On my daughter’s third birthday I reflected on her life.
I reflected on the first moment I saw her picture on a waiting child list. I remember the words of a well respected cardiologist, “Do not adopt her, she will be a financial hardship to your family. She will not survive.”
These words are engrained in my mind and on my heart. This “death sentence” was relayed over the phone to me. I remember it oh so well… I held the phone in one hand and in the other hand I started writing words on a pad of paper. Then I looked up at my beloved husband and shook my head no. Fear and sadness filled my mind. I got off the phone and said to my husband, “It wasn’t good. In fact it was very bad. He said she wouldn’t survive. She would be a financial burden. The doctor asked if we “have to” adopt her.”
These are the moments in a marriage that my husband and I shine. My husband and I “get” each other. We’ve been married 20 years and sometimes no words are needed. We both walked away from the conversation saying nothing. Yes, nothing.
It wasn’t until two hours later when we were getting ready for bed that my husband matter-of-factly said, “Who are we to choose her 20 years? If that is all she has, why do we have the right to say no?”
And with that, we moved forward and never looked back.
Have I spoken to that cardiologist again? You bet! In fact we celebrated Clara’s second birthday last year by driving 75 miles to surprise him in his office and showing him our “financial burden”. I can tell you that there were tears and shock when he realized that she was standing right in front of him. He hugged me and apologized for ever telling us not to adopt her. He immediately pulled out his phone and began taking pictures of our sweet little girl. He was in awe of her presence. He was changed. His heart was moved.
Clara has this affect on people. When people learn about her heart condition they stop, stare and begin to ask me questions.
“Did you know she was sick when you adopted her?”
Usually followed by, “Isn’t it expensive to adopt?”
I cannot tell you the countless time this particular question of “cost” has come up.
Dear friends, the “cost” isn’t what makes my husband and I say yes or no to our three adopted children. The “cost” is something you place on “items”. Clara’s birthday present… her little pink tricycle that she proudly pedaled down the driveway this summer “cost” something. The countless packages of sugarless gum she chews “cost” something. The piles and piles of paperwork, background checks, social worker fees, agency fees, orphanage donations, plane tickets, hotel reservations… all these… all “costs”.
The “cost” that our family has taken on is within our hearts. The emptying of ourselves rather than our bank account. The cost is walking the narrow road that isn’t viewed as common or “safe” but rather because it led us to our three adopted children.
The cost is watching older siblings say no to “me” time so that they can give more of “their time” to one another.
The cost is not knowing when the next time you will snuggle next to your husband because you now have a new little body that has taken residence in your bed because he is too frightened to sleep alone for fear he will lose the security of having parents for the first time.
The cost is fatigue, end-of-your-rope patience and days of fear when one of our heart warriors gets the sniffles.
The cost is also saying goodbye to our three children’s birth country, witnessing forever goodbyes to their foster mother or nanny, leaving their native language. The cost in those regards is high. So high.
Have my children blossomed? Yes. Do they still struggle with fear of abandonment? Yes. Do we continue to empty our hearts instead of our bank accounts for these beautiful three? Without a doubt!
The cost to receive their love is free and it is worth millions when you hear an “I love you” out of nowhere from a spirited yet emotionally timid 7 year old…
Or when you feel a small little hand reach for your arm in the middle of the night to draw you close…
Or when you see fear evolve into confidence from two tiny toddles who have undergone an open heart surgery together…
All of this is worth millions.
Clara’s diagnosis, double inlet left ventricle (DILV) or single ventricle, is a congenital heart defect appearing in 5 in 100,000. 5 in 100,000! God not only blessed us with Clara but within less than a year we were saying yes to another child with the same heart condition. God knew what we could handle when we said yes to Clara. I am certain he was building our faith and waiting on just the right time to show us that there was another boy waiting for his family… our family.
Clara needed to open our hearts, empty us of all confidence and prove to us that real love is not afraid to bleed. We’ll chase them through the pain. We’ll open our hearts, risk whatever lies ahead because they are worth it!
Saying yes to two children with similar heart conditions, similar heart surgeries, similar hospital stays, similar medical futures was only possible by putting our faith in front of our fear.
When deciding if the “cost” is too high with regards to adoption, ask yourself rather if you are willing to empty yourself for the good of another. Not your back account.
Money can be earned but a fragile life cannot wait until you’re financially “in a better place”. Search yourself. Search your willingness to love.
Love is free. Risking hurt and loss is expensive but oh so worth it.
If you see me out and about please try to not ask how expensive adoption is in front of my children. They are people not items. I am sure your intentions come from a place of pure curiosity but my children come from a place of loss and fear. They are my babies from another selfless mother. That is priceless.
Happy Birthday to the little girl who wasn’t supposed to be here. Happy Third Birthday to my walking little miracle who will continue to change lives and hearts by her mere presence on this earth. Happy Birthday to a little girl who led us to her brother, Lewis, born only 5 days after her… a brother who will now walk through life with a sister with the same heart condition. God knew they needed each other. God knew we needed them. My husband continues to say, “We didn’t save them… they saved us.”
We love you. I love you. I will continue to empty myself for you so you can have another day to experience real and undying love!