It’s been two years this week since we met Nic for the first time. Here is the video that we made of our adoption journey when we arrived home for everyone who had supported us along the way. We still thank the Lord for every single person that played a role through their prayers, generosity and support. They were just as important to bringing Nic home as we were.
I wanted Colt and Nic to be the ones to deliver this message to moms who have recently had babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, to kick off Down syndrome Awareness month.
From a mom who has two boys with Down syndrome, one biological and one adopted, I can assure you that your baby will be the greatest gift you would have never known to ask for!
God didn’t make a mistake when He intricately wove that extra copy of chromosome 21 more than a trillion times into your precious little one. Our God who determines the number of stars and knows them by name, fashioned your baby in His image, declared him wonderfully made and chose YOU for this amazing gift.
If moments of sadness or worry come when you wonder if your child will fit into the world’s standard of success, beauty, popularity, or an “easy” life, just remember that NONE of those things bring joy or love.
True joy is only found in living our life for the purpose God has set out and this extra special chromosome was given to your child for a unique purpose for God’s glory.
I could list all the ways that my boys are talented and gifted but your child will have their own unique, beautiful gifts that light up your world and reflect the beauty and creativity of our Creator.
As with every individual their will be struggles and challenges. We can’t predict what our children’s future holds no matter how many chromosomes they have but we can love them unconditionally and be loved by them through it all.
We can teach them the gospel and our Savior’s love, but don’t be surprised when God uses the innocent, unconditional love and joy of your little one, who happens to have an extra chromosome, to teach YOU even more about His glory, His kingdom and His love than you could have ever grasped before!
After I finished Colt’s birth story last month several of you asked if I would share Nic’s adoption story. So, over the next series of posts I will share Nic’s story. Many of you have read large portions of this, but I will also cover details that I haven’t shared before for those who are looking into adoption.
While every country and every adoption is different, and the process is always changing, I hope this gives you a little insight.
I don’t share our story here because I think that we are in any way "a special family so we did a special thing".
Our family is no different than anyone else's in the sense that we are all sinners. We all lose our patience, worry, get hurt, among other things. The only reason we can do anything is because we know that we serve a Great, all powerful, Almighty, All-knowing, Sovereign God who is with us through everything.
Still even knowing that we sadly can become like the panicked disciples on the boat in the storm or Peter on the water sinking in a moment of weak, sinful, faithless, fear.
I am ashamed to admit that there are over 163 million orphans in the world today and, except for some pity or shedding a few tears at a story every now and again, our family had never considered doing anything about this until after Colt was born.
The Bible is clear that the task of caring for these little ones belong to followers of Christ. We were not even praying for these orphans. The question we asked should not have been whether to be involved in the ministry of orphan care, but HOW, and yet we did not grasp this until God gave us a precious baby who happened to have an extra chromosome.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
*This picture was taken while we were waiting for our flight home from Ukraine (6 week's after we first met Nic)i. He was already smiling for us.*
We committed to adopt in July 2016 and on Thanksgiving day 2016 we received the phone call that we would be flying to Ukraine for an appointment with the Ukraine government in 5 days.
We arrived in Ukraine with zero sleep but running on adrenaline.
At this point the only thing that we knew about Nic was still, “Born 2016, Down syndrome” and our excitement to hold him, show him love and learn about our boy could not get any higher.
We had our interview at the department of adoption where we received our referral and also learned a few things about Nic that I had been so anxious to know.
We learned that he was 11 month old and his birthdate was January 22.
He had been left at the hospital at birth when his parents found out that he had Down syndrome.
We were then told that we would be allowed to meet Nic for the first time in his orphanage the next day.
We would be his very first visitors.
The emotions that we felt as we drove up to the orphanage are hard to put into words...
Overwhelming excitement that the moment we had dreamed of had finally arrived, but probably more comparable to the jumping out of an airplane, wide eyed, knot of fear, kind of excitement.
We had been told by others that babies in the orphanage spend a majority of the day in their cribs staring at the ceiling, sedation is used in some orphanages and that even in the “good orphanages” the trauma of neglect or lack of love and attention can have a devastating toll.
We had no idea what to expect but had already decided that whatever Nic was like, whatever health issues he might have, whatever trauma he might have experienced, he was our son.
We nervously talked with the orphanage director through our facilitator and then were led down a dark, eerily quiet hallway to the brightly painted visitation room where we took a seat on the couch next to oversized, stuffed monkeys and pink elephants.
My heart felt like it could have beat out of my chest while waiting to meet Nic.
On January 12, 2017 we walked out the doors of that orphanage where Nic spent almost the first year of his life. Not a single person was there to say goodbye, but he arrived home to be greeted with the hugs, kisses and love of cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings!
We celebrated his 1st birthday one week later. The first year of his life was spent alone in an orphanage crib, but he celebrated his 1st birthday surrounded by a mom, dad and six siblings! What a beautiful day!
All six of his siblings, including Colt, were in love with him immediately. They have all learned more about God's love and faithfulness and giving of ourselves for others through this process than any lesson book could ever teach them.
Day by day Nic’s smiles and giggles started coming easier .
He learned to cry because someone loved him and would answer his cries. One of the most eerie aspects of the orphanage is the silence. Rooms full of children but hallways so silent you could hear a pin drop as children have learned that their cries will not be comforted. .
His head shaking completely stopped within weeks of being home.
One of the hardest parts was his trauma in regards to food. He would not stop eating when he was fed and became upset EVERY time the food was pulled away. His blood tests showed malnourishment when we arrived home and we knew that this would take time and healing. Today he has minimal food issues, but they are still lingering and we remain aware and sensitive to this trauma.
. We know that there might always be scars that we will be sensitive to, but by God’s grace, 19 Months later, Nic has been transformed by unconditional love.
What a beautiful picture we have been given of our adoption into God’s family. Chosen while we were still sinners, broken, hurting, with nothing to offer...Ransom paid by the precious blood of Christ...Made a child of God’s and transformed by His love. The scars of our old self might remain in this life, but we are forgiven and made new by our Father who loves us and hears our cries and nothing we can do will ever separate us from that love.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are...
1 John 3:1
The question that I have received the most on Nic’s adoption story is “How did Nic transition into our family and how did he develop?”
While this could be a series all on its own, I’ll try to summarize a little.
I don’t think I could possibly fathom how brave and resilient our boy is, calmly adjusting to life in a boisterous family of 9.
I wanted him to sleep on me in the beginning in hopes of attachment, but he craved the silence of his crib. Often when we would hold him he would want to be put down and just lay on his belly sucking his fingers by himself. I hated this, because I wanted him to feel our love but I knew he needed it. He still will occasionally do this but now loves cuddling too.
He would have laid awake in his crib for hours if we didn’t check on him.
He never cried. Probably 1 month after being home, in the middle of the night, he cried for me. As I rubbed his back he became quiet and as I slowly got up to leave his bed he started to cry again. I returned and rubbed his back until he was quiet. The cycle continued and I was never so happy to be up in the middle of the night with a crying baby.
He now “yells” or makes noises for us when he awakes and I’m waiting for the day he will yell “mama”!
Food was difficult. He could only eat puréed food for the first 8 Months of being home and finally at 20 Months old we were able to slowly start incorporating solid food. He did not know how to stop eating and could eat 3 days worth of food and then throw it up, but became very upset when it was pulled away. This just took time, measuring and understanding. He’s doing so well now.
His eye contact, muscle tone and development improved quickly. After 3 months of being home he went from just holding his head up to sitting up for the first time. Clip of his first time sitting up:
[wpvideo 5eJLzpbS ]
From there he has continued to hit milestones. He is still nonverbal but has begun to learn sign language.
His smile, laughter, and love is the biggest change and that has just come one day at a time until we look back and realize that we don’t even recognize what he used to be.
**Picture is from Nic's first summer with us.
We could never have guessed that God would use Colt’s birth to lead us to Nic in an orphanage across the ocean.
We would never have imagined the amount of love and joy that Colt and Nic would spread to people all around the world.
We never knew how God would use these two boys to give comfort and hope to so many others who have received their own diagnosis.
But, almost 4 years ago, on the evening of Colt’s birth when we looked at Colt’s beautiful almond eyes and asked ourselves, “Do you think he has Down syndrome?”... We did know Psalm 139:14… I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
We knew 1 Corinthians 1:27 …God chose those the world considers foolish to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong and
John 9:3… but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
So, we knew that God was going to use Colt with his beautiful extra chromosome for His glory and this was the beginning of a new adventure. As all adventures in life, it is not always without fear, trials and difficulties but it is filled with the testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness through it all.
***Part one of Colt’s birth story. More in to come in upcoming posts.***
We wanted to share Colt’s diagnosis in a way that let people know that we celebrated our wonderfully made boy with his extra chromosome.
It has been almost 4 years since Jim and I together wrote Colt’s birth announcement, but the emotions still come flooding back every time I read it...
“We wanted to take a minute to share an update with you on our newest member of the family, Colt. Turns out our little guy has been gifted with an extra chromosome, otherwise known as Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome…. This changes nothing for us in our mind. Psalm 139 hasn’t changed. Colt is just as fearfully and wonderfully made by our perfect Creator as our other five children so why should we feel any different? God didn’t make a mistake when Colt was being ‘intricately woven’ and ‘knitted together…’’(Complete letter below.)
I remember crying while writing these words, not in grief, but in the realization of what a special gift we were given and just how much God was going to use our boy to impact our lives and this world.
I could have never begun to imagine just how soon and how greatly this extra special boy would change us though.
***Part 5 in next post on his 4th Birthday!!***
•Our Announcement Letter:
July 29, 2014... Hi Friends, We wanted to take a minute to share an update with you on our newest member of the family Colt. Turns out our little guy has been gifted with an extra chromosome, (otherwise known as Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome).
We sort of knew this soon after Colt was born when we saw his precious face that revealed one characteristic of down syndrome which is the adorable up-slanted almond eyes. He also didn't cry in the first 24 hours aside from a diaper change, which we also knew wasn't "normal". After a quick search on the internet we learned that many babies that have down syndrome do not cry very often. So this also began to confirm our belief that he could possibly have down syndrome.
When the midwife came back the day after the delivery for Colt's 24 hour check-up, she asked us if he looked like our others, we told her, "well yes, his older brother but with down syndrome". She was caught off guard as she didn't think that we had noticed nor did she realize that we would be just as happy with this possible diagnosis. She then confirmed to us that she also thought that he possibly had down syndrome.
We told her that it changed nothing for us in our mind. After all, Psalm 139 hasn't changed. He is just as fearfully and wonderfully made by our perfect creator as our other five children so why should we feel any different? God didn't make a mistake when Colt was being “intricately woven” and “knitted together”.
Last week Colt was seen by a pediatrician and a genetics doctor who both confirmed that Trisomy 21 was an accurate diagnosis. The last step was waiting for the results of his blood test which we received yesterday morning from genetics lab giving the final confirmation of the diagnosis that we felt we had already known since the day he was born.
We are praying that God will be glorified as we get the opportunity to share with our friends and family why we are just as thrilled and have just as much joy with Colt as with our five others (who as you know are not perfect and also come with their own little package of health and behavior issues that just so happens to not be given a packaged title or cute physical traits that might define their issues into a specific group).
As we were watching all of our kids cuddling Colt and doting on him and Luke carrying him around singing to him, Jim said, "well he couldn't have been born into a better family to always have someone loving on him and taking care of him :)"
Even though we know he'll be a greater gift to us than we are to him. Really it's not about him or us but just that it is an opportunity for God to be glorified and we are so grateful for that. We also know that there will be some unique challenges ahead but we have faith in our perfect Father and praise Him for another amazing gift in Colt!
Love, Jim and Kelsi
Colt and Nic’s oldest sister is also their number one sign language instructor.
When we began teaching Colt sign language all of our children learned it, but she picked it up fast and went on to take ASL- sign language courses.
I love that my children are learning this skill not only to help with their brothers, (because they are far better than me at it) but I also hope that at some point they will be able to be a friend to someone that might otherwise feel excluded.
For those wondering, we use sign language to help with the boys communication skills. Children with Down syndrome can often have delayed speech and sign language provides a way for them to communicate in what could otherwise become a frustrating situation.
Colt has become quite verbal but still often has to follow his words with the signs so that we can understand. Nic is still working on basic signs and needs consistent practice.
We began with Baby Signing Time DVDs because we found that learning through song and dance was a VERY effective method for both boys...Are we surprised? :) Most local libraries and our Down syndrome clinic have these DVDs available or they are available online as as well as many more sources and free tools.
*** Note: I think Colt’s making the universal sign for exasperation while trying to get his Nic to stop squirming.😊
It was on a shuttle ride at a fall carnival in elementary school that I have my first memory of meeting a little boy with Down syndrome. We had both just won the coveted cakes at the cake walk. While winning a cake was the ultimate goal of every child’s evening, the joy that this little boy showed was such that I still remember him today.
At that moment I knew that I wanted to work with children with Down syndrome “when I grew up”. Of course, when you’re around the age of ten, career plans change and I soon after decided that I would rather run a shake shack with my best friend, followed by at least 100 different career plan changes.
It might have come later than I originally planned, but I am so thankful that in God’s perfect plan, I get to do more than just “work” with children with Down syndrome but raise these two wonderfully made beautiful boys and share the joy and beauty of Down syndrome to help end old, misconceived ideas.
Thank you all for being such an amazing group of people that always celebrate Colt and Nic with us and help spread, share and learn the beauty in Down syndrome! ❤️❤️.