I realized I’ve never posted on my Darin.
I need to do that.
He is important.
The story of Darin joining our family is nothing short of a miracle.
From the time Arabella was born (2001), Joel and I started talking about adopting another child with Down syndrome. Down syndrome just brought such joy to our lives.
So, from time to time, we would mention this to friends who were also adoption minded, saying things like, “some day we are going to find another little girl to adopt that can be best friends with Arabella” or “when we get to Russia, we will find a child with Down’s in an orphanage and sneak them back in our suitcase.”
But we were DEEEEEEP in debt from the first year of Arabella’s life… when we responded to having an income of $800/month by maintaining the same lifestyle of eating out and shopping, by using credit cards.
So adoption was a pipe dream. Big talk.
In April/May 2005, my little brother Tim was heading off to Colorado Springs to work at The Dale House, so Joel and I went to his “sending off” service at Ecclesia. In typical mom-fashion, I spent the service in the foyer with Holden and all the other mom-toddler couples. A friend, Amy, had just adopted 8 months earlier through New Life, an agency where Chris & Robbie Seay’s mom, Cindy, is the nurse.
I decided to talk big again. This time, in front of Amy.
The next week, New Life called Amy, and all their “adoptive families” (those with adopted children or waiting to adopt) to ask if anyone would consider adopting a baby with Down syndrome – she was going to be born in a month.
Amy called me with 2 questions:
1. What resources would be available to her family if they decided to adopt this baby girl? Would they receive SSI, tuition assistance at the Rise School?
2. Would we be interested in adopting?
I told her all I knew about resources, and laughed at the suggestion of US adopting… “Adoption is expensive, right?”
Amy said, “If you are interested at all, call New Life. They will work with you.”
So, I called. And they said, “We will send you a preliminary info packet. If you return it to us, we will talk again.”
Now, something you may not know about me is I am a paper-organizer… well, pretty much an organizer in general. And I DON’T LOSE PAPERS.
But I lost the packet New Life sent to me. Within the week of talking to Amy and getting it in the mail, I lost it.
Figured it must be a sign… a sad sign that this wasn’t the time for us to adopt a baby.
But I was wrong. Cuz New Life didn’t wait for the packet… they actually called us back. They said that out of all of their families, they did not have anyone to offer the birth family… if we weren’t interested.
Wow! But what about the money.
“Don’t worry about the money. God will provide it, and you can pay it out over time.”
So Joel and I took the next day to pray, going for coffee together after work. Our conversation started with, “So, we could change this part of our schedule, and use this resource…” We both knew that the question wasn’t “should we?” but “how can we?”
Then we called New Life back.
And another family had come into the equation. A couple came in to pursue adoption, and was willing to adopt a child with Down syndrome. So, the birth family would get to choose between us and this other couple.
Great… I thought this was really going to happen… but now, I’m not so sure…
On Friday, June 10, New Life asked and told us these things:
1. We will be giving both profiles to the birth family to choose from… they normally have as long as they want to decide, but due to #2, they would only have til Sunday.
2. Another baby with Down syndrome, a baby boy, has come into the equation. He was born today, and his mom is just now looking into adoption. He is 7 weeks premature, so she thought she had time to plan. Can we present your profile to this birth mom, if you are not chosen by the first birth family (with the baby girl yet to be born)?
We said, “Yes” to the question, but in many ways, our heart was set on the baby girl… mainly, since we had had 2 weeks to think & pray for her, and because Arabella is a girl with Down syndrome.
I remember vividly that Sunday, June 12. I was shopping with Erin, a friend of a friend, for my friend’s shower. And Sara, from New Life, called… I was away from Joel… I was sitting in the parking lot of Party City… and Sara said, “They picked the other family.”
It didn’t feel like there was a little boy out there. It felt like REJECTION. It felt like we were laid along side another couple, and they were worthy and we were not.
Erin was great. As weird as it is to cry with an almost-stranger, she made it okay.
But telling Joel was bad. Joel has been through A LOT of rejection in his life. And he gives his heart away FULLY. He had given his heart to the little baby girl with Down syndrome still growing in the birth mama’s tummy.
And he didn’t have any reason to fall in love all over again, with heartbreak so recent.
I’m more cerebral. I hadn’t touched her. She was a beautiful idea. She was a dream. But she could easily be morphed into a boy… (comparable to finding out at your 20 week ultrasound that the baby you have called “she” is “he”… just as exciting!)
So, I gave Joel some space to adjust to the idea, and took the kids outside to play.
Our kid’s names are really important to us.
- Arabella is our “Beautiful Altar” of Grace – a reminder of worship to a gracious Lord would gave us more than we could imagine, and nothing we deserved in our pre-marital conception.
- Holden Luke is our “Deep Valley” of “Light” – a deep place of the Lord to sustain him through a serious life of ministry and siblings with differences.
In Joel’s attempt to open his broken heart to the baby boy born only 3 lb 4 oz that Friday, he looked up his given name – a name we were not required to keep…
- Darin Michael – “A precious present” “who is like God”
The battle was over. Joel’s heart was softened by a name, a name planned by God, held in the traditions of his birth mother.
We didn’t get to meet Darin until he was 11 days old.
And it was complicated.
We met his birth mom and the social worker at a McDonald’s, while Darin rested safely in the NICU at Clear Lake Hospital. (Random note: Joel’s sister, Alyssa, had a baby boy in Clear Lake Hospital on the SAME DAY as Darin.)
We tried to say and do everything just right so his birthmom would love us, entrust us with her son, and agree with us on the openness of the adoption. Things went pretty well until we all went to the hospital to visit Darin.
The social worker stopped us at the door to the NICU. “Only one name can be on record as the family, so you need to decide NOW who is going to be on there.”
Lonnie, Darin’s birthmom, was shocked. She had met us 1 hour ago, and now someone was asking her to decide on us.
She started crying, said she wasn’t ready to decide, that she wanted to be able to visit him while he was save in the hospital… couldn’t we all visit him?
“No.” Either she could. Or we could.
I was so MAD! I couldn’t believe that this pressure was being put on her in the middle of her hardest situation.
Eventually, all three (gasp!) of us, Lonnie, Joel and I, were able to visit Darin together. He fit in the palm of Joel’s hand. Lonnie says that the look in Joel’s eyes told her that he loved Darin like she did.
Lonnie decided that night that she would allow us to adopted Darin. But she didn’t see any reason she shouldn’t be able to visit him until his was done growing the in the hospital.
This was totally God’s providence… for me and for our future.
- You see, I love Texas Children’s Hospital. I have lived there for a good portion of my motherhood… and I had planned on getting Darin transferred there, come hell or high water, whatever string pulling it took…
- I had also planned on spending 24 hours per day at the hospital with Darin, as I had with my Arabella.
Both of these things would have taken ALL my parenting energy. Problem: I already had 2 kids… who still needed a mom.
Since Lonnie was the “parent” on record, I was only able to visit with her.
- I spent 2 weeks getting to know the person I share (gladly!) the title of “mom” with.
From day 12 through day 25 of Darin’s life, Lonnie and I would arrange a time to visit, and sit at Darin’s bedside together. Since he mostly laid there, or ate while we fed him, we talked alot. I learned most of Lonnie’s life story, and we really bonded.
Then on Tuesday, July 5, 2005, we brought Darin home!
Random adoption follow-up:
With New Life’s open adoption, you have several minimum requirements:
1. Keep 1 of the names the parent’s give as part of the permanent name = we kept the whole thing as it was.
2. Send pictures monthly for 6 months.
3. Meet with birthmom once, 6 months after placement.
4. Send pictures yearly for 18 years.
Any other openness is voluntary and encouraged. New Life will be the middleman for mail & meetings as long as you want them to.
We didn’t see Lonnie until the 6 month post-placement visit. She looked really nervous about it… we met at a McDonald’s again, so the bigger kids could play.
I told her at this point to call me anytime she wanted to meet, and we would arrange to meet her. I met her at our church, my parent’s house, my in-law’s house for about 3 years – mostly our church because we were there at a set time each week, so she could call an hour before and say she was coming.
She came to each of Darin’s birthday parties.
Then last year, she called on a Sunday I stayed home from church with a sick kid, and decided to just tell her to come to my house. Now she just comes here every 2-6 weeks. It’s awesome!