you to see that you are not enough so that you will see that only He is enough. He wants you to experience your weakness in a new way because He wants you to experience Him in a new way. So do it. Embrace this time when you see clearly that you are not enough and experience Him in ways that would have never been possible if you had everything under control. This is not a disaster. This is an opportunity to know your LORD more deeply in His sufferings for you (Philippians 3).

4. God longs to give you mercy. Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Memorize this. I think it is clear. God yearns to lavish kindness upon us in our desperation so that we will turn and acknowledge Him in all His goodness and compassion.

As a community of adoptive mamas, we have held dying babies in our arms; we have seen horrific scars from abuse and neglect; we have sent our children into surgeries knowing we may never see them again; we have embraced PTSD, RAD, ODD, anxiety, trauma, and so much more. And maybe there were some of us who thought we might fix our children, but now we realize that pain is a part of our child, a part of us, and a part of our homes forever, as well. It is not comfortable, friend. There are no Pinterest tips, tricks, or time saving techniques I can spell out that will fix this. You can plan and try your hardest, but you will still fall short in meeting the needs of your home. So, go back to the verse I asked you to memorize and dwell there. God desires mercy and acknowledgement of Him. Acknowledge Him today, bow low before your God, and worship Him in your broken spirit. It is beautiful to Him, and He loves you.

I’m in the trenches beside you. It’s not easy to stare suffering, weakness, brokenness, and injustice in the face or to acknowledge its presence in the world and in our homes. It is difficult to accept that we cannot control it, resolve it, or change it, but we must learn to embrace the discomfort, patiently allowing pain to do its work while also holding firmly and steadily to grace and hope.

Please, if you need a friend, call me. I also have a blog and a public Facebook page. I will connect with you, and I will help you connect with others. I can’t fix the mess, but I can tell you that you are not alone.

guest post by Erin

Find My Family: Gary

May 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

We have a treat for you today, a precious and sweet little boy.

Two year old Gary is a handsome little boy born in September 2013!


He was a tiny little guy when he was found and so assumed to be premature (3 lb). He has a sensitive special need for which he has had surgery for (there are pictures in his file). He required special feeding and oxygen at birth. His heart is normal but does have some mild mitral regurgitation. His development was delayed, which is normal for a preemie, especially one who had medical procedures early in life. He was sitting up around 9 months, crawling at 18 months, and standing with assistance at 23 months. He can say simple words and understand simple directions.


He has good physical development. His caretakers like him very much and describe him as smart, active, quick in response, and fond of listening to music. He especially likes to ride a small wooden horse and laughs happily when he is held! What an amazingly cute little boy!


His file is assigned to BAAS, please contact them to review his file. He will make a wonderful addition to any family!


In the Quiet Moment

May 23, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

On March 20, 2009 I spent the quiet moments of nap-time looking at waiting child programs with various adoption agencies. Home from China just four months with our second child, we weren’t ready to expand our family just yet, but as a planner I wanted to have ‘all my ducks in a row’ for when the time came.

I did not realize it at the time, but my actions that day would soon change the makeup of our family. One search took me to a waiting child list and as I scrolled down, I saw the ‘slightly blurred for privacy reasons’ photo of a chubby baby girl. Keep in mind that when I saw it, this photo was blurred, but somehow she looked familiar; and I felt as if I had been looking for her for a long time.


Her information was sparse, listing a birthdate, the fact that she was a smiley baby, and a diagnosis of ‘neurocutaneous syndrome‘, which was something that was completely unfamiliar to me. A quick Google search lead to much confusion, as well as some very scary terms, but then there was that face… So I sent an email to my husband that read something like, “All I ask is that you look at her information and pray…there is something about her.”

In the weeks that followed, after getting more information and contacting several specialists, it was determined that her specific neurocutaneous syndrome was likely Sturge-Weber Syndrome. Up until this point I had never even heard of SWS, so the learning curve was high. What we found is that Sturge-Weber is a relatively rare syndrome presenting with several common symptoms and a huge window of severity. The following information from the Sturge-Weber Foundation’s website gives the best summary I’ve seen.

“SWS has no clear genetic pattern, and two affected individuals almost never arise in the same family. The syndrome presents in all races and with equal frequency in both sexes. Port wine birthmarks occur in 3 of 1000 newborns.

In a patient with a facial port wine birthmark, the overall risk of having SWS is only about 8% to 15%. The risk of having SWS increases to 25% when half of the face, including the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve is involved and rises to 33% when both sides of the face, including the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve are involved.

Seizures occur in 72% to 80% of SWS patients with unilateral brain lesions and in 93% of patients with bihemispheric involvement. Seizures can begin anytime from birth to adulthood, but 75% of those with seizures begin having them during the first year of infancy, 86% by age 2, and 95% before age 5.

Glaucoma occurs in 30% to 71% of patients.”

We spoke with a local neurologist who previously ran a Sturge-Weber clinic, one of the nation’s leading pediatric glaucoma specialists, a highly recommended dermatologist known in the area for treating facial port wine stains, and a fellow adoptive mother from our area’s adoption group.

Basically we came to realize that moving forward was going to require a leap of faith because from the limited information available to us, it was difficult to tell exactly where this little one fell on the spectrum. We could see the port wine stain, and glaucoma was highly suspected, but the information from the MRI that had been done left the neurologist scratching his head due to the vocabulary used to describe the images that someone across the world had interpreted. Basically he told us that while the information that no seizures had been recorded to date was promising, there were some confusing terms in the MRI report and he wasn’t sure if lesions on the brain were being confirmed or denied.

I think the turning point in our decision was speaking with our pediatrician, one who realizes that there is an Ultimate Healer. As he reviewed what limited information we had and painted a picture from best case to worst case scenario for us, he shared some words that moved me profoundly: “…just remember that you are not considering adopting a condition, you are considering adopting a child, THIS child. Pray, and if God gives you peace, then He will give you what you need to parent THIS child, whatever the road brings…” And so it was after much prayer that we were led to the decision to make her a part of our family.

Exactly 11 months from the day after I first saw her picture, we walked into a cold civil affairs office in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province and there she was.

Our daughter.

I was smitten at first sight, but my sweet girl, at not quite three years old, was already self conscious of what we have come to refer to as her ‘red cheek.’ When she began ducking her head and trying to hide from us I came undone, but by the end of our time together we began to see glimpses of the girl to come, and she went from shy and avoiding the limelight to a little girl willing to strike a pose for the camera.


We arrived home on a Thursday night and hit the ground running with appointments. Monday to the pediatrician, Tuesday to ophthalmology, Wednesday neurology, and Thursday dermatology. In that first week we learned that she had advanced glaucoma in her right eye, we’d begin treatments for her port wine stain in the fall, there was no apparent brain involvement in her case, and she was “unofficially” diagnosed with Type II Sturge-Weber Syndrome (meaning the port wine stain and glaucoma were present but with no detected brain involvement).

Within her first month home she had her first eye surgery to help alleviate the high pressure in her eye. Six months later was the first pulse-dye laser treatment for her port wine stain. Going forward there would be two more eye surgeries, and to date she is in the 20s for number of laser treatments (I’ve honestly lost count). She has a daily regimen of three different types of glaucoma eye drops. With her eye, skin, and craniofacial orthodontist appointments (her complex ortho case is most likely related to tissue overgrowth in her jaw area due to the port wine stain) we drive to Duke at least once a month, but it is manageable…most days she’s just another third grader.

It was about a year after she was home and settled that I was contacted by an adoption advocate who asked if I would be willing to help as she advocated for another little girl with the same condition. Her adorable little face tugged at my heart, and while we were getting ready to travel to bring home our fourth child, I agreed to be a resource for people with questions about Sturge-Weber.

I emailed, texted, Facebook messaged, and spoke on the phone with a number of families, but none of them were fully at peace with making her a part of their family, and about 18 months later it became apparent why…because she belonged in our family.

Afterall, we knew the symptoms, we had the doctors lined up, and we had a girl who had once asked for a sister “with a red cheek like me.”

Fourteen months later, we were in Changsha, Hunan Province becoming a family of seven, and just a few months after that we began our double appointments at Duke.


Yes, the medical appointments are many. Yes, we are on a first name basis with several specialists at Duke Children’s Hospital and I have their personal cell phone numbers stored in my contacts. But beyond all of that, they are your “everyday girls” and an integral part of our family.

We realized early on that Sturge-Weber Syndrome is one aspect that describes our little girls, but it is NOT what defines them. One is a free spirit, brilliant, loves art, a good friend, loyal, a dancer who gets lost in books. The other is our firecracker, a take charge gal, a math whiz with an amazing imagination, a limit pusher, and in the rare moments that she slows down enough, the world’s best snuggler.

Both just happen to have SWS and we wouldn’t change a thing.

-guest post by Kristi

He Knows

May 21, 2016 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments


Who knew ​this momma – who had once upon a time envisioned life with my husband to include ​a couple of ​children, a spacious home, and (of course!) many family vacations to tropical destinations​ – would instead​ learn (​and ​daily​ re-learn)​ that the path to the​ purest​ peace and the greatest joy​ is to​ yield …Read More

Large Families: the Good, the Bad, the Blessing (part two)

May 19, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


Today we continue with the second post of our two-part series featuring Large Families. This mom of six shares some fun, creative, and pragmatic ideas that will help us all (whatever the size of our family) to keep things running smoothly. You can find part-one here. I’d like to share some of the things we’ve …Read More

Aging Out Waiting Child: Wren

May 18, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Wren is described as active and smart. He likes outdoor activities and gets along with others well. He has lots of friends. Wren is also described as sensible, obedient, and innocent. He greet whoever he meets politely. He can usually answer questions others cannot. Wren is a bit shorter than his peers, but he is …Read More

Find My Family: Henry

May 16, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Henry RK

Meet Henry, age 4.5. He was abandoned on the day of his birth. Henry underwent a successful surgery last summer for hypospadias and is also diagnosed with cryptorchidism (undescended testicles), but he does have normal bowel and bladder control. He was initially labeled with disorder of sexual development, but the orphanage says they are certain …Read More


May 15, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

HoldingHands_FatherChild 2

I love Jesus. I love His simplicity. I love how easily He puts things into perspective. I love how when all the religious leaders wanted to prove Him wrong, false, and even sinful that His answers were never hour long oratories. Simple, concise. Believe and follow or don’t. Often I find myself in the midst …Read More

The Blessings of an Unknown Road

May 13, 2016 by nohandsbutours 20 Comments


Let me start by saying I am an ordinary middle aged woman living an ordinary life but just happen to have five extraordinary children, three of whom are adopted. My children have forever changed my life. My oldest son is 31 with a beautiful wife and two precious children of his own. My second oldest …Read More


May 11, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


We did everything backwards. After watching our best friends adopt two girls from China, my husband and I were very open to adoption. However, we are both “take it slow” kind of people so it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I felt ready to build our family through adoption. My husband? He …Read More

© 2016 No Hands But Ours

The content found on the No Hands But Ours website is not approved, endorsed, curated or edited by medical professionals. Consult a doctor with expertise in the special needs of interest to you.