We were on our way home from the dentist when my phone buzzed.
Seeing the familiar number of our agency, I pulled over and answered. “Hello!”, she said cheerfully, “We are calling because we have a file we’d like to share with you if you’re interested.” She went on to say that it was a boy and he had a diagnosis of hydrocephalus and brain damage.
When we filled out the medical checklist, we wanted to be open to many diagnoses, but we also needed to be realistic on what we felt we could handle. We have a large family, live in a rural area, and we home school, so saying “yes” to a child would mean we felt capable of providing the care that they needed.
When I hung up the phone, I quickly got back on the road. I couldn’t wait to get home and review the file with my husband.
A year earlier, we were near the end of a difficult pregnancy that ultimately led to our son being stillborn at 39 weeks. It was a devastating time, but through his life and death, God was preparing our hearts for another child. About six months after we buried our precious son, we decided to pursue our second adoption, this time intentionally being open to more significant special needs.
We knew that “brain damage” could mean so many different things, and a child with that label could have a wide range of capabilities. When we opened his file, we found a wealth of medical information, including his brain scans, detailed medical reports, as well as photos and videos. We shared these with an online friend, an adoptive parent who is also a radiologist.
We learned that this baby had suffered a grade IV brain bleed and he had permanent damage to some brain tissue. The outcome of such an injury could vary widely – he could be completely normal, he could have some minor disabilities, or he could be severely delayed.
Initially, we told our agency that we didn’t feel comfortable because it seemed overwhelming. But even with the brain scans that showed obvious differences and a language delay, we couldn’t get his sweet face off of our minds. We continually prayed for his family to find him.
About two weeks after we saw his file for the first time, we saw his face on the Waiting Children page. We called and asked to hold his file again and promptly sent his information to an international adoption doctor for review.
The specialist helped us gain a better understanding of his medical history. She was so thorough, taking all of the information and putting it together, even picking apart his movements in the videos. His injury, probably caused by a stroke in utero or shortly after birth, could have a wide range of outcomes. We asked for best-case and worst-case scenarios, and she gave us her honest opinion.
Full of new knowledge, we spent the rest of our evening talking and praying together. From the beginning of this adoption journey, we felt God calling us to “get out of the boat” and trust him.
We knew that he was trustworthy, but taking that step felt scary.
In the days that followed, the feeling that we should pursue this little boy grew stronger. We had peace about caring for him no matter what his future held, so we joyfully submitted our letter of intent.
Several months later, we were on board a Delta Airbus, headed to our son’s home country. Were we nervous? Absolutely. But superseding all the feelings of apprehension was knowing that he was our son. We could not wait to meet him and shower him with the love of a family.
Meeting Cai for the first time was surreal. He was precious, amazing… and he was ours.
He had a really difficult time adjusting, and we were unsure if his behavior was due to grief or his brain injury. Those first weeks in China drained us, but we really tried to take things moment by moment. Over time, it became obvious that Cai was grieving, and we began to see glimpses of his true self: he was comical, energetic, and obstinate. He was also very bright: despite his language delay, Cai was using some sign language to express his wants and needs while we were still in China.
It’s been a year since our sweet boy has been home. We’ve seen specialists, have had therapists at our home, and have watched him blossom right before our eyes. We learned from a neurologist that his injury was significant, but his brain has compensated and he has an excellent chance of living a normal, independent life.
The hydrocephalus diagnosis was ruled out, and he only needs bi-annual visits to track his progress. We’ve had many therapists visit, so many that when our social worker came for his one-year post-adoption visit, Cai assumed he was here for therapy and asked, “Do you have any puzzles?” His receptive and expressive language has grown so much that he does not need speech therapy any longer.
When we said yes to our son, within our letter of intent we wrote, “We will help him achieve his greatest potential, whatever that may be.” He’s doing so much better than we ever expected, and we are amazed by him every day. His great sense of humor, his boundless energy, and his zeal for life have brought us so much laughter and joy. He is smart, creative, tenacious, and has a smile that melts everyone’s heart.
Saying yes to another child, especially one with an unknown future was hard, but our lives are so much better with him here.
– guest post by Lindsay