Before we were married, my husband Aaron and I talked about adopting a child. At the time, we were strongly called towards children in foster care. As the years went by, we were married and then welcomed our first four children. In 2011, we finally made the decision to pursue adoption. We knew that if we didn’t move forward now, it just wouldn’t ever make it a reality. We completed our home study and DCFS foster license with baby number 4 in tow. We still were very much interested in foster care adoption.
Towards the end of 2011, our hearts began to change directions. I stumbled upon the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network and began thinking and praying on this decision. I even requested a registration packet. I grew up with a brother with a different chromosomal disorder. As a result, I was also around many children and adults with Down syndrome. I was familiar with Down syndrome and the many unique challenges that it can present. I began presenting the NDSAN to my husband, who immediately shot it down! He was afraid of the unknown. Reluctantly, we filled out the registration packet anyway and it sat on our kitchen counter – for MONTHS.
One Sunday at church, the priest talked about the value of all lives – and then specifically mentioned Down syndrome and prenatal testing. Before then, I hadn’t realized the rapid decline of people around me with Down syndrome. It had been my normal growing up. The priest went on to mention that since the wide availability of prenatal testing to identify Down syndrome, nearly 90% (this number varies) of children with Down syndrome will be terminated before birth. This was the fact that pushed us over the edge. We sent in our packet the next day. Then we waited.
Over the next 3 years, we were called many times over potential adoptions, but never matched. We also welcomed two more children – giving us 1 son and 5 daughters. At the end of June 2014, just 9 months after the birth of our last daughter, we were called again about a potential adoption. Again, we said that we’d love to be presented. Again we didn’t really expect anything to come from it. This time, we were completely shocked when Stephanie called back the next night and said that the birth mom wanted to email us. Starting that night, we began emailing daily (and sometimes multiple times per day). Two weeks later, we met the birth family at our home. That night, the birth mom emailed me to say that they absolutely loved our family and would love if we would adopt their baby girl in August.
The next 6 weeks are honestly a blur. We had a couple paperwork issues and worked extra hard to make sure we were ready when the baby was born. We also managed to squeeze in a family vacation right before the baby was born! At the beginning of August, birth mom emailed me to let me know an induction date was set because baby wasn’t growing inside anymore. That is when the situation became real. We began discussing the plan for baby day – where did she want us, when did she want to see us, how would we be contacted, etc. Birth mom asked if she could temporarily name the baby Sophia. She knew we would change it, but just didn’t want the baby to spend 6 months as “Baby Girl” until the adoption was finalized. Eventually, our baby would be known as Lucy Sophia.
Fast forward to August 12 – Baby Day!! Birth mom sent me a text at 6 am to let me know that she was checked in and beginning the induction. They were located just 2 hours from our home! We stayed home ALL DAY. I thought my own labors seemed long. Somehow, it seemed SO MUCH LONGER to wait for someone else to give birth! Finally around 4pm birth dad text me and told me baby was not here yet. My husband and I decided to make the drive up to our hotel room near the hospital. We took our youngest child with us and had a wonderful dinner at a nice restaurant. During the dinner, around 8 pm, birth dad sent me a text: baby was born and birth mom would be calling me shortly. As told, birth mom called me around 9pm and asked me if we’d like to come see the baby. As much as I absolutely wanted to jump at that chance, I also knew what it was like to have given birth. I knew she had to be exhausted. I offered the option of coming during visiting hours the very next morning. She sounded very grateful and took this option.
The next morning, we picked up flowers and headed to the hospital to see our baby girl. When we walked into the room, the birth mom was trying to feed the baby a bottle. She immediately asked me if I wanted to hold our baby. When she placed the baby in my arms, she said, “Go see your mommy.” It broke my heart. We stayed for about 45 minutes, snapped a couple pictures, and then let birth mom rest. Before we left, we asked birth mom if we could send a picture of the baby to our children.
The next day is a day that will be etched into my brain for the rest of my life. It was the day when so many adults would stand in a hospital room and make huge decisions that would completely change the baby’s future. It was completely surreal. The room had so many emotions flowing through it. Birth mom was healing from birth and signing over guardianship to us. Birth dad was trying to be supportive, but also strong. We were trying to stifle our excitement, knowing how painful it must have been for the birth family. Thankfully, we DID have our youngest daughter with us at the time. She broke a lot of the weird tension. After all the papers were signed, we sat in the room and talked with the birth family for a little while longer. Lucy was up in the NICU under the jaundice lights. When we walked out of the hospital to put everything in our van, I remember vividly looking up and immediately finding the birth parents waving to us from one of the hospital rooms. At that moment, the baby officially became our responsibility and they left the hospital shortly afterward. My husband, daughter, and I set up camp in a hospital waiting room as we hung around for 10 hours. At the end of the day, if the jaundice numbers fell, we could walk out of the hospital with our new baby girl. We were allowed to go in to see and feed our baby for about 15 minutes every 3 hours, so we took turns. Finally, that night the numbers DID go down and we left the hospital with our Lucy just 2 days after she was born.
Lucy will turn 5 in August. It seems unreal that it has already been 5 years, especially when some moments feel like yesterday. Lucy has a severe hearing loss, but is otherwise incredibly healthy. She knows how to use sign language and a few words to communicate. We are working on potty training now. She is the most loving little girl. We are so honored to be her parents.