Our adoption story began years before we actually had the courage to take the leap and start the process to adopt internationally.
On and off, literally for years, my sweet husband and I would each feel lead to adopt. Those feelings and promptings were most often followed by a conversation about the lack of finances to even begin the process. We would ponder “Who actually had $35,000 plus laying around?” and both agreed that if someone placed the money on our porch we would joyfully make the decision to adopt. Thankfully, God so lovingly placed some friends in our lives who were in the process of their third adoption, first one from China.
In a moment I will probably never forget, we shared our hearts with our friends and our financial concerns. My friend looked me in the eye and said, “Chelsea, don’t ever let money be the reason you don’t do what God is calling you to.” It was such a simple statement, but the truth of us shook us to the core. She told us about the many grants available and possible ways to fundraise.
A few months after this conversation we decided to take the first baby step – we applied to an agency. We were also added to Facebook advocacy groups around the same time. It felt like God used that tiny little step of applying to cement the decision and firmly place the burden for orphans in our hearts. I spent what felt like days crying, scrolling through advocacy groups, crying some more and reading stories of hope and of heartbreak. We were ready for God to just email us our child, and we’d be off and running.
We really had no idea what special needs we were open to and even filling out the form was painful and caused deep heartache. We didn’t want to say no to any of these children. We found some incredible blogs and found a few people on social media to follow who helped us learn more about adoption, advocacy, and the orphan crisis.
Just a few weeks after submitting our application, that same sweet friend tagged me in a photo of a beautiful baby girl. She had thalassemia, and although I am a nurse, I had no idea what that was or how it was treated. We live hours away from the nearest children’s hospital, and we weren’t even sure we could get proper medical treatment locally.
Well, as God would have it there was a local family that was weeks away from traveling to China to adopt their daughter who also had beta thalassemia major. This amazing momma had done all the legwork: she had a medical plan for her daughter and she shared every detail with us. After realizing that we could in fact manage this condition very well in our hometown, we knew the precious baby in the photo was ours. We began the crazy race to do an expedited adoption for our daughter who needed us quickly as well as fundraising and grant applying at the same time.
Parts of China experience a true blood shortage and orphans with thalassemia are often very under-transfused, causing them to live in a very anemic state, which inhibits growth and development. Because of this we were able to expedite our process and we left for China just 5 months after first seeing our daughter’s beautiful face.
In ways that still leave me marveling, we were fully funded in that same time period. We did one big fundraiser, received a couple generous grants and some incredible financial gifts from friends and family.
Our “gotcha” day was much like we anticipated; Lucy cried quite loudly when I first held her but she quickly warmed up to me. Her chronic anemia did cause her to be quite weak and delayed in her gross motor skills. She had turned two shortly before we arrived and could barely crawl. We were so thrilled to finally have her in our arms! We enjoyed our time in China so much, but we were also anxious to get her home and start getting regular blood transfusions and introduce her to her four siblings who were absolutely dying to meet her.
We made it home and although we had lots of appointments, we were able to do a bit of cocooning and her siblings fell so in love with her, she might have been more loved than she actually would have preferred at first. We made several trips to the nearest children’s hospital in that first month. We made the decision to have a port placed because it was nearly impossible for the nurses to get an IV in her veins.
She had a lot of baseline tests done, and we started medication necessary for children who receive chronic blood transfusions. After our fourth trip to the children’s hospital our hematologist released us to do all of our transfusions at our local hospital and return for follow up visits with him every three months.
We are now in a great rhythm of going to the hospital every three weeks for her transfusions. We honestly couldn’t have imagined ahead of time what these transfusion days would be like… days we thought would be a burden have turned out to be an absolute blessing. We are well cared for in a cozy room with no chores, and friends who visit with nothing but play time.
This journey has not been easy but the joys and blessings exceedingly outweigh the struggles. We are so endlessly grateful to live in a country with great medical care. Our daughter is thriving, we have a front seat to watch what God is doing in her life, and it is an incredible blessing. Her future looks so bright, and we are so thankful we get to be her family.
Our number one tip for special needs adoption is to find a support group and be honest and vulnerable and learn from those who have gone before you. We were added to a thalassemia facebook page after we got PA for Lucy. This group was truly invaluable. These mommas are so incredibly smart. They walked us through each concern during our process and continue to do so now that Lucy is home.
It is a really special thing to have a group of friends who know exactly what you are going through and are willing to pray for you and give advice and encouragement. I am happy to answer any questions about thalassemia and our experience. My email is email@example.com. You can find me on Instagram @chelsea_day.