“No one lives out an exciting calling without just plunging forward at some point, full of fear and uncertainty.” –Shauna Niequist
I hold a sweet baby boy in my arms and I look back at the many days leading up to this moment. I know that the whole journey began so much like that: full of fear and uncertainty.
It first manifested on elementary school playgrounds when I longed to be friends with any peer who had a unique set of needs. They didn’t need me, but I felt drawn to them. Don’t misunderstand me; I wasn’t just curious about them or saw them as some kind of ‘show’. I longed to be near them and for them to call me their friend.
This longing on the playground grew until I would find myself in grocery stores or movie theaters fighting back tears when an adult special needs group would show up. I wouldn’t fully understand it until later and I always hid it, but something would swell-up inside of me and overtake me. Some strange feeling that I still can’t fully describe—as if my heart might burst if I didn’t give-in to it.
For a long time, I wrote myself off as just a little sappy—which, let’s be honest, I am. But The Holy Spirit, as it often does, began cleaning the windows of my soul. And slowly, over time, I could see more clearly into my heart. I’m sure it wasn’t an aha-moment, but somehow it became apparent to me over time. What I was feeling was a maternal longing.
I sensed that God was revealing to me a piece of his plan for me. Could I be getting some incredulous sneak-peek into my future? But somehow I just knew that I would mother a child with special needs. I tucked this expectation away in a quiet, secret room in my heart, and barely even acknowledged it to myself during the pregnancies of both of my daughters. It felt shameful to admit that I was almost surprised when neither were born with any significant medical needs or conditions. I wasn’t disappointed—not at all—just a little surprised.
After the birth of our second daughter, the Holy Spirit got back to washing the windows of that little secret room in my heart. It took several months but finally I gave in to that gentle tapping on the glass and peered in. Even when I could see, I still had so many questions, but it’s funny how clear things really are once they are actually clear. So clear, in fact, that I wondered how I hadn’t seen it before. As if the writing on the wall had been so evident all along. In my mind I had always anticipated birthing a child with special needs, but it was now so apparent that God was whispering into my life a plan for growing my family through special needs adoption.
I found the courage to share this with my husband and together we found the courage to take that first step of starting our home study. We began the home study journey in April of 2015 and spent the next 11 months wrestling within ourselves, laying bare our souls before one another, and leaning into Jesus begging him to ‘make clear the path’. My husband was brave, so incredibly brave, as he leaned into a longing that had not been his own and asked The Father to make it his. We took turns releasing one another from expectations or decisions, we stepped forward and took steps back, we cried and fought and misunderstood one another, and we held hands, because whatever path we took, wherever God led us, we were going to do it together.
Opportunities came—in the forms of emails—adoption price tags, situations and medical conditions that made us swallow hard and wonder if we had misheard God, because surely we weren’t proving ourselves faithful if we didn’t say YES to every single one. We grew disheartened when we didn’t have peace situation after situation. Was it us? Was it our hearing? Were we just unwilling?
I cried a lot.
I was scared.
I was unsure.
We had plunged forward into this crazy, heart-wrenching adoption journey filled with so many unknowns and we didn’t have any answers. It wasn’t feeling like an exciting calling; it was feeling a lot more like folly.
Then, on Wednesday night, April 13th, I was walking into youth group when I saw a facebook message pop up on my phone. It was from my high school math teacher—which at the time was a little random.
It had a screen shot from a post in a private cleft support group about a baby due in the next few weeks who had cleft lip/palate and potentially some other special needs.
I spent the next week communicating with the woman behind the post (long story!). Everything felt so “right”, but there was one thing that felt exceptionally terrifying—this adoption would cost around $40,000.
So we prayed. A lot. And we chose to trust the supernatural peace that we believe can come only from Jesus and believe that if God called us then He would certainly provide.
And we plunged forward—full of fear and uncertainty.
Wednesday, April 20th, a very special woman chose to trust us as the forever family for her son.
Wednesday morning, April 27th at 8:30am, my phone rang and the man on the other end told me a baby boy had been born just a couple hours earlier and we should come as soon as possible. So we kissed our girls goodbye and got on an airplane as fast as we could. That night, when he was just 15 hours old, we walked into that NICU and laid eyes on this sweet baby boy with a full head of dark hair.
It’s an odd moment to walk in to a NICU at almost 10pm, as strangers, no one from an agency there, no social worker, and sort of just say “We're here to adopt a baby.”
Oh I can still see his sweet little face and big wide eyes, open and ready like maybe he knew we were coming.
The lip and palate were obvious. She showed us his feet—about 7 toes, sort of. His right hand is typical, five separate digits. His left hand has all five fingers, but three are fused together.
We knew right then of course, that there would likely be many things hiding under the skin that would prove to be problematic. We aren’t naive. We knew, but it didn’t matter. He was ours.
He is our own and he is worth everything.
I can’t explain away all the brokenness or the tragic reality that our precious son doesn’t get to grow up with his first family or that woman is grieving his absence in her life, but somehow in God’s sovereignty He knew and saw all that would be and He had a plan for this boy’s life. In his mercy He has allowed us to be a part of that plan. Thank God.
No, really, thank God.
I hold a sweet baby boy in my arms and I look back at the many days leading up to this moment. I take a really deep breath and shake my head a little—I’m relieved. I’m relieved because we didn't miss out because of fear. I'm relieved because God’s grace was sufficient for us and his power was strong enough for us, and He gave us the courage to plunge forward—again and again and again—I will never thank God enough for this, because I don’t just know the cost if we had not stepped out in faith, I’m holding it in my arms.
Photographs by Rosie McCoy Photography and Caitlin Creek Photography & Charms.