Twenty one years ago my husband and I received a phone call that would change my life.
On the other end of the call was a social worker who asked us if we would be interested in adopting a brother and sister who needed a home right away. The date was December 18th, 1995. We were told that the girl was newborn, and her brother was 13 months old. He was supposed to go to another adoptive home, but the mother had just given birth to a baby girl and the family did not want her, only him.
It had been nine years since we had last adopted and while our name remained on the “list” we had not expected this call.
Of course I said yes, and I had to catch my breath because I knew these children were Heaven sent.
You see, six months before this call I had been in the hospital for a hysterectomy. Certainly this was not something I had wanted at age 35, but for health reasons it was very necessary. I had not given up hope of having another baby, but my doctor had said if I wanted to remain alive to raise the children I had, then the surgery was a must.
I was devastated, and as I sat just outside the operating room waiting to go “under the knife” I excused myself to the bathroom to have a really good cry, in private. It was in there that I felt compelled to get down on my knees and pray to God.
I remember exactly what I said to this day.
“Dear God, please, whatever you can do, somehow can you give me a baby girl? I don’t feel I am finished being a mother and I know there is a child out there who will bless my life. God, this is the only way I can go through with this is having faith that I will hold a baby, my baby, in my arms again.”
Shortly after that, I had my uterus removed, and the rest was now in God’s hands.
Like I said, our names were still out there on a list with the Ministry of Children and Families, but we had not been active in any adoption request. While I had prayed for a baby, I had a difficult recovery from the surgery and my husband and I were both working and had four children to raise. Life was going on. Hence, the December call, right before Christmas, was, to say the least, stunning.
It made no sense. i knew there must be other families who were active on the list and one of them might even have agreed to adopt a ‘sibling group’. Even the social worker called it a ‘fluke’ and explained that someone on the adoption desk in Victoria had felt for these two babies, was probably touched by some Christmas spirit, and wanted to get them placed and keep them together before Emma went into the foster care system. She had remembered me from the speaking engagements I had done for the Ministry across Vancouver Island, about special needs adoption, about how I had hoped to adopt more children, and just pulled our file. It was all very random.
Or was it?
No one knew about my prayer to God that day, not even my husband. But I knew immediately this was His doing.
We were warned that the birth parents had some physical and developmental disabilities, and while they knew some of the little boy’s special needs, the little girl was newborn and they could not say what might develop with her. They did say that there was a chance she could have a syndrome known as Treacher Collins, a horrific genetic disorder that her birth father had, causing facial deformities, breathing problems, and hearing loss.
(google Treacher Collins Syndrome images to get an idea of what they were talking about.)
The doctors has noticed some features indicative of this, including very narrow ear canals on the baby.
I don’t believe in rejecting a gift from God.
On December 22nd we headed over to the mainland with our kids in tow to meet the baby and the toddler who would soon become our son and daughter. The little boy had been in a foster home since birth, and the little girl had arrived there out of hospital, the day before. While he had a prospective home and the potential adoptive parents had already done some pre-placement visits, their rejection of his sister resulted in the Ministry stopping that adoption because they wanted to keep this siblings together.
Ethan met us at the door, (at the time he was called Dustin) in a t-shirt and diaper and holding a chicken leg he had been nibbling on. (Some images just stick with you!) He was a tiny 12 month old, big eyes, dimpled smile, and gorgeous wavy hair.
Emma (then called Tamara) was sitting in a car seat on the dining room table. The light through the window, like Great Expectations (Charles Dickens), was one of those December days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
She was my summer.
Both children had some dysmorphic features, likely indicating some special needs, but I didn’t care.
My mother had asked me, before we met the baby, what would I do if her face was horribly deformed.
My answer was “ I am going to love her because someone has to.”
And love her I did.
We had to leave Ethan there when we left that day, and it hurt. But he had lived in his foster home since a few weeks’ old, and knew no other place, no other parents, and we just couldn’t yank him out of that situation. A series of pre-placement visits were to take place starting in the new year, to ease his transition, and to address the heartbreak of his foster parents who had loved him and cared for him for the first year of his life.
We brought Emma home, on Christmas Eve, and joined last minute Christmas shoppers who were not buying diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, and whatever else we could get our hands on in our formerly baby-less household. Our youngest was five years’ old and I had not saved anything other than a wicker bassinet that all of my kids had slept in.
Emmaline Sophia Nicole was home.
God had given her to us.
Ethan Tomas Nathaniel would join us in a few months, and he was the icing on the cake.
My girl Emma, whose 21st birthday is the reason for this missive, was held by God and delivered to me through prayer, hope and faith. Are there really angels here on this earth?
Well one lives at my house.
All her siblings have moved out into the world and are making lives for themselves.
Emma remains with me, the greatest blessing in my life, bringing renewed hope, inner peace and light when I am in my darkest moments.
She is a great teacher.
She touches everyone’s lives and brings to them happiness, generosity, gratitude, kindness, innocence, and love.
Anybody who rejects her, mocks her, bullies her, or scapegoats her must live a dark, pitiful existence.
She saved my life.
While they say she has special needs, I say she has special gifts.
She is perfect.