November is national adoption awareness month. It’s also the month that we adopted Patrick. The miracles of last year are fresh in my mind right now, and so I’ve decided to write a small series of blog entries about Patrick’s adoption. Please excuse me as I reflect.
It was a miserably snowy Wednesday afternoon. I was sitting at my kitchen table finishing a shopping list and trying to gear myself to go out in the storm when the phone rang.
It was Emily, our caseworker. She started the call like this: “There was a little Korean boy born in Michigan on Halloween.” I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat. I’d had this crazy idea in my head all week that I should have heard something about an adoption opportunity by that very week, and now here she was calling. I didn’t quite believe it.
When we’d applied to adopt, we’d explained to Emily that we were open to adopting a child with special needs. So her next statement didn’t surprise me. “He has some health problems,” she said. She went on to explain the information she’d been given… that he’d had gastroschisis, a birth defect where the intestines develop outside the body, that he’d need to see specialists at an out-of-state hospital, and that he may only live a couple of years.
I didn’t know what exactly to say. I asked a couple of questions, then I told Emily I needed to talk to Brian to decide if we wanted to be considered as parents. She promised she’d e-mail me the details she had. This is the message I got:
We have a baby boy born 10/31/08. He has Gastrocesis and is only expected to live 1-2 years. He is part Korean and part Caucasian.
The LDS birth mother wants to place with an family that will have the baby sealed to them.
Mary the NICU social worker said last night that the baby might be ready to discharge soon. The adoptive parents would need to be trained in paliative care. Why the life expectancy? She said that d/t the TPN the liver would die out soon. She said that the doctors are communicating with hospitals in Miami, Florida; Cleveland, Ohio; and Pitt, PA to be reevaluated for a surgury.
There was a picture attached, too.
I tried calling Brian, but didn’t get through. I left him a message telling him to call me right away. I’m pretty sure I was crying.
While I waited, I called our insurance company to find out if they’d even cover a 5-day-old child with this severe of a medical problem. Meanwhile, Brian called back. He heard the end of my conversation before I told him the news. He said he’d come home right away.
The rest of the day was very emotional and prayerful. We’d said we were open to whatever the Lord thought was best for our family. Now that was being put to the test. What neither one of us had expected when we said we were open to adoption a medically fragile child was the grief we would feel. From the time the call first came, we both were grieving as though we’d just found out about a serious medical problem in a child who was already ours.
We went to the temple, where we could seek an answer through prayer and mediation as to whether or not this child was meant for our family. During the ceremony, I just kept thinking about how drastically this choice would change my life. It meant changing EVERYTHING in my life. But I also kept thinking about the promise of the resurrection, and of eternal families.
I was scared, but when Brian said, “I feel good about this. Let’s find out more,” my heart said “OK.”
So, sent a list of questions off to Michigan through our adoption agency. And then we went to tell our parents.
We had this adorable picture that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. There was something angelic about that little face. So we swore we wouldn’t show it to anyone… But we failed and showed it to parents. The picture was labeled “Patrick,” and we knew that was supposed to be his name.
That night my family started praying for Patrick.
We e-mailed off a list of questions about Patrick, and after we got a few answers, we sent a copy of our profile to be considered. Brian sent this e-mail to our families:
We have a little more information on the baby. We are not the only parents considering adopting him. However we did give our case worker the go ahead to forward our profile to the case worker in Michigan (i.e. throw our hat in the ring).
We don’t know when we will hear back, we doubt it will be today. So the waiting game goes on.
It sounds as if he will need a lot of care (we pretty much knew that already). They have also said that he will need a bowel transplant at his first birthday (we don’t know more about that).
Emily and I are doing ok. We are both attempting to work today, I think I have accomplished 2 things since I got here. I have started about 50 other things.
We are rather afraid of what we are approaching, but can’t even think about not doing this. We appreciate your support in this decision, please continue to remember us in your thoughts and prayers.
Friday morning, we thought we had our answer. Brian wrote this in another e-mail:
This morning we both woke up with the feeling that he isn’t going to come to our house. Whether that is just us preparing for the worst, or just a glimpse of what is to come, we don’t really know.
We had flu shots that day at Brian’s work. I had just met him at his office, when my cell phone rang. It was our caseworker. She told us that the birth parents had just seen our profile and wanted us to adopt Patrick.
We were stunned! We locked ourselves in Brian’s bosses’ office (thank goodness he was at lunch) and we started making calls. Because we’d been chosen as parents, we were now allowed to talk to the hospital social worker and the birth parent’s social worker at their adoption agency.
We sent one more e-mail to our families with what we’d learned.
Patrick was a full term baby. He is completely normal except his bowels don’t work (they aren’t sure if they aren’t there, or if they just don’t work). Because he can’t eat he is somewhat fussy (who wouldn’t be). We need to explore if he is a candidate for a bowel transplant, but that can’t be performed until he is 1. He will be on a feeding tube until he can eat on his own.
The hospital won’t discharge him until we have things in place to take care of him here. He will need to be on a TPN machine (what that means, we aren’t sure). But that is equipment that we will need at our house.
Chicken and I have decided that we are going to go out to Michigan and see exactly what it is going to take to care for this Patrick. We have not committed to take the child, but this is the last step before we do it.
I will give you more details once I can think straight, course that probably won’t happen for a while. So I will give details once we get a bit more settled in Michigan. And I’m sure that I will be in contact with you soon.
The rest of the day was a flurry of excitement as we ran around trying to pull together the necessary details to be able to fly to Michigan in the morning. We went to the adoption agency to finish the paperwork required for us to be able to see Patrick in the NICU. Meanwhile, my mom and grandpa worked to get us airline tickets. We packed for an indefinite stay in Michigan. One small bag held all the baby things we owned, including a baby quilt I’d just finished Tuesday night. We made a shopping list for the nursery that Brian would come home and put together if we followed through on the adoption.
And then we tried to sleep. It was probably one of the longest nights of my life! We didn’t know what the future held, but we knew already our lives had changed forever.
It’s a year later and some things are the same. This Wednesday was sunny, but I still sat down and made my list of errands to run. And today, Friday, we’re headed for our flu shots. Our families are still 100% behind us. And we’re still depending every day on prayer. But, as expected, pretty much everything else is different. What I didn’t expect was that, with as challenging as it all is, it is much more wonderful and rewarding than I’d ever expected.