I was a single mother of two when I answered God’s clear call to adopt and foster children with Down syndrome and other life-threatening medical conditions. It has been quite a wild and demanding ride but it has brought me so much closer to the Lord, and, in looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
How I got to this point requires some explanation: I got divorced when I was pregnant with my second child. It was right around the holidays, and I was devastated. I cried out to God that this was not how I ever imagined my life when God spoke to my heart and told me to trust Him, that He made me to be a mom and that had not changed. I also knew in that moment that someday I would adopt a child.
About six years later, I was volunteering with a nonprofit that advocated for the adoption of kids with various special and medical needs when the Lord spoke to my heart that is was time to pursue adoption. He had opened my eyes to the fact that many children, both here in the United States and worldwide, are abandoned due to the fact that they are simply not considered a “healthy child”. That was when God made it clear that He wanted me to foster, and maybe adopt, a child with Down syndrome.
So I faithfully started to follow the Lord in this prompting to pursue a child with Down syndrome. I originally thought this would happen through international adoption and that I would seek an older child, say three or four years old. God had other plans for me.
I friend suggested I register with the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network as they connect birth families with potential adoptive familes. I wanted to be obedient so I did it, but I never imagined anything would come of it. After all, who would ever choose a single mom out of the hundreds of “whole” families in the network?
While I was in the carpool line to pick up my kids one day, my phone rang and it was someone from the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network. A birth mom in Texas had chosen me and my two kids to be the family for her newborn with Down Syndrome. Why? She felt that I looked like her.
The birth mom was having complications and the baby boy would be born prematurely at 29 weeks. The three of us along with my mom hurried off to Texas and made it there for me to be in the room for the birth of my son, JoJo. I was able to give him his first bottle. But complications at birth led him to be in the NICU for three long weeks before we could finally bring him home.
When JoJo was about a year old, I felt the Lord calling me to complete my previous training to become a foster parent. I had always wondered what would happen if a child with special needs came into the foster care system, and I wanted to be able to help a child in desperate need.
I signed up to be a foster parent and went through the long process to be certified. I got my license on a Friday, and just three days later, I got a call about a very medically fragile baby boy, Zee, who happened to have Down syndrome. The social worker read off his long list of medical needs which included critical heart issues, having both a tracheostomy and gastrostomy, being fully ventilator dependent and having chronic respiratory failure. I was overwhelmed thinking about those challenges, wondering what I was getting into.
But I could sense God telling me, “I’m going to help you do this.”
Initially, the doctors wanted me to simply come in and hold Zee since he had no one in his life. I did, and grew more and more attached to him as his hospital stay dragged on. We almost lost him due to his heart issues, but God spared his life.
We took Zee home with us after he spent a total of ten difficult months in the hospital. And a year later, we adopted Zee into our family.
Both Zee and JoJo have Down syndrome but are polar opposites. Zee has all sorts of medical problems with his lungs and his heart. In fact, he has had two open heart surgeries and been on a trach for all eight years of his life. JoJo hasn’t had many additional health challenges but has some very difficult behavioral issues. Together, it is much more challenging than I would have imagined.
In addition to adopting two children with special needs, I have fostered 15 others that have had either special needs or severe medical challenges.
It has been a very difficult road, but I have tried to be faithful to God’s leading and prompting. In those tough times, I can feel God telling me ‘I love your kids even more than you do. I am with you’. I can attest to the fact, if you ask God to help you and you let Him, He will. A lot of times, I felt like a puppet where I was just functioning and God was taking me from spot to spot. I know He was literally carrying me through the very tough times.
God has changed us all through Zee and JoJo’s lives. He has proven Himself faithful time and again. He has been our Provider and their Healer. I am so glad I gave God my “yes” that day. I am so glad I trusted Him through the hard times.
Zee’s life has also taught me a great lesson. He had no one. Then God sent me. Even when he wasn’t truly “mine” I was still there, loving him. Being his mom. It is the perfect picture of the Gospel. God pursues us, even if we don’t want to be His. He is our Father, whether we claim Him as such or not. And when we do become forever His and trust Him to lead us, He will never leave us or fail us.