From the first days of our dating relationship my husband, Gabriel, and I talked about adopting. In fact, when we dreamed of our family, we pictured having one biological child and adopting the rest. My husband jokingly said, “Let’s have one just to prove we can.” And in the largest of ironies, three years into marriage and a year into trying, we found out that we would not be able to have biological children.
It was painful, hellishly painful. It took us some time to mourn and grieve well, and in all reality, that grieving process is an ongoing one. But even through our grief, we could see that God had been preparing us for the family that would be ours.
After giving ourselves space to mourn the death of one dream, we began pursuing another one.
Roughly ten months later in December 2011, we started the adoption process for a domestic infant. The process of adoption is a long and grueling one, and that’s being generous. It was at times simply frustrating and at other times “give up” hard!
They want to know everything about you. So you’re drug tested, your fingerprints are run, and you have to share everything from how you were raised to how you were disciplined. It’s definitely invasive. But, they also want to know what makes you excited for adoption, how you’ll raise and discipline your child, and what you value as a family.
So, even with the hard questions and long process, Gabe and I both came out on the other side feeling like we knew better why we wanted to be adoptive parents and why we should be! We knew we wanted to share in the story of adoption, becoming a forever family with a child.
On July 30th of this year, Gabe and I were driving home to Vermont after working in Colorado for the summer. On that day in particular we had taken a shortcut through Canada to save time, and because of our fear of international calling rates, had turned our phones off. At around 2pm we drove over the bridge from Cornwall, Canada to New York and turned our phones back on. My phone immediately beeped with a text message and voicemail both telling me to call our adoption agency ASAP.
I began calling and texting the agency’s Director, Kandi, desperately trying to find out what they wanted. At this point in the adoption process, ABBA, our agency, had told us that the next call we got from them would most likely be about a child. However, we probably shouldn’t expect to hear anything from them until at least the fall. So, this was shocking.
When we finally heard back from Kandi, she was in the hospital with a woman who had just given birth to a little boy who was 5pds 2 oz and 18 inches long.
She had chosen us to be his adoptive parents!
Needless to say, we were so shocked and so thrilled! They let us know that we should get to Arkansas as soon as possible and plan to stay for at least 2 weeks. All of this, and we were still 3 hours from home after two months away! We started sharing this news with our immediate family, which was so fun! I would call Gabe’s family, he would get out “Our son was born” and then I’d explain the rest as he was weeping. It was SUCH a sweet time!
We got home to Vermont at 6pm and began thinking about logistics. We needed flights, car rentals, places to stay, baby stuff, etc! It was an overwhelming list. But, in an attempt to keep this brief (ish) here’s some of what happened.
Friends got us flights, rental cars, and found us a place to stay for three weeks in Arkansas. It was beyond incredible, and someday I’ll share that whole story. But, this is more the story of my hearts journey.
We were in Arkansas for three weeks, and it was a rollercoaster throughout most of it.
I remember the first time we walked into the nursery and met Gideon. He was the only baby there. He was alone on a warming table with a feeding tube, an IV, and tons of monitors attached to him. He looked so fragile and a bit alien. And to top it all off, he was referred to as “Baby Love” because of the adoption. He didn’t even have a name!
During those days, I thought often about what I was supposed to feel? You always hear those stories of moms holding their child for the first time and its love at first sight.
Well, I was scared at first sight.
I was so thrilled, but I also had so many questions. Was it okay that I didn’t have a strong response yet? Was it okay that I didn’t feel like a mom yet? What about all of the health concerns for our 4 week early baby?
Unknowingly exacerbating the situation was my sweet husband who stepped into that room and was a dad. There were no questions, no confusion. He didn’t even seem scared. I was often awash in either guilt or confusion, totally unaware as to whether any of these feelings were “normal.”
As the week went on, I got more and more comfortable with Gideon. I wasn’t thrown by the wires or the feeding tube. I cheered when the feeding tube was removed and the IV detached. I jumped for joy when Gideon was moved into a private room with us where we could do all of his feedings and stay with him 24hrs a day. It was an amazing and confusing time.
In the midst of this ride, we heard mention of an X-ray that showed some abnormalities on Gideon’s spine. No one seemed to think it was a big deal except us. So, following encouragement from a nurse, we requested that Gideon be transferred to a Children’s hospital with a NICU so they could look into it.
It was Gideon and I’s first ambulance ride. We got to the NICU, and after Gideon was processed, one of the doctors called us into a room to show us an X-ray. She pointed to some of Gideon’s vertebrae and explained that some weren’t formed correctly.
Her next words were, and I’ll never forget this, “I mean, he’ll probably walk.”
I just started weeping right there. What had started as “It’s no big deal” had just turned into “He’ll probably walk.” How do you process that?
This tiny infant isn’t even ours yet, but we’re getting a glimpse into his future, one filled with doctors’ appointments, PT, braces, and back surgery. What?! This wasn’t what we signed up for!
In the kindest way they could, our agency let us know that we could back out of the adoption as nothing was final yet. And while that was sweet, it actually made things much more difficult for me. How do you make a decision like that? How, after spending everyday with Gideon for a week, do we walk away?
That night, Gabe and I got in the car and just drove. We drove and we cried and we shared our fears that our son would never walk. We talked about our dreams for him and we talked about how we’d handle it if those dreams were dead. Gabe never wavered; he just looked at me and said, “This is our son.” My heart, however, was all kinds of confused.
Early the next morning, I went to the hospital coffee shop and started talking with God, and we had a real honest conversation about his goodness and His power. I journaled about the pain of this news coupled with the pain of infertility. I questioned why these would both fall to us, and I wept.
Ultimately, I gained a real peace that this was the child picked out for us and we wouldn’t walk alone in the process. But I fought for that peace. My decision, more than anything, prepared my heart to be a mom I think. I chose to walk forward into this unknown medical history and committed to a possible future of surgeries and appointments. And, I got to come home with the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen (I figure since we didn’t have a hand in his genetics, we can say that).
Then it all turned out perfectly, tied up with a nice, pretty bow. Just kidding….
We haven’t slept in three months and our sweet son gets put under for an MRI in 2 months! This is real life people! But in the midst of exhaustion, I love Gideon’s laugh and his smiles, I love time with him, and I love that this was the child God always had for us. My heart just took some time to see that. Gideon’s story, for us, will always be a story of the provision by a God with a “Never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always, and forever love.”
Written By: Amanda McGann
I’m a Midwest girl who’s a proud member of the Hoosier state (that’s Indiana for those who don’t know). After undergrad I found myself living in the Middle East where I met my amazing husband of 6 years, Gabriel, as he was passing through! We got married and I headed to graduate school to get a Masters in Counseling because I’m deeply passionate about pursuing emotional wholeness in life. After I graduated, we returned to my husband’s home state of Vermont to work with a faith-based outdoor ministry. Yep, we get to rock climb, hike, camp, and raft for a living! Just 3.5 months ago Gabriel and I adopted our sweet son Gideon (July 29, 2013) and have entered a new chapter in life, one with significantly less sleep!
My days are currently split between hanging with Gideon and mentoring great women at UVM. I love dancing, laughing, and travel. I’m deeply passionate about living wholly, relationships, and silliness. And you’ll most frequently find me with a novel and a Mountain Dew!
Interesting Facts: I was born on the highway in a car (yep, my mom’s a stud!) I met my husband while living in Istanbul, Turkey and he was passing through for four days. It was a good four days!