It was early 2015 when our journey toward our son Noah began. Unlike so many families that adopt, it was not a lifelong dream of mine that was finally going to become a reality. No, it was a rather quick process that began one night as I laid in bed watching the evening news.
Images of children who’d been orphaned and even killed in the Syrian civil war penetrated my heart and soul unlike anything before. I wept uncontrollably at the injustice. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen horrible images of orphaned children or the atrocities of a war zone, but for some reason this time it hit me hard as I lay in my cozy bed, with my loving husband next to me and children right down the hall, safe and warm in their beds.
It shook me.
That night I Googled “How to adopt a Syrian orphan” and found out it wasn’t possible.
Over the next few weeks and months, the idea of adoption entered my heart and refused to leave. I almost felt sick when I thought of all we have and how much we have to share. I couldn’t imagine continuing on a path of only taking care of me and mine. I knew it was meant to be when several weeks later my husband came home to find me crying (again) and I finally said, “Can we please think seriously about adoption?” Without one moment of hesitation he said, “Yes, let’s do this.”
And so it began. The researching of countries and adoption agencies, the reading of blogs, the full on obsession that so many of you reading this are familiar with. After attending several agency informational meetings and really researching what country we should adopt from, we came to the conclusion that our child was waiting for us in China.
Part of the process includes filling out a Medical Needs Checklist. This was a document our agency provided to us that listed many medical needs; it was our job to research these medical needs thoroughly and decide what medical issues our family was prepared to handle.
This list was incredibly overwhelming at first…
Cleft lip and palate?
Who were we to think we could handle any of these intimidating issues?
My husband and I did this job separately then came back together at the end to compare. My list had way more checks than his. I tend to think with my heart and he thinks with his head. In retrospect, I think it’s incredibly important to have a balance between the two so that you are not being too constrictive in your thoughts but you also don’t take something on that you truly are not ready for at that point in time. A few of the conditions we did agree on were some heart conditions, cleft lip and palate, limb differences, and some skin conditions.
We submitted our checklist, started the massive paper chase, and waited for our child to be revealed to us. Since we did not specify gender, our best guess was we’d receive a referral for a boy around 18 months old.
During this excruciating wait, I would look at the list of waiting children on our agency’s website in the hopes that I’d see our child there, instead of waiting for a call. There was one boy listed on the site who caught my eye and my heart. He was sick – really sick. He needed a new kidney and had spent most of his life in the hospital.
My husband and I had his file reviewed by our local children’s hospital, and after a lot of thought and a lot of tears, we eventually had to say no to this sweet boy. I advocated for him online though, and by doing this, I met the woman who would eventually become his mother. In my opinion, she is an angel on this earth. She and her husband adopted this sweet boy and are on the long road to transplantation right alongside him.
Almost 10 months after we submitted our medical checklist, we finally received the most exciting call of our lives! There was a little boy, almost 10 months old, who needed a family. This little boy was found in Kaifeng, and it was estimated that his date of birth was three days prior – the exact day we submitted our medical checklist and established our “place in line.” Incredible!
After having his file reviewed by medical professionals, we learned that he had a heart condition that was very unclear. We were told it was an issue with his valves, or possibly dextrocardia. His file also indicated phimosis along with his left limb difference.
We couldn’t wait to say Yes! This was our son and we would name him Noah.
The next three months flew by, and before we knew it we were on a plane headed to Beijing to go get our son. Finally, after months and months of dreaming and preparing, Noah was placed into our arms on October 10, 2016.
In an instant, he had a mom, dad, brother and sister.
Since that day, he has wowed us with his ability to love and by showing us that his real special need was not physical. He needed a family, and this family needed him.
Soon after returning home to Colorado, we had Noah checked out by our pediatrician and a cardiologist. First surprise: the phimosis listed in his file was an error. He very clearly did not have this diagnosis! Then, a second surprise: the heart condition mentioned in his file was also non-existent. His heart is 100% normal and healthy! We were so relieved and felt so blessed to learn this news.
The pediatric orthopedic specialist we were referred to said she had no way of knowing what caused Noah’s hand to stop growing while in his birth mother’s womb. It doesn’t appear to be amniotic banding syndrome but there is that possibility. It is more likely that Noah has symbrachydactyly.
What she did confirm to us over and over again is that he will not be stopped by his limb difference. He will play musical instruments, he will do the monkey bars, he will play sports, he will use the computer. He will do whatever he wants to do, and he is proving this to us daily! As he gets older, we will evaluate if any sort of prosthesis would help him, but at this point it’s not needed.
When I first finally held Noah, we all looked at his hand and kissed it and still do to this day. Our whole family finds his little hand so incredibly beautiful and just a lovely part of who he is. At two and half years old, he is now at the age where he is noticing it and knows that it’s different. When other little children ask us, “What’s wrong with his hand?” we answer openly and honestly, and we speak positively about it all times. “Noah was born with his hand this way. It’s different than yours but there’s nothing wrong with his hand.” Little children are so curious and we don’t mind the questions. Our answer usually fulfills their curiosity and then they forget all about it and want to play with him as normal.
We frequently forget that Noah even has a limb difference. One benefit is that he does have a partial thumb so he is able to grip things. He can feed himself, pull his pants up and down, put on his shoes, play with toys, and so much more. He is always amazing us with his determination and willingness to “figure it out.” Just the other day we were outside playing with water guns and I thought to myself that he wouldn’t be able to hold this big water gun and still pull the trigger, but he messed around with it for ten minutes and then sprayed his unbelieving mama right in the face! Shame on me for doubting him, right?
We didn’t know what to expect when we said “yes” to adoption and “yes” to Noah. If I’m completely honest, Noah’s special need is not what has challenged us the most, not even close. There are so many hard parts of adoption that we weren’t really prepared for even after all the classes, all the research, and all of the reading.
The things I struggle with after 18 months together are much more nuanced and complicated. I struggle with guilt every single day. I feel guilty about taking Noah away from his home country and culture. I feel guilty that we’ve had to work so hard at bonding and attachment when he is so willing to attach and love us. I feel guilty that we are not planning to adopt again and there are still so many children who need a family. I’m working on letting go of this guilt and turning it into other positive actions, even if another adoption is not the way forward for us.
Adoption will turn your world upside-down and maybe not in the ways you expect.
There’s a lot I still don’t know and a lot we’re still learning. Yet, there’s a lot that I do know now:
– This life isn’t meant to be lived in our safe zones.
– We all have more than enough love to give away.
– It’s ok to let yourself feel the pain of others. I mean really feel it. Allow yourself to be moved.
I’m so grateful that I get to be Noah’s mom. Sometimes at night when I rock him to sleep, I let myself imagine what that night might have been like in September 2015, when his birth mother and father made the hardest decision of their lives. They set their precious son on the ground and walked away from him, not knowing what his future held but probably hoping and praying that he would just be loved.
What I wish they knew is that on that very day, 6700 miles away, we put into motion an event that would change all of us. They had to set Noah down and walk away from him, but from that moment we were walking toward him. Noah was never truly alone. I am so thankful to them for giving Noah life, and I am so thankful to God for letting me become his mother.
– guest post by Jennifer: email || Instagram