Gideon's Adoption Story
Swell Adoption Fund: April 2016
We are Craig, Ellen, Isaiah, Naomi and Lydia Lauer. Two and a half months ago we brought our 2 year old son home from China. This is his story.
God started laying orphan care and adoption on our hearts over 13 years ago when Craig and I were engaged to be married. We knew from the start we would have a large family and felt that God meant for us to adopt part of that family. We started praying that He would reveal his plan for us and clearly give us a call to action when His time for us to adopt was upon us. So we waited, and we prayed, and we waited, and we prayed and over the next 10 years God blessed us with 3 beautiful, healthy and happy (most of the time) biological kids! After Lydia (our 3rd) was born we knew God's time for our family to grow in the traditional way was over. But that desire for another child was still there.
(Especially in me!) I would sit at our table or in our car or at a fun family event and feel that someone was missing. I spoke with my friends about the fact that at times I would feel that missing person so strongly that I was sure if I looked again they would be there, and yet, I was relieved to know I would never give birth to another child. In the fall of 2014, I noticed this NEED for another child went away completely and I talked to Craig's sister, Ashley, about it. She asked if we were still considering adoption and I confessed that I just didn't think we would ever actually do it. You see, it's SCARY, and it's HARD and there is SO MUCH out of date and just plain UNTRUE information out there that the thought of the adoption process was overwhelming! Our family was in a good place, our kids were getting older, life was getting easier and we were content. We were DONE!
Well, WE might have been done but God wasn't! We just didn't know it yet.
Craig and I weren't talking, praying, or even thinking about adopting at this point. We were done, remember? Sometime after this God started to speak to both of us (and even our first-born) about adoption again. How could this be? I thought 3 kids was it for us! No more 'missing child' at our family events! He spoke quietly at first. Quiet enough that we could ignore Him. But His words just kept getting louder and stronger until we started to wonder if maybe we weren't done, but we still weren't talking to each other about it. Without telling each other, we both started praying again that God would show us what he wanted us to do.
Remember when I said that before we were married we prayed that God would give us a clear "call to action" when His time for us to adopt was upon us? At a One Less Orphan event at our church, a ministry leader stood up and said 'This is not a ministry to convince you to adopt. We do not want to single anyone out.' (I'm paraphrasing.) Moments later, a man at the meeting who was adopted as a child stood up and asked, point-blank, if there was a family there who was thinking about adopting.
Craig and I looked at each other with wide eyes and tentatively raised our hands. (And by tentatively, I mean we each lifted a finger off the table.) Seeing the other raise their hand gave us both the confidence we needed to go ahead and lift our hands high and declare that "Yes, God was, in fact, calling for us to adopt!" There it was! Our 'call to action'! Now, hearing that call and answering that call are two very different things altogether! We began to agonize over exactly how we were to add to our family.
Foster care? Domestic adoption? International adoption? We prayed. We prayed hard.
When the answer came to us it seemed like an insurmountable task. China? But what about all the orphans here in the States that need families? When God speaks, He doesn't always reveal his entire plan at one time. All He asks is that we have the faith to follow His leadership. So that's what we did. Over the next several months we went through the process of preparing our home for a home study and got all our ducks in a row for our dossier. We filled out mountains of paperwork, went to doctor appointments, had our fingerprints done and waited for that phone call.
Then one day, it happened. WE GOT MATCHED!
On September 15, we got a call (THE CALL) from our agency that they had found a little boy for us! They actually called Craig while he was at work and when he texted to let me know, I didn't believe him! LOL! I had played a little joke on him the week before and it backfired on me! Anyway, he finally convinced me he was being serious and they were sending him the file in an email. I told him to forward it to me IMMEDIATELY, even before he read it, so I could read it too. I checked my email about every 30 seconds for HOURS! Then I decided to take matters into my own hands and I called our contact at Holt. The answering service put me through to her line and I got a voice mail. :-/ So, undeterred, I called every single person I had a number for at that agency. When every call went to voice mail, the answering service finally took pity on me and told me they had all gone home for the weekend.
TIME. STOOD. STILL.
How could they have made that call, TOLD US they were sending the file and then gone home? This was NOT acceptable! So I cracked my knuckles, set my writing voice to 'polite and business like' and went to work emailing every single one of them, hoping I could catch SOMEONE and let them know we hadn't gotten the email. If I had gotten a response, I was determined to whine, beg, badger or even bribe them to go back to work and send it! Lucky for me (and them!) the answering service lady was wrong...the entire staff was in a meeting. LOL! I am sure they all had a few laughs at my expense, but I'm not even sorry!
You see, there is a time limit to how long you get to look at a child's file before making a decision. During the review time, you have to get the file to a pediatrician to review so you know what to be prepared for. If the pediatrician finds something peculiar or worrisome, you may want to have the file reviewed by a specialist. You research and pray over every single sentence in that file. You worry about every single abnormality or inconsistency. You wonder why they use certain words to describe this little boy's personality and if that word means the same thing to them as it does to you. ("Relentless"? What does that even mean?) You look at the picture of that sweet, innocent face 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 times (I don't even know what that number is, but you get the point.) and dare to ask yourself..."Is this my son?"
I can't describe to you how it felt when that email finally came and I quickly scanned through the entire thing looking for the picture. Our first glimpse of him. He was BEAUTIFUL, he was PERFECT, and I started sobbing. I've heard from other adoptive parents how they felt in that moment. Some know right away, some look at the picture and are unmoved.
For me, it was love at first sight. I knew. I could not tear my eyes away and my arms and heart ached to hold him. The weight of what we were doing came down on me in full force and everything that followed is a blur. Luckily, Craig was able to keep his head and he forwarded the file on to our good friend, who just happens to be a Neonatologist, and who has experience reviewing China adoption files. She knows our family very well, is aware of what we can handle medically and we trust her. I am so thankful for her! To me, it didn't matter what that file said because I was already emotionally attached. But we needed someone objective to let us know what to expect. She wouldn't hesitate to tell us if she thought there were issues we couldn't handle but she would be there to help us, no matter what our decision was.
Our prayers were answered when she called and told us she didn't see ANYTHING in the file that was outside of our capabilities. There are no guarantees that the file is 100% correct, but based on the information we had to go on, she was confident we could handle this little guy's special needs. In truth, we had already prayed over the file, written the LOI (Letter of Intent) and sent it. Heather's recommendation was perfectly timed confirmation that we were following God's will.
About a week later, another friend and neonatologist offered to review the file and give us a second opinion. He was very detailed and gave us great advice on what to do first and what appointments to set up so we can hit the ground running when we get him home and advised us on how to go about doing that and what to expect. I am so thankful God placed both these doctors in our life!
The time that followed being matched was absolutely the HARDEST part of this process. We got our LOA (Letter of approval) from China on September 30, saying they had reviewed our dossier and we would be allowed to move forward with the adoption. Why was this time the hardest? Well, if you're a parent, imagine knowing that one of your children is on the other side of the world and you have no idea if they are being protected, loved or cared for.
No....I mean ACTUALLY try to imagine it, right now. Feel that giant hole in your chest? Throat tight? Pulse racing? Fighting back tears? Yep, every day. That's how it feels. This child is your child, no different than your bio kids. I can't explain how that happens, it just does. I grieved his absence every day.
On December 7, in a noisy government building in Southern China, we met our son for the first time.
He was SO SMALL and SO AFRAID and SO PERFECT! I remember trying not to cry when they handed him to me because I didn't want to scare him but I was shaking and the tears just wouldn't stay inside. He felt very thin and fragile and all I wanted to do was snuggle him in and make everything alright. That was NOT what he wanted from me. He sat there in my arms as stiff as a board with his bottom lip jutted out in a pout and started to wail.
Our oldest child, Isaiah, came with us to China and if it hadn't been for him, I'm not sure I would have gotten through that meeting. He picked a little ball up out of my bag and handed it to him. Gideon immediately threw it back at him and giggled. That game continued to get louder and more animated as the minutes passed until finally the paperwork was signed. That ball began their relationship and ours. Ten days later that ball came home with us from China as we began the process of grieving, loving, growing, learning, forgiving and becoming a family.
We have now been home for two and a half months and I finally have my answer to "Why China?" Why China? Because that's where our son was. That's where he was born. That's where he was being cared for and loved by his foster mom until I could come get him. Gideon is part of our family, he just joined it a little unconventionally. He fits us and we fit him.
We love him completely and it feels as if he's always been here. He's energetic, goofy, outgoing, smart and determined not to let his small size or his special need hold him back. Since being back in the states he has been seen by several doctors. He has surgeries in his future, but he's doing well! He's a happy, healthy, LITTLE 2 year old with a BIG personality, a BIG smile, a BIG future and a BIG God!