Tag Archives: families are forever

Adoption memories

We had Patrick’s g-tube study done. (Great results! Nothing wrong. Just a slightly upward angle that makes positioning the tube tricky.) As part of the history, they asked when the gastrostomy (g-tube hole) was created and I realized last night that I could have answered “exactly two years ago.”

Why do I remember that? Well, because exactly two years ago yesterday, the court officially named us as Patrick’s legal guardians. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.

A friend of mine has been doing something special this month on her blog. Because it’s national adoption awareness month, she’s been posting daily adoption related posts. She invited me to be a guest blogger and, by coincidence, will be running my post today… a very significant 2 year adoption anniversary for us.

So, I thought I’d share with you what I wrote for her. Here goes:

————————————————————————–

Ours is not a typical adoption story, because Patrick is not a typical little boy. His life was meant to be something different, something miraculous, and so it required that it start in a very different and miraculous way.

But my part of the story starts the way a lot of others do. We wanted to have children. When that didn’t happen easily, we involved doctors. For years, we went through the ups and downs of charting and temperature taking, tests and medications. Finally, after several years and a minor surgery, our doctor sat us down for “the talk.” He explained that there were several causes of my infertility. The cards were, essentially, stacked against us. He still felt it very possible that we could have children, but only with major medical intervention. We had some big choices to make.

We talked about it and we prayed about it. And then, that Sunday, as we sat in church, we received a clear answer that it was time for us to stop medical treatments. Our child would come to us through adoption.

With a path finally before us, we moved forward quickly. I’ve never felt so driven to do anything before in my life. In under a month, we completed the application process, training classes, and were mostly done with our home study.

During our home visit, we had a conversation with our case worker that would play a major part in bringing Patrick into our family. She’d looked at our “preferences checklist” and noted that we seemed more open than most to adopting a child with special needs. We explained that we felt that adoption was a faith process. We believe that Heavenly Father puts families together. We knew we’d never turn away a child born to us with medical problems. So, if God was in charge of adoptions, too, then why would we limit His options? We knew Heavenly Father would help us find our child and that, if the child really belonged in our family, race and health wouldn’t stand in the way.

We decided to adopt in June. Our application was approved in September and we hunkered down for a nice long wait. We figured two years, at the least, was the average we’d heard. And still, by the end of October it felt like far too long. My heart ached for a child it knew was missing.

Then, on a very snowy morning the first week of November, my phone rang. It was my case worker. She started out by saying, “There was a little boy born on Halloween in Michigan.” My heart skipped a beat. I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and started scribbling notes. She told me he was Korean. And then, she went on to tell me that he’d had a birth defect. His intestines had developed on the outside of his abdomen. The doctors were saying he had a life expectancy of 1 to 2 years. They needed to find an adoptive home quickly because doctors wanted to discharge him from the hospital. All she could tell me about his family that his birth mother wanted him to be able to go to the temple to be sealed to a family.

She said she’d send an e-mail with more information and a picture. She encouraged me to talk to Brian and decide if we’d like to be among those families considered to adopt this little boy, and then to call her and let her know.

As soon as I gathered myself, I called Brian. But he wasn’t at his desk. Meanwhile, two e-mails arrived. One was a short paragraph from the baby’s caseworker in Michigan explaining his medical needs and the unconventional and hurried search for parents. In the other were two photographs of a sweet little Korean boy with great big eyes and an IV in his head.

Since Brian wasn’t at his desk, I called the insurance company to find out if this we even had coverage to pay for this kind of medical problem.

That’s how Brian first found out about the offer. While I was on hold with the insurance company, he called back on my cell phone, so he heard me finish the conversation about “preexisting conditions” and “adoption”.

I gave Brian the information and, after a quick moment of thought, he said he’d come right home.

We had a prayer together, then went to the temple – the perfect setting to make decisions about life and death and eternity.

I knew that families are eternal. I knew that mortality is not the end of life. And yet, I was filled with grief. It was as if I’d just been told I was carrying a child with a terminal illness, but he wasn’t even mine yet. And I was scared. I didn’t know if I was ready to leave the life I knew then.. abandon it all, and become mom to a child who would need so much help, and who had such an uncertain future.

Still, when Brian turned to me and said, “I think we should pursue this,” my heart leapt with joy.

So, we called our caseworker and gave her a list of questions we had. And then we went to visit our parents. We felt we should tell them about the offer, because we knew that whatever happened, we were never going to be the same. And we both wanted father’s blessings. We showed them the little boy with the angel eyes and explained that we didn’t know if he was ours.. But from that moment, all of our families were praying for a little boy whom the e-mail called “Patrick.”

That was Wednesday. Thursday, I sent a copy of our profile. Friday afternoon, as I on my lunch break with Brian, our case worker called my cell phone. The birth family had seen our profile and had chosen us to adopt their baby.

Now, we had a choice to make. Because we’d been selected, we could finally start filling in the gaps in the medical information we were getting. And boy, where there gaps! We called the baby’s caseworker, who referred us to the hospital social worker. Finally, we decided we needed to talk to doctors, and we needed to do it face to face.

I called my mom and told her to take my credit card and buy airplane tickets. Then, I went back to work, explained what had happened, and asked for a leave of absence. After that, we went to the adoption agency where we signed pre-placement paperwork required for us see the baby in the hospital.

Friday night, we tried to get ready. We booked a long-term stay hotel room. We faxed legal documents to Michigan. We make a shopping list of nursery items. And we tried to pack.

I packed my bags that night not knowing what exactly I was packing for. We still didn’t know enough to say if we could take care of this baby. We didn’t know if or when he’d be discharged. We didn’t know how long it would take before we’d be given permission to leave the state again.

And yet, Saturday morning as I sat on a plane to Detroit, 10 rows ahead of my husband, I felt a quiet, happy calm. If nothing else, I knew it would be ok.

We met Patrick, his family, and his doctor Saturday night. It wasn’t what we expected. Due to unforeseen problems, things were tense at the hospital when we arrived. We felt like we knew nothing at all about his condition when we heard the doctor’s account. His case was much more severe than we’d understood, but the immediate prognosis was better.

At last, they led us to his room. My first impression was of how small he was. He was SO tiny! Just a little ball with wires and tubes attached. Without them, you’d have never guessed there was anything wrong.

They let me hold him while we talked. He felt so small and fragile.

I thought that the moment I met my baby, or the moment I held him, that I’d know he was mine. But that isn’t what happened for me. There were too many questions, still and I’d have to wait for that confirmation.

Sunday, we arranged to spend the day with Patrick. The nurses were so kind to let us change his diapers and help with other aspects of his care. I sat for hours singing him lullabies and watching monitors and letting him sleep.

When we arrived, the nurses warned us that he had a reputation as a very irritable little boy. There was even a sign on his door warning not to wake him. He was famous for screaming hysterically if his sleep was interrupted. But that’s not the baby I met. He was just a sweet, tiny little boy who wanted to be held.

I remember singing to him: “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.” And my voice choked on the words because I knew that right at that moment, Patrick didn’t have that. I couldn’t imagine how any little boy could go through all he’d need to go through alone.

That night, as we looked at pictures from the day, I came across one that showed just his face with a white background. I knew, when I saw that picture, that I loved him.. and I wanted to keep him.

Monday morning, we held a “family conference.” It was a business day so we finally had been able to confirm that there were doctors to take care of him at our hospital at home. Our insurance confirmed that he’d be covered. Brian needed to hop on a plane to go back to work. (He was running a conference that week.) So, knowing we had the resources to provide for his physical needs, we asked Patrick if he’d like to be a part of our family. I swear, he looked up at Brian and smiled.

The case worker rushed to the hospital and by 1, we’d signed paperwork, and I was on my way to the airport with my husband. I was staying behind to start a whole new life.

The next few weeks in Michigan are among the sweetest of my life. With nothing else to do but hold my new baby and learn to care for him, I virtually lived in the NICU. My mom came for a week and shared with me in Patrick’s first feeding, first bath, and first time wearing real clothes. This time was also some of the hardest I’d experienced as I received a trial by fire as a mom of a child with major health problems. Patrick had his second surgery the day Brian flew back to be with us.

Two weeks after we signed papers, on my birthday, the birth parents appeared in court, and we were named as Patrick’s legal guardians. A week later, we had permission to bring him home. At 4 a.m. Thanksgiving day, Patrick and I arrived at Primary Children’s Hospital by air ambulance. He’d spend the next few weeks there as the doctors here got to know him and made arrangements for us to take care of him at home.

Because of his medical needs, the courts granted an early finalization of his adoption and we were able to take Patrick to the temple to be sealed as a forever family in February when he was just 4 months old.

Patrick just turned 2. He is an active, happy toddler who loves cars and music and Elmo. He is a living miracle! Patrick’s birth defect came with a rare complication. As a result, at birth he was missing over 95% of his small intestine. Without intestine, he doesn’t get nutrition by eating. In fact, eating large amounts puts him at risk for dehydration and bowel obstruction. Instead, he is entirely dependent on a form of IV nutrition called TPN. He has a permanent IV tunneled through his chest, into a vein in his chest or neck that runs to his heart.

The TPN leads to complications like infection and liver disease. In his short 2 years of life he has already struggled with both. Patrick’s doctors warned us before we adopted him that we’d become such regulars in the E.R. that we’d be on a first name basis with the staff. We soon found that to be true not just for the E.R. staff, but also the IV team, the infectious disease team, the PICU team, most of the residents, several of the medical students, and the entire gastroenterology department.

At 9 months old, as a result of infection, Patrick’s heart stopped. The fact that he is alive now is nothing short of a miracle. No doctor who hears his story and then meets him can help but confess that he has beaten the odds in countless ways.

Patrick will eventually need an intestinal transplant. He is already running out of places to put new IV’s and each new infection makes him a little more fragile.

Since they don’t do intestinal transplants where we live, we have chosen to have Patrick listed at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Patrick has been on the waiting list since April of 2009. He is status 1A and will have his transplant is soon as a donor match is found.

People try to tell us sometimes what a tremendous thing we did in adopting Patrick. We don’t really feel it’s something we can take credit for. As we told our caseworker when this all started, Heavenly Father puts families together. He knew Patrick needed us. And what’s more, He knew we needed Patrick.

Raising Patrick has taught us more about life than any other experience. We have learned to rely entirely on the Lord. We have learned to live each moment to it’s fullest. We have learned to lean on one another when things are hard and we to trust in hands of friends and strangers when we felt too weak to stand on our own. And we have learned to love like we didn’t know it was possible to love.

Sealing and blessing

As of 4:10 p.m. on February 13th, Patrick is officially a member of our eternal family!

We started out the weekend’s events with a little bit of humbling. Howie took the day off to help get the house ready and I was going nuts trying to take care of every little detail from ironing temple clothes to prepping food for the open house. But, a flat tire on the freeway ay 10:30 the night before we went to the temple was a good pull back into reality. Changing the tire was easy, but it revealed other bigger problems and we made it home on a prayer and half a rotor on the front passenger side. Boy did my priorities realign quickly, especially as I watched our car be taken away on a tow truck, just trusting that we’d get through the weekend all right anyway.

Howie’s family helped get the church set up for us to go the temple, and then his mom made it here just on time to watch Patrick while we got dressed to go. She drove us to the temple and we tried took a few pictures. Although it was sunny, the wind was bitter cold and Patrick was NOT happy so we didn’t stay too long.
My mom and dad met us at the temple. Mom was there to take care of Patrick in the nursery. (Including dressing him and reconnecting his IV’s). We left him there in capable hands and then went off to get dressed in white.

We met the sealer (this is the official title for the man who performs a sealing ceremony in the temple). Turns out he had been the community doctor in the town where my family grew up, so he knew my grandparents and dad, and some of my mom’s family, too.

They kept trying to start early… But my grandpa and some of my friends hadn’t made it there yet.. So we just made everyone wait. Our friend Tifanie was so excited that she couldn’t contain herself and ran over and gave me a hug… making everyone cry.

Finally everyone all of the guests had arrived and they went and got the man of the hour. My mom brought him in, dressed in a white tuxedo and wrapped in a white afghan she made just for the occasion. Brian and I knelt across the altar from each other, holding hands, and Brian’s mom brought Patrick and laid his little hand on ours. At first, he was a bit fussy, but we turned him around so his right hand would be on ours, and he caught my eye, and he settled down immediately. We watched each other’s eyes the whole time.

A sealing for a child is quite short… just a few lines said by the sealer that bind the child to his or her parents (in the eternal record) and then promise special blessings. Patrick seemed to soak up the entire experience, and then, completely content, went right to sleep as soon as it was over and I had him in my arms.

We celebrated and welcomed him into the family that evening with an open house at the church. I went smoothly (thanks in part to awesome family who helped with the food prep, set up, and clean up). There were enough people there that I couldn’t quite make it to talk to them all. Finally we wrapped up, cleaned up, and got home COMPLETELY exhausted! And with way, way, WAY too many leftovers. I think next open house I’m going with punch and cookies.

Saturday we got to recoup a bit as we visited with family, which was nice because we knew Sunday would be another big day. Patrick got to know his cousins and aunts and uncles a bit better.

Sunday morning Patrick could barely sleep. After his morning feeding, I sat in his room holding him and he just kept waking up and grinning at me. I swear he knew what was going on that day.

Because he had us up early, we were able to take our time getting ready. He spent a little time cuddled with his Daddy in the bed, and then we got him dressed and ready for church. Our ward has classes first, followed by sacrament meeting, so I went off to Primary with the children and Patrick went with Brian to his classes.

We snuck out a bit early to change Patrick into his white tux… and luck of all luck… found that his ostomy bag had started to leak. Luckily, by now Howie and I are a pretty smooth team and we were able to pull of a pretty amazing quick change in one of the classrooms and still make it to the chapel on time.

When the time came, Brian took Patrick to the front of the chapel. Brian is an Elder in our church, and his brothers, some of my brothers, our fathers, and my grandfather are also priesthood holders, and therefore could help with the ordinance. They surrounded Patrick, each with one hand holding him, and then Brian performed the blessing.

In a baby blessing, the child is given a name and then given personalized blessings. Among other things I remember from the blessing, Patrick was reminded of the love that brought him into our family – both our love and the love of his birthfamily. He blessed him with strength to face the difficult medical journey ahead. He reminded him that he was a child of miracles.

When they came back to sit beside me, Patrick was just glowing. His daddy held him and I could see the love that they had for each other. I also knew, as I looked at Patrick, that he understood all that had gone over the weekend and was happy about it. I really believe that, although he was adopted, the Lord promised He would waste no time in making sure that Patrick received these two very important ordinances.

Since then, well, I can’t quite get enough of my son. I don’t know what the future hold, though I’m sure there are rough times ahead. But I do know that I was blessed with a very special gift and a very important calling in this life when I was given the opportunity to be Patrick’s mom. And I will never forget the day he was sealed a part of our family forever.

Gotcha Day

In the adoption community, the day an adoption is finalized is known as your “gotcha day.” Well, miraculous as it is, Patrick’s adoption was finalized on January 7th.

It took a couple of days for the news to get to us, and a week before the papers arrived and it really seemed real. But, late as the news is in arriving on this blog, it is true.

LDS Family Services’ lawyers were amazing and petitioned the court for early finalization so that there would be no legal hurdles to our taking Patrick out of state to be evaluated for transplant. And, well, the court agreed.

In following his holiday tradition, we submitted our part of the petition on Christmas Eve. But Patrick managed to finally have his own day in his gotcha day. January 7th is the day after we celebrate the Italian tradition of Befana in our house and wrap up our Christmas season.

We’ve made arrangements to go to the LDS temple with him on February 13th so that we can be sealed for time and eternity as a family. This is a special ceremony in our faith. We believe that marriage and families are intended by God to be eternal, not till death do us part. Marriages performed in LDS temples are performed for time and for eternity and children born into an “eternal” marriage are likewise a part of that family for eternity. A sealing ceremony provides that same promise for adopted children. Patrick will be tied to our family as though he had been born to us. This is something that his birth family wanted for him and a day that we have been looking forward to for a long time.