Our adoption story began three years ago when God first planted the seed of adoption in my heart.
I remember it so clearly, it was during the 2015 IF:Gathering live simulcast. I had watched the entire conference alone in my living room, soaking in all of the content from the amazing speakers. At the very end of the conference, Jennie Allen asked everyone to write on a rock, what God was calling you to do? As I sat quietly pondering the question, I found myself praying and searching for the answer.
What was God calling me to do?
It wasn’t long before I found myself researching the orphan crisis, adoption, and mission trips to orphanages. I was kind of taken aback, I had never really thought about adoption before, but it felt so clear.
So, I cautiously wrote adoption on my rock.
From that day forward, I felt as though I could not get adoption out of my head. All my devotions, my bible studies, church sermons, even the radio programs kept referencing adoption.
Everywhere I turned, adoption was right in my path.
I had friends who started the adoption process.
I was placed in a small group, where 4 out of the 6 women had either adopted or were in the adoption process.
My heart yearned for something that I had never considered doing in my entire life.
I waited several weeks before even mentioning this to my husband. I mean this was completely out of the blue. I was not one of those people who had always known I would adopt. Even though my husband was adopted, adoption was never talked about as a part of our family plan. As far as my husband was concerned, our family was complete. We had three kids, who were still fairly young and had agreed when our youngest was one that our family was complete.
Imagine his shock when I first brought adoption up…
I could not even form my complete sentence before he said no.
Over the course of two years I prayed, I yearned, I questioned if this was really something God wanted for our family. There were days when I would be downright discouraged and angry with God for opening my eyes and heart to something that seemed like my husband would never get on board with. A good friend would always reassure me that if we had a child in China, God would make a way and Wade’s heart would change. Her confidence in God and his plan for our family gave me strength.
Then one day, back on January 30th, 2017 an email from NHBO came through my inbox with a picture of the most incredibly precious boy. The email was titled, Find My Family: Toby.
I opened the email and began reading…
This two year old boy, who had a diagnosis of Beta Thalassemia Major, needed a family. I was somewhat familiar with the diagnosis because I had been researching the medical conditions checklist and had just asked a friend about this condition the week prior. But, honestly, it didn’t matter. There was something about his precious face that made me feel like I could conquer the world, that I could be his mama, no matter what his medical need entailed.
I printed off his picture and posted it on our refrigerator.
I asked my husband to pray for this little boy, for his family, even if his family was not ours. I also filled out a pre-application with the adoption agency he was listed with and requested his file. As soon as I had his file and video, I sent it to my husband and asked him to watch it.
About a week later, my husband and I went on a date and I asked him if he had watched the video yet. In an effort to protect his heart, he shared with me that he was avoiding watching the video. I wholeheartedly agree that orphans are much easier to ignore until they have a name and a face.
I convinced him to watch the video and look at his file with me.
It was seeing this precious boy’s face that prompted my husband to take another step forward. We requested an update from the orphanage and had his file reviewed by our local pediatrician.
Everything seemed to be checking out and falling into place. We talked to other families who had adopted children with Thalassemia; we talked to a Hematologist at the Children’s Hospital in our state and kept receiving answers to our questions that gave us an overwhelming peace that this was indeed a need that we could handle. We received an update from the orphanage with new information, pictures, and videos of “Toby.”
I was at a friend’s house, opening the video in the update and getting this overwhelming feeling that he was our son. As my friend and I watched the video, I remember her hitting my arm and saying, “Go get your son.” I could not get home fast enough!
I practically ran into the house as I was opening my email to show my husband the new video. We watched that video over and over again and read through the update. I cautiously asked Wade what he thought, and he looked at me and said, “I think he is our son.”
I could not believe that after two years of yearning for a child and praying for my husband to say yes, it was actually happening. The obstacles, the worries, the questions all seemed to be disintegrating right before my very eyes. I remember emailing the adoption agency that night to tell them to call me first thing in the morning because we felt that we were “Toby’s” parents.
My heart was instantly connected to a little boy who was on the complete opposite side of the world. The only thing standing in the way of us getting to our son was the mound of paperwork and approvals needed to actually go and get him. That next day, we began the paper chase, full speed ahead.
Due to his diagnosis of Beta Thalassemia Major and his hemoglobin reading of 4, we were granted a medical expedite, which helped speed up our process. We submitted our letter of intent to adopt our son on February 24th, 2017, started our home study on March 1st, 2017 and were on a plane to China, October 27th, 2017. We met our son on Monday, October 30th in Guangzhou China, exactly nine months after seeing his advocacy post email from NHBO. We named him Samuel Tao Alexander.
There were so many nerves going into our family day. We were so overwhelmed and excited to actually be meeting our son. His nanny brought him into the room at the civil affairs building; the hand off went incredibly smooth. Within minutes, he was laughing and smiling and playing with us. I remember feeling relief but also feeling concerned that he was not sad or scared. There is so much information on bonding, so much training and education on how your child might react on that day…but for our family, he has continued to transition very smoothly.
We have been home now for four months and Sam is thriving.
We arrived home on a Friday, and we had him seen by his hematologist for an evaluation and his first transfusion that next Tuesday. He came home with a very good hemoglobin reading of 10.4. His first transfusion was rough, with three attempts at getting his IV started. Things continued to get worse from there, with his subsequent transfusions taking six attempts and eight attempts at his IV placement.
It quickly became apparent to us, that he would need a port placement to ease the trauma of transfusion days. As much as I wanted to avoid having to deal with a port, it has been a lifesaver for Sam.
He has had his port for two months now and his transfusion days are so much less traumatic and require one quick poke with no tears!
We currently go for transfusions every three weeks and have been working on building up his hemoglobin readings to his goal range of 9.5 – 10.5.
Guess what friends, this week? Sam’s pretransfusion hemoglobin came in at 10.
After four months home, we finally hit our sweet spot. Since getting the port, Sam’s transfusion days have gone much smoother, with little trauma. These days are special to me as I get one on one time with just Sam. We spend this time cuddling, reading books (when he will sit still), playing in the playroom, watching movies, and bonding.
I am definitely learning that managing this disease is a marathon, not a sprint.
We transfuse at a local hospital about 45 minutes away from our home and follow up at a Children’s Hospital every three to four months. We have plans to visit the Thalassemia Center in Atlanta, Georgia this July and attend the annual Patient Family Conference to learn as much as we can about the standards or care and the most up to date research on Thalassemia care.
I definitely feel like there is a huge learning curve when you first come home, and I have had to learn how to best advocate for Sam. Sometimes advocating for your child, means educating those people who are in charge of your child’s health. This has not always been easy.
The ThalThug mama’s out there have been a huge blessing to me and to our family as they have guided us, educated us, encouraged us, and equipped us with the tools needed to advocate for our son. We know that this will be a long road for Sam as he gets older and begins to realize that these transfusions are part of his lifelong journey. But, we are so incredibly thankful we get to walk this road with him, that God chose us to carry this burden with him and for him when this load becomes too heavy.
Honestly, even though our transition has gone fairly smoothly, I can sometimes find myself overwhelmed by the weight and responsibility of adoption. When I begin to imagine all that Sam has had to endure, not only medically and physically, but the emotional loss he has experienced in his short three years, it takes my breath away.
I want to create a beautiful life for him and make him feel loved and safe without question.
I want to take away the hurt and the sadness and the loss that he has had to experience and has yet to experience as he grows and learns more about his story.
I want to honor his birth culture, while also making him feel like he belongs in the culture we have immersed him in.
But, most importantly, I want him to know that he is a child of God, and I want his own self worth and identity to be found in Him alone.
Samuel Tao Alexander is such a light, such a joy and is seriously the bravest little boy I have ever met.
Our family cannot imagine our lives without him.
I am so thankful that I did not give up hope.
I am so thankful that I remained steadfast in prayer, even when it seemed hopeless.
I am so thankful that God transformed my husband’s heart and turned his no into a yes.
I am so thankful that we did not let fear, finances, or other people’s opinions steer us away from the plan that God had for our family.
God has woven together a beautiful life that we could have never imagined for ourselves.
– guest post by Heather