Friday, February 5, 2016

Day 5 - Maggie Jane & Cora Hope

Rather than telling you all about my absolutely amazing daughter (because she’s pretty much perfect in my eyes), I want to focus a little more on our journey to Cora because I believe that the first “yes” is the scariest word to say for so many families considering a child with a congenital heart defect. 

I believe that God began our journey to Cora Hope many years ago.  There’s this song that I absolutely love called StoryTeller and the chorus goes like this: 

Oh the mountain where I climbed
The valley where I fell
You were there all along
That's the story I'll tell
You brought the pieces together
Made me this storyteller
Now I know it is well, it is well
That's the story I'll tell
For years and years and years I'll tell
That's the story I'll tell

Anyone who knew me very well as a young child would tell you that I had a heart for missions and a heart for adoption.  I was always so fascinated with the adoption stories of family friends that I begged my parents to adopt.  When Ryan and I met in junior high, he learned fairly quickly that it was a package deal… me + adoption.  Neither of us knew exactly what that meant but we knew it would play a part in our lives… we just didn’t know when, where, or who. 

We struggled getting pregnant with our firstborn, Trent, and just before we started the adoption process, we found out we were pregnant and 9 months later we had a healthy baby boy.

As Trent turned one, God surprised the socks off of us when we found out we were pregnant again.  9 months later, Maggie Jane entered our world and made us a perfect little family of four.  However, during her newborn discharge exam, the doctors discovered that our seemingly healthy baby girl had a very broken heart.  Maggie was diagnosed with Double Inlet Left Ventricle, Transposition of the Greater Arteries, and an Interrupted Aortic Arch.  In that little hospital room, our world came crashing down around us.  We had just been thrown into a world that we did not know existed... the world of CHD’s.

She was immediately transferred to St. Louis Children’s Hospital where she would have her BT shunt at 1 week old.  She would go on to have her Glenn Surgery at 5 months old, and her Fontan at 2 ½ years old.  She has also had numerous cardiac catheterizations with her last two being late fall 2014.  While we would never tell you that the last 8 years have been easy with Mag, she has surprised the doctors every step of the way with how well she has done.  She loves to ski and is even playing Upwards basketball this year… things that we never could have imagined her doing in those horrific first days.

Even though she has done so well, I would be lying to you if we haven’t wondered “Why Maggie?”  “why us?”.  In fact, in the last year, she asked us many of those same questions.  We were able to rest in knowing that our God is sovereign and that He has a plan for us and for her in this.  As Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  While we know that He does not owe us an answer to these questions, He has even given us little answers as we meet other families on similar journeys.  Maggie’s joy-filled life offered them hope as they faced some of their darkest days.  In fact, we kind of always thought that that was likely the only answer we would get here on earth, and we were so thankful for that glimpse into His plan.  Much to our surprise, the story wouldn’t end there. 

We never could have dreamt just how much God would use Maggie Jane’s life to offer hope to a tiny little girl across the world.  I truly believe that if we had never walked this heart journey with Maggie, it is highly unlikely that we would have ever been drawn to Cora nor would we have a peace about taking on her specific medical needs.  Our God used Maggie Jane to draw us to our 5th child.  It’s the story that he’s been writing all along we just didn’t know it.

After Evie was born 3 years later, we decided that it was time to start the adoption process.  Two years later, Reid Jun-Su Matthias entered our world from Korea and completed our family of six… or so we thought. 

Through his adoption process, we saw the Lord’s faithfulness in each step.  We had the support and encouragement of friends and family.  This, too, plays a huge part into our decision to bring Cora home.  We knew that we could not do this on our own.  We would need a strong support system, and we knew we would have one.

So, this now brings us to our Cora Hope.  March 2015, my husband and I went to the The Drop Box.  A few days after seeing it, the faces from the film still filled my thoughts.  I found myself wondering about the faces of children who still needed parents.  I hopped on Holt International's website and saw her face and read her bio.  She had a heart very much like Maggie's, she shared Evie's birthday, and she had a smile that would melt anyone.

Well, there you go.  She grabbed me.  Her face was in my head, but I did my best to NOT imagine myself as her mama.  I knew that there was no way Ryan would go for it, and honestly, I wasn't sure I could handle another adoption, another child with special needs, and even just another child.  So, I told myself I would simply pray for a family for her.  I even showed her picture to Maggie so she could be praying with me.  Immediately, she wondered why we couldn't adopt her, and I explained all of the very legit reasons.

The more I prayed for a family for her, the more I could see myself as her mama.  I decided to share this with Ryan, and overwhelmed doesn't even begin to explain his feelings.  Adopting another child was nowhere on our radar.  NO WHERE!  We were a happy and complete family... We were done adding to our family.  So, he was floored by my desire and almost couldn't even process it.  He asked for 2 weeks to think, process, and pray.

In those coming days, doubt crept in to my mind.  Could we handle it financially and emotionally?  Did we really want to change our new normal?  Two children with serious medical needs?

That Sunday, we sat in church.  God used the songs to speak to me that morning more than He had in a very long time.  I knew He was saying that I was placing things and comforts before Him and before His plan.  Ugh.  Then, came the sermon.  It was about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace.  It was about abandoning all else, and living for Him no matter our fears or what the cost may be.

I sat in church that day, and could almost feel her in my arms.  I longed for her.  That was just 1 week into the 2 weeks that Ryan had requested.  When we got home from church, I asked him if he had managed to stay awake for the sermon.  He said yes, and that God was doing a pretty good job at changing his no to yes.  Just over 1 week into his 2 weeks, he gave me the go ahead to send in our initial application to Holt.  He had told God that He would have to change his no to yes and God did . . . not without hesitation or fear.

We still faced so many unknowns, but we quickly chose John 16:33 as our verse for this journey.  "In this life you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world."

On December 2, 2015, after 8 months from start to finish, I was on my way to China to bring Cora home.  My beautiful 2 1/2 year old daughter with a heart that was broken was a joy from the very first moment.  God has blessed this child and all who know her with the sunniest of personalities.  She is beautiful from the inside out.

I fell instantly in love with her and couldn’t wait to get her home so the rest of the family could as well. 

While in country, the heart mama in me watched her every breath.  She had clubbed fingers and toes and they were bluer than Maggie’s had ever been.  She couldn’t walk across the hotel room without getting short of breath.  I was certain she would be having a cardiac cath as soon as we got home. 

Cora and I arrived home on December 17th and it’s been a whirlwind of holidays and doctor appointments since that day.  We saw cardiology just 5 days after arriving home, but received a good report.  Nothing emergent was needed.  We could settle in and love on our sweet girl for awhile.  So, we enjoyed our Christmas as a new family of seven. 

We’ve learned a lot about Cora in the last 1 ½ months.  She has been diagnosed with Double Outlet Right Ventricle and Goldenhar Syndrome.  With those diagnoses, we’ve added 7 specialists and two therapists.  She has multiple procedures and surgeries in the coming months including her third heart surgery.  We are so thankful for the medical care Cora received in China through Little Flower Projects.  Because of them, she had two repairs in China.  We know that this is why she is doing as well as she is right now.  However, while the two surgeries she had were done very well, they are likely not what would have been done here from the beginning.  So, we have some decisions to make regarding what route we take from here.  She will have a MRI on March 2nd and then a 3D model of her heart will be printed so the surgeons can decide which surgery she needs.  Once that decision is made, she’ll have a cardiac catheterization and then surgery… all most likely this spring. 

When I look at it all together, it’s a lot.  Honestly, more than I could have ever thought we could handle.  However, we are taking it one day at a time, and God has filled us with a peace beyond all comprehension.  Cora handles her appointments with courage and spunk.  There’s no sneaking anything by our girl.
This beautiful child of ours is settling in so very well.  She adores her 4 older siblings and is the perfect book end to our family. 

We will continue to take one day at a time with our beautiful Cora Hope, and cherish every moment.  While that first “yes” was filled with tremendous fear and countless unknowns, we would say it again 1 million times over.  We are blessed beyond measure to have her in our family, and are so thankful that God led us to her and gave us the courage to bring her home.


Cherylchina said...

OMG! I Love to hear about your family and know that God had a hand in this from the get-go! Such a relief it was to hear that she had a family waiting to adopt her. And so beyond my dreams that your family, who already had heart experience was the one to find her and get her the help she needed. Thank you to Maggie for leading the way and for giving your family the strength and experience they need to Lead ON! Her foster parents and all her sponsors would be so glad to see how well she is doing !!!

LisaE. said...

Thanks for sharing your story of your heart warriors.

Andrea O. said...

Cora was one of the little ones that Holt spoke to my organization about! I did not know which family had been blessed with her, but now I do! Thanks for sharing!

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