In early July of 2013 my husband and I had the rare-to-us opportunity to grab a quick lunch together. It was unplanned and so fun to sneak down to our local Red Robin for a gluten free burger together in the middle of the day.
We had no way of knowing that little lunch would change the course of our family forever.
A few tables away sat a little blonde baby girl and her family. This adorable little girl greatly resembled our second daughter and as we both marveled at the similarities, my sweet husband looked back at me and with a twinkle in his eye told me of his deep desire to have another baby.
I was speechless.
My husband is a planner. We planned to have four children and after a bout of infertility and a heartbreaking miscarriage, God allowed all of our dreams to come true. That summer we were happily raising our four amazing biological children. Ellie was a mature 10, Gabby a sweet 8 year old, Sam was our only son at 6 years old and baby Sophie was four and half.
Back in November of 2008, after our youngest daughter was born we had met our insurance deductible and our desired number of children (or so we thought!). So Shaun, in spite of my tears, made a pretty permanent decision to keep us as a family of six.
It honestly took at few months for me to come to terms with that decision, but as time went on, I made peace with the fact that my baby days were over.
That summer of 2013 we were very aware that we were literally living the life that we had always hoped for. In fact, we had just sold our much loved family home with the intent of building our dream home in the following spring.
Shaun’s little announcement that day quite literally blew me away. I was completely stunned that my accountant-planner-solid-as-a-rock husband was changing our game in a pretty major way.
But it took a quick glance at that precious little soul three tables down from us and the happy grin of the love of my life to convince me in all of about 3 minutes that he was absolutely right. I agreed with him that being parents to our children was the best and most fun and fulfilling thing we had ever done. And by the end of the lunch, we left holding holding hands, laughing and excited about what the future might hold.
It took a few months and a few doctors appointments to begin the undoing that had been done all those years before. One late fall morning we sent our kids outside to play and sat down with our calendars to plan for the procedure that was to come in the next few days and dream of pregnancies and due dates and baby names.
I can’t really explain what happened in that conversation at our kitchen table that morning except to say that by the end of those next few hours we had cancelled all his appointments and mine. Somehow we knew deep in our souls a child wasn’t to be born from our bodies but that a child was already born to our souls. We knew for the first time in our married life it wasn’t our love and our literal bodies that would bring a baby into our family but that our love would bring our baby home in a different way than we had ever experienced before.
We were firmly united that morning as the Lord revealed quietly but clearly that our baby was living in the great and broken nation of the People’s Republic of China and we began the race to bring him or her home.
We moved quickly after that morning. We interviewed only one agency and signed our application immediately.
Our homestudy moved like lightening. We bought and sold some real estate in order to fully fund our adoption. Our plans and dreams changed without hesitation and without any debate from any of our kids. Somehow God had worked a miracle in their little hearts too and they knew a Bevan was living somewhere other than in our family and they could sense and shared our desperation to get our baby home.
On the other side of the world, there was a dying baby boy.
He was born to his birth parents on his forever daddy’s birthday. And he was left to be found just days after that burger at Red Robin that changed the trajectory of our lives for all eternity.
That baby was rescued from a huge orphanage in Inner Mongolia by a medical orphanage in Beijing as a very fragile 6 month old. He was sent for surgery to repair his broken heart on a cold December morning in Beijing, China. He spent nearly a month in the hospital, including his first Christmas, and while his recovery was long and harder than it should have been, he tiny heart finally healed.
That sweet baby boy spent the reminder of that winter being nursed back to health by those dear ayi’s and on his first birthday he was sent to live with an elderly foster family in a small town just outside of Beijing.
He lived there and was loved and treasured each day, until Shaun and I were able to wrap our arms around him.
His Chinese grandparents will have my deep gratitude forever. He took his first steps into his foster grandma’s arms and she heard his first words. She comforted him when he was sick and tired and she taught him sign language so he could communicate with me. We have photos of his Chinese grandpa showing him our pictures and the look on that dear man’s face is enough to break a person’s heart. Grandpa Jim knew time with him was coming to an end and that photo hanging up on our wall is one of the most poignant photos I have ever seen. When I met his foster grandma she told me, “We love him like he was our own. We love all of them that way.” I’ll never ever be able to express with mere words what that means to this mama’s heart and especially to our little guy’s soul. His little heart shows us even now that he knows what it means to be loved and love someone in return. That is a priceless and precious gift she gave this little boy and one that will last forever. I can only hope God rewards this couple mightily for their faithfulness.
The wait to be matched with our son was long and painful and scary at times, but as our children always are, he was absolutely worth every second of the wait.
We received his file on December 9th 2014, one year to the day of his open heart surgery. What a difference a year makes. That cold December morning was different, because when Max woke up in Beijing he was not an orphan heading into a scary surgery. He was a loved and named and ransomed son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin. That cold December morning, exactly one year later, our baby boy was on his way home.
Maxwell Matthew Wenyang Bevan walked into my arms, with his daddy and all his siblings sitting in a circle around us, in a beautiful hotel lobby in Inner Mongolia, China on March 16th 2015. In our family, we will forever refer to that day as The Best Day Ever.
Our day and the days following in-country were peaceful and quiet and we were all overflowing with pure undeniable joy to finally have Max in our arms. We spent our time skipping out on the tours provided by our agency guides and instead snuggled up in our room, playing on nearby playgrounds and absorbing all the amazing Chinese culture we could on walks and hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
We returned home to an outpouring of love and welcome from our family and friends and unbelievable jet lag. Our arrival home coincided with our older kids Spring Break and so we had even more extended time as a family than we could have hoped in any other circumstances.
Max has transitioned into our family in a miraculous way. He was then and is now an unusually happy and easy child. He is unable to contain his joy at the most mundane things and loves to tease and laugh and wrestle and snuggle. We have cocooned for the summer and are just now slowly venturing out into our world always aware of the massive life events Max has had to deal with in his short two and half years. We pull back from life without hesitation whenever Max seems tense or stressed.
Our family is lucky to live near a world class Children’s Hospital and thankfully were seen by many medical specialists soon after arriving home. His ‘special need’ was obviously CHD and as we sat in the waiting room to see our cardiologist for the first time our hearts were beating hard in our chests. Headed into that doctor’s appointment we had a good idea of what to expect, but as any adoptive parent knows there are no guarantees’ when it comes to our children’s health once they get home.
We knew we held in our arms our beloved son whom we would take a bullet for a million times over. I am certain our cardiologist could sense our relief when after a through examination she stated, “He is healed. There are no restrictions on his activity now or ever as far as his heart is concerned.”
She went on to say she wanted to follow up with us once a year for a few years, but that his surgery in China was successful. The holes in his heart were completely repaired and there was nothing more to be done. To God be the Glory.
Our son had an incredibly rough start in life.
To be honest, although we were given photos and records of his time in China, I am unable to look through them to this day. It seems impossible to me that he needed me and I wasn’t there. I get physically ill when I think of those days too long. It brings me to tears when I see the scar down his chest, knowing that represents a time in his life when he longed for me and I for him and we were separated by an ocean, both literal and proverbial.
As I try and make peace with that part of his start in life, I can say with absolute certainty our sweet son will be loved beyond imagination, not only by Shaun and I, but by his brother and sisters who adore him to a fault, by our extended family and by our friends and our community.
He will never again be alone, hungry, hurting or separated from those who love him, that I can promise. He will know who God is and he will know how much we honor his heritage and birth culture. He will know how deeply he is loved by us and by the One who made him. He will have a happy and healthy childhood from here forward. He will never be referred to as ‘lucky’ in my home or presence, but he will know he was always and will always be loved and wanted and treasured.
Our miracle Max’s life is unfolding right before our very eyes and we feel thankful to be the lucky family that gets to watch it all happen. We are parents blessed beyond all measure and we are grateful for every bit of life together that we get to experience together with each of our children. Following the start Max has had, I can say with certainty, not a minute from these days forward will be taken for granted.
We know with absolute certainty just how blessed we are.