Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bringing Harper Home

It's Tuesday morning, and I'm typing to the background music of a humming dryer, punctuated by bursts of giggles from my littlest ones.  Lily and Hayden spent Saturday and Sunday sick in bed, and yesterday they were still fighting whatever bug they had. Today they are fever free, and although I've wiped their noses at least fifty times since eight a.m., I am confident they are on the mend.

Several readers here, as well as friends on Instagram, have shared a recent news article with me. Have you read about the baby boy born with Down syndrome in Armenia? His mother was unwilling to keep him, and because his daddy refused to give him up, he has now been served divorce papers.

It's a tragic and beautiful story, all mixed into one - I'm not going to pass judgement on the mom, who must have been very misinformed about what life with Down syndrome looks like. She lives in a culture where giving up a child with special needs is a typical practice - babies with Down syndrome and other similar issues are often placed in institutions at birth.

So no judgement here, just sadness for what she missed out on- and praise for a dad who decided packing up everything and moving back to his homeland of New Zealand to raise his child alone was the best decision he could make for Baby Leo. And props to the THOUSANDS of kind hearted people who contributed to the Bringing Baby Leo Home go fund me account that was set up for him shortly before the story ran. My son Jason texted me the link to the article with the words "I donated to this dad!" and made this mama's heart swell ... I know how tight things are for Jason and Naomi as he works full time at the hospital while attending college to earn his nursing degree - I'm sure countless others set some personal needs aside to help this brave daddy raise his little boy alone.

Having said all that ... I just wish things could have been different for that little mommy in Armenia. 

Leo and his daddy will undoubtably be okay. They will face challenges together, just like any other family, special needs or not. But I'm sure the love that has already written their story will carry them through whatever they face - it already is.

And yet ... how different that story could have been .

I can't fully imagine what that mom is feeling right now. I'm sure there is a vast range of emotions she must be going through : loneliness, uncertainty, grief ... and I have to think that if fear was one of the main motivating factors in her decision to reject her baby, there must also now be some measure of relief.

There were probably many family members and medical staff encouraging her that an institution was the best place for her baby boy. And although no one who has carried a baby for nine months makes that decision lightly,  I'm sure that mother honestly felt she was "just doing the right thing."

And yet - I wonder.

I wonder if amidst all the swirling feelings and whispered encouragements and perhaps even prayers - if this mama feels something else ...

.... regret.

I wonder if this unnamed Armenian mama strokes her empty belly at night, remembering the gentle kicks and slow steady movements of the month before, and aches for the baby she'll never know.

I wonder if she returns home to an empty bassinet, little unworn sleepers and perhaps a homemade blanket or two and thinks : where is he now ?

I wonder if she wakes in the morning, alone in her bed, staring at the ceiling and breathing in the emptiness and contemplates what might have been.

I wonder if - in the future, as she puts the past behind her and "picks up the pieces' to start over again - she will come face to face with what could have been her child

I wonder if - when she startles in recognition at those star-studded almond eyes, at features that must certainly mirror those of the child she never raised - she catches a glimpse of the beauty she missed out on ... and feels the sting of regret.

We all have moments of regret in our lives - things we wished we'd said, places we never went to, friendships that dissolved and we never made the effort to get them back - but I can't imagine the regret of refusing your own child. I can't imagine what a weight that would be to carry, and how a mommy would process life from that moment on. My heart just breaks for what I can only imagine as a giant hole in her heart, wondering about the child she'll never enjoy.

I know pictures don't tell the whole story of what life with Down syndrome entails, and I'm not trying to simplify things by sharing them in this message today. I've been accused of "disney-fying Down syndrome" on my blog in the past - painting a picture that is only beautiful and colorful and bright.

But all of life holds challenges - from the cradle to the grave we are going to face things that seem too difficult for us, whether that is in the area of careers or marriage or the ministry or parenting or just our average day-to-day.

There are difficulties for every single one of us, and choosing to embrace the challenges of special needs and focus on the joy that Lily brings to our lives every day is what I do both in-real-life and here on the blog.

So no sugar coating here, just the truth : life is a gift, whether that arrives as a "perfect" newborn baby or a perfect little Lily.

We are so grateful for that gift, and all that I can feel for someone who chose otherwise is sympathy and deep, deep sadness - because Leo's mommy missed out on so much.

Leo's daddy was overwhelmed by the support of strangers all around the world ... so much so that he is donating back the excess to orphanages in Armenia to help care for the forgotten treasures there.

Would Lily's readers help me rally around - and spread the word for - some other forgotten treasures across the ocean ?

My sweet friend Julia Nalle and her husband are adopting a beautiful little girl with special needs named Harper from overseas, and there is an auction going on to assist them in the costs of doing so.

I'm going to be honest here - I have backed off in the past year or more from asking you all to donate to adoptions. I've had many inquiries as to why I have done so - in the past, Lily's readers have raised multiplied thousand of dollars to help bring orphans home to their new families. Although I truly believe that we should not withhold giving to strangers because we can't "guarantee" the outcome of what will happen when we do... I felt it best to take a time away from fundraising to think and pray about what I was asking people to do.

Here is my thinking on this- and it is going to sound oversimplified, because I don't want to hurt anyone in a lengthy explanation. There are going to be times when Sam and I give to something where we don't absolutely 100% know how the funds are being handled. We believe that God blesses our gift, and we give when we feel directed by Him to give, and we leave the rest to Him.

However... it is another thing when I am asking others to give.

I've seen some amazing and miraculous and truly wonderful things happen when people band together and give until it hurts to help another family adopt an orphan.

I've also seen some truly sucky and outrageous and unfair and I-can't-believe-they-just-said-or-did-that things happen with a family or two - when I did everything in my power to rally people to someone's adoption. I'm talking absolutely lying, unfair, thanks for the money, stick-a-knife-in-my-back kind of stuff. When my family sacrificed so hard to bless a stranger. And I can handle that - and I do believe God honors our giving even when others blow it and are unrighteous. But I'm not going to ask Lily's readers to do the same. I'm not going to ask you to risk and give and possibly get burned, because I am willing to do so. That's just not something I'm willing to do anymore. Cast stones if you like, but until you've walked a mile in my shoes...

Having said all that (aren't you glad I reduced it to a "simple" explanation ??:))  ...

I trust Julia Nalle. This is a family I believe in, and that I know is doing every single thing they can to raise their OWN money for an adoption, and giving to probably every other adoption on the planet they possibly could have given to as well.

The Nalles are stellar. They've been down this road before, and I have zero qualms about asking readers to go check out the auction being held to help them raise funds for the last portion of their adoption.

I don't - and I won't - say that about everybody. But I know Julia Nalle. She is a trustworthy woman of God, and she is completely deserving of whatever blessings come her way financially.

Will you go help Julia and her husband bring their little treasure home ?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart .



Kathy McElhaney said...

You put it so beautifully: "Having said all that ... I just wish things could have been different for that little mommy in Armenia." So, so true. Fear of the unknown, pressure from family, her culture and those in the medical field did not help this mother. So sad for her and so amazed by the dad. I hadn't heard he was giving money back.

And now I'm going to check out that auction.

Danielle said...

I never knew those types of things happened with adoptions you've supported in the past.. How incredibly sad. And yet you're right... God still honors our hearts.. even if others don't do right. Love this post. It's beautiful and I'm heading over to check out the auction now. xoxo

SammE said...

I feel so sorry for that Armenian mother, and what she has give up. Leo's dad will love his son, and they will be just fine, but there will be a space in both their lives. So so sad. I cannot imagine his sorrow at losing his wife this way.
I love the pictures you post of your beautiful family. Such joy in Lily's face, and love among your children. It makes my day when there's a new post here!
I read Julia's blog faithfully, and have my eye on a couple of items in her auction! I hope it does well!
Bless you for sharing your family with the world.

cara said...

And I trust in what you believe in. :) I will go donate in the morning.

I read that story about the dad and his son with DS. I cannot imagine our lives without Benji. We had a scare a while ago having to rush him to ER because he wasn't breathing or able to get air. I hated every second of wondering if he would get through it. It was Croup. It was awful. And I felt so vulnerable to have to picture losing him. He is such a gift; I can't even put it into words. I only wish she knew what she is losing. :( Certainly can't pass judgement.

cara said...

I went and donated and spread through FB. I love to see these precious orphans rescued and redeemed. :) Thank you for sharing. xoxo

Ally said...

There are two sides to every story...not sure I 100% believe either side.

DebW said...

I know exactly what you mean. Right there with you. I back Julia 100% too. I miss you, though! I keep forgetting to read blogs!

Nina said...

I clicked on the link to help the family you mentioned but it says that I "have to be invited to the blog" so I was unable to donate. Just wanted to bring this to your attention in case others had similar experiences. Keep up the great work!

Charlotte said...

I love this picture.