About 8 years ago, I was sitting in a sanctuary listening intently as someone was getting up to talk about the church’s role in adoption and foster care. I can remember sitting on the edge of my seat with my heart literally about to beat out of my chest, knowing full well that God was speaking to me that day. All of my life, I had read stories about adoption. Moses was adopted!! He was one of the most important people in the Bible!! Jesus was also adopted by his parents! There is no one more important than Jesus! Adoption is the heart of God, and I knew that God intended for me to adopt even when I was just a little girl. After hearing that sermon that day, I immediately went home and started researching. I began reading scriptures and praying with a fervent passion about whether or not God really wanted us to do this. It took months for me to work up the courage to share this revelation with my husband, who immediately looked at me like I had ten heads and walked away telling me I had literally lost my mind.
You see, in the eyes of the world, this decision was completely crazy. We did not know anyone personally who was adopted, and we did not know a single family who had ever adopted or wanted to adopt. We also knew that we would have zero family support if we chose to go down this scary and unknown road. Also, in the eyes of the world this did not make any sense. At the time, we were both 28 and 29 years old. We had very successful careers. We had paid off all our student loans. We had two cars that were paid for, and we lived in a big 4 bedroom house, that if we still lived there now, would be paid for. We also had two beautiful biological children, a healthy boy and girl. In the eyes of the world, we had achieved our American dream and now all we needed to do was sit back, relax, and enjoy life and all our blessings. However, we were absolutely miserable. We were told by everyone from the time we were little that all the above is what you have to do in order to be happy. So, why weren’t we happy? We were living for ourselves, and we were comfortable. Following God means being rather uncomfortable at times, and who wants that?
And after only 24 hours of prayer, my husband did too. So, we set off on a crazy journey of adoption to get our little girl who we knew was in China. We had no idea what the future would hold, but decided to trust God completely with our lives and live for Him.
Fast forward to 2012, our lives had literally been turned upside down. We had moved twice to two different towns where we knew no one. Chris opened up his own business. We were poor as church mice, and God had blessed us with a total of 4 biological children, all of whom we were told by doctors that we could not have due to infertility issues. After we had all of our biological children, one day I read something about “special needs” in children in other countries, and I discovered something. A light bulb literally went off! All of our children had been born with some sort of medical need. We realized that had any of our children been born in another country, especially China, that ALL of them would have been labeled special needs since they had some sort of medical problem. Had they been born in China to parents who were not financially well off, they would have been abandoned so that they could receive the medical care they so desperately needed. We had been updating our home study for our “healthy” daughter from China every 18 months for the past 6 years. However, at that moment in 2012, we realized that in reality, there is no such thing as a “healthy orphan”. Anyone who grows up in an institutional setting will, without a doubt, have a medical need of some kind. After we realized this, we knew we needed to change our paperwork to the special needs program immediately. When we did, we were told that it could be a year before we received our referral call because there were so many families who were also waiting to be matched with their child.
We left for a mini vacation 2 weeks after we changed to the waiting child program. We were all so excited to go to the beach and have some time to relax. We pulled into the parking lot of a phenomenal water park and were just about to get out of the car when I got a phone call from a number I did not recognize. I hit ignore … Then I realized it was from Virginia which is where our adoption agency is, and I immediately called the number back. Our adoption coordinator answered and said, “We have the best news!! We have a referral for a beautiful baby girl! She has a rare blood disorder called thalassemia. I am not sure how you feel about that since that need was at the bottom of your maybe list, but I just had this feeling and wanted to call you guys about her. Would you like me to send you her information?”
Time literally stood still at that very moment. I was shaking. After 6 years of waiting for this phone call, here we were sitting in a water park about to go down some slides, and I had just been asked the most important question of my life!
“YES!!!!!! Please send her information to me right away!!!”
Within minutes her picture appeared in an email on my phone. And as her photo appeared on the screen, she literally took my breath away!! I lost it and began crying. It was her!! I immediately loved her!! Then I read her medical info and my heart sank into a deep state of fear and agony. She had the most severe form of thalassemia that you can have. This would require her to have monthly blood transfusions for the rest of her life. We also found out she wasn’t being transfused every month and her hemoglobin had been allowed to drop to 2, which is incompatible with life. All of this information was so completely overwhelming. I am a Physician’s Assistant, and the only subject I have ever failed in my entire life was in PA school, which just happened to be hematology of all things! Why God? Why would you send us a referral for a child whom I know absolutely nothing about her medical condition? It was the 4th of July and we were only able to talk to one specialist who told us that if we adopted her, we would be bringing her home to die. All of the sudden, a happy and beautiful moment had turned dark and gray and seemed completely hopeless. We were told that we had 72 hours to make our decision.
I’m pretty positive that I did not sleep at all for 72 hours. We were trying to have fun with our kids on this vacation, all the while feeling sick about the decision we had to make. I would look for places to hide, just so I could go and cry. On our way home, I remember just staring out the window with tears streaming down my face begging God in desperation to give me a neon sign for what we were supposed to do. When we got home, I went into the office and pulled up her picture on the computer screen and just lost it. I was scared that adopting her would tear our family apart. I was completely terrified that she was going to die. I decided right then that we could not do this and decided to call my husband and two oldest children into a room to tell them we would have to say no.
For as long as I live, I will never forget the next few moments that played out in our bedroom that day. I looked at them and said with tears pouring down my face, “I cannot do this. I do not think that I am a strong enough or a good enough mother to do this.”
My husband came over to me with a look on his face I have never seen before and he said, “Tanya, the bottom line is this. This little girl needs a mommy and a daddy to love her. She needs brothers and sisters to play with. She needs better medical care, and above all else, she needs Jesus. And if we leave her in China, she will receive none of these things. And, I don’t care if she lives one year or sixty years!! She needs us and we need her!!”
I stared at him in complete disbelief, because not once in our marriage has he ever talked to me like that. The tears began to pour even more, and I knew without a doubt that God had just spoken to me through my husband.
Then my son, who was 9 at the time said, “Mama, we have to go get her. She is my sister!!”
And then my daughter who was 8 at the time said with tears streaming down her face, “Mama, do you remember that Bible study that we did right before we went on vacation, the one about David and Goliath? Do you remember what you told us the whole point of that story is? That nothing is too big for God?!?! Well Mama, NOTHING is too big for God!”
And there I had it: my neon sign from God out of the mouths of my family!
But, my daughter was not finished with me yet. She was still crying and she continued talking, “And Mama, do you remember the other Bible story that we read about Jonah and the Whale? Well, Mama, do you really want to end up like Jonah if you don’t listen to God?!?!?!”
And just like that as we were all bawling, we started laughing until we cried and I told God, “Okay I got it, loud and clear, Lord!!!!”
We left for China just a few weeks later by the grace of God. Gotcha Day is one I will never forget. Our daughter was sick, severely malnourished, and she absolutely hated me. I am sure that to her, I resembled something of a nightmare, kinda like a white Medusa with my neon white skin and crazy, yellow, frizzy, curly hair! However, on day 2, I slicked my crazy hair down, and she decided that she kind of liked me and now, she is completely attached to all of us like Velcro!!!
When we got home, bless her heart, she stayed sick for at least 6 months. She was receiving her monthly blood transfusions, but she was having reactions to the blood because she had a rare blood and antigen type that had to be matched exactly at every transfusion. Before we left to go to China, we had very little medical information on her, and we had no idea what her blood type was. However, I had this overwhelming feeling that there was more to her story. I began asking the doctors if my husband and I could get tested to see if we might be a blood match for her. We were emphatically told no over and over again and told that there is no way we would match her since we were not Asian and because her antigen type was so rare. However, they had never met a mom like me, and I would not let it go. Finally, they agreed to let me donate, but they would not test me first. They told me that I would just have to show up at the transfusion to see if we were a match.
I will never forget walking into the hospital that day and being greeted by the nurse at the doorway who had a piece of paper in her hands and had tears in her eyes.
She said, “You are not going to believe this, but not only are you a match for your daughter, but you are an identical match down to every single antigen that she has on her blood!”
Wow! I immediately lost it right then and there and began to bawl happy tears. Only God!!!!! A little girl who was born thousands of miles away across the other side of the world, abandoned and dying, was adopted by a family in the US and she ends up having the same blood as her mother who adopted her!!! And, just because God can, we found out the next month that not only is she an identical match to me, but she is also and identical match to her daddy! How awesome is our God?!?!? There are not many adopted children who can say they have their parents’ blood running through their veins!!! And this also means that when her brothers and sisters are old enough, they can donate to her too!!!!! So unbelievably amazing!!!! And you know what? I could have said no. I could have let fear take me over.
I could have missed out on this beautiful little miracle girl. Today our daughter is 3 years old. She is thriving!! She has a firecracker personality, lights up a room with her big smile, speaks in paragraphs and has the vocabulary of an adult. Every day she gives me the biggest bear hug and tells me that I am beautiful and that she loves me. She is healthy, happy and hasn’t been sick in over a year!! She is one of the best things that has ever happened to us, and we simply cannot imagine our lives without her.
Fear is one of the biggest tools that Satan will throw at us every day in order to try and scare us out of doing what God has planned for our lives. Following Jesus is not easy. In fact, sometimes it is downright painful, and it goes against everything that the world tells us to do. However, nothing fills you up with more joy than following The Lord, not money, not fame, not big cars or houses. We have had all those things and I will tell you that none of it made me happy. Adoption is not all rainbows and unicorns either. It is full of heart ache, and sometimes the heart ache surfaces daily as we struggle through adoption issues that may honestly never go away. However, the reward of seeing your child live and thrive despite those struggles is miraculous!!
I am so honored that God chose our family for this journey, and I am so happy that despite all my inadequacies and failures that God can use even someone like me to help change and better the life for someone else. I heard the best quote from Mark Hall of Casting Crowns,” God did not bless us to have. No, God blessed us to give and to bless others!!!”
If God has blessed you, then pray about how He might use you to bless the life of a child. I promise that you will be the one who ends up being blessed the most!!
Avoiding the Pitfalls
Worth the Wait!
Part One of Two
A realistic look at International Adoption
Practical tips for new adoptive parents
"I think there was nothing random about the events of that day.."