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The Story of Max

Posted May 16 2009 12:00am

Where do I begin? We have witnessed so many small miracles just in the previous weeks alone that have amounted to the amazing miracle of Max joining our family May 1st. I have had several inquiries as to what made us say 'yes' to a special needs adoption. That wasn't our intention when we started the adoption approval process in March of 2008 through LDS Family Services. But let's back up even further than that. I think God was preparing us long before last year.

Growing up, Steve had an aunt with Down syndrome. He's talked about her several times and has always had a soft spot in his heart for people with Down syndrome (Ds). Before Steve & I were married, we had discussed adoption {I had been terrified of the whole 'giving birth' thing, and after our challenges with Piper's birth (a whole other story) my feelings were founded}. As we were already in our 30's, we knew that the clock was ticking, and after meeting a distant relative at a funeral service who had been adopted from China and had a few birth defects, Steve & I had discussed that we were a couple who probably would have the means to support such a child with special needs. After we were married, we had difficulty conceiving. We went so far as to attend a community ed class on adoption. Then we finally got pregnant, only to end up in the ER and nearly bleeding to death from an ectopic rupture. But seven weeks later, I got pregnant with Piper. After a horrible birth and landing back in the ER and being re-admitted to the hospital (without Piper) four days after her birth, we decided we weren't taking that route again to have more kids. Again we talked adoption.

Meanwhile, we had been volunteering for Special Olympics from time to time, and I had even volunteered for the 2002 Paralympics (all the 2002 Olympic volunteer positions had been filled by the time I applied). As Piper turned 2, we decided it was time to pursue adoption. So we headed to LDS Family Services. We had intentions of adopting a "healthy, Caucasian, newborn" to be the perfect match for Piper. Little did we know that is not what our Heavenly Father had in mind for us.

It took six months to get approved through LDSFS. We talked a lot about what type of child we would prefer. Honestly, we were really picky at first. As time went by, we thought of new ways to 'promote ourselves' in the adoption world. We sent out pass-along cards, put our profile on http://www.parentprofiles.com/, and told everyone we knew that we were looking to adopt. There were times when Piper was a handful and we thought we should call LDSFS back and tell them we had changed our minds. There were times when I thought "I'm way too old to start over with a newborn. I'm not going to be able to handle sleepless nights again." There were times when we thought, "Piper is all we need. We are a happy family." Again, God was looking out for us.

One day, I got an email from Parent Profiles advertising a class on alternative ways to adopt cheaply outside of LDSFS. Steve is more the "you research and then tell me what I need to know" type, so I went to the class by myself. It changed our lives! The link to the class is: http://enlighteningadoption.blogspot.com/

This class was incredible. I cried half the way home. I was moved. Kelly, the class presenter, has adopted 6 children from various countries. She had a way of explaining that "special needs" isn't as scary as it might sound. We weren't planning on going out of the country to adopt, but there were other criteria that I realized we would be open to, broader acceptance of ethnicities and learning disabilities, etc. Kelly recommended several websites that specialized in special needs and also a couple of books to read. I went home and told Steve about the class. What really struck me the most, is that we were approved through LDSFS along with around 2000 other couples across the US. There aren't that many babies being placed for adoption. We needed to think outside the box. We needed to be more open. I could just feel it. Kelly mentioned that there are millions of children already born in this world who will die if someone doesn't adopt them, bring them to the US (or elsewhere) where they can get the proper nutrition and medical care they need. Contrast that to sitting and waiting to get "matched" with a birthmom locally. If someone were to "turn down" an infant through LDSFS, it would be adopted by someone else immediately. That hit me. There was a way to make a bigger difference in a child's life. Kelly felt that raising her 'special needs' children is a calling from God that she is so thankful for. Her infertility is a gift. It is the reason she has the children she does. The children that may not even be alive today if she and her husband hadn't been there for them. Now I don't consider myself infertile. And I can't relate to many adoptive parents who are. But this perspective, I could relate too.

So I told Steve about these agencies we had discussed in the class. One specifically I had mentioned was http://www.reecesrainbow.com/ specializing in children with Down syndrome. Steve commented that although he was willing to adopt a child with Ds, he wasn't specifically seeking one out. I felt the same. We talked about being more open on some other criteria, and I went on our adoption profiles and checked some additional boxes of what we would accept. I believe Ds had always been checked, but I can't remember. The class was on a Friday night. Monday, I went to the library and checked out the two recommended books from the class. Oh, and we got our first birthmother inquiry from Parent Profiles that Friday as well. But it didn't feel right, and although I responded, we never heard back. It may have even been a scam.

I decided to read the shortest book first. It was titled, "One Tattered Angel" by Blaine Yorgason. (The other was something about Ethiopian adoption, I think.) It was a tear jerker. It is the true story of a couple who adopts a baby without a brain. They soon realize that this infant is truly an angel. There is also a character, Fred, who "had limitations" and I assumed he had Ds, although it didn't ever specifically say. 'Fred' helps the author realize that Jesus loves us and knows our needs, and especially loves His 'tattered' children. As I finished reading it, I remember thinking, wow, we have to be open to whatever is in store for us. The next day, Thursday (less than a week after attending Kelly's class and changing our criteria on our profiles), I got a call from Angela at Abrazo Adoption Associates in Texas. I was driving down to the Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point so I didn't answer the phone. She left a message asking me to call her back if we were interested in a three week old multi-racial infant boy who had Down syndrome and a heart defect. I started crying as I listened to the message. I called Steve and asked if he was really ok with the whole Ds part. He was, and wanted more info. So when Piper & I got to the Tulip Festival, I let her run around for a bit and called Abrazo back. It was really windy and I couldn't hear a lot of the conversation. What I did gather, was that this little "baby Noah" was in foster care and needed a home right away. Angela told me their website had a picture of "baby Noah" on it that I could see when I got back home. The first step was to fax them our home study and we'd go from there. They had seen us on Parent Profiles and therefore, knew we had our home study and background checks completed. I called Steve and asked him to go to LDSFS and have them fax our home study to Texas that afternoon.

Friday I called Abrazo to make sure they got our fax, but they were already closed for the weekend. So we knew nothing more over the weekend. I searched Parent Profiles to see how many other couples would also accept Ds - 10 of the 300 would. So I assumed they had contacted all 10. Steve & I prayed a lot over the weekend, talked pros and cons, researched more about Ds online, etc. We decided that if we were "picked" we would say 'yes'. How could we not? An angel was being sent to us to care for. Who wouldn't want an angel living within their home? That's how we feel about Ds. We knew this baby would be more special than any typical "healthy, Caucasian, newborn" we might be matched with later.

Monday I talked with Angela and she said we were the only family they were considering (there were other couples interested but things had fallen through or they weren't ready with a home study, etc.). When Angela asked me how soon we could get there, that's when the reality set in. They wanted us there that week. It took me a couple days to realize that we were going through the approval process with this agency in Texas in a matter of days, where it took 6 months to do it with LDSFS. We filled out and faxed pages and pages of paperwork, had another home study visit (done by our Salt Lake agency for the Texas agency - they'll do our post-placement visits as well), bought a handful of baby boy outfits, and witnessed several additional miracles getting the finances in order, getting a trial date moved on Steve's work schedule, and crying over the overwhelming support of family and friends as we needed additional reference letters and such. One afternoon as Piper and I were driving all over town running errands, she said from the back seat, "Mommy, do you know why we're getting a baby?" "Why?" I asked. "Because Jesus loves us." Tears. Piper was so excited to finally be a big sister. We told her to the best of a 3 year old's understanding what was happening. She knew we had to fly on a plane to get our baby. But in the couple of days before hand, she kept asking, "Am I a big sister yet?" She began telling everyone that she was finally a big sister.

Several times over that week, roadblocks kept getting in our way. We deposited money in our main bank account and got a letter in the mail the next day telling us they were holding the funds for 10 business days. Panic! I called and they immediately released the funds after hearing our story. So many little panic attacks like that. I just kept praying that if this was suppose to happen, Heavenly Father would provide the way. And He did. We got the paperwork finished and were going to fly down on Friday after Steve's trial. The adoption agency wanted us there on Thursday. We thought it was going to be impossible. Then out of the blue his client got sick and landed in the hospital - trial date changed. So Thursday morning I called and booked our flights for 5:00pm that evening. I packed for me, Piper, and "baby Noah" in about two hours. The only things I forgot were my cell phone charger and my camera USB cord. Not bad. We somehow got the dogs to the kennel, got packed, and made it to the airport on time. But then our flight was delayed. That wouldn't have been such a big deal, except we had to connect to another airline in Dallas - the ONLY way to get to San Antonio by 9:30am Friday - the time we were suppose to pick up "baby Noah". The flight was delayed an hour, yet was only 15 minutes late on arrival in Dallas. We had plenty of time to make the connecting flight. Another miracle. We made it to the hotel around midnight on Thursday, exactly one week after the initial phone call from Abrazo. Of course we didn't sleep. We kept looking at each other with that 'is this for real?' look.

When we were driving to the agency to pick up "baby Noah" (we decided to re-name him Max and keep Noah as his middle name to honor the birthparent's original choice) they called and told us they were still waiting for one piece of the new home study done by our LDSFS caseworker two days before. Again, panic. I knew she was out of the office for a week. She had been in a meeting most of the previous day, but had told me she was faxing it before the meeting. After tracking her down at home, we realized that there was a problem with the fax machine and she had left it on her supervisor's desk to re-fax. Problem solved.

The Abrazo adoption agency was fabulous. They took Piper to meet Max first. They helped her carry him in to us. It was the cutest thing ever. And when we met Max for the first time, it was love at first sight. We had talked about what it might be like, wondered if we might feel like we were just 'babysitting'. But we knew he was ours. And Piper and Steve pretty much fought to see who could hold him the most that first hour or two at the agency while finalizing paperwork. Piper asked, "Do we get to keep him?!" She kept kissing him and telling him she loved him. She would look at his hands or nose or whatever and say things like, "Oh, he's so cute. His hands are so cute." She kept 'petting' his hair. I couldn't get over his hair. It's amazing. (For all you Twilight fans - it's Edward hair - seriously bronze colored and could be sculpted into a bouffant - it was faux-hawked for the initial meeting.)

Now let's talk about tender mercies. I had really been dreading sleepless nights. Max was a month old when he was placed with us. The first few nights he slept a good 5 hours at a stretch at night. He's 6 weeks old now - last night he slept from 11pm until 7am! And one might think that it was a drag to be "stuck" in Texas waiting to clear the interstate regulations. Quite the opposite. The hotel provided breakfast every morning, and Piper couldn't get enough of the pool. And because Max wasn't a complete newborn, we didn't feel like we couldn't take him out and about. When Steve had to go home to get back to work, we flew in my mom to help out. Piper had plenty of one on one time to ease her transition. She has quite the distorted view now of how siblings arrive. One evening I was going to run to Walmart for a few things, so I asked Piper if she wanted to come with me. Max was asleep so I was leaving him at the hotel with Steve. But Piper wouldn't go without Max. She said she would miss him too much. So we all went. She's over the newness now, but she still asks to hold him and feed him for short stints. She tells everyone she is teaching him how to smile. And she takes his fingers and plays with them and tells me they're playing together. Today, he was in his swing and she set a teacup on his tummy to have a tea party with her.

I had a wonderful experience meeting Max's birthmother, Melody. She had a lot going on and was having an emotional time with learning that the agency had picked us after a couple of other families didn't end up working out. When we finally met and were able to talk about our respective journeys up to this point, we were both reassured that God had His hand in this process. She had wanted a family in Texas to adopt her little Noah so that she could have a more open adoption. She couldn't understand why that wasn't happening. Now we both know. Max was intended for us. We talked a lot about stuff and a lot about nothing. Personal stuff. She is part of our family now, too. Adoption is bittersweet. But there was a peace about our meeting. Max is loved by so many wonderful people. He will have his challenges - the first being heart surgery to patch the 4 holes in his tiny heart. This will probably take place in the next month or two. So we're praying for one more miracle. But we have experienced so many already in his first few weeks of life.

Thanks for all the prayers and support everyone has given us. We have incredible friends and family. And we can't wait for all of you to experience more of the miracle we call Max.

Thank you Melody and Fred for your priceless gift of baby Noah. Without you none of this would have even been possible.


{My computer crashed while we were away - it's almost back to normal - more pictures soon!}

** Oh one more tender mercy... Piper had been a little cranky in the days leading up to our departure. At first I chalked it up to the fact that we were running like chickens with their heads cut off and there wasn't a lot of playtime. But by Wednesday I could tell that it was more than that. And then I noticed some tiny blisters on her feet. My first thought was, "CRAP - not hand, foot, mouth disease!". Oh yes, I took her into an instacare and they confirmed it. I explained that we were heading out in the next day or two to adopt a baby. I was almost in tears. I couldn't leave her with someone for two weeks, but I didn't want to take this crazy illness along with us. The doctor assured us that we would be fine. Infants and adults rarely get hand, foot, mouth disease. Who knew?! Another panic attack resolved!

** and yet another... I forgot to mention that our pediatrician, Dr. Durham, has a daughter with Down syndrome. So we're confident that he'll be giving us the best referrals for a cardiologist, early intervention therapists, etc.

**Actually, it turns out, Dr. Durham is one of the heads of the Down Syndrome Clinic up at Primary Children's Medical Center where Max will have his heart surgery!

** a side note about Primary Children's Medical Center (PCMC).... this is the same hospital written about in the book "One Tattered Angel" (the book that confirmed to me that our baby was going to be extra special) and I can't get one image out of my mind from the book - "Fred" (the character who I believe had Ds) talked with Jesus on Christmas Day (I can't remember the exact year) in PCMC. The author, too, felt His spirit as he attended a church service there that day as his daughter was staying for one of her many surgeries. The two talked about the experience in the cafeteria that afternoon. Fred stated that Jesus always visits him on his birthday. This book is based on a true story. Whether or not Fred was feeling Jesus' spirit or actually physically speaking with Him, is neither here nor there in my book. His presence is in this hospital with all his 'tattered' children. And I truly believe that children with Down syndrome have more of a 'direct link' to our Father in Heaven than the rest of us will ever know. Knowing that Jesus has walked the halls in the hospital where Max will have his surgery is quite frankly, another miracle, a comfort that I'm sure I'll need as I hand off my little perfect Max to the surgeon to fix his tiny imperfect heart. It seems quirky writing it here like this... but, well, you have to read the book.

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