My husband and I were only married a year when the Lord called us to adopt. Separately, we both felt the Lord speak to us about adopting a little girl from China – we told each other a few days later. It was encouraging to hear that call, and we were both excited for the day when it would be time to move forward with the adoption. One of China’s requirements is that you need to be thirty years old, which meant that we were not able to adopt just yet.
At the time we decided to have one child first before pursuing the next part of our life journey. A few years later our first daughter was born. A year and a half later, we were surprised with our first son. Two and a half years later we were blessed again with our second son. Our hands were full and while the call to adopt was ever-present in our hearts, our hands were indeed full. Our family and friends were all aware of our hopes to adopt, including our children, but it wasn’t the right time.
As we began edging towards 40, we were getting increasingly aware that we hadn’t began our journey toward adopting. While we earned enough to meet China’s financial requirements, we didn’t have the additional finances to pay for the actual adoption costs. Our hands and finances were still busy from our other three kiddos.
While we were visiting with a couple who had fostered and adopted, and they encouraged us to make the giant leap forward and trust the Lord for the outcome. Then our youngest son, then five, tells us, “When are you going to go to China and get that kid?” The side effect of raising our kids with the plan to adopt was that they were getting impatient for us to get moving forward.
We filled out the application for Bethany Christian Services and began our adoption journey. We did any extra work we could think of to raise the money needed to keep “moving forward”. In addition, once we shared about our plans with friends and family, money started coming in. For every fee that was needed, the money was always there. We never had any money early, it was always right on time. It was so exciting to finally be making progress toward our little girl.
We then fell into a circle of delay with our agency. It was just one of those parts of the journey that we hated, but it also brought us to a much deeper understanding of God’s timing and that He allows delays to help us get to the outcome He is working out for us. What normally took families three to six months to complete, took us 18 months. We just kept moving forward when we could and trusted that things would work out. Finally, two years into the process, we were LID (log in date) in China. They had our dossier, and we began our wait for our little girl.
We didn’t know what that would look like in the end, but we knew there was a little girl waiting for us. The paperwork and conference calls that circled around what special needs were and what choices we had to make were all pretty daunting. Our agency was great about guiding us through what special needs we thought we could handle We felt prepared and ready to move forward.
About two months later our social worker drew our attention to a number of children who that were recently added to the wait list. We noticed a special little girl that who was about 15 months old and as cute as a bug. Her special needs included a port wine stain on her face and half her body, a congenital heart defect, and an abnormal CT scan. After watching and re-watching a video of her, we asked for her file. The shared CT results were read and our doctors felt pretty sure there wasn’t anything to worry about. The CHD was a hole in her heart which isn’t that uncommon. In fact, my husband still has one from infancy. The port wine stain on her face and near her eye was a slight concern only because it could mean that she could have a syndrome, such as Sturge Weber. However, she didn’t seem to shown any signs of it. We had three doctors look it all over, and they all gave us the thumbs up.
Over the weekend we let the agency know that we were interested in pursuing her. Turns out, so did two other families. Our hearts sank, but we still remained hopeful. We had to wait patiently while the agency reviewed the interested families and prayed over which family her referral would go to. The two days of waiting were the longest I have ever experienced. On Tuesday morning we received the phone call with the news that they had chosen us. We were so delighted to finally know who our daughter was, now we couldn’t wait to get her home. It was time for us to come up with a name. Since her Chinese name was Long Yun, we used similar letters and decided on Londyn.
At the end of July, six months later, we were on a plane heading for China to meet our daughter. She turned out to be a bit of a spit fire, with a strong, but fiery personality. She surely had decided that I was her person and wanted nothing to do with my husband on our trip. On our many adventures with our group, we were often the one with the crying baby. At twenty-one months, a lot of change was happening and she wasn’t adjusting quietly. We had lots of nights without any sleep and lots of grieving.
While that was all happening, there were many moments of her being happy and enjoying getting to know us as well. We did notice that she wasn’t walking yet, but had been told that wasn’t completely uncommon with children from orphanages. Over all we could tell that she wasn’t having any other problems, and at the visa physical they confirmed that her CHD was gone, and that she was healthy!
It was so much fun to get her home and introduce her to the rest of our family. The hardest part of our trip was being away from our children for three weeks so being back together was heaven. We made it through more sleepless nights before Londyn finally started settling in. We made it to her first appointment with her new doctor since arriving in the states. He was very impressed with her health and how well she was doing. He could tell that she was well cared for at the orphanage. He also confirmed that her heart sounded great. He did wonder about her inability to walk and did some additional investigating and learned that she had hip dysplasia.
The news was shocking, but as with everything we just plowed ahead with connecting with a specialist at Gillette Children’s Hospital a few weeks later. The irony was, as we were going through the adoption process, we didn’t even consider orthopedic needs. But while this need wasn’t something we would have chosen, we were not going to run from the treatment plan that was ahead of us. Her hip was out of socket severely enough that the course of treatment was open reduction surgery to have it put back in place, with 12 weeks in a spica cast. I don’t think we paused too long to think about how hard it would be because we were busy focusing on attaching to our little girl. The surgery was scheduled for the middle of November.
When the surgery day came we were nervous, but excited for her to be on the other side of this whole process. Her surgery took eight hours, and we spent the next four days at the hospital getting her pain and swelling under control. We were then sent home for first six weeks before they planned to change out her cast for a new one for the next six weeks. But at the three week follow-up appointment, it was apparent that things were pretty difficult with our girl trapped in her spica cast. All the progress we had made with attachment felt like it had gone down the drain. It was one our hardest times with her and one of my hardest times as a parent. Had we waited a few more months before the surgery we might have struggled less with attachment, but there was no turning back.
I discussed with the doctor the possibility of not putting her into another spica cast at the six week mark. While the physical treatment for the spica was going well, the emotional was not. Our little girl in the cast wasn’t very happy. The doctor actually was a little concerned for me too. Apparently sleep deprived mommas look pretty awful. The doctor did something she has never done before – she said that she would consider not putting her in the second cast, as long as her hip was truly healed enough. We were so excited for that hope.
Because I felt like I needed some support, I did reach out to a Facebook group called: DDH – Hip Dysplasia – Children Facing Surgery or Spica Casts. I can’t believe how important it was to have support and to find out that many other children are also going through this journey. I also learned that there are numerous scenarios for how hip dysplasia is treated and there are lots of different ways kids handle life in a spica. My daughter didn’t handle it well, but there are so many kiddos that do really well.
New Year’s Eve finally arrived, and we went in for her spica cast replacement. All the staff at the hospital were certain we there for a new spica, but we still remained hopeful that she would be free. My older daughter and I were in the waiting room when the doctor came out with a huge smile on her face. She was actually quite surprised and happy to share with us that Londyn’s was healing better than she could have imagined, and she was more than happy to keep her cast off. We wanted to dance in the streets we were so excited.
Londyn did come home in a rhino brace for the next few months of transition, but it was so much better than the hard cast. Londyn started returning back to her normal self – the one that we had been getting to know before the casting. By the second month after the cast came off, the rhino brace only needed to be on at night and then eventually not at all. It has taken a little while to get her leg in well and to be able to walk perfectly, but things turned out really well. We have gone to PT for that past nine months and have finally graduated to once a month.
She has made such incredible progress that no one would be able to tell that she had any work done when they see her walking. Our “spicy” girl is very determined and has done such a great job recovering. She is still working on strengthening her leg muscles but, outside of that, she is doing wonderfully. Our doctor at Gillette Children’s did an amazing job with her.
We had a specialist from the University of Minnesota take a look at Londyn’s facial port wine stain. Turns out that Sturge Weber Syndrome would never have been a concern for her. The placement of her staining is the wrong place for that. We have yearly visits to the eye doctor to keep a watch on her left eye since it has some port wine staining. They will always be watchful of glaucoma, but so far she isn’t having any signs of trouble.
We are at the place in our journey with Londyn that most of medical challenges are behind us. She will need yearly visits to keep an eye on her hips, but for the most part, we get to focus on enjoying our beautiful little girl. We are so grateful that at the end of our fifteen year wait for her, that she has been a wonderful fit for our family, and I couldn’t imagine life without her.
Life is good.
– guest post by April