Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The story of my second son...

still gives me goosebumps. Since today is his twelfth birthday, I've decided to tell it. Some of it. You might want a cup of coffee for this one.

Our first son, James, died on October 16, 1996. We left Durham, NC, broken and desolate. Knowing that I was a genetic carrier for the defect that took James' life, we had decided that the door to biological children was closed. During James' life, after the initial receipt of this genetic bombshell, I had calmly stated that we would build our family through adoption. However, now with broken heart, struggling marriage, hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, Husband in graduate school making the tiny $9,000/yr salary of a fellowship, and going to live with my mother-in-law, the idea of adopting even so much as a pet gerbil seemed entirely out of the question.

By December 1996, Husband's mother had  loaned us enough money to buy a small house about an hour away. Husband was thrilled with the house because it came with a great garden and fruit trees and quiet. The outdoors was a sanctuary of healing for him.  I hated it because the second bedroom that should have held a crib was desperatelyquiet. It was a daily reminder of all I had lost and had no hope of regaining.

Husband continued in graduate school while I took a job as an actress. I worked in a prom and bridal dress shop where daily I acted like I cared over whether the bridesmaid's gowns were teal or turquoise and whether the prom dress was bugle beaded or sequined. My heart grew in bitterness.

As the months passed, Husband and I struggled with each other, and I struggled with God. Many nights I would wander outside into the thick darkness without any street lights and scream at the stars, "Are You even there? Do You even care?" The silence was so very loud. Tears and heartache were constant.

In July, while I was gone on a trip, Husband had spent some time with an adoptive family in our church, considering what that step might mean in our lives. When I returned he mentioned it to me, but I was incredulous that anything like THAT could happen to us. Didn't he know that God had obviously ordained our lives for suffering and heartache? I was angry, but consented to at least talk to this lady. She had lost a son to Sudden Infant Death but had gone on to adopt two bi-racial children. God also gave her a heart for bi-racial adoption, and she had begun to network with various agencies, lawyers and families in this ministry.

That conversation took place on a Monday night. On Tuesday morning, I went to Carri's office. I spent 3 hours with her pouring out my broken heart of hurt and anger and bitterness. I asked all my questions. I cried till I was spent. And she listened and hugged me and poured into me God's redemptive words of comfort. I left her office exhausted but comforted. She was God's instrument of returning a sliver of hope to me that God might bless us one day with another child. I told her that I would pray that night about putting our name on a waiting list.

On Wednesday, July 16, 1997, I had a busy day lined up. Our cat had to go to the vet and some errands had to be run. But before I left the house, I impulsively called Carri and left a message on her machine that she had permission to put our name in the pile. In all honesty, I believed it was the long shot of long shots.

Two hours later I returned home to find this message:
L, a baby boy was born prematurely yesterday (Tuesday) morning. He's only 2 lbs. 11 oz., and he is on a ventilator. I have been calling through the list all morning. I cannot reach anyone. If you are at all interested, I really think you should call me.

I was stunned. Shaking, I called her back and got the rest of the details. His birthmother had been matched with another family that upon learning he was premature had declined the match. A second family was contacted but they had just brought a newborn home two weeks before and could not take another. Of the remaining 11 families on Carri's list, everyone was either out of reach, on vacation or had declined the situation because of the preemie medical issues. We were up for consideration after a grand total of two hours on a waiting list.

Sheer craziness. Absolutely God.

The medical issues for this little preemie were not thin ones. Born at 28 weeks, this tiny baby was at risk for brain bleeds, cerebral palsy, blindness, heart conditions and critical lung concerns. And only months before we had gone through a medical crisis that ended in our son's death. We did not have medical insurance for this child that could potentially have serious health problems. And I did not know that I had the stamina to once again care for a medically fragile child.

It really seemed like God was asking too much. Every area of our life was running in the red. There was no reserve emotionally or financially. We had no idea at all how any of this....this adoption could possibly, humanly work.

Immediately before me was the practical problem of getting in touch with Husband who was currently at class. I had one number to try and reach him. It was the number to the graduate student room where anybody or nobody could be. I called. Husband answered the phone.

After explaining the situation to him and receiving his stunned but interested go ahead, I called Carri back for the next step which was to put a slim portfolio together that would give the birthmother enough information to at least consider us. Maybe it was the craziness of the situation that made me feel like I could throw this stone into the ocean or mabye it was Carri's insistence that in spite of all the obstacles, the Lord had given her a peace for us to try.

So while everyone (Carri, a social worker, and the adoption agency) swung into action on our behalf,  I had to drive about 35 minutes to meet Husband on the side of the road and get his signature on the initial paperwork. When I arrived, he asked me to repeat the details to him again about this baby's birth.

I said, "He was born on Tuesday, July 15, and was on the ventilator until this morning about 8:00 a.m." I tried to continue but Husband was weeping. I stood there startled, not really knowing what to do. Didn't he know we did not have time for this breakdown? He looked down at me through tears and said, "Don't you realize that James came off the ventilator and died exactly 9 months ago on this day (Wednesday) and this date (the 16th) and at that same time?"

Well then, I started weeping. So here we were, the two of us on the side of the road, holding paperwork and weeping our brains out. But it was in that moment that we knew, somehow, that God had given us this child, this son, in exactly the time frame He had ordained.

Husband said, "I don't know how, but I know this baby is for us."

And he was for us. The next 6 weeks were hectic and glorious and scary and startling and miraculous. Over and over again, the Lord posted billboards for us of His great love and comfort in working out the redemptive details of His plan to give us this son. He worked out the insurance, the adoption fees, the legal fees, the job, the medical concerns, the relationships, everything to the tiniest detail.

We brought home that tiny baby boy, all four pounds of him the end of August, on our 7th anniversary; which by the way was another sign of God's work because James had gone into the hospital on our anniversary three years prior.

Today that baby boy is a strapping 12 year old, soon to be taller than me, all ready stronger than me, and still just as apt to climb into my lap for a hug. He alternately makes me crazy and proud, keeps me coming and going, and one gleam of his blue eyes reminds me of the first time I looked at him.

The Lord rebuilt me, us, through this son. It was a new beginning where He reminded us in amazing ways that salvation came through His Son to bring life where only death had reigned. He used one of His tiniest creations, a 14 1/2 inch, 2 pound, 11 ounce boy to remind us of just how big He is in all of His works and promises. Nothing is impossible with God.

Thank you, Lord, for this child.


  1. Oh, the wisdom and mercy and love of God! How wonderful it is to see His Hand displayed so beautifully.

    He truly is the God of details--even on those rainy, 'boring' mornings in which nothing seems to be happening.

  2. Isn't the way God works absolutely breathtaking?! We view our circumstances as insurmountable and our hearts are embittered with anger and doubt----then God comes with such mercy and love and strength on our behalf. Nothing, nothing is impossible with him. Oh, glorious redemption!

  3. Ya shoulda said I might want a tissue for this one...
    Wow is all I can say right now and Praise God!

  4. Chess' birthday reminder popped up on my screen this morning, reminding of those pictures of that tiny lad. I can't believe how long it's been and how he's grown. Birthdays and Angel days become so intertwined. The bitter and the sweet bring tears of sorrow and joy. And though I already knew most of the content of today's post, the reminder brought back the tears. Love to you all!

    Tell Chess that Ray's at the archery range today. He should get a kick out of that.

  5. I had my coffee in hand but you didn't warn me of the need for waterproof mascara.

    What a precious reminder of His sovereignty.

  6. Oh, Elle, our God is so loving in His provisions for us of exactly what we need at exactly the right time and down to the tiniest details. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story of Him working out His plans for you and Husband that I might be reminded to praise Him even more this morning!

  7. Amazing, Elle. What a wonderful story of God's grace.

    Your next to the last paragraph made me smile. My boys are all above 12 now, but I remember as they approached that age feeling sad that they wouldn't want as much physical affection, but one in particular still wanted to sit in laps or lean his head on our shoulders long after he was too big and heavy to comfortably do so.

  8. I had my coffee ready, but I did have to go looking for a Kleenex!! What a beautiful story, and such a wonderful picture of God's ways...Happy Birthday to your precious boy!! :)

  9. I have no words. Just tears and a very thankful heart. Enjoy your day with that precious boy!

  10. I'm so glad you shared this story!! I love it!! How marvelous and wonderful!! Praise the Lord!

  11. Thank You for this today. While I have spent this day feeling sorry for myself with all the "why's" about life's circumstances and the "how could's" that have occured lately, I read your words and for the first time today have felt hope that God will indeed redeem what He will redeem, in His time not mine.

    Thank You

  12. And that's just some of it? What a God! He is gracious and He is good, sovereign in all things. Thank you so much for sharing!

  13. Oh I loved this story!!!! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  14. Beautiful! Simply beautiful!

  15. I got my coffee, but unlike a few other commenters, I didn't need a tissue. I just used my shirt. It was bigger and more absorbent.

    What an AMAZING God story!

    "Nothing is impossible with God." is RIGHT.

    This story is such encouragement, such a great witness to God's glory and grace.

    God is so good.

  16. [...] I’m writing in my prayer journal. My mind shoots to this post by Elle and I [...]

  17. What a beautiful story. What an awesome, awesome God.

  18. [...] adoption. Pregnancy was not an option for us at that time because of tragedy that had gone before (James). All of our efforts at adoption thus far had been tinged with various levels of sadness as well, [...]