Not too long ago, there was a story in our local newspaper about a nearby family that is in the process of adopting two little boys - both with Down syndrome - from Eastern Europe. The story blew my mind - this couple, a little younger than me, already has two children, and are undertaking the daunting task of adopting two children? And both with special needs? Wow. It boggled my mind.
And broke my heart a little, because of the little voice inside that told me, "you could never do that."
I've confessed it here before - I've felt a strong pull toward adoption for a while now. I blogged about it back in November - November! nine months ago! - that it had just hit me, that adoption was flying in my face from every direction. And it hasn't stopped. It hasn't slowed down. It's everywhere I look, even in unlikely places. I picked up book from the young adult section of the library this past week (yeah yeah, young adult = guilty pleasure) because it had a fun title and a quirky cover. It ended up being about a 14-year-old boy who is sent to live with kooky relatives for the summer, and ends up helping the small town save up money for...you guessed it, one of the townsfolk to adopt a boy from Romania. I'm telling you, it is everywhere I turn.
But back to the local family that's adopting...the article mentioned that they found their new sons online at Reece's Rainbow, an organization devoted to finding homes for orphans with Down syndrome. So, after finding the mom on Facebook and messaging her to tell her what an amazing thing I think she's doing and to let her know that they're in our prayers, I went to check out Reece's Rainbow.
And oh, the precious faces that waited for me there. SO many sweet little faces. So many sad pictures. And then, one tiny half-smile that stopped me in my tracks and took my breath away:
Meet Anastasia. She was born in April 2005, and lives in Russia. She has Down syndrome. And because she is already six years old, it is likely that she has been transferred from the "baby orphanage" into some sort of institution. No one can tell me for sure. Yes, I've emailed them to ask.
Maybe it's because her sweet little face reminds me a bit of Milly - especially with those blonde pigtails. She is clearly no more than two or so in this picture, and I want so much to know what she looks like now. What her personality is like. Whether she is healthy and well cared for.
Although I've thought a lot about adoption - as I mentioned before, it's something I've always that I'd like to do "someday" - I have never considered adopting a child with special needs. I'm too selfish, too busy, too uneducated, too (insert excuse of your choice here.) But once Anastasia's picture hit me like a ton of bricks, I started thinking a little differently.
She has Down syndrome. As far as special needs go, that one can be pretty minor. And what would happen if, say, we had a third baby that ended up having Down syndrome? It would play out a bit like this...
1) Shock and JOY at the news. Shock because it would be a complete accident, as Gene has made it clear that he doesn't want another baby. JOY for me, because babies are blessings no matter what. Gene wouldn't share in my joy at first, but he would come around.
2) Nervousness, trepidation, FEAR...when we would be told at the 20-week ultrasound that something didn't look quite right, that this measurement was off, that our baby had markers typical of Down syndrome.
3) Outrage when the doctor suggested amniocentesis to confirm or rule out Down syndrome. There are too many risks to amnio; I would never consent to it. The results would be irrelevant in any case; I would never consider terminating my child because of Down syndrome - something that does not diminish quality of life.
4) This is where I would start reading, reading, reading - every resource I could find on Down syndrome. I would be a wealth of information by the time the baby arrived - prepared for everything that I could possibly be prepared for. Learning about the possible complications and how to handle them, learning about growth and development and whatever else I would need to know to be the best mother possible to my child.
Mentally walking through those four steps brought me to a new realization - this is something that could happen to our family. Perhaps it's not likely, but it could happen, and that is how we would deal with it.
What would be so terrible about skipping steps one through three? Or at least skipping steps two and three, and maybe editing step one a bit...
Gene is, unsurprisingly, not as moved by the picture of Anastasia as I am. He admits that he doesn't feel the same call to adoption that I do...but at least he acknowledges that I do. He is, I think, overwhelmed by the enormity of international adoption, and I don't blame him one bit. It's a terrifying process - the cost alone is staggering: $25 to 30 thousand dollars to adopt a child from Russia, once you figure in travel, lodging, etc. Not to mention the piles of paperwork, the hoops to jump through, and the very idea of getting on a plane and jetting off to Russia - twice! - without my babies.
No wonder that little voice tells me that I could never do that. It does seem impossible. Honestly, with just one income, we would barely meet the minimum income to adopt from Russia, if we met it at all.
And if we did meet the minimum and did decide to pursue adoption, it would mean endless fundraisers to try to raise enough to bring her home. Oh, how I hate asking people for money! Especially when I suspect that many of them would think that we don't need it, since we already have two quite perfect children of our own. Why go to all the fuss for one more?
It's so easy to say that it's impossible. SO easy.
But what's not easy is feeling compelled to go and look at that little face just one more time. To feel my heart break a little for her every time. What's not easy is finding a reason to mention her to Gene, to turn my laptop so he can see her picture again too - hoping that just maybe, maybe this time he'll see it too - only for him to roll his eyes and ask me "what's this obsession with adoption?"
Maybe his lack of interest is God's way of telling me something...not this child, not right now, or not necessarily adoption. Maybe something else.
And maybe God will soften his heart toward adoption. Maybe the time isn't right and the answer is simply, not right now.
I am prayerfully waiting. But my heart longs for Anastasia and, were it entirely up to me, the adoption process would have already been begun.
Speaking of prayer...even if you aren't interested in adopting, there's still a way that you can help the children featured on Reece's Rainbow - or at least one special child. Consider becoming one of their Prayer Warriors. There's no cost and no obligation, other than to pray for your child each and every day until that child's forever family comes to take him/her home. Just click on the link to find out how to get started.
I am a prayer warrior for sweet little Mariah:
Mariah was born in March 2010 - also in Russia, although a different region from Anastasia. She also has Down syndrome, but is already "seeking to communicate", according to her profile page. I'm praying for her health and happiness, for the caregivers in her orphanage, and for her family to find her and come for her soon. No child should grow up without a mommy.
And while Anastasia already has a different prayer warrior, she's always in my prayers as well. If it's not me that's meant to be her mommy, then I hope whoever-it-is finds her and brings her home soon.
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Want to read more about the family that's adopting two little boys? Here is the article that appeared in our newspaper, and here is the family's blog. They're still raising money to bring their boys home - donations and prayers are both appreciated.
Last thing: if you have ever had that little voice say "you could never do that," then HERE is a blog post worth reading. It certainly convicted me, and continues to whenever I go back to read it again...