Adding Joy: The Joy family’s story of adopting a child with Down Syndrome

My husband and I were only teenagers when we found out we would be parents. The road did not begin as an easy one for our growing family, but today we are so thankful we have persevered through the difficulties of parenting, marriage, growing up and learning who we were as people all at the same time. Today our son is almost 16 and our daughter is 12. We have a new addition of whom I will speak of in just a minute. But right now let me just back up a bit.

When we started the adoption on May 9th, 2015, we hoped to adopt a healthy 0 to 3 year old girl. Our MCC (medical conditions checklist) had a few mild to minor-correctable needs. We felt that was all we were equipped to take on. We began looking online and joining different groups, getting to know other adoptive parents. We also began sponsoring babies through a foster home called Morning Star. This is where we began seeing babies, sweet precious faces of children needing homes with severe heart defects. This led us to read and learned more about heart babies. The more we learned, the less intimidating heart defects seemed. We re-evaluated our medical conditions checklist and checked all the little boxes next to all heart conditions. Now, we were saying yes to heart babies.

Throughout the year, we saw many sweet babies with joyful smiles who had Down Syndrome. One little girl stood out because she was so stinkin’ cute! She did some pretty cute things. She made us giggle. She made us smile and even cry happy tears. She had that joy and wonder about the world that was just so special… so different, and it really imprinted itself on our hearts. Looking back, God was already preparing our hearts. And He was using this child to mold us.

If I may be honest, cognitive disabilities have always made me uncomfortable. I didn’t know the appropriate way to act or respond. I had never been exposed to how that reality would look. Yes, the cute faces and joyful personalities brought a smile to my face, and for some reason they drew me in, but I did not feel that I had what it takes to mother a child with this type of disability. So, we put Down Syndrome out of our minds.

Then we began to sponsor a little tiny frail girl who not only had severe CHD, but also Down Syndrome. Unfortunately, this baby lost her battle here on the earth because her heart just could not handle its own brokenness. She died without ever knowing the love of a family, a mommy, a daddy, brother or sister. I remember holding my phone, seeing the news of her death. It rocked my heart to its core. Yet again, a molding of our hearts took place.

Her battle ended here on earth leaving so many raw hearts, including ours.

God showed us a glimmer of the brokenness of this world and used it shape our hearts yet again.

Lilah Lu’s short life changed our whole family forever. When I look back now, I can see the fingerprints, as clearly as the potter working the clay. Adjusting it in a specific way through the series of many life altering paths. Our eyes were being opened. The scales slowly removed. The layers peeled off our hearts to reveal something which was hidden to us.

I couldn’t run away from it any longer. It was like a magnetic force urging, pulling, pushing towards the same idea. I was drawn to explore the world of Down Syndrome adoption.

I began to seek out every article written by parents who were beyond blessed by kiddos with DS. Through my reading and searching I also learned some pretty disturbing truths. The two that stood out, among many, were facts that babies with DS in China were unadoptable for years and years because they were “unworthy.”
Did you hear that label?

God’s creation labeled by humans–UNWORTHY.

Unadoptable.

Unwanted.

It wasn’t until about 2013 that a law changed because of one determined mama who fought for the rights for these children with DS born to mothers in China.

Another article spoke of a baby born with Down Syndrome to a young Chinese mother. A mother who was urged by the nurses in the hospital to leave without her child with these words: “This baby you have is bad. She is broken; she is a no good baby. You go home, we take care of this.”

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

My tears could not be stopped. How can this be? A human is still human, no matter their disability! I was angry. Sad. Enraged. Confused.

The molding of my heart continued.

Many articles later and hearing families speak on how much richer their lives were because of this amazing road they have walked with children who have Down Syndrome, was incredibly refreshing. It intrigued me, actually. How can a child with such a lifelong disability bring that much joy into a human life? The pulling was so strong, and by this time we were certain there was nothing else to do! We knew this is what we were called to. We knew deep in our hearts this is what was meant for us all along. Our hearts just needed a bit of weeding, of removing our wants and desires.

So, on May 15th, we took the huge leap of faith. With every ounce of confidence, pushing fears aside, we added Down Syndrome to our Medical Condition Checklist. I remember telling Kevin, “If God doesn’t have this for us, He won’t send a child our way with DS.”

Our hearts had amazing peace. The peace which cannot be described…not unless you have lived it do you know what I am speaking of… it’s the very center of a beautiful plan. This astounding knowledge deep in your heart that you have done what you have been called to all along.

Everything calm.

Everything still.

Beautiful.

Then.

A day later…

Did you hear that??

Only ONE day after we added DS to our MCC, on May 16th at 11pm, I received a private message request from a China director of a different adoption agency on Facebook pleading with me to take a look at their children with Down Syndrome. She said 80 percent of their babies have DS and none of their families were open to this need.

We knew we wouldn’t switch agencies, but we looked at their waiting kiddos anyway.

This is where our world would be changed forever!

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My hubby was at work and logged into the waiting children’s website first. He saw the faces of the babies waiting for someone to say ‘yes’ to them!

My hubby and I chatted on Google messenger as I was trying to log in, when he sent me a photo from the website…

The most beautiful China girl I have ever laid eyes on!!

I don’t know what happened next, but everything faded out of existence, my heart paused for a split second, a deep sob came out of my chest and tears fought their way to the surface.

Here looking back at me from the computer screen was the face of a stunningly beautiful little girl – as if reaching to the deepest parts of my heart.

Her eyes, piercing. Calling. As if saying “Mama.”

My husband, my best friend, the man with whom I feel so connected with, our minds so often thinking the same thoughts, was feeling the same emotions towards the same child.

A feeling he later described as a “lightning bolt.”

We just knew! This was our girl.img_6719

In that very moment, nothing else mattered. Not the fears of her lifelong need. Not the fears of being totally uneducated, having no experience with Down Syndrome, nor the fact that we had no time to learn. It was time. She was our daughter. This was the girl whose face we had waited to see for a year. I searched for her among the hundreds of faces over the last year. And here she was, staring back at us. A child so beautiful, so perfect in every way! I covered my face and cried right there! My heart just knew…

Because she was with another agency, we knew we would need a miracle in order for us to get our hands on her file. We knew agencies do not typically share files with other agencies. However, this child has been waiting SO long, her file was just three days from going back to the shared lista huge sea of kids with more severe disabilities, kids unable to be matched to families and their medical condition checklists.

Kids often forgotten.

Kids left to tumble through the system.

Kids just wanting to know the love of a family.

A miracle occurred, our agency worked very hard with the other agency and we were handed our daughter’s file. We said yes, and the rest is history. We have been home for a month now and it is beyond amazing how well she is doing. It is absolutely mind blowing the love you can feel for a child born to another mother. I struggle to keep my emotions calm as I write this.

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This child has filled our life with so much joy and laughter. The second she hears music her body just cannot help it, but move to the sounds she hears. She shrieks with joy at the mention of bath time. She soaks in everything we show her and mimics every move we make. It’s so cute and hilarious. Let me tell you, this girl has so much sass and knows exactly what she wants and how it should be done. Even her grumpiness makes her laugh at herself. She stays mad two minutes tops before the laughter and giggles erupt.

img_3011We simply could not imagine life without our girl in it. There was a time when I was afraid to say yes to Down Syndrome, but it has been the greatest blessings onto our livesand it is only the beginning!

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Visit St. Anne’s Episcopal School

St. Anne’s Episcopal School, an independent school for children ages 3 through eighth grade, is located at University and Yale in Denver. The school provides a rigorous academic program balanced with athletics, the arts, and a focus on the social and emotional development of children. While emphasizing inclusiveness, St. Anne’s builds character upon a moral, spiritual and ethical foundation. Financial assistance is available for qualified children, including those adopted from China. To learn more, please visit www.st-annes.org or call (303)756-9481.

CCAI plans corn maze fun for Southeast families

corn-maze-image-3November is National Adoption Month and we would love to celebrate with your family!  Please join us for a day of pumpkins, hayrides and fun at the Buford Corn Maze!

DATE:  Saturday, November 5, 2016

WHERE:  Buford Corn Maze (4470 Bennett Rd., Buford, GA 30519)

TIME:  10 a.m.-Midnightcorn-maze-image-1

  • CCAI will have a tent from 2 – 4 p.m. with snacks, drinks and cake.
  • You are also welcome to bring in sack meals or purchase goodies from their concession stand. Please note that no outside beverages are allowed.

PRICE:  $12 per person over the age of 3 years (Kids 3 and under are free)

  • Cash, Visa & Mastercard are accepted
  • To receive this reduce rate, you must mention that you are with CCAI at the gate!
  • CCAI has secured this reduced entry fee throughout the day. Each ticket allows the purchaser to enjoy unlimited access to: the Corn Maze, hayrides and Kid’s CORNer play area (with bouncy house, popcorn jumping pillow and corn box).  In addition, you can stroll through their pumpkin patch and also view the goats, chickens and pigs up close.
  • bcm-image1Buford Corn Maze also encourages families to bring in wagons to help their children navigate the uneven terrain.

No reservations are required, but if you do plan to visit our tent for snack and cake, please let us know so that we can plan accordingly.  Please email Christy Stasko at:  ccaiga3@ccaifamily.org.

We hope to see you there!