This blog was not born out of a defining moment in my life or my husband’s life; It was born when we made an intentional decision to turn our tragedy into Our Moments Defined. I know many of you have done the same. Tragedy and heartache have come your way, but you’ve sought the Father and have redefined those moments.
I "met" Heidi through the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's book. This team has become a community though, and many of us have developed intimate friendships. Heidi is one of those friends to me. As the launch team got acquainted, Heidi and I realized we had something in common - Bulgarians! We both have kiddos adopted from Bulgaria. From that knowledge, our friendship grew; we regularly encourage, uplift, and pray for each other as we travel this road of parenting children from hard places. Here's Heidi's story (some of which is soon to be released in her book - check her website for more info):
The signs were everywhere.
“Foster Parents Needed.”
We brushed off the idea of adopting again a few years ago. Despite being told our son was a happy, healthy preemie, our son AJ had come home from Guatemala as a tiny and fragile one-year-old. It was our intention to adopt again immediately after his homecoming. When he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, failure to thrive, and completely deaf, we focused all of our attention on his intense needs. A few years later my husband received a devastating diagnosis and AJ gained an additional diagnosis of epilepsy.
“Foster Parents Needed.”
The idea of adopting again began to weigh on me. The questions began to swirl in my mind.
How would we handle another child with AJ’s complex needs?
How will we fund another adoption?
Would we pursue domestic, international, or foster care?
What if what happened happens again?
Adoption was weighing heavy on my heart.
But my husband didn’t feel the same.
A few months past and those signs were still everywhere. I attended a women’s conference where Jennie Allen spoke. The theme of the conference was centered on this question: “What is your anything for God?” Jennie asked us to consider what our “anything” was for God. In that moment, I gave my family’s future to God. I made the choice to stop fighting, pushing, forcing, whining about my husband’s disagreement over another adoption. I gave it to God.
We wrote each of our anything’s on cards, which were then clipped to cables strung across the church.
I left that conference with more peace in my heart than I had experienced in a very long time.
The next morning my husband rolled over and said, “Let’s adopt again.”
After a few months of prayer, research, and deep conversations with fellow adoptive parents, we called our social worker to let her know we were once again ready to begin the process. She was not surprised by our phone call.
We had already begun preliminary work with a placement agency in a different state. In international adoption, you often have a local home study agency as well as a placement agency that works directly with the adoption country you are pursuing. We were well aware that my husband’s diagnoses and already having a child with multiple special needs would raise red flags. Our social worker ended our conversation by mentioned she’d mail out the application to us the following day.
Two weeks later our social worker called again. She began to tell me information about a little girl in Bulgaria. It took me way too long to figure out what was going on. I began to write the information down furiously on a large dry erase board in the hallway. When I ran out of room there I bolted to the glass patio table to keep writing. She told me the little girl was through a different placement agency (which meant all of the preliminary work we had completed was useless).
“I know you just began the process, but you two were the first people I thought of when her file came in. Are you interested?” she asked.
“Great. Why don’t you send me the medical letters (proving my husband’s health is just fine despite his diagnoses on paper) you already completed for the other agency and we’ll send them off to the new one. I do have to warn you—they are conservative with the families they choose.”
“We'll go from there.”
I hung up the phone and yelled to my husband.
Two days later this precious little girl’s referral information was in my inbox.
Low vision, the report read. No vision in one eye, unknown vision in the other. I kept reading.
I opened the attached files.
Mimi was beautiful, fierce, and full of life.
Her case required a quick answer as to whether or not we were going to proceed and accept her referral.
If you are familiar with international adoption, this is NOT how referrals typically happen.
During our first conversation with our social worker, we discussed what type of child we’d be open to. God had given us the strength, grace, and courage to stand firm in choosing a child with special needs. All of the terrifying, unexpected, and precious moments we had experience with AJ gave us the courage and discernment to step out in faith with Mimi’s adoption.
“Honey, what if she’s totally blind,” I said.
“What if she IS blind?”
“Right. Okay. We’ve got this.”
That moment has led to eighteen months of so many incredible moments for her, for us, and for our family. I never underestimate the plan that God has for us, even when I can’t see the moments that are still yet to come.
Heidi Renee is a mother, writer, advocate, and speaker. She is the mother of two incredible special needs children who inspire her daily.