Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Day 8 - Isaiah Michael

Note: A little over a year ago I stumbled upon 28 Days of Hearts blog after our adoption journey began. At the time I was experiencing waves of fear at what we might be "getting ourselves into" by bringing home a severe CHD kiddo. The stories on this blog—the joy-filled and the devastating—brought me some level of clarity as to what our new life might be like and an enormous amount of peace. I debated about how to tell share our story-to-date. ....It turned out to be the long version—sorry! (I haven't yet found a short version :)). I hope it is as helpful and encouraging to you—whatever step of the adoption journey you find yourself on.


God never shows us the entire staircase.
 But He gives us just enough light for the step in front of us.

We didn't plan to go and do a big scary thing. We are no more spiritual or brave than anyone else I know.

If you had told me as I reached adulthood that one day I would adopt a seven year old boy from China with a complex and terminal heart condition, I would have probably told you you were crazy. I wasn't opposed to the idea of adoption itself (growing up I knew several families who had adopted), but I more-or-less pictured getting married and having a traditional family, like my own.

Little did I know that a series of small "yeses" would lead me and my family to the top of what feels like a sky scraper—one step at a time.

The early yeses were so small, they didn't even feel like committing to anything. But the journey must start somewhere. And in the case of adoption, it looks like falling in love with an idea.

I began to love the idea of adoption, both from an emotional perspective—beauty for ashes—and a purely logical and justice-minded standpoint—if every Christian family welcomed one orphan into their family, that could almost eradicate the problem. A small yes.

As my soon-to-be-husband and I dreamed about our future, we committed to remaining open to the idea of adoption as a way to build our family. Another small yes.

On a several occasions we supported others who were pursuing adoption—continuing to nurture the seed God had planted in our hearts. More small yeses.

As a tangible step in our journey, we attended an informational class on both international and domestic adoptions. Ironically, I remember them emphasizing that they really needed families open to older children 7+ and I thought—there is no way I'd every adopt a 7 year old.

You see I loved the idea of adoption. Of adopting a baby—as young as possible, as healthy as possible.

THE NEXT YES (it was a big one :))
Years flew by and soon we were parenting 3 biological kiddos and really torn as to whether we wanted a fourth. I love being pregnant. I love newborns and toddlers. I didn't want that stage to be over. I also felt like I many days I had my hands full enough. But I couldn't get our desire to adopt out of my head.

At the same time, God began to stretch our hearts. Now that we had some parenting experience under our belt, including our youngest daughter's surgery and subsequent 3 week stay in the NICU for an undetected bowel obstruction, we became open to a child who might not as easily find a home (but I still capped the age at 5 years old and special needs to minor/correctable).

At our crossroad of another child vs. no more children, God confirmed, through a still small voice, that we would not be adding to our family biologically. After some of the natural grief wore off, I felt a renewed excitement for adoption. One night I got the urge to scroll through Holt International's waiting child list (like I had done occasionally over the years). I was not seriously looking for a child because these lists really only contained kids with severe special needs—I was more praying and processing what might be next for us.

And then I saw his face.

More specifically I watched his video. I was immediately smitten. He was engaging and bright and silly. I read his profile and his need didn't sound too severe—at least not compared to many of the others.

Not able to get him out of my mind, I casually showed my husband the next night. He was equally smitten and gave me the okay to click the "find out more" button (another small yes).

Well. That yes really got the train moving (a train I didn't even know we were on!). Initial application, letter of intent, Q&A with other heart moms, lots of late nights of prayer.... all leading to the BIG yes.

Isaiah's medical file was a single sheet of paper thick. There was no new information on him since he was 1 (he was 6 at the time). His stated diagnosis was single ventricle, atrial septal defect (ASD), transposition of the great arteries. There were a lot of unknowns.

A single ventricle meant that there was no "fix". Palliative surgery could be performed to re-route the plumbing of the heart to alleviate pressure and make it last longer, but eventually single ventricle patients require a heart transplant, and life expectancy is roughly 40 years.

This was not a minor/correctable need.

Frantic with anxiety about what we might be getting ourselves into while falling deeper in love with a little boy I didn't even know, I trudged heavy-hearted in to church that Sunday.

God met us exactly where we were at with a sermon story about a young couple who said YES to adopting a little boy despite unspeakable odds. By the end of the story I was a sobbing mess and my husband and I locked eyes.

Despite wishing for more clarity, more answers to our questions, we decided to say YES to the next step (the big one!) and face the rest of the hurdles as they came. A wave of peace fell over me and we were on our way!

After the long road of forms, fingerprints, home visits, fundraising*, forms, and travel logistics we left with our oldest bio kids for China last July (2016)! The trip could not have gone smoother and our family bonded almost instantaneously (this is not the case for many families and it sounds almost too good to be true, but we were super fortunate). It's hard to put into words how miraculous his transition has been. We couldn't love him more and he is thriving in attachment, language learning, social development, and academics. He is such a joy and I have to remind myself—we could have missed this!

*I can't omit from omit from our story that God faithfully provided all of the funds needed for our adoption costs—a hurdle that almost prevented us from saying yes.

Once home we quickly settled into our new normal. Isaiah's health seemed surprisingly stable and, other than a little blue in his fingernails, you wouldn't really know he had a severe heart condition.

But we know what we cannot see. That his heart is very sick and his future is unknown. So we continue to take more steps—one appointment, one blood test, one hospital stay at a time. And at each step there have been surprises, and turns we didn't know were coming. Thankfully (and miraculously!) for us, they have been mostly good surprises.

A series of imaging procedures (echocardiogram, heart cath, CT scan) have revealed a series complex defects that make for one UNIQUE heart, including: dextrocardia (his heart is on the right side of his body), pulmonary atresia (missing pulmonary vein), criss-cross anatomy (his heart is tipped on its side and flows in more of an X pattern than a V), plus a couple of others. The most encouraging news is that he may in fact HAVE two ventricles but there is a gaping hole (no septum) between them.

While we are still working on a final surgical recommendation, he appears to be a candidate for a Bi-Ventricular Repair (this would actually fix his heart) instead of the typical Fontan (this is not a fix but a palliative work-around). We praise God for this miraculous news! The Bi-Vent comes with its own complexities though as it is a riskier surgery (more fatalities). We are in talks with both our local children's hospital and the renowned pediatric cardiologists at Boston Children's Hospital, waiting on their formal recommendation.

So we don't have all the answers—but we've gotten more comfortable with not knowing, with trusting God to give us just enough light for the step he has us on, with practicing joy and gratitude for each day we have with our family and trying to let go of the rest.

Because believing we can plan or pray away the pain and difficulties from our lives is a lie.

God never promises that bad things won't happen. But he does promise that he'll never leave us. And that, if we allow him to, he can use our story to bring more people to him.

So if you find yourself staring up the steep, scary climb from where you are to where you think God might be calling you go. Take a deep breath. Fix your eyes on the Light. And start with one step—the next small yes.

Do not fear. For I am with you.
Isaiah 41:10


Andrea Olson said...

Thank you for sharing!

Amber and Kyle said...

The 'say the next yes' really accurately describes our experience as well! God bless your precious crew!

LisaE. said...

Being obedient even with the smallest of "yeses" brings about such beautiful blessings! Thanks for sharing!

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