Our Story { 31 days of Adoption: Day 2 }

I am the oldest of 9… yep, you read right NINE children. So when it comes to raising so many kids so close together… well, for me, it’s kind of like going back to live on the farm that you grew up on! More work than you imagined it ever being but at the same time… it feels like home!  When people ask me if I’m going to have 9 kids like my parents did I always respond by saying that I don’t think in my parents wildest dreams did they think that God would bring them 9 children much less ask them to live in Alaska or travel overseas to adopt or be known in our town as the home for children who didn’t have one. They just allowed God to write their story and were willing and obedient to follow where He led them. I know when I look back at the story God is writing for us… I’m going to feel the same way… it will be one I never could have written myself or imagined living. Growing up with 3 adopted siblings, (a sister from China, and two brothers who we fostered to adopt) adoption has always been near and dear to my heart.

Dan’s sister was adopted (closed private adoption) and growing up his parents were house parents for 25 boys at a North Carolina orphanage for 7 years. They have many stories of their time there… and you know many of their stories have endings like… “I wonder what ever happened to that boy”. Sometimes having a heart for adoption means giving of yourself when you aren’t promised a long term commitment to a child and you may never know what impact you will have had on a child.

I don’t remember exactly when we talked about it but I know Dan and I talked about adoption way before we ever even dated.   Adoption was just language we were both familiar with. (Dads… Moms… if you want your children to live radically for a HUGE awesome God then you live radically in front of them!! I never quite have understood why parents are worried how adopting a child will affect their other children… it will affect them! In hard sanctifying yet incredible life changing life amazing ways!  Pour out your lives for the sake of something so much bigger than the safe and comfortable here and now and watch and see as it becomes the best and unforgettable lesson in how to love like Jesus loves for your children, and that my friends… will be an effect that will be something beautiful to behold for years to come and into eternity.) 

This was the orphanage that Dan’s parents served at for several years… see Dan in the front in the cute plaid shirt. 🙂 This is a photo of ALL 9 of us Nichols kids. It was back in 2010 so we really need an updated one.

We knew we would adopt as a married couple… we just didn’t know when.  Both of us had whirlwind jobs and it took us 4 years after we got married to get into our city’s foster training. (looking back I know God had His hand in the time we had before children but I also wish we hadn’t been so wrapped up in our jobs and the mentality that we needed to have it all together financially before we thought about children. I wish someone had said… “just go for it! Don’t wait until you think it’s the right time… God is going to take care of you!”)  We went through foster training and mid way through we discovered to our surprise that we were expecting!

We decided to still continue to work towards licensing and that even if we had a biological child and a foster child at the same time that we would leave it in God’s hands. But right after we were licensed through the state we discovered that our baby had some major development problems and that the lower half of his body was not developing properly thus putting a lot of major organs at risk.  We were thrown into a world of dr. appointments, testings, ultrasounds and meetings with specialists. He had an Omphalocele as well as markers for Spinal Bifida and the Doctors were convinced he had Trisomy 13 or 18. They gave us very little hope of him surviving. We understood that God would see us through any grief that would come, but as Believers we also knew that God could heal this baby and had given him to us as parents to fight for his life and wellbeing, to be his advocate.  We had hope…. we knew the Creator of this child loved him far more than we did, and knew so much more about his unseen body than the medical world could. So we prayed…. with tears and at times a wavering faith, still we prayed!!!

 

Asher Daniel Chappell was born the evening of August 9th 2008, he weighed 5lbs 5oz and was beautiful. He did not have either Trisomy and there was much hope that his heart issues would be ones that could be operated on.  The specialty team quickly surrounded him and the whole operating room was strangely quiet…. I finally screamed “what’s happening? how is he?”  I looked back and one of the team looked back at me and shook her head. I knew… he was gone.  His heart was irreparably broken, and in that moment my heart was shattered as well. I really don’t remember much after that except that I fell even harder in love with this baby as my husband held him all wrapped up close to my cheek.  This was my son. And even if I had been only able to love him like crazy for those 9 months and miss him for the next 900 months then God was going to sustain me. I wrote THIS post shortly after that day.

 Dan and I were so incredibly blessed to have a huge support system in our family, our church, my blog readers, and soooo many more. Asher’s funeral was beyond beautiful and a day I will never ever forget. The weeks following were quite a blur and I’m so grateful that I had blogged through some of the hardest days so that I can always look back and remember His faithfulness to us during our darkest days.  If you know of anyone else who has or is going through a loss of a baby the things I wrote HERE might be very helpful to you and those who love them and want to minister to her through this. But as Molly Piper writes HERE the truest and most important gift you can give a friend who is grieving is a broken hearted love.

About 3 months later we contacted the state to see about getting our license re-activated. Normally, it probably wouldn’t be the wisest of choices to pursue parenting so close to losing a child but we really felt like we had grieved a lot even before Asher came and we also really needed to do something to move forward in our lives… and adoption was the last thing we had been pursuing before we lost our son. So we knew it was something we needed to do.  It only took the consideration of one foster child to make us quickly realize that we needed something permanent… we wouldn’t… couldn’t be the kind of foster parents a child would need if it was to be a temporary situation. We couldn’t bear losing a child again that soon.

I had told a few friends that we were thinking about adoption again and one day my husband called me from work and told me that a co-worker of his had a wife who ran an adoption agency and she had talked to my best friend and asked if she knew if we would be at a place to consider adoption. They had a birthmother about to give birth and she wouldn’t pick any of their current waiting families and said that she knew that her daughters family was still out there…. so find them! They did… they found us. We had just a few days to update our homestudy…. write a birthmother letter… put together a photo album of our family… and deliver it to the agency before we were scheduled to fly out to Texas for Thanksgiving (we were living in Raleigh at this time).  I’ll never forget the moment when Dan and I were in a bookstore and we got the call that she picked US!!! We were over the moon excited and giddy! Could this really be happening?  Here is something that’s really cool… we needed both Dan and my birth certificate ASAP… like as in needed it yesterday, well… Dan’s parent had decided to go to Michigan for Thanksgiving since we would be in Tx and his momma walked right into the department of records (Dan was born in MI) and got a copy of his birth certificate and overnighted it to the agency…. we just happen to be celebrating Thanksgiving in Austin where I went into the department of records (I was born in TX)  and was able to overnight it that day!  How awesome is that…. God knew!!!!

Things like that kept happening for the whole next week and on Monday were supposed to meet this sweet birthmother for lunch. I had NO idea how to feel/act… this was all so new and raw! But that morning we got the phone call… “yes, go by the restaurant but get it to go and get to the hospital, your daughter has been born!!!” What a total tizzy we were in that day!  So we went… and fell totally in love with our daughter… and this amazing woman who gave her life and loved her so much!

Zoe proved to be a healing balm after she came to us just four months almost to the day after losing Asher. She was so different than Asher and so I didn’t feel like she was taking his place in my heart, but she was able to fill that aching void in my arms as I longed to rock my baby. Because so many friends and family upheld us and gave to us that broken hearted love…. there were so many who wanted to rejoice with us over her adoption and would come see her and taste the joy she brought to all of our sorrow. During the day…. I was mostly free to blog and grieve as others held my new little bundle of sweetness but in the wee hours of the night, I was the one who was able to hold her and rock her and  fall head over heels in love with her and though it all technically happened very fast, slowly I became a mommy of two amazing children.

When Zoe was 6 months old we had an opportunity to move to Fort Worth Texas. My family lived there and Dan would be able to continue his seminary training as well as teach in a great school.  We had only lived here a few months and we started to have conversations about possibly adopting again… after all, it probably wouldn’t be another 2 week adoption process like Zoe’s was.  We had no more uttered the words to our families “we are thinking about adopting again” than a family member contacted my mom about needing to find foster parents for a little boy who had yet to be born to his young mother in prison. We had been trained in fostering so we knew the mindset we needed to have going into this. This would be a low-risk fostering, meaning the likely hood  of either of his birthparents being able to parent ever was very low.  After talking and praying through it we agreed to foster if they gave us priority over adoption once he was 18 months old. His parents agreed. 3 weeks later the little guy was born, and 18 months later he was officially a Chappell forever. Jack brought healing in ways I didn’t even know I needed still.  I didn’t have the crowds of people to come and hold him and let me adjust on my own time frame. No, he needed me… all of me right then and there. I grew so much as a mom during those first few months.

Dan had always wanted to adopt from Africa…. since the first time we ever talked about adoption even. I didn’t really have a desire to go to Africa for any reason really. And especially after the previous two adoptions taking only about 2 weeks to prepare for and bam… you have a baby in your arms, the thought of waiting and planning and preparing for months and years to come… no thank you, I like my easy domestic adoptions.  (and this, my frustrated adoptive mommy who wonders why everyone else just doesn’t GET it, is why I understand. It’s COMPLETELY a God working in and stirring the heart thing!!!!)  One moment I was chatting with a friend about a mutual friend who just adopted from the Congo, who knew Congo even was open to adoptions? I didn’t. The next moment I was calling Dan from the car saying “want to adopt from the Congo?” knowing full well what his answer would be.

Thus THIS post was born…. and our adventure began.

God sure has a sense of humor and was probably chuckling at my desire for speedy adoptions because only 7 short whirlwind months and LOTS and LOTS of paperwork, pennies and prayers later we were flying to the DRC {Democratic Republic of Congo } to get our TWO congolese cuties!!!  Click on the side bar that says Congo to see more posts about the Congo.  And I’m SO grateful that Kristin Shyla (aka aunt kristin) went with me over there… Not only was she awesome company and a huge help with the kids, she also is the one who captured all these memories over there so that we would have them for always.

 

Now… going from 2 to 4 was quite the transition. I will always hold to the fact that going from 1 to 2 was most difficult for me. I think because we brought them home just a few weeks before Thanksgiving it just felt like a few months of holidays and there’s something about the holidays when you have a new baby around. I’m a firm believer in something my friend Angela calls “new baby grace”.  Honestly, I’ve come to learn that it takes a FULL YEAR to start to feel like you have a new normal around the house anytime someone new comes into the family… so all you mamas with babies who are 6-7 months old and you are frustrated because you don’t have it all together… well… good news you still have 5-6 months to even start to feel the normal settling in.  GRACE my friends!!! Lots and lots of grace!  Even now as I type this… I’m having to give myself… my kids and my expectations of what I wanted to get done today a huge heaping of Grace!!!

Around February of this year (2013) God started stirring in our hearts a passion that He had given us over 10 years ago even before we were married. We had talked for years about always wanting to adopt a child with Down syndrome. We had in various ways been around and near those who had children with Down syndrome and Dan grew up with an aunt who had D.s.  So, I started just researching and doing initial inquiries to various agencies and friends to see how one might go about adopting a special needs child. That led to a few conversations with friends as we would talk about whats next on the horizon for us as a family. Because of one of those conversations a friend saw another friends Facebook status about a special baby boy who needed a Texas family who was homestudy ready! I emailed about him and in less than a week later we were boarding a plane headed to Las Vegas where our newest son was in the NICU. It happened SO fast… you can read about the very beginning of this adventure HERE. We took him home about a week later and have fallen hopelessly in love with him.

My life is extraordinary and I love it. At times I just look at my children and marvel at God because He KNEW all along that this is what was going to unfold. I never could imagine the blessings that He would give us through each of these little ones. But I’m SOOOO glad He did.  It’s hard at times and somedays I wonder if I will ever not have to change diapers or buckle kids up in the car, because with 5 under 5 those things can be overwhelming in a weak moment. But all I have to do is look back at ALL God’s graciousness and goodness to see what He’s brought us through and how near He’s been to us in our darkest moments, and I KNOW that He’s right there with me even in the diaper changing.

Are we done adopting? I can honestly say… we don’t know. I think when I’ve seen what I’ve seen over in Africa…. I’m not sure I can be comfortable ever confidently saying “we’re DONE adopting”.  But I do know that God has led us thus far and I have full faith that He will lead us in whatever else He may have in store for our family.

And I’m so grateful to have you along for the ride.

This is day 2 of 31 days of Adoption. Visit this page to see all the posts in the series.

For our joy and His glory,

 


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