Leaps of Faith: Adopting a Child with Micropthalmia

October 27, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

No two families start exactly the same. In some sense, every decision to have children involves a leap of faith. Nothing in this world is a guarantee; as plenty of parents have learned, there is much that can go wrong during a baby’s formative nine months in the womb and truly, through their entire lives, this world can be a treacherous place.

Our adoption story actually started long before we met. As young adults, we both separately believed that adoption would be a part of our stories. There was something so beautiful and redemptive in turning an orphan into your beloved child. Every adoption story, without a doubt, starts with tragedy and loss. Even if the biological parents enter the process without their own painful story, the fact is that every orphan has experienced loss. Whether their story involves abuse, neglect, abandonment, or the death of parents, every orphan must face their own hard things.

While we were dating, we learned that Sarah carried an X-linked genetic condition called Myotubular Myopathy. It is a swift, brutal neuromuscular disease that results in very poor muscle tone. While the disease varies in severity, our version is the most severe. It results in death within the first few years of life, and usually much less. Sarah had already lost a nephew and a brother to the disease.

As we began our journey toward parenthood, we knew that we could potentially lose a child; yet we decided to go boldly forward in faith. In 2014, we gave birth to our firstborn son, Daniel Thomas. Daniel’s entry into our world did not go smoothly. Sarah’s water broke as Daniel was only 30 weeks along, and within a few minutes we were in the back of an ambulance with wailing sirens. A very short time later, after Sarah’s emergency C-section, our handsome yet remarkably tiny son Daniel Thomas entered the world.

Despite his dramatic start to life, it wasn’t immediately clear that Daniel was sick. Yet, after a series of discouraging setbacks, we learned that he indeed carried the disease that years earlier took the life of his uncle and his cousin. After 27 short, heartbreaking yet wonderful, days we said goodbye to our sweet little man. Our world was turned upside down, and we struggled with figuring out our next steps.

Sarah’s heart turned to adoption much faster. She asked God to make her heart more like His and guide us, spending hours looking at waiting children and praying over them. However, I struggled to similarly to open my heart. I struggled initially with anger and bitterness, and had a hard time trusting God. However, with time, I learned to take small steps of faith, and eventually became thoroughly excited at the prospect of international adoption.

Slowly through prayer and investigation we landed on China’s Waiting Children. After burying a child we were a bit cautious, so we marked a handful of minor, correctable needs and waited. Then just three weeks after becoming logged in, we received that momentous phone call. It was a boy! But his medical need wasn’t on our medical conditions checklist – turns out, it’s not on anyone’s MCC! He was 18 months, cute as a button, and it said on his medical report that he was born without a left eyeball. Honestly, our first reaction was to be freaked out and overwhelmed. It wasn’t what we were planning on, as if we could control the entire adoption process. Then, we received the email with his file. As the first picture loaded, it was love at first sight.


We plowed ahead with a furious pace of research and phone calls.

What would the process of getting a prosthetic eye look like?
How could we afford it?

A sober assessment from an adoption doctor nearly dissuaded us; some unanswered questions from his first few weeks of life left us in a state of uncertainty and panic.

What if this wasn’t the right child for us?
Are we throwing our lives away?
Are we the wrong parents for him?

The doctor’s words ended on a note of caution: accepting this child’s file would mean taking an enormous leap of faith.

As we wrestled, prayed, and consulted wise counsel, we were reminded by another doctor, who had kindly offered a second opinion: Every child is a leap of faith.

Every single one, whether biological or adopted, involves big, unanswerable questions. We should know; we did, after all, bury a biological son. We made the decision to accept this child. Come what may, regardless of brain damage or speech and developmental delays, he would be ours and ours alone.

In total, we had about four days to make this decision. Tom likens it to progressing from first date to engagement in four days, and without even meeting him in person! Adoption is, after all, just as big a commitment as marriage.

We said “Yes”!

We spent the next few months preparing for our new lives as a family and for our trip. With a step of faith, we boarded a plane for China and, a few days later, met Theodore Thomas.

We found ourselves in Zhengzhou, holding our son for the first time, all fears swept away by the pure joy of knowing he was now ours. On day one, we felt so lucky: our son was active, healthy and full of life. He quickly learned to adapt to new environments, and we didn’t perceive any significant difficulties with his depth perception or overall vision.

We were amazed by how quickly he learned and by how developmentally on target he was. We are deeply grateful for his caregivers in China, who shed more than a few tears when they said goodbye.


There are many things about international adoption that are challenging. It’s hard to meet your child, who doesn’t speak the same language, in a foreign country that is unfamiliar to you. We needed help deciphering the labels on the formula packages, and even needed help navigating the grocery store. Chasing a toddler around a classy hotel with marble floors made me long for our carpeted living room with baby gates. Yet, despite the challenges, we had a lot of help.

Our agency, was instrumental both in helping us prepare for the trip and navigating the challenges we encountered while in the country. Additionally, the Chinese people we encountered were all very helpful, including the hotel employees, the government agency representatives, and the staff from the orphanage.

Perhaps the most unexpected source of support came from the other adoptive parents in our travel group. There were 12 other families in China with us, and they were a tremendous source of knowledge, support, and comfort. Some of us were new to parenting while others were veterans, but we forged a lifelong bond as we met our new children and watched each other’s families grow before our eyes.


Completing any international adoption, especially one involving a special need, involves a flurry of doctors appointments. After coming home, we started with an appointment at the adoption clinic that’s affiliated with our local university. Teddy was evaluated by several experienced physicians, an occupational therapist, and a psychologist who evaluated his attachment. Overall, they confirmed our initial assessment – Teddy was a healthy toddler who was developing quite well considering his time in an orphanage. During the assessment, Teddy heaved a weighted ball effortlessly across the room, scoring himself a satisfactory physical assessment and giving Dad a bruise on the leg!

In the beginning, it felt as though every appointment completed led to three more specialist appointments, and our calendar began to fill very quickly! Yet, as we made progress through investigating his missing eye, on getting him caught up on routine vaccinations, and performing the typical childhood examinations, he has been a trooper.

Teddy’s eye surgeon has been a particularly positive voice. Medical professionals sometimes get lost in the detail, particularly when they are just learning the profession. At our first visit, a series of residents and doctors asked a flurry of questions, and did a fair share of poking and prodding. Just as Teddy was about to lose it, the main ocular surgeon arrived. He recognized our son’s impatience and kneeled down with him on the floor. He took a peek in his eye socket, gave us his opinion, and very succinctly explained the process going forward. His calm, professional demeanor has been a significant calming presence during this process, and midway through our son’s surgeries… it just doesn’t feel like a big deal anymore.


During the initial phase of his eye appointments, we also learned that Teddy didn’t have anopthalmia, or the absence of an eye. Rather, he had a tiny, ineffective eye, called micropthalmia. This tiny eye didn’t do anything so the difference wasn’t really profound. The main difference is that the other structures of the eye, including muscles and tear ducts, are more likely to be correctly formed in cases of micropthalmia than anopthalmia.

Before we began, they gave Teddy an MRI to determine the shape of the socket and identify any complications before beginning the process. The surgeries involve placing a series of gel-like conformers. The conformers stay in the eye socket on their own, and grow gradually by absorbing tears. Once they have reached maximum growth, Teddy goes in under sedation and has his conformer exchanged for a larger one, usually after a few months. The first surgery included removal of some bits of eye tissue that never properly developed. In all, the actual surgery only takes 5-10 minutes per session.

In preparation for the last surgery, our surgeon worked with an ocularist – part medical professional, part artist. Ocularists craft ocular prosthetics and provide ongoing support and service for their patients. Once the last conformer is ready to come out, the surgeon will take a piece of belly fat and place it in the eye socket. It will grow with him and help the provide the needed pressure to keep the eye socket in the proper shape. Then, Teddy’s eye socket is ready to accept the prosthetic, and it’s likely he’ll be visually indistinguishable from children who have two natural eyes.

It’s hard to turn your son over to others for surgery, and even harder to watch him struggle with the confusion that accompanies sedation. Yet, we feel so blessed to have such a great medical team that cares for us on during these difficult days. After a few difficult hours, our son is back to himself. We always worried about surgeries and other medical procedures being traumatizing enough to affect his attachment to us. Besides a little insecurity and a few nights of disturbed sleep patterns, he always bounces back. He amazes us.

For children with only one effective eye, doctors strongly encourage protective eyewear. Without the redundancy of two eyes, the loss of his good eye would mean permanent blindness. Teddy wears glasses for protection and a slight astigmatism that was found in his right eye. Honestly, the fitting was the worst part of it. We talked about the glasses for weeks – he calls them “goggles”! When they finally arrived, he was ecstatic at the chance to wear them and rarely takes them off. In fact, he gets irritated when Daddy wears contacts instead of glasses.

We aren’t finished taking leaps of faith. Although concerns of brain damage or speech delays are put to rest, MRI scans did reveal a Chiari 1 malformation. This is a malformed bone in the base of his skull. This diagnosis can mean many things. It could resolve completely on its own, it could result in headaches managed with medication, or it could require surgery on the bone that touches the base of his brain. It’s scary, especially for parents like us who know how badly things can go. Yet, how boring would life be, and parenting, without the continual need to take leaps of faith?


As any adoptive family can attest, most people put you on a pedestal when they hear that you’ve adopted…

“What a lucky little boy.”

“You guys are such great people to do something like that.”

We never quite know how to address their comments. We don’t want to be offensive and, on some level, do recognize the remarkable opportunities that are now his. However, we can’t ignore the absolutely astounding gift that we have received.

We, who mourned with empty arms, now have a home full of laughter and joy.

Teddy will never replace Daniel, but he’s not supposed to. We are parents again; we get to watch Teddy learn and grow and flourish, and we get to revel in the hugs and kisses and unconditional love he gives us.

We don’t know what tomorrow brings, but when I look at my son’s joyful face, I know we’ll find the strength to face it together, as a family.

– guest post by Tom and Sarah Nerison

The Lucky Few: 31 Days of Advocacy, Day 26

October 26, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

October 1st marked the beginning of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. And we are spending the entire month celebrating.

In so doing, we are using this dedicated month to feature as many of these very special children as we can. There are so many who wait – it has been estimated that 30% of waiting children in China have Down syndrome.

So be sure to come visit us every day this month and, after you read about each these cuties with a little something extra, please help us spread the word. Like and share these posts on FB – you never know whose heart just might be pricked.


Day 26 belongs to two sweet girls.

Meet sweet Esther.

Esther turned 7 years old in January and is in need of a family to call her own. She has a ready smile and big eyes. She is a girl who takes delight in everything she sees.

Esther was about 6 months old when she was found by police. Police searched for her parents but were unsuccessful so they took her to the local institute to be raised. After admission the doctor found Esther has Down syndrome and cardiac murmurs.


Esther is an outgoing little girl who filled the room with her own high-energy sunshine when our staff saw her on a trip. Everything she saw delighted her – the giant rolling balls, brightly colored pipe cleaners, blocks to stack.

Esther seems to have good motor skills; she can run and jump, but her verbal skills are currently limited to “mama,” “baba,” and some expressive syllables. However she will also use gestures to express herself, and understand directions from her nannies.


This curious little girl likes playing on the playground and enjoys all sorts of toys.

Esther’s nanny told agency staff she’s very good at imitating what others around her are doing. When they sit down to rest, she will pat their backs, and if other children are crying, she will comfort them with a cuddle.

Her self-care skills are good, she can feed and dress herself. She has had surgery for a heart condition, and the doctor with agency staff didn’t hear any murmurs. All she needs now is a family!


Updated information from May 2015:

During our visit, Esther’s caregivers reported that she does well playing with other children. She likes all the other kids in the orphanage and she also likes to engage with adults. Her caregivers advised that she also loves to dance.

Updated information from April 2016:

Esther is a very charming and expressive little girl, who entertained all of us with her enthusiastic piano playing. She loved the bubbles we brought and was very interactive.

She is diagnosed with Down syndrome and a heart condition. She has not had a recent ultrasound and is no longer on medication for pulmonary hypertension, though she was not retested.


At this time she speaks in single words, and has about 20-30 words in her vocabulary. She can answer simple questions, though her speech is not very clear.

She showed us how she can count to three. When we asked, she successfully pointed to several body parts, but doesn’t yet know colors. She gets along well with other kids and likes all different types of toys.

Esther is a little ham who will keep her family laughing!


An account for Esther has also been set up on Reece’s Rainbow. Esther’s file is currently on the shared list. There is a $4,000 grant available through WACAP for qualified families. Seriously interested families should contact WACAP for more information.


Meet precious Clara.

Born in April 2007, Clara was found when she was just 3 months old. But she was raised by a foster family for the first 5 years of her life. When she was around 5 or 6, she was moved to the orphanage where she has lived ever since. In addition to the orphanage, Clara also spent time at a Bring Me Hope camp in China.


Clara is described as an introverted girl who loves to draw. Her paintings are called abstract! She can feed herself, and is able and willing to assist with basic tasks with her nannies. Clara is currently not receiving formal schooling, her orphanage provides her with “play school” and she receives rehabilitation therapy.

Though she has Down syndrome, Clara has no other known medical conditions. She did have poor nutrition upon admittance to the orphanage, but was described as having normal development and a clear mind.


Clara has a Reece’s Rainbow account with a small grant. Her file is currently on the shared list. WACAP will still honor the original grant of $4,000 for a qualified family. Email WACAP for more information about using WACAP to bring her home.


For those considering adopting a child with Down syndrome, here are some great resources:

General overview of Down syndrome with additional resources
An excellent Q and A post on Down syndrome adoption
A dad’s perspective on Down syndrome adoption
More posts on NHBO about Down syndrome
National Down Syndrome Adoption Network Facebook Page
China Adoption Special Needs Information Facebook Group
The National Down Syndrome Society website

When Mom Works and Dad Stays Home

October 26, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

Navigating work and being a mom is tough under the best of circumstances, but it can feel even more daunting when you toss in the complex issues that accompany parenting your newly adopted child. So this month on No Hands But Ours, some been-there-done-that working mamas are here to help, with advice on everything from finding a nanny, to figuring out FMLA. We hope these posts will inspire confidence and offer support to all of you working moms!



If I’m honest, our plan was never that I’d be the working parent and my husband would be a full-time, stay-at-home dad.

If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have expected to actually enjoy going to work and then coming home and getting to be mama and give my sweet husband a break.

But God knew. He knew long before I laid eyes on my sweet Judah bug that He had a better plan for our lives.

If I’m honest, there are days I don’t feel like I have energy to do all the things I need to do.

If I’m honest, some days I am jealous of my husband and all the firsts I miss that he gets to experience with our son.

But God gives grace. So much grace.

Our story is summed up in three simple words: God knows better.


My husband, Lucas, and I have been married for three and a half years. Judah is our first son and has been home since February of this year. Prior to becoming a family of three, Lucas had a stable job at an electric sales company. He is a hard worker and had the potential to continue to move up in the company if he wanted. I have been a pharmacist since 2009. While my career had been something I worked hard on, I always felt like when the time came I would be the stay-at-home parent and maybe work 1 or 2 days a week if needed to supplement our income.

When Lucas and I got married, we talked about our plans for children. We both knew we were going to adopt, regardless of our ability to have biological children. If for whatever reason, we were unable to conceive, we were not going to pursue fertility treatment and instead would save that money for adoption.

In November 2014, when he said “Let’s start the adoption process now, why wait?” I was beyond excited. We talked to friends and family and decided that we’d pursue domestic infant adoption as that seemed like the easiest and quickest option to growing our family.

As we worked with our homestudy agency, we found out that domestic adoption in our state would likely take us a long time. We would have been the 13th family waiting for a baby and there hadn’t been a baby placed in over a year. They mentioned that China special needs adoption was taking about a year from start to finish. We didn’t hesitate – if our child was in China, then we would do whatever it took to bring him/her home.

On April 1st, 2015, we started the process that would lead us to our first son, Judah William.

In the months that led up to our travel, Lucas and I started throwing out ideas of how we would handle work. We talked about me working part-time, or possibly full-time while he worked 2 – 3 days a week and then we’d have Judah stay with his Grammie or Nana on the days we were both working. I had recently found a job at an HIV clinic, which is where my heart has been since I did a residency after pharmacy school. I finally felt I had found a place I could make a career. I had good benefits, good time off, and a wonderful boss who respects and values family life. The thought of stepping down from this job just didn’t seem right.

After lots of praying, wise counsel, and long nights of discussion, we decided I would return to work full-time and Lucas would take his FMLA and decide if he wanted to stay home full or part-time. We would see how things went after I returned to work about 6 weeks after we returned from China.

On February 15, 2016, we met Judah for the first time in his hometown of Nanchang. That was one of the sweetest and hardest days of our lives. Friends, hear me when I say adoption is beautiful, but it does not come without pain. The pain of loss of everything the child knows and the pain the parents feel watching their new child struggle through this loss. However, in the days following, Judah latched on to Lucas. It made my heart melt as I saw our son start to trust his Baba and fall in love with him. And I watched my husband take on a parenting role that was clearly part of God’s plan for his life.

When we got home, I loved every day I got to spend with both of my boys. I started to dread going back to work. I didn’t think it would be possible for me to focus on work without missing my baby every single second. Did I make the wrong choice?


The day came for me to return to work and I held it together until I got to my car. As tears ran down my cheeks, I waved to my husband and son as I backed down the driveway and drove to work. I checked my phone every 5 minutes to see if they were ok. I asked for pictures of all the fun things they did so I wouldn’t miss a minute. (My wonderful husband did SO good at keeping me up to date on their day, and this truly helped me cope with my breaking, torn heart.) I worried that Judah would slowly start to forget about me and we’d take steps back in our attachment.

Walking in the door at the end of that day was one of the most precious moments of my life. I heard Judah yell ‘Mama!’ as he ran up to me to give me a big, drooly kiss and a hug. All the worries I had melted away as I held my sweet baby and heard Lucas tell me that they had a great day.

Each day got easier. I found that we got into a routine and I got to spend quality time with Judah in the evenings, while Lucas got to take a break for a few hours. After the first week, Lucas knew that he wanted to stay at home full-time and he went to his work with Judah to give a letter of resignation.

I’ve learned a lot over the last 6 months: I love being mama to Judah, wife to Lucas, and I love my job. When I wake up each day, regardless of how tired I am, I look forward to work and I look forward to coming home to my two sweet boys. I have to make sure that I do my best to finish work at work so that I can give my full attention to them when I’m home.

I have to choose to take care of Judah when I get home instead of selfishly resting and decompressing after work, leaving all the parenting on my husband even though he deserves a break. I have to make sure I have adult to adult conversation with my husband so that he doesn’t only hear toddler conversation all day long and lose his mind.


Most importantly, I have to remember to thank God every day for His grace upon grace. Without His grace, there is no way I could do this. His plan has always been that Judah would be our first child and that I’d work while my husband stays at home raising Judah. He provided the stable job for me and a husband who is truly a better parent than I am. 

I am so thankful for grace.

– guest post by Carly

The Lucky Few: 31 Days of Advocacy, Day 25

October 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


October 1st marked the beginning of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. And we are spending the entire month celebrating. In so doing, we are using this dedicated month to feature as many of these very special children as we can. There are so many who wait – it has been estimated that 30% of waiting children …Read More

The Greatest Fear of Every Dad

October 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


The morning was cool. The sounds of the city were waking up. But they hadn’t slept a wink last night. They huddled together under cover of night making the final plans for their new life. For years they’ve been overwhelmed by a life dictated by someone else’s dream. Forced to work for an ideal that …Read More

The Lucky Few: 31 Days of Advocacy, Day 24

October 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


October 1st marked the beginning of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. And we are spending the entire month celebrating. In so doing, we are using this dedicated month to feature as many of these very special children as we can. There are so many who wait – it has been estimated that 30% of waiting children …Read More

More Alike Than Different: Bringing Fox Home

October 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


We are the Glasgows! Jarrod, Mollie, Willow, Wren, and Pippa. We are in the process of adopting our son, Fox, from China. Adoption has always been something our family has been drawn to. After the birth of our second daughter, Wren, who was born with Down Syndrome, we felt God specifically calling us to adopt …Read More

The Lucky Few: 31 Days of Advocacy, Day 23

October 23, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


October 1st marked the beginning of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. And we are spending the entire month celebrating. In so doing, we are using this dedicated month to feature as many of these very special children as we can. There are so many who wait – it has been estimated that 30% of waiting children …Read More

The Healer of All Wounds

October 23, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Maybe it was when the hospital chaplain asked too many intrusive questions in front of him and I saw his lashes flutter to cover the fear he wanted to hide. But his eyes shuttered for just the briefest of moments and my heart started to ache. “What is his condition?” “How often does he need …Read More

The Lucky Few: 31 Days of Advocacy, Day 22

October 22, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


October 1st marked the beginning of Down Syndrome Awareness Month. And we are spending the entire month celebrating. In so doing, we are using this dedicated month to feature as many of these very special children as we can. There are so many who wait – it has been estimated that 30% of waiting children …Read More

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