In March of 2009, our daughter went in for her second cleft surgery. She had had a full successful palate repair the previous October. With no fistulas to repair, her second would be a relatively simple surgery compared to the first. It would entail the cosmetic completion of the closure of her lip, which had been “tacked” in October to partially close the wide gap.
After only about 2 hours of surgery (the first surgery had taken four hours) our surgeon came out to tell us that the surgery had gone beautifully. As before, we breathed a huge sigh of relief. But moments later, we learned from the anesthesiologist that she had stopped breathing while they were bringing her her out of anesthesia. She stopped breathing again in my arms just minutes later in the recovery room. She would stop breathing four times before they were able to stabilize her.
This is something that can happen when small children go under general anesthesia – even in a simple surgery. We never thought it would happen to us. Honestly, it’s too painful for me to retell this story (or even re-read my post) so I’m just going to reprint my post from that day. I have never been so mortally terrified, or cried so hard, or felt so utterly bereft in my entire life.
We will, of course, have this fear in our hearts during each future surgery, lest it could happen again to our strong, healthy child. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Every single terrifying minute was worth it, for the privilege of living with this amazing child every day.
- Maia (http://wanderersdaughter.blogspot.com)This is me and Q at 5:30 am, bundling up for our trip to the hospital. Mostly, she was excited for an “adventure” at this point, and even at the hospital she was happy and calm – clearly she didn’t have bad memories from last time, which is nice to see.
As some of you already know, we had some pretty serious complications after general anesthesia, and it was touch and go for a while in the recovery room. These were the longest hours of our lives, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never been so scared. Fortunately, the team at the hospital did a good job of stabilizing her and pulling her through.
The surgery itself went perfectly – the plastic surgeon was thrilled with the result, and QQ is doing much better after a long day and night in the hospital.
Q and daddy in the waiting room.
Some people have asked me in the past why I share things like this, and actually I have a very specific reason: To the uninitiated, it often seems like an insurmountable thing to adopt a child with medical needs. Naturally, it’s frightening to contemplate the ramifications. No one wants to voluntarily undergo moments of terror like we did during this surgery, the fear of losing a child. But the fact is, these are not risks specific to children with congenital conditions. Children break bones, they get pneumonia, they choke on things, the risks are there for every one of us. This is just life.
I describe the process in detail in the hopes of demystifying it. What you see here is our life – the actual balance and heft of it. There is nothing I’m hiding, no dark secrets, no hidden dismay. The reason I describe both the good and the bad is because I want people to see that we live a very normal life. Our life doesn’t center around Q’s medical condition, nor does her condition define her. If anything it makes her a bit tougher, a bit more resilient in spirit. Children who go through things like this learn to take it in stride, and to focus on the best parts of life. They bounce back.
There are tasks that come with a medical condition, of course there are – extra checkups, a larger team of doctors, that sort of thing – but those quickly become routine. Like anything else in life, you adjust, you make room and time, you make it work. It’s really a very ordinary process.
The biggest thing about our life with Q is the joy she brings, and that is the part we see every day. That is the thing that stands out. The rest of it just comes around every now and then, a chore, like doing your taxes or getting annual checkups.
As you can see, even in the prep room with both Q and daddy suited up for surgery (M got to carry her in and watch her go under this time) there’s no hint of fear or alarm in her. They tell you that kids don’t remember the bad parts, and they don’t.
The surgery lasted about an hour and a half, including new ear tubes (one of her old ones had become blocked), inspection of the healed palate, and the full closure of the lip. When the plastic surgeon came out, she was radiant and delighted. The surgery, she told us, had gone perfectly. She was thrilled with the results. She also told us that the palate appeared to have healed beautifully and that no further work was necessary at this time either on the hard or soft palate. This was what we had hoped to hear – the best case scenario.
After that, however, the anesthesiologist came out, and I could tell as soon as she started talking that something had gone wrong.
M and I caught a pretty nasty upper-respiratory flu of some sort while we were in San Francisco, and it was a tough one to kick. It was so hard on us that I was pretty certain they’d have to reschedule Q’s surgery. It seemed hard to imagine that she had spent days in a small hotel room with two people as sick as we were, and not catch anything.
Time passed, however, and she appeared healthy. I was nervous because I knew that a respiratory tract infection poses danger during general anesthesia. We were careful to tell the surgeon at our pre-op appointment about our illness. But Q had no signs of cough and her lungs sounded clear, she had no fever and all seemed well. Both the ENT and the plastic surgeon gave us the go-ahead to proceed with the scheduled surgery.
It was only after they removed the breathing tube post-surgery, we were told, that they discovered some congestion had been present deep in the lungs. It was very slight – her illness was mild, but even that was enough, in a child this small, to cause her airways to close up with anesthesia.
The anesthesiologist told us that they’d stabilized her, and that she was in the recovery room doing fine.
The first minutes in the recovery room.
As it turned out, however, her issues were not so easily resolved. The narcotics in her system exacerbated her breathing issues. She was taking juice from me just moments after surgery, but after several swallowed she suddenly gave a kind of hoarse ghasp and her eyes glazed over. Then I could see her heaving for air, and within moments her lips started turning blue.
We were immediately shuttled back out of the room while the medical team converged on her. There is no possible way to describe the bottomless fear of a moment like this, so I won’t try. It was the worst moment of my life.
I have M’s mom to thank for having the presence of mind to document this process with my camera. This is the shot she took of the lonely hallway down which we stared, petrified, for what felt like hours as they worked on stabilizing her again.
Back in the recovery room. The team had given her drugs that would reverse the narcotics in her system so that her natural functions could take over again. But the narcotics can’t be reversed too quickly, and while we were back in the RR, she stopped breathing a third time. As we waited in the outer foyer this time, I have to admit I really thought we were losing her.
Back in the recovery room and this time no seizing…but by this time I was too gunshy to hold her again. I can’t tell you the horror of feeling your only child seize up and go bloodless in your arms. I had to step away and let M do it this time. Fortunately, her airways did not seize again.
Neither, however, did she wake up. After a length of time, I could see M getting worried that maybe she had gone into some sort of coma. The doctor came in and looked at her pupils, and then nurse did a reflex test on the bottom of her foot – at which point her foot gave a good, healthy, annoyed kick – that was when I knew she was OK. It did take her a while to regain consciousness, but the doctor explained that the narcotics were still in her system, and that since the surgery itself was not a terribly painful one, the narcotics just knocked her out. Her little body had some recovering to do as well, after all that trauma.
It took a while for her breathing to return to normal and it was terribly difficult to watch her little torso heaving so unnaturally. But you could see when it ended, and it ended quite suddenly.
Her body relaxed, her eyes popped open, and she looked around at us alertly. You could see her craning to see people walking downt he hall, looking around the room for things she might want to touch. She even gave a chuckle and a little dance-jiggle when she saw the Pooh Bear decals on the glass wall. You can see the difference in her face in this photo.
There’s the alertness back again as we load up for the trip to our overnight room in the pediatrics ward.
Reaching for Daddy’s hand.
Rolling into our room. The tube I’m holding is her free-flowing oxygen, which helped to increase the oxygen saturation in her cells while her airways and body recovered.
Visiting with grandparents in the room. Once she recovered from the narcotics, you could see how much easier the actual surgery was on her system than the first one. With no cartilege involved, she was in very little pain, alert, chipper and active.
It was still a long and mostly sleepless night – the trauma had left her whole system oversensitive and she was having allergic reactions to the adhesive used to stick on her monitors, and particularly to the tape which had covered her eyes during surgery. This left her patchy, red, and extremely itchy. She also hates to have her hands and feet confined, so the IV in her hand and the oxygen monitor on her foot were a source of unending fury for her.
Still, the difference was marked from October’s rough recovery. She was even exceptionally affectionate this time, giving out kisses, flirting, hugging, and trying to giggle even through her tape and stitches. Late in the night, as the three of us piled into the narrow hospital bed, she got particularly schmoopy and started getting M and I to give eachother kisses by turning our faces forcibly toward one another with her hands. This made her smile and chuckle every time. As she was sinking into a blessed (if brief) latenight nap, she grabbed my hand and M’s and linked them over her back before falling asleep. Can you even believe that? The way her mind works never ceases to amaze me.
This morning, as we packed our belongings to go home. A whole new QQ. She was beyond delighted to be freed from her tethers of monitor cords and IV tubes, and toddled manically around the room collecting all the toys she’d been loaned.
Here she even backed up against the changing table to “pose” for me. And what’s that in her right hand? Yup, a box of Cheerios. Munchkin decided to use this particularly traumatic occasion to start eating cheerios by the handful, as well as applesauce from a spoon – stitches be damned. I can see that progress will happen by leaps and bounds once she’s healed. And you could already hear her making new sounds whith her mouth (her “mama” changed and became much more crisp and round-sounding overnight, and she was making little “Puh” puffs with her new lips, which is thrilling!), so I am excited to hear how her language progresses over the next weeks.
QQ’s lip does in fact look seamless -as much of it as one can see around the bandages and glue. I can’t wait to see what it looks like once healed and uncovered. What you see in her nose are plastic tubes that hold the nostrils in a widened position. These will stay in for a week (we hope) or as long as we can get her to keep them in. The idea is that a bit of scar tissue will form around the tube and bolster the cartilege where her nose is naturally flatter on the cleft side.
It did our hearts good to see how happy she was to find herself back at home. She actually crowed outloud when we pulled up to the curb, and wanted to parade up and down the sidewalk in the unseasonably warm sun for a while before going inside for her long-delayed lunch.
We gave her an episode of her beloved Yo GabbaGabba, and then put her down for her nap, where she was palpably radiant with joy to be back among her own things. So happy was she, in fact, that she didn’t even complain when we put on the hated arm braces that she railed so bitterly against after the last surgery.
Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.
annually easy — adoptive momma (China) mama d at and i am like the ocean… cleft is an easy special need… or not
Disclosure — adoptive momma (China) Raina at Faiths and Illusions… disclosing her new daughter’s Hepatitis B status
Speaking of attachment, Part 3 — adoptive momma (China) The Gang’s Momma at The Gang’s All Here… describing how they shrunk their world the first year home with their new daughter
Pondering the Pons (and a little fun, too) – adoptive momma (Russia and China) Tisha at Privyet, Mei Mei… describing brain reorganization of the pons at a San Diego clinic
Three Therapeutic Tips for a Merry Christmas — adoptive momma (Ethiopia) Lisa at the group adoption blog Grown In My Heart… three tips for helping a child newly home or who struggles with attachment issues through the holiday season
No Longer An Orphan — adoptive momma (China) Jean at There’s No Place Like Home… after someone sent a photo of her daughter when she still lived in an orphanage, one momma looks back at how far her daughter has come since being adopted at age eight
Status of Adoption from China: BOYS – the executive director of Love Without Boundaries and adoptive momma (China) Amy at A Life of Giving… gender statistics surrounding international adoption from China
A Special Need — adoptive momma (China) Maryellen at A Beautiful Mess… how the wait effected their decision to adopt through China’s special needs program
Sunday Snapshot: Avery — adoptive momma (China) Chris at Layers of Life… a glimpse into the world of the special needs adoption process AND their soon-to-be-adopted daughter Avery
The Brace Shuffle — adoptive momma (China) Annie at Cornbread and Chopsticks… a video clip from last year of her daughter walking to the Christmas tree while wearing a special brace
Another little one is an orphan no more.
Miss Jubilee Promise is finally with her forever family!!
If you don’t know Linny(a contributing writer for No Hands but Ours), and the story of their Journey to Miss Jubilee Promise, I beg of you to head on over to A Place Called Simplicity and take some time to get to know this Amazing family. You will be blessed.
Happy “Gotcha Day” Saunders Family!
We Love You, Miss Jubilee!!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what in the world I would post on this beautiful blog. Don’t yall LOVE this blog? It is a big ol’ blessing to so many…Kris, your post below stole my heart.
Anyway, yesterday I attended a travel information meeting my agency hosted. It was for families who are getting ready to make the trip to China to meet their child! It was the second time I’ve heard the details of the process, by the same sweet social worker, but I felt that no matter how many times I adopt, there will always be something to learn about the journey, amen?
I’m so thankful I went, because it confirmed what the subject of this post would be, something that I’ve been thinking a whole lot about lately:
If you have traveled to China, or if you are thick in the paperchase to adopt your child, or if you are about to get on that plane in three days, or if you are just thinking and dreaming about adopting one day…I think you will agree with me on this one point: there is so much anticipation, so many butterflies in our stomachs, so many dreams and scenarios played out in our heads of “THE TRIP”.
As our social worker presented all the glorious details leading up to “Gotcha Day”, I felt those familiar emotions of anxiety, nervousness, and extreme excitement that I was getting closer to the day I would meet my son. Who, by the way, is the CUTEST thing you ever did see, don’t you agree?
I’m off track. Looking at him does that to me!
So I’m getting excited as she talks about the moment your child is handed to you…which is really how it happens mostly. They just hand you your child after checking your passport and paperwork. And then she went on to talk about attachment and adjustment, and the wide spectrum of issues that go along with that.
And I was reminded (and brought back down to reality, frankly) that this TRIP, this marvelous, long-awaited trip….well, that’s all it is…a TRIP. It is not the end-all, be-all of my journey. Certainly not! Yes, it is important, because it is the vessel used by God to bring me my child. But in the big picture, it is all about getting through the trip to the other side…home with our son!
Both times we’ve gone to China, I get wrapped up in the preparation of this trip. It does seem huge, looming before us. The packing, the buying of gifts for Chinese officials (don’t let this stress you out like I have done!), the tizzy of ordering plane tickets, the details of who will keep my other children while we’re gone. (Don’t tell anyone, but our first trip to China….I consumed myself with making sure everyone had matching outfits. And then Gotcha Day came, and we were handed two 2-year olds, and how ’bout those matching outfits? Do ya think I cared one bit about our clothes after that? It’s easy to let the trip consume our thoughts, of course. And certainly we should relish every bit of our child’s culture and birth country while we are there… taking in the sights, smells, sounds, and people of China. But this trip is two-three weeks long. In the big scheme of a lifetime, that’s pretty short. It will be full of bumps, unexpected surprises-some good, some bad, and we will survive it and get our son home, and then new life will begin.
The REAL TRIP will begin…getting to know him, establishing a new normal and a good routine, cleaning up his messes, taking him to doctor appointments, comforting him through major heart surgery, and prayerfully one day taking him on vacations, watching him walk across the stage at graduation, smothering his children with my kisses. That is the trip I want to prepare for…and it is a wonderful trip called LIFE!
John 10:10 “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”
Cheeky has a favorite song.
She announced that fact a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about her announcement and her choice of favorite songs since then.
You see, Cheeky loves many songs. She sings all the time. All the time. She has told me over and over again that she loves all the songs she hears on the radio.
And that leads me back to her favorite song.
We’ve been hearing it on the Christian radio station for a few months, but I didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics until Cheeky started singing them. The more she heard the song, the more of the lyrics she was able to sing. Until, finally, she had great chunks of lyrics and was belting them out in her sweet soprano.
There were a few words here and there that I didn’t quite understand. As a matter of fact, the whole gist of the song was lost on me.
Except the parts that Cheeky was singing.
Those were clear as a bell, and every time the song played and she sang, I got a lump in my throat. Two weeks ago, she began singing the parts she knows around the house. I’d be washing dishes, and she’d be doing her daily chore of wiping down the table after meals, and she’d sing the words she knew, and I’d glance over at her and see that she was completely engrossed in those words and in that song. And there were moments when I wanted to cry, because I do not believe this song was chosen randomly.
I finally looked up the words because I really did not understand the song.
And when I read them, I did understand.
It’s actually a shocking song, but I suppose that’s what it was meant to be.
Here are the lyrics. It’s called Cut and is by Plumb. I guess it was a soundtrack for one of the vampire movies (or t.v. shows. I don’t know which as I’m not familiar with the programs). The sections in bold are the ones Cheeky sings. Words in parenthesis are words she uses that are not original to the song.
I’m not a stranger
No I am yours
With crippled anger
And tears that still drip sore
A fragile flame aged
And when our hearts meet
I know you see
I do not want to be afraid
I do not want to (cry) inside just to breathe in
I’m tired of feeling so numb
Relief exists I find it when
I am cut
I may seem crazy
Or painfully shy
And these scars wouldn’t be so hidden
If you would just look me in the eye
I feel alone here and cold here
Though I don’t want to (cry) die
But the only anesthetic that makes me feel anything kills inside
I do not want to be afraid
I do not want to (cry) inside just to breathe in
I’m tired of feeling so numb
Relief exists I find it when
I am cut
I am not alone
I am not alone
I’m not a stranger
No I am yours
With crippled anger
And tears that still drip sore
But I do not want to be afraid
I do not want to (cry) inside just to breathe in
I’m tired of feeling so numb
Relief exists I found it when
I was cut
Cheeky does not, of course, understand what the song is about, but the words she does understands mean something to her. And, so, they must mean something to me.
I’m not one to look at Cheeky through the eyes of adoption. I treat her as I do my other children. She is, after all, my daughter. Not my adopted daughter. What I’m realizing as I travel this road with my little girl, is that not everything is about her past but some things are about her past.
This thing, this song, is.
My mother’s heart acknowledges what my mind would rather ignore. When Cheeky sings this song, it is a story about her life. It is a story about meeting strangers and of being afraid. It is a story about acknowledging where she belongs and who she belongs with even as she fears that place and those people.
It is her story, and I embrace it even as I embrace her.
I share this only as a reminder that grief and joy can coexist. That one does not always outweigh the other. Cheeky is the child in the photo at the top of this post, but she is also the one in the photo below. She is both lost and found. Both in love and in mourning. She is a complete package whose present can only truly be understood in light of her past.
She is my daughter. My blessing. My pure joy.
I grieve with her, but I will not grieve for her. Instead, I will do what I always have. I will sit her in my lap and I will tell her the story of her life. The story of strangers who are no longer strangers and of a love that will never leave her lonely. A love that was and always will be much greater than fear.
I was married for 6 years to the man I believed to be the absolute love of my life. We had a good relationship, although looking back, I see so clearly the flaws that were ignored (in both of us) to keep that relationship afloat. Four years into our marriage, we decided to adopt- and since he was of Chinese descent, and China was the place I’d wanted to adopt from since I was 17, the choice was obvious. Three months shy of that infamous “call”, he dropped the bomb. The “D” bomb, that is, asking for a divorce. In July, 2 months before the calls came, I phoned our agency and canceled that adoption. To say this was the most painful period of my life is actually a gross understatement.
Never once did I truly think I’d adopt on my own. I mean- I joined the singles-adopt-china group, you know, just in case. I kept up with my original DTC group, even celebrating with them (as bittersweet as that was), on the day they got their referrals: September 3, 2005. I wondered on that day what my girl would have looked like. Who was Gracen? What happens to her now? I fantasized about how it might have felt to get that “call”. And for 2 years, I continued to blog surf, (creating my own blog in fact- under the guise of honoring my mom who died 7 months after ex asked for the divorce). It wasn’t an adoption blog because I had no plans to adopt on my own.
Except that I couldn’t leave the darn thing alone. The yahoo sites, the websites, the research, the contact with other single moms who urged me forward in answering the big question: could I? I decided I’d leave it open, knowing I needed time and distance from all that I was suffering. I needed “me” time- to grieve, to seek solitude, to come out on the other side.
Only, it didn’t really happen that way.
Just one year after the divorce, much sooner than my “plan”, a wise person at CCAI advised I apply now (the end of 2006) rather than waiting another year as I’d hoped. Their reasoning? “The wait times are already up to 16 months and climbing, so you’ll still have time to work through all that you have had to face”. I had a lot to grapple with: the loss of the marriage, my daughter, my mom. But I said… okay, okay. Not what I’d envisioned but that is a lot of time. Plus hey, I can always… back out! And what a blessing CCAI’s advice was, since the doors were closed to singles just 4 months later.
Three years ago on this very day, I was granted the singles slot I so desired with CCAI. Since I’d worked with them the first time around and they were absolutely amazing in handling the cancellation of Gracen’s adoption, I wanted to be with an agency I felt close to and trusted.
And they proved the second time around to be worthy of that choice.
When I was married, I brought up the topic of adopting a child with special needs once during our wait. He said he wasn’t ready for that, that he’d consider it if we adopted a second time. So, there in the back of my mind brewed another option. Though, being single, I decided there was no way I could handle adopting a child with special needs. Except… well, could I? On my own? Because truthfully, deep down, I wanted to share this with a partner. Since day one receiving that singles slot, I hoped for that. For me, I was a “single mom to be” by circumstance, not really by choice. And I wasn’t willing to “wait” for the right guy to come along to realize this dream, even though I felt numb and paralyzed during that second paper chase. In truth, it just seemed like I was going through the motions at the time.
I put the special needs topic on the shelf for almost a year, but much like coming into this process on my own, it kept popping up. In my head, my heart, and on my computer- of course. I’d find myself reading all the blogs of those who had adopted children with medical needs, and I constantly went through CCAI’s medical conditions checklist… you know. Just looking it over. Just in case.
And in January of 2008, almost a year after my LID (4.4.07), some kind of crazy fire ignited inside of me. I mean mad crazy. It was as though I went from considering this idea to feeling it was absolutely imperative. My MCC needed to be completed that day, right then, that very minute, and be on its way to my agency immediately. Because somewhere, deep down, I knew she was here already, in this world. I even blogged that- and that I sensed she was “a bit older” (also something I’d never once considered, and still didn’t despite that prediction)! I was still clutching my baby dream: that precious moment when a rather tiny bundle is placed in your arms and everything stands still in that room. All the other cries during those precious first moments fading into the background- it’s just you and your new little one. I even had the song picked out for this moment, that was going to be featured on the DVD I planned to create for her one day.
And on the night I turned in my MCC… I saw this amazing shooting star. Some of you know that story. It burned for so long in the sky that it changed colors. It was brilliant. And it brought fresh tears to my eyes, because I hadn’t seen a shooting star since the night of my mother’s death, January 17, 2006. I knew it was a sign that I’d made the right decision, that God, the universe, my very mother- were shining down on me, giving me their blessing.
At one point, I ran into an old friend after a special mass at church. She hadn’t seen me since the divorce and was so excited at how much I’d “changed”- I thought she was just thrilled my hair had grown out, but she pulled me aside and said, “Oh no Kris. You just look happy. I sense your greatest joy is coming”. And I just balked. How could she know? I asked: “OH! Did someone tell you I was adopting again?” and she, wide eyed, replied, “NO! That’s fantastic. But Kris, I have to tell you, it’s even bigger than that. God has great plans for you”.
In October of that year, I reunited with my old best friend from high school, Garth, and we rekindled that friendship. It’s been a whirlwind romance and I was (and am) happier than I’d ever been. With anyone. He was open to this adoption and jumped in with both feet and met me exactly where I was. He’s an amazing man.
And then “our” wait started, though now I was certain it would be significantly shorter since I was adopting a waiting child, and was convinced we’d be parents much sooner than either of us were prepared. We both recognized that we needed to nurture this “new” (and yet, old) relationship. But at the same time, after 5 years of waiting (if you factor in Gracen), I just felt ripe for this next chapter of my life to unfold. But God knows better and the wait for this little one, yet to be named at the time, extended well over a year.
And that long awaited “call” … it never came. Because, you see, once again, I was being consumed with a new obsession: checking the children who are listed on CCAI’s website. Those that are more difficult to place, that have complex or multiple medical needs.
And on one particular day- May 13, 2009, to be exact- not long after coming to peace with the wait, I became restless again. So restless in fact I was (yet again) looking at my medical conditions checklist and debating about certain needs that as a single, I wasn’t so sure about, but with a partner, I wondered if we could manage together. I had even drafted an email to my contact in the waiting child department that day (though I never sent it), inquiring about spina bifida and letting them know it was a need I was considering.
When Garth got off work that night, he stopped over for dinner and I brought it up with him. We decided we’d sit on it through the weekend. And since I had been checking our waiting child yahoo site and CCAI’s waiting list of children ALL day, I gave the computer a break and we enjoyed a wonderful evening together, the topic of adoption tabled. For like… an hour or two tops. At least until after dinner, when I found myself saying, “I just want to check one thing. One last time. I’ll be right back”… and headed to the study and my second best friend: the computer! Only to find this message on the CCAI waiting child yahoo board: “I can’t believe how many children are on the website! Over 20! Hope they all find homes”…
What? But there were only a handful just a few hours ago…
Of course I was compelled to look, and quickly logged into CCAI’s website. Scrolling down that page, searching each face, but without any expectation: there she was. I couldn’t even speak. There she was. And I whispered aloud to the room, to anyone who would hear- my dog- my cat-”My God that’s her. It’s Ellis”.
I clicked on her file and saw her date of birth: January 17, 2006. The night I saw that first shooting star, around 4AM U.S. time- 3 hours after my mom died. I yelled for Garth to come and look. And her information had obviously not been fully translated, it was so sketchy. Just her name, birth date, and needs: “repaired meningocele, brittle bone disease (later found she did not have this), obstructed leg movement, large hairy nevus”.
And as we read each one, I’d say “Okay. We can handle that, right?” until we landed on obstructed leg movement. What did this mean? Is she paralyzed? Can it be… UN-obstructed? I looked at Garth and then rambled off, almost to myself, “If she’s in a wheelchair, I’m not sure I can deal with that- I mean, that takes serious resources and special equipment in our house and we have a 2 story house and…”…. he just looked at me, softly replying, “Really? Well, one thing at a time. What do you want to do?” and naturally, I called my big sister. My go to person. Who was so excited she could barely contain herself. So we asked for the file, which came the very next day.
The first thing we opened were more of her photos, and these are just a few that were sent to us:
The tears came. It was immediate, that rush of feeling- was it love? Not yet. But it was that seed that had already been planted being watered. Look at her bright, beautiful smile. Look at her! SO full of life! But could we do it? Meet her challenges with her?
It took a little over 2 weeks. We wanted to be her advocate. We aren’t rich, at all. We live paycheck to paycheck and have a fair amount of debt. But over and over, even on the days we were leaning toward saying “No”, our hearts just kept saying Yes.
And so, yes it was. An exuberant, terrified, triumphant YES.
And instead of getting that long awaited call, the one where your agency says, “I am looking at your daughter and she is so beautiful” or “We have your daughter for you!”… we had the privilege of making our own call- the one that said we know this is our daughter, and that we can’t wait to adopt her.
Was it the way I had envisioned it for so many long years? No. Has anything turned out the way I expected? Hell no.
It’s just turned out exactly… perfectly… the way it was always meant to be. And she is the best kid. The easiest, happiest, most courageous little girl I’ve ever known. With just the right amount of stubborn- which will serve her so well in this life. And all those extraneous factors that seemed like challenges? Not nearly as challenging as we imagined. You find your groove. You realize you too are so much stronger than you imagined. And that it doesn’t take any energy at all to love. You are filled as soon as you spend an ounce giving all that you can to this girl you are blessed to call your daughter.
The day before we left China, in front of the consulate, just after the swearing in, Garth- my long lost friend from high school, got down on one knee and proposed. How fortunate are we each to have found one another. How blessed I am.
Tomorrow I turn 42. And I already have every single gift I’ve ever wanted. Right here. In our home. And not at all the way I planned:
I am sorry that I am late in posting today, but it has been an emotional day and trying to find the right words that will be honest, encouraging, and from the Lord often takes some time when you are in the midst of a trial … You see we got news today that our daughter’s skull/ scalp replacement surgery was canceled for next week … The specially made expanders that were ordered over 3 months ago won’t be ready … This is just another road block in our journey to physically healing Maggie … I am sad for her that yet again she will have to WAIT … I am exhausted from mentally preparing for next week only to be told to WAIT …
I hope to always paint a true picture of the journey we have been on to bring home our special needs angel … It is not for the faint of heart, but it is for those seeking to become closer to the almighty Father and for those who want their SOCKS blessed off … My Maggie is a miracle to us … She shows us what it means to be a true survivor …
So we will gear up for yet another curve, detour in the journey or I guess if I choose it could be just the scenic route (that may be my attitude tomorrow) …
As you are deciding to adopt a SN angel always look at the journey God and your child have you on, not the JOURNEY YOU WANT TO BE ON …
Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that I would be a Mom to many. I also knew that my big ol’ happy family would include adopted children in addition to biological ones. Adoption is something that has always been on my heart. As a little girl, I was the one in my family who was convinced that we could, and should, bring home every featured “Wednesday’s Child”. (Wednesday’s Child was a weekly television news feature in my hometown that advocated special needs children for adoption.) There was also a period in my life when I tried to convince my dad to build a “Children’s Home” in our backyard. As the story goes, I was certain that between myself, my siblings, and a few other caring families I would round up to move into the home in our backyard, we could somehow find a way to be one big happy family for each and every child who needed a home. Unfortunately, that dream never came to fruition. I recall it had something to do with zoning and labor laws, fire codes, and other related impossibilities of an underage day-dreamer. The point is, God planted the seed in my heart for “those who wait” long before I had outgrown playing Mother to my Cabbage Patch dolls. It wasn’t something I ever really decided or had to think about, but rather something I just “knew” was meant to be.
My husband also grew up with a vision of what his family would look like one day. He had four people in his family, including Mom, Dad and a younger sister. They were a “picture perfect” American family. My husband was very comfortable with this picture. It was familiar to him, and he had been very happy growing up. To him, this was the ideal.
By the time we had married, we had already been dating for 7 years and had had plenty of “couple time” to get to know each other and plan out our lives together. Therefore, we began our family fairly shortly after we were married. Our first child, David, was born just before our second wedding anniversary. Our second child, Katelyn, was born two years later. A little under five years into our marriage, we had realized Jeff’s “picture perfect” family.
If wasn’t until about a year after Katie was born that we started talking seriously about adoption. While Jeff was completely comfortable with the idea of a family of four, including “one of each”, he knew about my passion for adoption. As a result, he was open to stepping out of his comfort zone to help me explore what I felt was my calling. What I knew in my heart was our calling. We prayed and sought God’s direction for where our next child would come from. For us, it was not a question of “if” we would adopt, but rather “when” and from “where” and “how”.
As we continued to pray for direction, God showed us that we would indeed continue to build our family, but not yet through adoption. We were blessed twice over with the birth of our son Matthew and then a few years later when we welcomed our daughter Alexandra into the world.
It was only a couple of months after the birth of Allie, that God revealed to us that our next child would indeed be adopted. A little girl was waiting for us in China – our daughter Grace.
Jeff was relieved once God revealed His plans for Grace to us. He was certain that it was Grace that was on my heart all these years, and that she must be why the seed for adoption had been planted so long ago. At the time, Jeff thought that once Grace was home that I would feel whole…that our family was complete. Truth be known, I spent many hours looking at and praying over SN waiting lists and other children while we were waiting for Grace’s referral. I prayed those little ones home to their forever families. I also prayed for God to reveal to us our next child.
During and through our journey to bring Grace home, God quietly opened Jeff’s heart to the idea of expanding our family through adoption again. Every time Grace snuggled in next to her daddy to read a book, every time she grabbed his pinky finger with her little hand, every time she looked past her chubby little cheeks right through him, and flashed him one of her big beautiful smiles – another seed was planted.
As God had prepared his heart for the possibility of “more” , Jeff was not too caught off guard when only eight months after Grace was home, God revealed to us another child. A second little girl was waiting for us in China – our daughter Hannah.
Jeff traveled to China with his Mom in September 2007 to bring home Hannah. And let me tell you, she was and still is Daddy’s Girl. They were buddies from the moment they met one another. Hannah slept next to Jeff in China with her cheek pressed against his. When she came home, she would wait for him to come home from work, and would not leave his side until bedtime. She even shared her coveted snack bowls of ketchup only with him (don’t ask). She called him her bestest buddy. Again, more seeds were planted.
In February of 08, Jeff was surprised, but not shocked, when I woke him out of a deep sleep one night to tell him I believed that I had just seen a picture of our son who was waiting for us in China. It later turned out that God had indeed shown us our son Johnathan. Nine months later, Jeff and his Mom were back in China to bring home another blessing. Another little one would have a forever family.
The conditions Johnathan endured during his first eighteen months in China were, by far, the worst of our three adopted kiddos. Before Jeff came to bring him home, Johnathan spent every day in a small dark room in his crib. Occasionally he would get a toy to play with. However, it was usually the same toy, as evidenced by every picture we were blessed to get of him prior to the adoption. At 19 months old, he did not know how to chew solid food. The food just rolled off his tongue when Jeff put it there. He was expressionless in all the photos we had received, as well as for the first 24 hours he was with Jeff. He would not move if you sat him down on the floor to try to play with him. It was heartbreaking.
After only a few days of undivided attention from Jeff and Grandma, Johnathan made remarkable progress in all regards. It wasn’t long until he had learned not only to chew, but to feed himself. The smiles would not stop coming and he would giggle up a storm. He learned how to crawl and walk after only a week with his Daddy and Grandma. By the end of the trip, Johnathan was climbing up the play structure and racing down the slide at the park in Guangzhou, stopping for a minute between trips to hug his daddy. More seeds were planted.
Three months after Johnathan came home, and one year to the day that we first saw Johnathan’s picture, God revealed to us that we had another son waiting for us to bring him home. This was to be our first adoption of an older child, and our first time adopting out of birth order. This time, my husband didn’t even flinch. Samuel would be coming home.
Jeff brought our son Samuel home from China in late October. Samuel amazes us daily with his resilience and bravery. He fits in with our family as if he has always been here. He started school shortly after coming home, at his request, and he is learning English at a furious rate. He adores his brothers and sisters and could NOT be more loving, kind and thoughtful toward them. He is hardly ever not wearing a smile. He is just so happy…so loving…and so loved. Seeds continue to be planted.
God has taught me so many things through the journeys to our children. One thing I have learned through the experiences is that just because someone has not always felt called to adopt does not mean that God is not calling. I believe we are all called to care for the orphans in whatever capacity he shows to us. For reasons only known to Him, sometimes he is slower to reveal our calling than at other times. Either that, or we are just slower to take notice. To me it has been such a beautiful thing to witness my husband’s heart be opened further and further to the plight of the orphans. To see God’s plan unfolding right before my eyes as God is revealing to him His calling…our calling.
Eight children later, we continue to pray for God to reveal to us what he has in store for us next. I smile big at the thought that this time, it may be my husband waking me in the middle of the night to show me a photo of our next little one.
James 1:27 “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for the orphans and widows in their troubles and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”