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.
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.
But, I cannot tell you how many times when I am watching him in these new environments, I think about those babies left at his orphanage that we could not bring home.
I have had the privilege of becoming friends with many who have a heart for these orphans and a heart for adoption and fostering in the last few years. They continue to adopt and foster those that many in this world consider “unlovable” or “unworthy”. They do not do it because it’s easy, glamorous or fun.
When I read things like the quote below, I can’t help but ask myself am I doing all that I can do? Just because we adopted Nic, doesn’t mean we can just wash our hands and be done. No, it doesn’t mean it has to be adoption, or far off missions, but wherever it is, am I truly living the kind of life that Christ calls me to...
“You are called to go through this world as a pilgrim, a mere temporary resident, traveling light, and willing, as Christ directs, to do what the rich young ruler refused to do: give up material wealth and the security it provides and live in a way that involves you in poverty and loss of possessions. Having your treasure in Heaven, you are not to budget for treasure on earth, nor for a high standard of living-you may well be required to forego both..
You are called to follow Christ, carrying your cross.
...your eyes must be open to see others’ needs, both spiritual and material; your heart must be ready to care for needy souls when you find them; your mind must be alert to plan out the best way to help them; and your will must be set against the trick that we are all so good at ‘passing the buck,’ going by on the other side and contracting out of situations of need where sacrificial help is called for.
"Knowing God" by J.I. Packer
But do I live it?
This was an article I wrote recently for "Love What Matters" sharing our story: 14 years ago if you had said anything to me about 7 children, Down syndrome, adoption, miscarriage, and homeschool, I would have never thought that had anything to do with me or my future. I might have even prayed that some of those things would not be in my future.
I may never know the purpose of every hard or good time that I have been through, but I can look back and see how so many of them have grown me and led me to where I am today. If my life had gone according to my thoughts and plans, I would have missed out on all of this.
It has been almost 4 years since my husband and I together wrote the birth announcement of our 6th child, Colt, 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…’’
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.
Colt’s smile, love, funny faces, dancing, singing, insistence on high-fiving or hugging every single person who walks by, and more, add so much joy and love to our family. But, Colt has added so much more than that to our lives.
Our love for Colt opened our eyes to our fear of discomfort, disabilities, pursuit of ease, and the safe road that keep us from the joy of living a life in a deeper trust in God and a deeper love for others.
We had never thought about adoption before but through our son’s birth, our eyes were opened to the needs of children all around the world, with a special calling to those with Down syndrome and special needs.
When we learned about Reece’s Rainbow, a ministry whose mission is to find families for orphans with Down syndrome, and read that in other parts of the world these children are viewed as outcasts with no ability to learn or be functional members of society, languishing in mental institutions, hidden away from the world in shame — our heart broke for these children. We saw their faces and pictured Colt being born into those circumstances. Our family knew we must do something.
We stared at the babies on the Reece’s Rainbow website for almost a year, saying that we will adopt ‘one day.’ Then I saw the picture of a precious baby boy. He was only a few months old, abandoned to live his life in an orphanage because he had an extra chromosome.
That is when we realized we would cross the ocean or give our lives for every single one of our children, and the only thing holding us back from doing the same for a child, ‘our boy’ in an orphanage in Ukraine, was fear, and God is so much bigger than any of our fears. He is powerful and faithful, and we needed to trust in Him with the details of the plans that He had laid out for our family.
Adoption was a busy and somewhat frightening process. People sometimes say we are courageous or special for adopting a baby boy with Down syndrome from across the world, but the truth is, there is really nothing special about us. We just had faith, but sadly even that was weak at times, with moments of anxiousness and thoughts of ‘what are we doing?,’ just like anyone else would. The moment we walked into the orphanage and held Nic for the first time, we knew all of those moments of fears didn’t matter. Nic was our son.
As the first visitors he had ever had, he cuddled into my arms with the muscle tone of a newborn baby due to the first year of his life being spent alone in the orphanage crib. He didn’t know how to make eye contact. His head shook back and forth, a habit formed as a mechanism for soothing and stimulation. He was frightened by the sound of his own giggle the first time we tickled him. But for the first time, he was shown love, and we knew he was going to learn just how loved he really was.
In January of 2017 we walked out the doors of that orphanage where he 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 first birthday one week later. The first year of his life was spent alone in an orphanage crib, but he celebrated his first birthday surrounded by a mom, dad and six siblings! What a beautiful day!
Nic has been home for 17 months and has been transformed by the power of love. Our baby that could barely lift his head, is now a happy toddler walking, laughing, singing, dancing, hugging, loving and being loved. He is doted on by his six older siblings and he and Colt are the best of friends and partners in crime. I can’t imagine life without him or where he would be now if we had succumbed to our worries and fears.
The world seeks the beautiful, perfect, or ‘normal.’ They are quick to look down on, mourn over or throw out anyone they deem different, inconvenient, less worthy or less able. And these are the very ones that God has chosen to use to free us from these worldly pursuits and teach others in ways that none of those that the world considers ‘great,’ ‘beautiful,’ ‘rich’ or ‘famous’ could ever do.
I began sharing the beauty of our boys on Instagram at ‘Downright Wonderful,’ to spread the message that Colt, Nic and every human are created exactly the way God wants them to be, unique individuals, with their own strengths, gifts and weaknesses, for His glory, fearfully and *downright* wonderfully made. I wanted to share the beauty in differences, but I never knew the joy and love that Colt and Nic would spread to so many in doing this.
We never knew we wanted a child with Down syndrome until Colt was born and we learned that what we never would have known to ask for was an amazing gift from God. We had never considered adoption, or adopting a child with Down syndrome, and now cannot imagine our life without Nic.
I am so thankful that God’s thoughts and ways are not mine and as the heavens are higher than the earth, so His ways are higher than mine, because if life had gone according to my thoughts and plans, I would have missed out on all of this.
I might still be looking at children with different abilities with a bit of sadness instead of celebrating those differences and seeing the gift in them. I might still fear a diagnosis instead of realizing what it really means to believe that God doesn’t make mistakes. I would have missed out on the smiles and laughter that Colt and Nic bring every day and never have seen just how powerful the innocent, unconditional love and joy of two little boys who happen to have an extra chromosome can be.”