After a few days of a really sore neck, I woke up with a painful throat. Nineteen hours later I couldn’t even walk, and there were purple spots in my eyes from broken blood vessels. My husband rushed me to my doctor a few minutes away from our home, but they couldn’t locate my blood pressure or pulse. Miraculously they found a vein and gave me an antibiotic. Through waves of consciousness, I felt my skin was burning and begged them to make it stop.
Two years earlier I married Greg, and we had desired to grow our family and have two children naturally. We discussed later adopting children who had no one to love them. Our marriage was wonderful, almost picture-perfect, despite others telling us how difficult our early years together would be.
But our dreams had crumbled before us. I had contracted Meningococcemia and Meningitis. The ER doctor told my husband, “She is as sick as you can be and still be alive.” I was in a medically induced coma as my body went into complete organ failure. None of the doctors expected me to live, and they began preparing Greg for my death, but God had a plan for my life. There were five children across the world who were not yet born but would need someone to love and care for them unconditionally.
Slowly, I recuperated from my illness and finally left the hospital two months later, but it took years for me to recover, and I will probably never fully be healed until I’m in heaven. I have many physical scars, drop foot, and other long-term after-effects. After a few years, we decided to try to have children again. Month after month I faced the disappointment of not being able to conceive.
I felt like after all I had been through, God at least owed me children. I would not have admitted it then, but I was angry at God. I was distraught about the scars on my body and sank into the depths of guilt for not being able to have children naturally. Throughout it all, Greg was never distressed over us not having biological children, which was an incredible gift to me. He reminded me that we always wanted to adopt and that there were desolate children who needed our love and to know that Jesus loved them even more. His words and support were what I deeply needed as I worked through the grief of my sickness and infertility.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Someone aware of my struggles with my infertility shared this verse, and I knew that God had not forgotten about me. This was a promise that my joy would come from Him.
We decided against fertility treatments and started the process for domestic adoption, but after talking to a couple about the orphanages in Russia, we knew God was calling us to adopt from there. As we were preparing to submit the dossier (foreign adoption paperwork), we both felt that God was directing us not to indicate or request specific characteristics or traits. He knew who our children were, and He would bring them to us, so we prepared ourselves for a lengthy wait. But in March 2007, we received an unexpected call from our agency about two-year-old twin Asian boys in Russia. They were born at twenty-six weeks and were only eleven pounds at two years old. Greg and I prayed together and then decided that we should go to Russia to meet these boys.
The road to adopting our twins was long and difficult; we were extensively questioned about my illness and childhood, as I was considered a risk to the children. I was subjected to a barrage of medical testing while in Russian. After being denied at the third court session, we were determined to keep fighting. We visited the boys every day and already considered them to be our sons, and we weren’t leaving without them. We appealed and requested another hearing and found a doctor with knowledge about the disease that caused my illness. At the next hearing, I testified with boldness that only the Holy Spirit could give me in those moments.
Four months after first meeting them, we brought our sons Jachin and Josiah home with us, who God continues to heal to this day. Before we returned home from Russia, God had already placed on Greg’s heart that we would be adopting from Ethiopia next. I was terrified to experience the trauma of adoption again, based on what we had just experienced in Russia.
I found Ethiopia to be a different experience. I was changed in that country. I suppose that is another blog post, but Ethiopia and its people will always hold a piece of me that I don’t want back. Four years after adopting our sons, in 2011 we brought nine-and-a-half-month-old Havyn home, giving her the safe place indicative of her name.
After having such a positive experience with Havyn’s process, we decided to adopt from there again. But the adoption processes had changed, with more requirements both in the US and Ethiopia. So, we were placed on a waiting list and were content to wait on God for his timing. However, our path was not as planned and brought an unexpected blessing.
One day I was reading a blog post about adoption, which contained a link to a waiting list of children in China. Without thinking, I clicked on it and saw a picture of a little boy with an advocacy name of Ace. He had visual deficits, and I was curious as to the extent of his vision issues. My husband, an optometrist, was standing behind me, so I asked him to come over and look at the little boy’s profile. He was silent as he read and looked at his picture. Tears fell from his eyes, and he uttered, “What are we going to do about that little boy?” I took a deep breath as our paperwork was in Ethiopia; we had spent all we had.
Undeterred, I called the adoption agency connected to Ace’s file. Were we really going to adopt a child from China, while waiting for one in Ethiopia? Ten months later, in December 2013, I was in China with our three-year-old blind son in my arms. We named him after Hudson Taylor, a passionate British missionary who founded the China Inland Mission. God had provided everything we needed to bring Hudson into our family. He had cataract surgery six months after he came home and now has imperfect vision, along with autism. He is my sweet gift and unexpected surprise.
About eleven months after Hudson came home, we finally received that call about our daughter in Ethiopia. Weeks earlier, we had been researching names, and Leilani, meaning ‘beautiful flower from Heaven’ caught my eye. That night, I was doing dishes and first heard the song “Sweet Leilani” when the phone rang. My husband was in the shed working, and I ran through the snow in my socks to tell him our daughter was on the video call. “Also,” I said, “her name is going to be Leilani!”
Our sweet girl was sick, with open sores on her legs and toes which we later found out was from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a very difficult infection to treat in humans. She had constant abdominal pain and explosive diarrhea, later identified as caused by giardia – an intestinal infection caused by a parasite. When she breathed, we could hear rattling and wheezing, she had a running cough and constant cough, all caused by a respiratory infection. I couldn’t get her home fast enough so that we could get the medical care that she needed to get well. It took months to get everything addressed. Today is a fun-loving girl who brings us so much joy.
Looking back, I have no regrets about not having biological children. My only sorrow comes from the trauma my children continue to live with due to the unfortunate circumstances and conditions they were born into. Adoption always comes from a place of brokenness, and as their stories unravel in their hearts and minds, I hope they know and trust our Creator deeply, who has always seen them, has always loved them and is the only true healer of any brokenness.
My job is to hold them and let them grieve what was lost, and then point them to the One who brings healing and redemption to every story. I am not their rescuer, for I too needed rescuing. Jesus is the rescuer, and he brings broken people together to live life side by side, love one another, and grow and sharpen each other. I hope that my children always know that they are not second best. They are God’s best. They are better than what I was asking God for. There is still much healing to take place, but it is my joy and deep privilege to be their mom and walk this journey with them.
God is writing my story, my children’s stories, and He writes your story as well. Whether you are dealing with the grief of infertility, are an adoptive mom struggling to know how to help your child heal, or an adoptee who is dealing with the hurt of the past and trying to understand where you belong, God is there. He is trustworthy. We can take our hurts, our brokenness, our past, our confusion….we can take it all to Him and we can trust Him to bring hope. He writes impossibly possible stories. And though we may not fully understand all of the “why” until we are glorified, my friend, we certainly can know with full certainty, that though hardships will come, God is with us and for us.
Psalm 73:25-26, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
PRAYER FOR MOMS:
Heavenly Father, Thank you so much that you adopted us into your family. Thank you for caring about our hurts and our struggles. I ask you now to be near to the brokenhearted. To those who are struggling with infertility, Father, show them that Jesus is the joy of their salvation. Show them that you are trustworthy. Let them rest in your unfailing love. To adoptive mothers, Oh Lord, give them wisdom as they walk this journey with their precious children. Give them clarity, joy, truth, compassion, and perseverance, knowing that you are the great healer. To adoptees, Father, let them trust your sovereign hand. Show them that you care for their hurts and that Jesus is their treasure. Let them see their worth in you. We love you and trust you, Father.
My “Moms Night In“ interview with Rebekah:
Or watch on Facebook here: