I bet that I’ve ridden the stretch of US 35 North between Charleston, WV and Dayton, OH at least 100 times in my life. It’s familiar. I know where to expect the power plants, glimpses of the river, the convenience stores, and the grand farm houses as we make our way “home” to western Ohio.
But a few weeks ago, on an impromptu “family visitin’ road trip,” that stretch of highway provided something new. A millisecond of panic.
It wasn’t a panic that I had forgotten the $250 glaucoma eye drops for our youngest, the sudden realization that I wasn’t entirely sure our dog sitter and I had communicated the correct dates, or even from the four deer that apparently wanted to be hood ornaments on our Sienna (though we did gasp). Instead, that panic was brought about as we cruised through one spot that I distinctly remember almost exactly 13 months before.
As I recognized that long, straight stretch between the river and one of the huge, white farm houses, a flood of memories washed over me. On April 8, 2009, we had new information, the picture, my sudden doubt, Ian’s confidence, and (what seemed to be at the time) a looming decision.
Just that day we finally got a phone call from my contact at Lifeline that they had indeed been able to get updated information and new pictures of “Payton.” We were walking around on my grandfather’s farm (with no access to the Internet) ~ our last stop before heading back to NC ~ when the call came in. We drove all the way to Chillicothe, nearly three hours away,
before we found a coffee shop with free WiFi so that we could check my email to read about and see the child that would potentially become our youngest.
The information sounded good, and her picture was precious.
But before we had gotten to this stage, I had done my homework and read about Sturge Weber Syndrome, the syndrome referred to in her dossier. (Perhaps I had read too much). I’ll be honest and admit that much of what I read scared me. In that picture ~ that was supposed to show us if the port wine stain was on her eyelid, therefore giving us a better guess if she indeed had SWS ~ her eyes were “blank.” And that scared me. A LOT.
We didn’t talk much after we left the coffee shop. I think then I used the excuse that I wanted to wait until our kids were asleep before we started discussing our thoughts on the child I had been praying over for 26 days at that point. However, the real reason was that all of the sudden I was scared. I became frightened of how this child may impact our lives. I worried. And I was really close to simply deciding that our family was complete.
Thankfully, God had other plans in mind. Because while Ian had been slower to warm up to the thought of adding a third child so quickly (we hadn’t been home five months with our son yet when I stumbled upon “Payton.”), once he gets moving, he’s like a locomotive that can’t be stopped. And when I began backpedaling, he reminded me of all the things that had drawn me to “Payton” in the first place.
His confidence was disarming. I began to relax again. Until I remembered the picture. I used the it as my last reason to potentially walk away ~ after all, who would have known beyond the two of us and our agency contact that we had even considered another child. From what I had read about SWS before, the blank stare in that picture was reason for concern. But my husband wouldn’t be deterred. He simply said, “Her eyes are probably empty because she is missing the love of a mother. It likely doesn’t have a thing to do with her brain function.”
Then he proceeded to remind me of all the things others would call coincidences that had happened that allowed me to find “Payton” in the first place. But what perhaps sealed the deal was his echo of what our pediatrician had said to us when we had him review her file the week before. “I can’t promise you that she doesn’t have Sturge Weber Syndrome. What I can promise you is that if God has led you to this child, that He will equip you with what you need to parent her in any circumstances.”
And then my husband glanced at me and said, “Remember, we aren’t talking about adopting Sturge Weber Syndrome. We are talking about adopting this child. In your heart, do you believe that God had you find her?”
Within days we were waiting for a waiver from our agency to begin an adoption process before we had reached the “six months home mark” with our son. Following a frantic paper chase, we were back home with our sweet girl less than eleven months after that conversation in the car.
So almost 13 months later, I had a millisecond of panic as we cruised that stretch of US 35. As that scenery reminded me of how I almost backed out, I actually had to turn around in my seat and confirm that she was indeed there, sleeping peacefully in her car seat, as part of our family. It was as though I had to see with my own eyes that my fear of a syndrome hadn’t stood in the way of having the joy of our third child.