Grab a cup of coffee, sit back and join us today as the Heidebrink family shares their adoption story in a raw, real, and beautifully honest way ….
When we set our to adopt from China, we had originally dismissed Down Syndrome as one of the special needs we could "accept". We reasoned that we had no experience with disabilities and if we were honest, we truly didn't view them as special as other children, even though we would never admit that. However, as God revealed to us the UGLINESS of our hearts and the reasons we were saying no to Down Syndrome, it was evident that our reasons for rejecting this SPECIAL (and I say truly special and amazing differently abled child) were all for selfish and human reasons. The Lord was so gracious and merciful to open our hearts to children with this special need and when Leah emailed families in the China program about 4 upcoming files of children with Down Syndrome, we knew that she had just emailed us about our next child.
Having adopted twice before from Ethiopia, we knew the road to adoption was difficult and that referral information and photos are not always going to be a 100% accurate representation of our child to come. However, we began to grow worried at times and would just have to give it the Lord when so many of Hope's referral questions came back unanswered. We remember asking repeatedly if she smiled or showed some interaction and those answers never came. The videos and pictures were beyond heartbreaking and the update from an AWAA Story Teller missions team was that it seemed like there was a little girl locked in Hope waiting to come out; however, during their whole week with her they never saw any response from her or smile. She was completely shut down.
With this information we would pray against letting our mind trail to fear of maybe there's more needs than we're aware of and what will that look like, etc. However, we KNEW God had lead us to Hope and we just prayed desperately that our travel date would hasten so we could bring her home. When the day came that we took Hope into our arms my husband remembers thinking, "wow" this is way more than I expected. She was like a floppy dishrag and showed no emotion or reaction. We were unable to get her to even look at us. We quickly discovered she wasn't able to eat from a spoon or drink and would loose half her bottle down her shirt as we gave it to her. The nannies shared that Hope was often left in her crib and that they felt she liked to be alone.
As we brought her back to our hotel, we believed and trusted in God's redeeming power over Hope's life. She slowly showed us that there was little girl locked inside her 2 1/2 year old body. This little girl was going to be made new by the power of God and his perfect design for children to be in families! During those first few hours I sat her on my lap and began to sing to her. Upon singing the "Itsy' Bitsy Spider" I gently tickled her when the "rain came down" and she showed us that she was indeed going to let us love her. She smiled, we saw her crooked and missing teeth and she looked me in the eyes and I knew she was going to heal.
We wouldn't be honest if we didn't say that there have been many hard times. Hope aspirates anything she drinks, so her liquids have to be thickened and she's on a pureed diet due to the combination of neglect and oral motor difficulties related to Down Syndrome. She often wakes a night and we've spent hours rocking her and sitting next to her bed patting her back so she can get back to sleep. I will say we've slept the least we ever have those first 15 months. It can also be a logistical challenge with her not walking yet, but we have hope that she's not far away from that goal!
However, the first 15 months with Hope have been nothing short of a miracle of God. She has gone from the developmental level of a 3 month old to signing with us for communication, mastering pureed foods and beginning to eat small soft solids, drinking from a straw cup and walking with an assistive walker. She requests through sign for us to sing her favorite songs, the wheels on the bus, head shoulders knees and toes, and the doxology. She LOVES to play with her brothers and the wilder the better! She gives kisses to her baby sister and to us all the time. She's an avid book worm, sitting on the floor flipping through page after page of board books! She loves to clap and will clap anytime she's happy or enjoys what someone is doing. She claps for me every time I fold the clothes-- now if that's not encouragement to keep folding I don't know what is!
As we look back on our first 15 months with Hope, I can't help but think back to that first song she smiled to. The itsty bitsy spider went up the water spout, down came the rain and washed the spider out. Hope was drowned by levels of neglect and abandonment for the first two years of her life in an orphanage in China. She became completely shut down. (So much so that we went to a huge Zoo while in China and upon coming face to face with a Tiger through a glass wall Hope didn’t' even see it-she showed no reaction. ) Yet the Sun came out and dried up all the rain and the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again. The Lord rescued Hope from the ashes and He is in the process of making her whole again. He's redeeming her story and she has become a joy-filled, social, determined, intelligent, funny, and kind little girl. She has gone from an orphan, to our daughter and we are the ones who are indescribably blessed for it! We can't imagine life without Hope. We can't imagine if we had missed the gift that she is.
I had originally set out to write this post as and advocacy for children with Down syndrome. Yet I type with tears in my eyes, as I realized that to our family ,Hope is not "Down syndrome" --Hope is our daughter and we don't see her as anything else. We often see her through blurry eyes, as the joy she brings us often moves us to tears. Don't even talk to my husband about her. He's a puddle when it comes to Hope, as he is with all our children. I often say that every family should be so blessed to have a child with Down Syndrome. She truly is a blessing from our Father in Heaven!
To dedicate this to Hope, I'll end with her favorite song, a huge smile comes across her face when we sing this. To Him be the Glory!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above the heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Please join us for Part 2 of Hope’s story tomorrow as we share a recent development and video you won’t want to miss! Hope’s story is an example of the many children who often get overlooked and are waiting in China. We encourage you to check out our Down Syndrome adoption page by clicking HERE to learn more about adopting a child with Down Syndrome. There are many children in China, just like Hope, waiting for a family to call their own. If you have questions about our China Program or about adopting a child with Down Syndrome, please contact our China team at 800-429-3369 or by email at email@example.com.