The following is a repost from one of our amazing America World families. Though the post is a bit long, we are sure it will touch your heart and encourage you. God is so faithful and the Lair family shares their journey to adoption and how God showed His faithfulness in many ways. This was written by America World mom, Tanya Lair.
In the Beginning
Chris and I were married August 23, 1997. At that time we knew we wanted a family. I wanted 10 kids and he wanted 2--he should have run far away at the time while he could, LOL! However, God had completely different plans for our family, and how wonderful His plans are compared to ours!! We began trying to have a family after being married for 4 years. We tried every method imaginable, and read every book out there, took turns standing on our heads, and still after a year of trying, no baby. I really have zero patience and since I am in the medical field, I found an infertility clinic, and we began seeking treatment.
After seeing the infertility specialists, we were told that we both had severe infertility issues and that even with IVF, our chances were very slim for us to have a baby. As you can imagine, news like that devastated us. I had wanted to be nothing but a mommy from the time I was old enough to walk and carry around my dolls. We began looking into domestic adoption, but became scared off by the fact that a birth mother would have to pick us and then she might change her mind. At that time, we never even considered international adoption, because we thought it was something only the rich and famous did. We found out that our insurance would pay for IUI up to 6 times. Our doctors told us not to waste our time, but we decided that we really had nothing to lose and that we would pray with all our might that it would work. Well…… after one and only one try, and much to our renown doctor’s surprised looks on their faces, we were told we were pregnant and were absolutely elated. God is so good!
To make a long story short, God not only blessed us with our first child, but he quickly blessed us with a second child soon after. Even during this time, I started doing a lot of reading, and I started watching the adoption stories on the TLC channel. I cried every time a family had a gotcha day. I began to see what a wonderful picture of God’s love for all of us is when He adopts us into his family of God. I saw how that is portrayed as well, when families reach out to the fatherless, save their lives and witness to them. So, the adoption bug began to eat at my heart. I began to pray and pray that if God did not want us to adopt that the thoughts would go away. Well…. they did not go away and it got to the point that I secretly became obsessed with adopting. I knew what Chris would say, so I prayed that if we were supposed to do this, that he would agree.
I approached Chris after we had our first two children to talk about adoption. You should have seen his face. He told me that I was absolutely crazy. Well, I continued to pray and the very next day, I got a phone call. Chris was on the other end of the phone and had a tone to his voice I have never heard before. He said to me in the most serious voice I have ever heard him speak in, “We are going to adopt, and I think we should adopt from China. I also found our adoption agency. It is a Christian agency called America World Adoption……” You could have heard crickets on my end of the phone. I was in shock and literally fell out of my chair. For God to change his heart in the matter of one day and for him to say that to me, I knew my prayers had been answered.
Some of you may wonder, why China? I was too scared of domestic adoption and scared of the thought that an adoptive mother might not pick us simply because we already had two children and also by the fact that she might change her mind or want her child back and I knew I was not strong enough emotionally to handle that. So, I researched and found out that you do not have to be rich and famous to adopt from a foreign country. All kinds of ordinary people do it every day. I read about all the countries and felt such a deep sadness and burden for the children in China. We both knew that we had a daughter in China and that this journey was going to be a journey completely based on our faith in God. We knew we would have zero control of anything and that we would have to trust Him with everything, a huge thing for Chris and I to both do since we both have issues with being in control (haha). We decided we would also name our daughter Faith, since the name is beautiful, and it fits our story.
That was just over 7 years ago. It took us one year to complete paper work and then we logged into China in May of 2007. A year went by and while we were sad that we did not have our baby from China, we continued to trust in His plan. During this time, we lost a child shortly into my third pregnancy, and those next days, weeks, and months were some of the darkest I have ever faced. I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. I knew that I should not be sad because I still had two beautiful children whom God had blessed us with, but I could not help it. I got down on my knees and begged God to take away my sadness. He revealed James 1 verses 2-3. “Dear brothers and sisters, consider it pure joy when troubles come your way. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” I can tell you that I did not consider what I was going through to be joyful at all, but I did realize that God was trying to show me that through this very difficult time in my life, He was preparing me for wonderful things ahead if I would simply trust Him.
Several months passed, and we learned that the wait in China was continuing to increase. During this time I gave birth to our third child, Luke, and then our fourth, Kenzie. God blessed us abundantly with 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls, and we were happy beyond our wildest dreams. However……we had not forgotten about Faith!
How God Taught Us about His Plan
After we had all of our children, people would ask us if we were still planning to adopt. My answer was always the same, “Of course. Faith is as much a part of our family as these 4 children are, we just haven’t gotten her yet.” And my older two kids would not let anyone forget that they had a baby sister in China named Faith. I am sure their friends began to wonder if they were both crazy since they never stopped talking about this mysterious baby for 6 years.
Well, the very next month, we went on vacation to San Antonio where some of my closest friends live. One day, while we were watching the kids play, she asked me if we were still planning to adopt a child from China. I told her that we were, but it would not be for a very long time since the wait for referrals was continuing to increase all of the time. She then told me about a family who had brought home the cutest little girl and the wait for them had been 10 months start to finish. She told me that the little girl had been adopted from the special needs program. She had a correctable medical need that had been fixed in China, and she was now fine. She just needed a family. I immediately began to ask more questions and told Chris right away.
We had both always been scared off by the words “special needs” when we had heard about this program. When I had heard these words, I, along with most people here in the US, would immediately think of a child who has a severe mental or physical handicap. However, in China, that is not always the case. So, I started doing extensive research. I found out that there are actually very few children in today’s orphanages who are considered to be “healthy”. Over 85% of the children in orphanages in China are considered “special needs”. Why?
Special needs children often get abandoned because of the stigma associated with disabilities. Extended family, especially the mother-in-law, will insist that a disabled child be abandoned because the child is considered “unlucky, a curse on the family”. Children with visible disabilities will be refused education, and when they grow up, they will be unable to find a job because they are considered bad luck. Children also get abandoned because medical costs can be too high for a family to bear. Families who are poor will abandon their children in the hopes that their child will receive the health care he or she needs in the orphanage. So heartbreaking to think that a mother’s only hope for her sick child is to abandon her baby so that he or she will get the help that they need. I simply cannot imagine.
After reading all of this, I was in shock. I started thinking about this, and in reality we would all be considered special needs in some form or fashion. My daughter, Paige, would have been on the special needs list since she was born premature and she had torticollis. However, now, no one would ever know that she had anything wrong with her. My son Luke would have been special needs and might have been abandoned because he did not talk until he was 18 months old and now at the age of three, he is just starting to talk so that other people can understand him besides me. My sweet Kenzie would be on the special needs list because she has eczema and had high bilirubin levels, causing jaundice and illness, and finally, Braden, my first born, would have been abandoned in China after falling and splitting his upper lip completely in two, requiring plastic surgery to fix a secondary cleft lip. After considering all of this, I sat amazed and shocked at the situation in China even more. It made me realize, that I did not need to be scared off by a label. I knew we could handle this since we had already done it four times in our own family. Looking back now, I know this was one of the reasons why we had to wait for 6 years to get our daughter. God knew that we were not ready back then. God had to change our hearts and help us to understand that a medical need simply makes that child even more special than they already are.
After Christmas, we began the steps to changing to America World's Waiting Child Program. We finished all of our paper work and home study in May 2012. At that time, our social worker told us that we would probably still have a wait of about a year for a referral. We were not upset by this at all, since we had already been waiting for 6 years. One year seemed like nothing. We officially entered the Waiting Child Program in the last few weeks of June.
When You least expect things to happen they always do
Two weeks later, we decided to take a small family vacation. We had told the kids that this would be the last trip we took before we went to China which we anticipated would be the following summer. We headed off to Galveston and were so excited. The kids could not wait to go to the ocean. Our trip started off great. We had a great hotel and they loved the beach and the sand. July 3 we decided to go to the water park in Galveston. We had not told any of them because we wanted it to be a surprise. Just then my phone rang and it was a long distance number I did not recognize. I hit ignore on the phone and went on. Then I started thinking that the number was from Virginia and Virginia is where our adoption agency is located at. I called them back not thinking anything about the call at all and just simply wanted to get into the water park with my excited kids. The phone call proved to be one of the most life changing phone calls I have ever received, and I hit ignore the first time!
My adoption coordinator was on the other line. She said, “Tanya, We just received pictures of the most beautiful baby girl and wondered if you wanted to take a look at her file for review.” OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! Are you kidding me?!!! “Of course, we would love to see her file!” I couldn’t believe this was actually happening after waiting for 6 years for this phone call and it happens while pulling into a water park with screaming kids, and we are on vacation with only an iPhone for communication. Needless to say, I was in shock and that day will go down in the books as one of the craziest most emotional days of my life! Well, it seemed like time stood still waiting for her to send the picture over.
Chris and I had no idea what to expect, but then after waiting for what seemed like years, her picture finally came across on my iPhone, and well…… it was love at first sight! She was beautiful! I didn’t care at that moment in time what she had wrong with her, which from her picture, looked like nothing. She was my daughter and I knew it. Chris loved her too, and I couldn’t help but show the kids who also immediately fell in love. It was the best moment ever, standing in the parking lot, crying tears of happiness, and the kids screaming for joy because they were so excited that not only were we getting a sister, but we were also getting ready to go down some pretty cool water slides- could the day get any better?
Well, then of course,we had to think about what her medical condition was. I found out that she has a form of anemia that is very rare in the US, but pretty common in parts of Southeast Asia, called Beta Thalassemia Major. I was scared to death of this condition in all honesty. We had put this need last on our maybe list and honestly never expected to have a child with this. I am in the medical field and all hematologic problems scare me. How in the world was I going to take care of a child with this?!
So, amidst trying to have fun with our kids on the water slides, Chris and I had a lot of praying, research, and thinking to do. The next day was July 4, which meant doctor’s offices were closed. Chris and I had stayed up the night before doing as much research as we could on our iPhones and thinking and praying about the little girl whom we already loved in the pictures. We were able to talk to one specialist who actually told us that we would be crazy to take on such a child. He told us that her condition was long term and chronic. There is no cure for her disease, and her prognosis was not good. Those were definitely words that we did not want to hear. I just kept asking God what to do. I didn’t want a subtle hint or a feeling, what I wanted was a giant neon sign. I cried and begged God for that neon sign to be for every member of my family to be 100% on board.
We drove home on Thursday, and after getting home, I just cried. Because I am in the medical field, I started thinking about everything that could go wrong. I was so distraught and just wanted to make the right decision and know without a shadow of a doubt that we were doing the right thing. I sat Chris and the older kids down, and I explained the baby’s condition. I wanted them to understand her medical needs and what we were getting in to. I also admitted to them that I did not think that I was going to be a good enough mother to do this. I did not think that I could parent a child with a chronic medical condition.
Then, something completely miraculous happened, and for as long as I live, I will never forget those next 15 minutes of conversation with my family. Chris looked at me and talked like I have never heard him talk in 15 years of marriage. He said, “Tanya, the bottom line is this baby needs a Mommy and a Daddy who will love her. She needs brothers and sisters to play with, she needs better medical care, and above all else, she needs Jesus! She will receive none of these things if we leave her in China.” I just stared at him in complete disbelief, because I knew his words were from God. The tears started to pour. Then Braden looked at me and said. “We have to go get her, Mama. She is my sister.” Then Paige had huge tears streaming down her face and said the kicker, “ Mama, do you remember the Bible story that you read to use right before we left for vacation about David and Goliath? Well, Mama, Nothing is too big for God!!!” So….. I got my neon sign for sure. I knew without a shadow of a doubt God had answered my prayers and we were supposed to go get Faith!
Then Paige also said something that was quite humorous to me. We had been doing a Bible study the week before we left about important people of the Bible. Paige said, “Mama, do you remember the story of Jonah and the whale? Do you really want what happened to Jonah to happen to you if you don’t obey God?” Wow- is all I can say to that one! God put me in my place with a life lesson from an 8 year old. Thus began our exciting journey to go get Faith!!
How God took our fear and turned it into the biggest blessing we have ever experienced
We began extensive research on our daughter’s condition, Beta Thalassemia major. It is a blood disorder inherited from each biological parent that prevents a person from making normal hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is what carries oxygen to all of a person’s tissues and vital organs. Many infants are actually born with this disease in Southeast Asia and parents do not discover that their child is sick or has anything wrong with them until they are several months old. We also learned that due the blood shortage in China that most of these children born with this blood disorder usually do not live past the age of 5. This short life span is due to infrequent blood transfusions and also due to the fact that when a child receives blood transfusions, iron begins to build up in major organs. The body has no natural way to rid itself of iron and eventually iron will lead to organ failure and then death. Therefore, in China, this disease can be a death sentence to some children. However, in the US, with regular transfusions and with a daily oral medication that rids the body of excess iron, these children can live happy, healthy, normal lives just like anyone else!
At the end of August, we received updates on our daughter. She only weighed 15 pounds. She was being transfused every 3 months instead of every 4 weeks, and her hemoglobin had been allowed to get as low as 2. After we learned how critical her condition was, the awesome staff at America World in the US and in China discussed the situation with the CCCWA and our daughter’s file was expedited and we were able to go get her so that she could receive the medical care she so desperately needed. (this is allowed case by case depending on a child’s severity)
We boarded a plane to China on September 13. “Gotcha day” was on September 17, 2012!! It was a day I will never forget.
We arrived at the civil affairs office and our guide took off ahead of us. As soon as we arrived, Faith was there sitting with her nanny. She was dressed in pajamas about 3 sizes too big for her. She immediately started smiling at us when we walked in. She was so cute and of course I felt the lump in my throat and the tears started to well up in my eyes to the point that I could no longer see until they rolled freely down my face. Here was this beautiful angel whom we had prayed for so many years sitting right before my eyes!! What an absolute miracle of God!!
Finally I tried to coax Faith out of her nanny’s arms. This part of the fairytale did not go as anticipated. I didn’t fully realize what I had done by taking her from her nanny’s arms which should have given me some insight as to what kind of feisty little girl God was going to bless us with. Immediately, a survival fight emerged from this tiny little person that I have never witnessed before in my life. I now know how she managed to stay alive in orphanage conditions. She was a fighter and extremely strong for only weighing in at a whopping 15 pounds. The crying and screaming went on until the nanny finally left and then sweet Paige kicked in her big sister instincts and tried to help by feeding her puffs. We went outside and started singing to her which she immediately loved. Of course Braden had to throw in some dance moves to try and make her laugh. I realized that the entire place was surrounded with video cameras. I am sure someone was getting the entertainment of a lifetime just watching us. There is really no telling what the Chinese people thought of my crazy family. I am really shocked that they actually let us leave with her. (Ha!)
When we finally got back to the hotel, Faith really lost it. It was so sad and completely heart breaking to watch her grieve for her nanny. I felt absolutely helpless. My tears started to pour with hers as I felt so much pain and love for this child, but yet could not help her. I am so very thankful for Paige and Braden as they were not scared by her cries at all since I had prepared them for this and they immediately began distraction techniques which helped some. She finally cried herself to sleep and took a 2 hour nap. She awoke to me standing over her and the look of fear and crying began again. I handed her to Chris and I couldn’t believe what I saw-the crying stopped immediately and she began cooing at him and rubbing his face- She loved Chris. He was thrilled because all the other kids are Mama’s babies, but now Chris finally had a Daddy’s girl.
Our days in China were wonderful. We had an amazing family that we were traveling with whom we became very close to and the America World guides in China were phenomenal. We saw and experienced things that we will never forget!! It was, one of the very best experiences of our lives, and we cannot wait to go back!!
The day after we got home, we went to the hematologist to find out that Faith’s hemoglobin was only 7 and she needed to be transfused right away. She received good blood and all of her other test results came back perfect. There was nothing else wrong with her! From that day forward, God showed me His complete and total sovereignty in all of our journeys and years up to this point. Everything new that Faith learned was like watching a miracle. She learned how to eat solids in two weeks. After that she began to sit up by herself. Within a month she was crawling and saying some words. At age 18 months, she began to walk. She gained 10 pounds and went from size 6 months clothes to size 24 month clothes in a 6 month time frame.
One of the biggest miracles of all happened when it was time for her transfusion. Because she had some hives from her previous transfusion, I had decided that Chris and I would try to get tested to see if we could be donors for her. We were told by our hematology team that it was not a good idea and that the likely hood of being an exact antibody match was slim to none since we were not Asian descent. However, I felt so strongly that we needed to get tested that I did it anyway against the advice of medical professionals. I honestly did not think that I would even be able to donate because I had been turned away so many times in the past due to a history of anemia; however, much to my shock and surprise, not only was I able to donate, but I was also an EXACT blood type and antibody match! How amazing is God. There is absolutely no doubt that God put this little girl in our family for a very big purpose and knew from the beginning of time that she would someday be ours.
What it is like to parent a child with a chronic medical problem such as thalassemia
For those of you who are scared to parent a child with a chronic medical problem, let me tell you that we were too. In fact, we were (I was) terrified. Now that we have been home for, and are in a routine, we often forget that she even has a special need. The only time we really notice is the one day per month that we go in for a transfusion which takes all day to start an IV draw blood and do the transfusion. All other days of the month, she is a regular toddler who loves playing with her brothers and sisters, loves her puppy, loves to be tickled and gives the best kisses and hugs! It may seem crazy, but I actually look forward to transfusion days. It is the one day that I get to spend one on one alone time with just me and Faith. We play with toys, eat lots of snacks, and I read her stories. After she has her IV put in, it is a perfect time for some rocking and cuddle time which I love.
I would like to just encourage anyone considering adopting a child with thalassemia or any other chronic special need to consider it a true blessing and privilege that God has chosen you of all people to be this awesome child’s parents. Let go of your fears and let GOD. Why not let God use you to not only make a huge impact and change in a child’s life, but also to let God make an even bigger change and impact in your life. I promise you will not be sorry. God saved Faith’s life, but He also saved our lives and made our family better that we had ever dreamed possible.
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Fill out a free Pre-Application to see what programs/countries you qualify for, or if you meet the requirements listed on your country/program page you are interested in, you can simply fill out the full Application to begin the process.