If you’d told me 14 years ago that I’d have seven children, I wouldn’t have believed you. And if you’d said my future would also include Down syndrome, adoption, coping with miscarriage and home-schooling, I’d likely have hoped you were wrong.
It’s true to say we’ve had some very real ups and downs to get where we are today. The road may not have been easy, but we have had plenty of joy as well as heartache. Everything that has happened has helped me grow and brought me to where I am today. Life may not have followed my original plan, but I wouldn’t have missed out on any of it.
I guess the real story begins four years ago when my husband and I announced the birth of our sixth child, Colt. Even now, it has the power to stir up my emotions as I recall how I felt. We wrote:
“We wanted to take a minute to share an update with you on our newest member of the family, Colt. Turns out our little guy has been gifted with an extra chromosome, otherwise known as Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome.
“This changes nothing for us in our mind. Psalm 139 hasn’t changed. Colt is just as fearfully and wonderfully made by our perfect Creator as our other five children so why should we feel any different? God didn’t make a mistake when Colt was being ‘intricately woven’ and ‘knitted together’…”
Our boy was there to make a real difference to our lives and our world. We just didn’t know how quickly that would happen
I was crying as we wrote these words, but it wasn’t through grief or despair. Instead, we realized we’d been blessed with a special gift. Our boy was there to make a real difference to our lives and our world. We just didn’t know how quickly that would happen.
Colt is an amazing boy. He has the biggest smile and loves to pull funny faces, to dance and sing. He wants to high-five or hug every person he sees. He brings so much joy and love into our family every single day.
Colt’s arrival opened our eyes to the needs of children around the world
He’s also opened our eyes. We’ve faced up to some intrinsic fears and instincts. Most of us, if we’re honest, have a fear of discomfort, of dealing with disabilities. We’d prefer an easy life, a safe road. The problem, we’ve realized, is that this keeps us from living a truly full life. We should put a deeper trust in God and foster a deeper love for others.
Adoption had never even crossed our minds before Colt came into our lives, but his arrival opened our eyes to the needs of children around the world. We learned about Reece’s Rainbow, an organization who finds sponsorship and adoptive families for orphans with Down syndrome and other special needs. Our hearts broke for children we’d never met who were considered outcasts with no abilities or future, hidden away from the world. We imagined how Colt’s life would have been if he’d been one of them, and we knew we had to do something.
The plan was that ‘one day’ we would adopt a child. Then, after around a year, I saw a picture on the Reece’s Rainbow website of the most adorable baby boy. He was just a few months old, abandoned because he had an extra chromosome. His fate would be to live at an orphanage in Ukraine, where he was born.
People tell us we’re brave for adopting a baby with Down syndrome from another country, but we’re really not
That’s when the light bulb truly came on. We’d cross the ocean or sacrifice our own lives if it meant saving one of our own children – so what was holding us back from doing the same for this little boy? It was fear, we realized. We understood we needed to put our trust in God now more than ever. We needed to trust in his power and the plans He was laying down for our little family.
Adoption is a stressful, demanding and frightening process. People tell us we’re brave or special for adopting a baby with Down syndrome from another country, but we’re really not. We just had faith in what we were doing, even though at times the way seemed hard and we were unsure. Yes, we wondered if we were doing the right thing. There was fear and anxiety about what would happen and what the future might hold.
We were the first people ever to visit him. The first year of Nic’s life was spent mainly alone in his crib
That melted away on the day we walked into the orphanage and held Nic for the very first time. He was our son, and nothing else mattered.
We were the first people ever to visit him. The first year of Nic’s life was spent mainly alone in his crib so he was weak as a newborn baby. He had no muscle tone and didn’t know how to make eye contact. He shook his head bath and forth – a recognized way of self-soothing and stimulation for those in orphanages who have nothing else to motivate them. When we tickled him for the first time, the sound of his own giggle scared him.
It was the first time he’d known any love. We vowed to show him just how much we had for him.
In January 2017, we left the orphanage with our new, almost-one-year-old son. Not a single person was there to say goodbye or wish him well. How different was his arrival at our home, when he was greeted with hugs and kisses from his new brothers and sisters, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles!
Our weak baby, barely able to lift his head, is now a happy toddler
A week later, Nic celebrated his first birthday with a mom, dad and six siblings. It was such a beautiful occasion. Now, he’s been with us for 17 months. We’ve seen first-hand what the power of love can do. Our weak baby, barely able to lift his head, is now a happy toddler.
He walks, laughs, sings and dances. He loves to hug and be hugged. His brothers and sisters adore him, especially Colt – his best friend and partner-in-crime. None of us can imagine our lives without him in it. We are so grateful we didn’t listen to our worries and fears.
The world seeks the beautiful, the perfect, the ‘normal’. It’s quick to ridicule or ignore anyone who is ‘different’, inconvenient or doesn’t fit the desired mold. Yet these are the people God has chosen to teach us the true meaning of life. What it means to love and be loved. The things that matter. There’s a genuine joy and richness in our lives that no amount of money, fame or beauty could ever give us.
I would have missed out on so much if life had gone the way I intended
Until Colt came along, we didn’t know we wanted a child with Down syndrome. We’d never have asked God to give us such an amazing gift. We’d also never considered adopting a child, much less actively wanting one with this extra chromosome. Now, though, we can’t imagine our lives without Nic in them.
I’m grateful that God has His own plans for us because I would have missed out on so much if life had gone the way I intended. No, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I will still look at differently-abled children and feel sadness. It might take me a moment to understand and celebrate the gift that they are. But God doesn’t make mistakes. We should always remember that.
Colt and Nic bring us smiles, laughter and joy every single day. We will never take for granted the innocent, unconditional love of these two little boys. I wouldn’t have missed out on any of it for the world.
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About Reece’s RainbowReece’s Rainbow is an all-faith organization that advocates and finds families for children with Down syndrome and special needs. It also raises funds for adoption grants and is dedicated to promoting global social acceptance. You can learn more at https://reecesrainbow.org/