When I told my husband that I wanted to adopt our first baby almost ten years ago, he gave me a pretty blank stare. I don’t think he really knew what to say. I then proceeded to tell him that I wanted to adopt a little four-year-old girl with Down syndrome living in China (of course I was in tears, as I had spent WAY too many hours reading online about orphanages overseas and children with special needs). Now if you knew my husband, you could probably predict how he would react…calmly, gently, but swiftly explaining how we didn’t even know how to be parents yet, let alone to a child with Down syndrome. Crushed of course, I couldn’t understand how someone could ignore facts about children overseas with special needs dying alone without parents, or without ever even knowing love.
I will try not to bore you with numbers (as this is supposed to be a happy story!), but I think the facts surrounding Down syndrome are quite eye-opening. The statistics regarding children being abandoned because of their Down syndrome diagnosis in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia is staggering. Just in Europe, Reece’s Rainbow reports here that 1 in 733 live births has Down syndrome and is likely abandoned.
Stigma associated with Down syndrome exists everywhere, but in many Asian and European countries, life with Down syndrome can be particularly problematic. Those people with Down syndrome face a grim reality of a very low life expectancy, physical and psychological abuse and/or neglect, segregation, and limited opportunities over a lifetime. If you are having trouble imagining this, please take a moment to view the following clip detailing lives of those with disabilities living in Serbian mental institutions here. I will seriously NOT be able to get some of these pictures out of my mind! The absolute horror of the human heart sometimes disgusts me.
Even here in the United States, the appalling rate of babies aborted with suspected Down syndrome is no secret. Abortion rates for children with suspected Down syndrome has been reported in some areas of the US as high as 90%. PolitiFact lists several references to this percentage here. I cannot judge these women, nor do I condone their actions, but it saddens me that Down syndrome brings so much fear into the hearts and minds of everyday people.
All these facts combined, along with my high emotions, seemed to me to be reason enough to open our arms and home to someone with Down syndrome!
Life moved on, however, and thankfully we were blessed with perfectly normal (if there is such), healthy, and happy children that we loved without explanation. In my heart, though, something was still missing. Thoughts of adoption still filled my mind, and I knew I should approach my husband again about the topic. This time, although still unsure, he agreed that it may be a good idea to explore. So, nearly two years ago, our family started the process to complete a domestic adoption.
When we finished our paperwork and home study, and were approved to adopt (which took a good six months or so), I put our family out there in as many places as I could think of. We received some calls and messages from our agency, facilitators, and pregnant mothers, but none seemed to quite fit with our family. My husband, too, was still being somewhat stringent as to the situations he would allow our family to be viewed for (In most domestic adoptions, birth families are allowed to view and then meet their prospective adoptive family before their child’s placement. We had a book that we prepared and presented to our birth family before we were chosen. If you would like to view this book, please contact me privately!).
My patience with the adoption’s process was wearing thin, and I was getting frustrated with waiting and with my husband’s inflexibility. Mostly because I knew that many families desiring to adopt did not want a child with Down syndrome. I felt like our family had been so blessed with normalcy, that it was our turn to step up and help out others in a loving and accepting way. As Christians, we know that Christ accepts us unconditionally as referenced in Romans 15:7, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God”. He disregards our faults and imperfections. In fact, He doesn’t even see our faults as flaws per Psalm 139:13-14, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. Despite our individual plans and ideas surrounding our next child, we decided to make an effort to find peace in waiting.
It was difficult for me, in particularly, to find patience in God’s timing. I am one of those people who tries to rush fate as I see it best. My husband, on the other hand, is very analytical and examines every possible outcome-even to the extreme. There came a point when both of us (me later than my husband) decided that we had to let go of our expectations, and put faith in the process and what was (or was not) to come our way. Control is hard to give up, but if you can, sometimes things start to happen…at least they did for us!
Amazingly enough, after we decided to leave it all up to FAITH, only a WEEK later did we receive a call from the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network explaining that there was a healthy baby to be born with Down syndrome in less than two months! His parents were making an adoption plan, and the caller wanted to know if they could view our family’s profile. Feeling like this could be our little guy; I went to ask my husband his thoughts on the baby with Down syndrome, and was very surprised at his response when I approached him with the baby’s story. His exact words were, “Let’s do it”. Two days later, we received a call that we were the family chosen, and not even two weeks after that, another call informed us that Baby #4 was born and waiting for our arrival at the hospital! Things were now happening really fast!
Our excitement and anticipation for our baby’s birth grew weary, however, when we entered the hospital. Hospital staff welcomed us with an overabundance of reading material and few congratulations. Baby #4 was perfect and beautiful, but his Down syndrome was real and obvious by his facial features. Our hospital stay seemed to never end even though it only lasted four days. We were very overwhelmed. Our decision to knowingly adopt a child with an abnormality was stressful to say the least. On top of getting to know our new little one, we felt as if there were so many OTHER things that we didn’t know as well, and we certainly were not prepared for THOSE things. I am pretty sure that this is when doubt started to creep in, and when we started to lose faith again. You see, before you hold that little baby in your arms, you think that a connection will be there right away, that adoption will be easy. You think that when you hold YOUR baby, it will know that you are his mother. As a seasoned mother of three other biological children, I could tell that this sweet, little baby knew that I was NOT his biological mother. He wanted to nurse and I couldn’t feed him. I didn’t recognize his cries; they were different than all my others. And when he started to have problems at home, they were nothing like anything I had ever experienced with my other three children. My husband and I were absolutely scared, and most certainly started to question our ability to care for Baby #4.
Since then, Baby #4 has had two surgeries, and there are possibly two others in his future. We have gone through many things that have made us closer, and through them, we feel like a family now. I am so thankful that Baby #4 recognizes me as his mother, and I love that he puts his arms up to be held! I often think of how hard it is to love someone you don’t know, how hard it was for us to really attach to Baby #4 at first, and how hard it can be to love someone you know all too well. I feel guilty that I, too, am sometimes a child that God doesn’t know. As I stumble blindly through daily tasks, I am sure that He frequently looks at me and wonders where His child has gone. I am thankful that God continually forgives my sins and calls me back to be His own, that He knows everything about me and each person in our family (Psalm 139:1 “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.”), and according to Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. How sad that we ever doubted God’s plan! How amazing is His love!
Now, almost a year since our fourth baby’s homecoming, we can actually say that with God’s help, we made a great decision to adopt! Baby #4 is an absolute joy, and we love him as our own! Although his progression and development is slow, it is steady, and he complains very little with regards to the bumps in his path. He is the happiest person I know, and is a perfect example of being content in all circumstances. As we look back and recall the process of Baby #4’s adoption, we can see God’s hand in every step. We look forward to our future with all of our children, and are grateful for our new ‘normal’ with our anything but typical children!