Friday, February 8, 2013

the fruit of your giving

Dear friends,

A few weeks ago I posted about influence. I asked readers to email me with any stories they wanted to share about how their loved one with Down syndrome influenced their I'm sharing one of the sweetest stories I've received. Many of you gave generously to the Quinn family's adoption; this post and the beautiful pictures included are the fruit of your giving.

oxox Patti


In May of 2009, my whole life changed when the doctors told us that they suspected that my unborn baby sister would be born with Down syndrome. I knew pretty much nothing about Down syndrome or what came with it. In my 18 years of life, I had only ever met one person with Down syndrome, and I had only talked to her a handful of times back in 3rd grade when she was in my Sunday school class. The words "Down syndrome" scared me because I didn't know what it would mean for Laura. I didn't know if it meant a death sentence for her. Then, things got even scarier for me when I found out that not only would she be born with Down syndrome, but she would also be born with a huge hole in the middle of her heart that would need to be repaired by open heart surgery shortly after she was born. Fast forward 5 months. In late October, I stood in a labor and delivery room with tears streaming down my face. Laura would be born any minute, and I was so scared.

The moment she was born, though, the fear was gone. She was so beautiful and so perfect. I knew right away that the doctors were right about her having Down syndrome, but I didn't even care. She was here, and she was okay. That's all I cared about. She spent a week in the NICU before coming home, and I didn't get to hold her until she was home because I wasn't allowed in the NICU. I didn't think I could fall any more in love with her than I already was, but I was proven wrong when she was placed in my arms for the first time.

 A few months passed, and she was handed over to a surgeon to have her tiny heart operated on. When she went back for surgery, my heart shattered. My love for her was so fierce that I couldn't imagine anything bad happening to her. I couldn't imagine her having to endure that kind of pain. I would have done anything to take her place. She was my world.

It was a hard time for us, because besides a handful of our family, we didn't have much support. We didn't know anyone that was going through what we were going through or anyone who had ever gone through what we were going through. I had no idea that a Down syndrome community existed. We felt pretty alone.

Laura and I

Time went on. Laura grew more and more with each day that passed, and my love for her grew more and more with each day that passed. As Laura got older, I discovered that we weren't alone, and that there was a whole community of people going through exactly what we were going through, and even more people who had already gone through what we were going through. I started "friending" mommies on Facebook who have children with Down syndrome, and I started discovering Down syndrome blogs. I became inspired and decided to start a blog of my own. I used it, and continue to use it, to write letters to Laura.

After I became involved in the Down syndrome community, I soon discovered a whole other community that quickly caught my attention..... the special needs adoption community. I read my Facebook friends posts about what happened to all of these precious orphans in Eastern Europe if they were not adopted, and my heart broke for each of these children. I spent countless hours on Reece's Rainbow looking at the pictures and wishing that I could find a home for each of them. I fell especially in love with a few of these sweet faces, and I began advocating for them and raising money for them by having yard sales, selling brownies, etc. I shared many of their profiles on my Facebook page, hoping to help find forever families for them by doing so.

One day, I logged on to Facebook. My friend had posted a link to a pretty little 2 year old girl with Down syndrome that was listed on Reece's Rainbow, and my heart melted. I had been praying that my parents would adopt, so I jumped at the chance of sharing this sweet girl's picture with them. My parents fell in love with her, too, and after much prayer, they officially committed to adopting her. We quickly began fundraising to help us raise the over $40,000 we needed to bring her home from Russia. For 14 long months, we worked hard to bring her home. My parents did paperwork after paperwork, and we held yard sales, put on a pancake breakfast, and did everything we could possibly do to raise the money we need. At times, things got hard. Trials came, and sometimes we wondered if we would ever be able to bring this sweet little girl that we named "Autumn" home. God helped us overcome every single obstacle. In August of 2012, we finally got the call that my parents could travel to go meet our Autumn for the very first time!

4 days before my parents left, we got another call. This call was not exciting like the first one we had received. This phone call brought us some devastating news: Autumn's biological parents had returned to the orphanage to take her home. Our hearts were shattered. The baby girl that we had been working so hard to bring home for 14 months was gone. As soon as I received the news, tears fell hard as I buried my head in my hands. I couldn't believe it. It couldn't be true. Autumn was OURS! Life, at that point, just seemed so unfair.

We received word from the orphanage director at Autumn's orphanage. She asked that we not give up. She sent us some referrals for a couple of the other little ones with Down syndrome, 2 girls and 1 boy, at that orphanage that she said we could choose from. We looked at their faces constantly all 4 days leading up to my parents departure, and our family finally made a decision on what child we would bring home. She was 18 months, had blue eyes and blonde hair, and we knew her simply as "Varvara". My parents made the long journey to Russia to go meet her, and from the moment that they saw the little girl that we decided to name "Kamdyn Brooke", they were in love.......

My parents returned home from their trip about a week later, anxious to go back to see sweet Kamdyn again. As we waited for a court date so my parents could go back and legally make Kamdyn ours, our days were full of fundraising and preparing things so that Kamdyn could come home. 3 long months later in November, we finally got word that my parents would be able to go back. On December 6, 2012, my parents offically became the parents of Kamdyn Brooke! We were so excited, and we couldn't wait for the 30 day wait to be over so we could go back and bring her home.

When my parents returned home, we purchased our plane tickets for my mom, myself, and my oldest brother, Travis, to return to Russia to bring her home. 2 weeks later, we got word that Russia's president signed a law to stop all Americans from adopting Russian orphans. We were devastated, and we had no idea what that meant for our family and for Kamdyn. Days went by so slowly as we tried to make sense of everything and understand what was going to happen. We went through Christmas and New Years not knowing if Kamdyn would be coming home. It was such a hard time for us. We purchased Kamdyn's carseat, stroller, and other things that we needed for her in hopes that we would be using them soon. A few days before we were to leave, we got word that our court decree had been issued and that we would be able to go get Kamdyn!!!

We were told that we might have some troubles in country with everything going on, but we didn't care because we would have ran into a building that was on fire at this point to rescue our Russian princess. On January 13th, we boarded a plane and made the long journey to Russia.

On January 15th, we had Gotcha Day. Gotcha Day is the day that you get to go and take your child out of the orphanage.....for good! We were so excited as we took the 2 hour drive to her orphanage. She was dressed in her new clothes that we had brought just for her, she said goodbye to her nannies that had been taking care of her for the last 23 months of her life, and then it was the time that we had been working towards the past 18 months.... It was time to walk out of those orphanage gates. We stepped foot out of those gates, and just like that, she was forever free.

My mom and Kamdyn

Over the next few days, we ran into a few problems like being denied Kamdyn's passport. We spent time in our apartment spending some quality time with Kamdyn and trusting in God that He would take care of everything.

My first picture with Kamdyn

Travis and Kamdyn

As we had expected, God took care of everything, and on January 20th, it was time to go home.

We boarded a plane to make the long journey to America, and we happily bid farewell to Russia. We landed in America, and we were overcome with joy! Kamdyn was finally an American citizen. It was such a relief. We had family and friends waiting at the airport to welcome Kamdyn home. It was such a blessing and so beautiful.

Now, we have been home with Kamdyn for almost 3 weeks. I can't begin to tell you what a blessing it has been to see her blossom.

Kamdyn's first time in her carseat
Kamdyn one week home

 Her and Laura are becoming best friends, and it is so sweet to watch them play together and to watch Laura be such a good big sister to Kamdyn.

Down syndrome has changed my life. If it wasn't for Laura being born with Down syndrome, I wouldn't have become actively involved in the Down syndrome community. If I didn't become actively involved in the Down syndrome community, I wouldn't have found the special needs adoption community. If I would have never found that community, we would have never been led to Kamdyn. It's crazy how something that once seemed so scary, ended up being such a big blessing.

My fiance, David, and Kamdyn

Me with Kamdyn and Laura

These two girls have changed my life. Laura has inspired me to become an advocate for many things which eventually led us to adopting Kamdyn. I thank God for these two inspirations that He put in my life. I am a different person, a better person, than I was 5 years ago, and I owe it all to these two.
Laura Brianne

and Kamdyn Brooke

-Ashley, Laura & Kamdyn's big sister


Lisa said...

such a beautiful story

Anna Theurer said...

Ashley, a beautifully written post about your two lovely sisters! I am positively rejoicing that Kamdyn is home with your family. Kamdyn and Laura look like two peas in a pod. They are going to keep you on your toes!

Mrs. K said...

Perseverance and prayer...God works through both. What an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing.

teal915 said...

Oh my word, she couldn't be any cuter. I have a Kamdyn too. Such an awesome testimony. Thanks for sharing.

j*e*n said...

Such beautiful little girls. Great story of a sweet family! Thanks so much for sharing!

Elle's mommy said...

absolutely fabulous...thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

i couldn't be crying any harder now if i tried! that is so truly wonderful! i am left in bits at this love and so truly saddened at Russia's decision to try to quash families from loving these kiddies. xxx

cara said...

I have watched their journey from the beginning and prayed through all the heart ache and rejoiced over all the triumphs. I cannot tell you how much it blesses my heart to see precious Kami in their loving arms. I am proud of Ashley for remaining strong in the Lord and in His power of prayer through this process. She is an amazing, amazing sister to these two precious girls. They are truly blessed to have her. And I think her parents are pretty blessed too!:) xoxo

Danielle said...

After meeting you at Lily's birthday party over 2 years ago... its so precious to be able to hear your story!!! You are an inspiration and I am so happy Kamdyn was able to come home... the new Russia law just KILLED me! I couldn't imagine being so close and then not getting to bring her home. So very happy for you all!!
-Danielle (Naomi's sister)

Ashley said...

Thank you so much for letting me guest post, Patti <3

Ashley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
goldenleaves said...

I'm crying! It is abundantly clear that Kamdyn and Laura were born to be sisters. Wow! And what a testament to a big sister's love!

Kathy McElhaney said...

What a beautiful story! Laura and Kamdyn could be twins! They were meant to be together.

Thanks Patti and Ashley for sharing.

Erica said...

What an AMAZING story! So beautiful. Seeing the girls together and reading Ashley's post - tears, tears and more happy, grateful tears (with smiles mixed in)

The Graham Family said...

Such gorgeous little girls and what an amazing family! They are going to have so much fun together. They look so much alike, they could be twins! So fun!

Sabrina said...

Ashley, I loved reading this...what a beautiful story! Kamdyn and our Alayna have the same Gotcha Day, so I had been praying that all would go smoothly to get her home!