“Mommy, when Adeline go back to China? We say bye bye to her tomorrow?”
His chubby little 4-year-old hands cupped my face as his big eyes looked intently and earnestly into mine. I had a feeling these questions were coming, but they still kind of caught me by surprise, and my heart ached for his little heart that had undergone so much change over the past month.
We had been home from China for two weeks and up until then he had been the baby of 5 kids. It had been a rocky two weeks for our little guy. His world as he knew it had been turned upside down. He had been showing signs of emotional stress including potty training regression even while we were in China.
His mommy, daddy, and two oldest siblings had gone to China leaving him and his other two sisters in the care of family and friends for 17 days… only to return with another little person who had stolen the show since coming home.
I knew he was struggling as all eyes and attention are on Adeline from the time she wakes up until the time she goes to sleep. Poor little guy was not the baby of the family anymore. Yes, so much change for all of us in our sleep deprived, jet-lagged state.
It was bedtime, and I took him in my arms and snuggled up next to him. It was time for a little focused and uninterrupted mommy and Judah time. “Mommy loves you so much, buddy. We went to China to bring home your little sister. I’m her mommy and daddy is her daddy, and you are her big brother! She would miss you so much if she couldn’t be here to play with you.” He didn’t respond but just laid there in my arms for awhile.
These are the moments I live for as a mama! The warm snuggles make the hard and messy times worth it. I could certainly do without the messy potty accidents all day long, but each of our children dealt with the same type of thing when a new baby came home. He and Adeline will be great friends one day; the pattern of the other kids gave us hope. He will be an amazing big brother to her, and she will just adore him. I knew it was just going to take time for his heart to come around.
The beauty of uniting our entire family when we arrived back home was everything. It was all I could think about while in China; getting home to my other babies and finally having our whole family together at last. All 8 of us under the same roof; finally!
To share a little of our back story, we began the adoption process July of 2016. We knew God had placed the calling on our family to adopt. I thought making this decision in itself would be the biggest leap of faith we would take as a family. But, no sooner than we had committed our plans to the Lord, and pressed the send button on our application, we quickly realized we had been invited by God to join Him on a great adventure; one that we did not even see coming.
Janet and Geoff Benge have a great series of books called Christian Heroes: Then & Now that we love to read aloud as a family. We were especially touched by the story and testimony of George Mueller. Through bold and faithful prayers, he fully relied on God to provide for all the needs of Bristol’s orphans in the 1800s: financial, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. Seriously amazing stories of faith and Jehovah Jireh showing up and accomplishing things in ways only He could. Mueller said, “Be assured if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him; He will never fail you.” Such a wonderful promise.
We desired this kind of faith in our own lives, so we spent an entire month as a family praying and asking God to give us this kind of faith. You know the phrase, be careful what you pray for, right? We were not quite prepared for the stretching and growing God was going to do in our lives through this process. Goodness, it was hard and at times, even physically painful (through my stress and worry I came down with a mild case of the shingles). I came across a quote by Charles Stanley, “If it’s too easy, too convenient, or too manageable, it’s probably not God’s plan, but mine.” Well, anyone who has been through the adoption process knows nothing is easy, convenient, or even manageable, so we must all be on the right track.
When we began the adoption process, I often wondered if we would just know it was our child when we saw their picture for the first time. The big question for our family of 7 was would we be adding a boy or girl to the crew? The boys in the family, who were currently out numbered by the girls, had been hoping for a boy to “even the playing field!” Well, we found out about six months later as we were driving to Charlotte to get our highly anticipated fingerprint appointment for immigration checked off our list.
It was the very first photo we saw of her.
The one where we knew this one was different. An immediate connection with her sweet little face. A glimpse of hope in her dark eyes.
With guarded excitement, I told my husband, who was driving at the time, that he needed to see this little girl’s photo. But, there’s one thing he should know, this little one lives with Down syndrome.
We immediately began to dialogue on our way to immigration, whether or not we should inquire about her. We didn’t even have Down syndrome included on the list of special needs in our home study, which was painstakingly completed the month before. How would adopting a child with Down syndrome change our family dynamic? It’s not a “minor” or “correctable” special need like the other needs we did have listed in our home study. We already had a tribe of 5 kids at home ranging from high school to preschool age. Don’t we need to think about how this would affect them? Would their hearts be open to this? There were so many unknowns, but by the time we reached the immigration building I had already typed out an email to our caseworker requesting little “Violet’s” file.
We prayed over her file, and we sought counsel from friends who had adopted children with Down syndrome. We read blogs of families touched by Down syndrome and followed Instagram and facebook accounts, we researched Down syndrome and tried to gain as much knowledge as possible to help us in our decision. We were softening to the possibility, yet still, so many “what ifs.” We had no doubt God was doing something big in our hearts.
We had prayed for faith without borders, and He was certainly stretching us right out of our comfort zone.
I couldn’t get her photograph out of my mind. I felt she was our daughter and the baby sister to our kids, but oh the fear was so real and so strong. How easy it would be to close the file and never open it again. We could move on and who would judge us? It was at this time that the child-like faith of our children truly touched us.
I believe to this day, God used our children, our sweet little girl’s future siblings, to encourage us to say “yes” to bringing her home to us. Our oldest son, 14 at the time, took the time to think and pray about it. He came back to us a couple of days later letting us know that God had given him peace about being this little child’s big brother. Our girls couldn’t stop talking about her either. They printed off photos of her and posted them all around our house. Every spare minute they would be drawing her pictures that they wanted to send to her. So, on February 22, 2017, her first birthday, we officially began the process to bring her into our family.
Through this process, our children have been on the front lines witnessing God move in big and small ways. We want them to be able to look back 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now and see the faithfulness of our amazing God and remember all He has done in the life of our family.
Back to our present day reality, we are still working on trying to find our groove with six kids ages 15, 13, 9, 7, 4, and 21 months. Our transition home to our new life and our new normal has certainly had its challenges. It’s been exhausting, hard, and messy. Really messy at times especially with the roller coaster of emotional flare-ups from the girls (including me) and the attention-getting potty training regression of our four-year-old. Did I mention it’s been exhausting?
But, there have been so many winning moments, too. I love how Adeline lights up when her oldest brother Jonah walks in the room. I love how her biggest sister, Ella, spends time teaching her new signs and brushing her hair. I love how she snuggles with middle sister Haylee when they are watching a cartoon together, and how she cackles when sister, Caroline plays peek-a-boo with her.
And now, after almost five weeks, I love watching Judah share his toys with her and how he tells random people as we’re out and about how much he loves his baby sister.
Adeline has been adjusting so well for us, also. Bonding with both Jeff and me, learning to drink from a sippy cup, eating like a champ, sleeping 12 hours a night, and even communicating with us using sign language. She continues to amaze us with how well her attachment is going, and we know this is a huge blessing. She truly fits right in as a natural extension of the Peckham Tribe.
Words seriously cannot describe just how amazing and beautiful she is to us. We feel so incredibly blessed to be her family.
So, from one mama trying to go from surviving to thriving to another, don’t give up, don’t lose hope, and just keep walking in obedience as He grows your family.
The act of adoption is truly a holy calling, remember its His idea, after all, and He chooses us to join Him. He will prove Himself faithful in the journey.