Friday, November 20, 2015

Adoption Awareness Month Guest Post: Adopting Children With Down Syndrome

We are delighted to publish another special Guest Post in celebration of Adoption Month!
Amy, mama of New Day graduate Cora Jo, has written about her family's journey adopting two girls with Down Syndrome.

I have read many times and have heard it said by many speakers that each adoption journey begins from loss.  Either loss that the adoptive parents or family has experienced, or most definitely loss that the adopted child has experienced having become an orphan for one of many different reasons. Our journey to adoption began in this way as well.  My husband and I and our 4 biological children experienced the loss of 2 sweet boys to stillbirth in 2005 and in 2007.  I desperately wanted to see our family grow again, but biologically this was no longer an option.  

The desire to adopt was one that I had always had, but with 4 biological children, it was not one my husband could see at first.  In his mind we were already well past the typical family size of 2.5 children, and perhaps this was the way our family was intended to stay.  Over time, I began to share information I had been gathering and listening to with my husband, all the while praying about the possibility of adoption for our family.  In the winter of 2008, he agreed to attend an adoption class with me and was open to the idea of our family growing again.   It was in this class that our hearts and eyes were first opened to the real plight of the orphan and our calling to be a part of it.  For our family this meant stepping forward in the adoption process in September of 2009.  Our family would be forever changed from this point on.

As is a part of each adoption journey and home study process, we were asked early on to look at a list of medical/special needs and mark those that our family might be comfortable with.  This was a hard task for my husband and I, knowing that with each of our 4 pregnancies, we were not the ones that decided medically or otherwise how our children would come to be.  We were both especially tender to the child there was no waiting list for, and the one that was made exactly like God had planned for our family.  We decided that we would leave the paper without any marked options, and we would be open to the child we felt we were being led to pursue.  

Just after this, we were presented with a profile from our agency of a sweet baby girl in Taiwan that was 3 years old.  She had dark, almond shaped eyes, shiny black hair, a sweet smile that took over her face and a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.  This was not anything that we had considered before, nothing that either of us knew much about, and nothing that we felt skilled to take on. However, we had determined early on that we would go where we were led and trust that the door would be closed if the child was not meant to be ours.  No doors closed during this period of time, in fact, the opposite plainly happened as we were confirmed in several ways that the diagnosis of Down Syndrome was God's plan for our family.  In December we officially applied to adopt this beautiful little girl.

After waiting a month to hear back from our agency, the call finally came.  We were not being chosen for this sweet girl we had already began to love.  However, a 6 month old baby girl, with the same diagnosis of Down Syndrome, was just released from the hospital and had been placed in the orphanage our agency had a partnership with, and we were being asked to consider adopting her.  Right away we knew this was our daughter, and we said yes.  We had seen no pictures and had no information about her other than she had been born at 24 weeks weighing 1 pound, had received surgery to repair a heart defect, and was a tiny little nugget.  Our journey to Chloe Maekayleigh Cogswell began that day.

In September of 2010, just over a year from the date we had started our adoption journey we traveled to Taipei, Taiwan to bring our daughter home.  And after almost 4 ½ years of having her home with us, we were once again beginning the adoption process, this time to China where our daughter was living at New Day Foster Home.  Having had our eyes opened to the beauty of a child with Down Syndrome we knew that this child, previously known to her foster home as Melinda, was our daughter.  We traveled to China last March, and have been home with our daughter Cora Jo Cogswell for 7 months.

Neither of our adoption journeys were easy ones.  The financial needs to such a process were great.  We were a one income family for both adoptions, with no savings to speak of nor any assets to sell to put toward the cost of our processes.  Each time our processes were taken care of completely through fundraising, grants, loans or gifts from family and friends.  Both journeys required an enormous amount of time and paperwork, and the paperwork required was very different for the two countries and adoptions.  The change that each adoption brought to our family was great, and at times was very stressful.  Each child came to us with their own medical and health needs, emotional needs and grief to walk with them through.  Both girls were in very different living situations before coming to us, which made the bonding needs of each of them vastly different.  And though these and other aspects of adopting can be very difficult, our family is forever changed and blessed by the adoptions of both of our daughters.  

We have each learned what it means to really sacrifice, to put the needs of others before our own.  We have grown to have such an appreciation for the grief and sacrifice of 2 birth mothers, both of which we are forever grateful for.  Because of the diagnosis that both of our girls have, we have been taught the joy of lingering longer in moments we were far to busy to relax in before bringing them home.  We see joy in what we may have considered little accomplishments before, because our girls work hard for everything they do.  We have walked grief and healing with our girls and come to understand compassion like we had not known prior to adoption.  We have experienced the blessing of coming together as a family in a way I do not think we would have without these sweet girls being placed in our family.  

November is a time to celebrate for our family, as it is National Adoption Month.  A month to recognize something that we are eternally grateful for, grown and changed by.  

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