Saturday, August 25, 2007

Let's start from the very beginning. . . .

Our adoption "journey" began the day that our triplets were born. . .well, okay, technically it began during my pregnancy when every person we met would laugh and say to us, "Oh, an instant family! You aren't planning to have any more are you?" After being confronted with these statements and questions for what seemed like the millionth time, my husband and I decided that no, we were not "done." We knew that there were more children who were meant to be a part of our family (and if you REALLY want to get technical, we believe that this was all part of the "plan" before we even made our debuts here on earth, but, for the sake of time, we won't get into that). HOW those other children would come into our family was determined the day that our triplets were born.

After a difficult pregnancy it appeared that the delivery would be following the same pattern. After spending almost 4 days in the hospital, I was wheeled into the operating room for an emergency c-section. I was very sick and the doctors needed to get my babies out quickly. Once the surgery was underway, all three of my children were out within a minute and a half. I do not remember much after that as I started to lose blood rapidly and was in and out of consciousness. To make a very long story very short, the doctors were unable to stop the bleeding and I had to undergo an emergency hysterectomy to save my life. I was 21 years-old at the time. While it seems like a tragic story, I have yet to this day, to feel sorrow for my loss. I expected to feel devastation and sadness. Fortunately that has not been the case and I have been able to focus on the positive aspects of the "situation". For example, if I can be perfectly honest, I am quite happy about the fact that I will not have another period for the rest of my life, will never have to use birth control ever again and will not have to experience physical labor in order to bring another child into our family (I say physical labor because, anyone who has ever gone through the adoption process knows that there is quite a bit of "labor" involved)! Once all of the drugs had worn off and I was able to manage coherent thought again, I believe my first thoughts went something like this, "Thank you Heavenly Father for three beautiful, healthy babies," and "Looks like our next child/children will be adopted!"

Shortly after we celebrated our children's first birthday we started to pursue the domestic adoption of an infant through our church. We didn't really give it much thought, we just always assumed that we would go through our church agency (who only places infants domestically) when it came time to add to our family. Six months after we had begun the process we were still only 1/3 of the way through our homestudy. Several months later we had still made no progress. We knew that there were more children meant for our family. We knew that we would adopt. I just did not understand why we were dragging our feet (scratch that, I think "dragging" would be giving us too much credit). Looking back I realize that there were a combination of factors contributing to our snail-like pace, the most important being, it was not the right time and it was not the right path.

In January of this year we realized that we were on the wrong path and we quickly began researching all of our options. Our hearts soon turned to International Adoption. We began researching countries, agencies, financing, traveling. . .everything that international adoption entails. After countless hours, day, weeks, months of research, thought and prayer we found ourselves drawn to Uzbekistan and knew that we would find our child there. We selected an agency to assist us on our journey (fabulous agency by the way, I would highly recommend them to anyone, About A Child) and we were off, full-speed ahead! One morning in late March, I logged onto my agency account and, on a whim, clicked on the Waiting Children's photolisting. My eyes fell immediately upon a beautiful baby boy from Uzbekistan. My heart raced as I clicked on his picture to learn more about him. As I scrolled down the page I discovered why this precious little boy had been listed as a waiting child. He was born with a rare birth defect known as phocomelia of the legs (the long bones of his legs failed to form in the womb so his legs end just below the hips). While I could clearly see his disability and was somewhat intimidated by what it all might entail, I could not deny the feeling that this sweet baby boy was meant to be ours. Richard and I spent a lot of time discussing this little boy, his medical needs, what his life might be like, and whether or not we would be able to adequately meet his needs, but what it really came down to was that, after consulting the Lord in prayer many, many times, we just knew that it was HIS plan that this little boy be a part of our family. We contacted our agency and informed them of our desire to adopt this baby boy and, from that day forward, in our hearts, that precious little boy became ours. When he comes home (which we hope will be soon) he will be Joshua Steve Ortyk Rieben.

As we came closer to submitting our dossier for Uzbekistan, I began to have this nagging feeling that someone was still missing. Richard and I had already made the decision that we would adopt one more time, but I think we both thought we would wait a few years before starting the process again. I tried to put the thoughts and feelings out of my mind thinking that they were simply a part of the emotional roller-coaster of adoption, but the thought that there was another child out there continued to press itself heavily upon my mind. Recognizing that this feeling was NOT going away, I asked the Lord for guidance and soon found myself at Reece's Rainbow, an organization established to help find homes for children with Down Syndrome. On their website they also have a photolisting of children available for adoption with other special needs. I clicked on this link (one that I had visited frequently) and immediately noticed several new faces. I began to scroll down the page, reading about each sweet little one as I went, until my eyes fell upon one of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen! Tears came to my eyes and a familiar feeling (I say familiar because I experienced the same feelings when I saw Josh for the first time) flooded my soul. This little boy that I was looking at was in no way a stranger to me, but rather a familiar face, the "missing piece!" I knew almost instantly that this was the little boy that my heart had been searching for and that he was meant to be our son. I wish that there were words to express the intense emotions that I felt as I looked at this sweet little one and felt the overwhelming power of the spirit confirming that this was the child that we had been silently searching for. How grateful I was to my Heavenly Father in that moment for leading me to this little one. This little boy is our Evan (currently known as Valera). He is a three year-old boy from Ukraine, born with a rare birth defect known as Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita. Like Joshua, when we look at him, we do not see disability. We simply see a precious little boy who desperately needs a family to love him and help him reach his full potential. There is no doubt in our minds that he is meant to be a part of our family.

When we started this journey I never could have predicted that this is where it would lead us, but if I have learned anything throughout the course of my life, it is that the Lord's plan is perfect and if we submit ourselves to His will and allow Him to lead us, He will take us amazing places. I could not have imagined such amazing blessings for myself. Heavenly Father is SO good.

So now you know how we came to find ourselves adopting two little boys with special needs, from two different countries simultaneously, with 2.5 year-old triplets at home (and if you made it this far, I salute you!). I told you it would be a wild ride!!


Charissa said...

I just discovered your blog. I am absolutely amazed at you and your family. I look forward to getting to know you more via email/blogs. It looks like you are way ahead of us, so I hope you'll hold our little Ava for us, and tell her we're coming. I will be watching your blog for your progress. Your family is beautiful!

Bigmammy said...

Valerie, I keep reading your blog, and it makes me so much more excited for our adoption.