I have been a Christian since childhood, but nothing would test my faith more than losing my children. My faith was truly tested when my husband and I lost 7 children to miscarriage and then lost our son after his short visit on earth. I prayed that if I did get pregnant, the Lord would allow me to hold our baby in my arms. The Lord answered my prayer on September 7, 2010, I was able to hold Simon in my arms for 88.5 days until he went to his eternal home at 10:45am on Friday, December 3, 2010. Simon taught me so much. The Lord used Simon to teach me how to live in the moment, patience, compassion and most importantly unconditional love.
Simon was diagnosed with trisomy 18, otherwise known as Edward’s syndrome on his 3rd day of life. Simon had 3 of the number 18 chromosome which causes heart defects, bilateral cleft lip among other medical complications. The doctors were quick to say, that trisomy 18 means “incompatible with life.” Even before the “label,” during the pregnancy, because of Simon’s cleft lip, medical professionals encouraged termination. Even though we changed hospitals, things didn’t change. We tried to explain the value of our child, but our words fell on deaf ears. We believe that all children, regardless of their “label” possess inherent dignity and value. Simon was not incompatible with life, he was alive and living. I realized that God did not bless us with a syndrome; He blessed us with a son.
I started to feel a strong indescribable love for special needs children, because of Simon. I know the Lord gave me this love. I knew that children were not defects or disposable, they are created by our Maker. Sharing Simon’s story is the ministry that the Lord granted me and Simon continues to impact people all over the world. Hearts are being changed and many have come to Christ and have been awakened spiritually because of our son. I learned very quickly that God does not want us to keep our testimony to ourselves.
As a Christian, I am called to spread the good news of the gospel. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27. It is because of my faith and hope in Christ Jesus, that I can rest in Him. It is clear to me that all things work together for those that love Him. Our story will be part of His plan. As a believer, I can rest in Him. I know that I am His adopted daughter and a child of God.
It was a few years after we lost our son, Simon that the Holy Spirit kept nudging us to adopt. In late 2012 we began the paperwork for international adoption of a waiting child. We knew we not only wanted to help an orphan but wanted to help a child with special needs. God lead us to China. We believe our Simon also found his sister and the Lord used our friend, Maggie Weik as a vessel to introduce us to our daughter. This moment was so special, when we saw the picture of her in April 2013; we knew that she was our daughter. We then reviewed her medical information and signed on with the agency. God had our daughter waiting for years in an orphanage. We also were humbled to discover that while I was pregnant with Simon in January 2010; our daughter was born, abandoned in a village and then moved in to an orphanage.
In July 2013 at a trisomy conference in Rhode Island is when we named our daughter, Sabella. Simon always seems to give us his signs and this time he did for sure. We knew we wanted an “S” name for our daughter. We found Sabella’s Bridal House and eight last names of Sabella in Rhode Island. I know that brother Simon had something to do with naming his new sister. We were on our way to the balloon release in memory of our angels with trisomy, and the car in front of us said Simon around the license plate. Our daughter’s name, Sabella means “consecrated by God.” “To be made holy.” We were so touched and again knew that the Lord had His hand in our lives.
Throughout our adoption journey, both my husband and I learned patience and allowed the Lord to comfort us when we were anxious. God gave us a peace and wisdom and we realized this was our “pregnancy on paper.” We knew that we wouldn’t get our daughter overnight so we prayed for Sabella and asked Jesus to keep her safe until we got there. While we were waiting for Sabella the Lord placed many compassionate people in our paths. Those who had lost a child and those who had adopted a child. Maggie Weik and her husband had already adopted 9 girls from China. We were learning that love truly crosses oceans.
Our Simon taught us unconditional love and God gave us a love for special needs children but he also taught us to love those children from all walks and races around the world. I will never forget my husband saying, “I’m glad she is not going to look like us and pray that alone will encourage others to adopt.”
We had many travel challenges. February was brutal at home with a big snowfall and school closings the day before we left for China. When landing in Beijing they announced their first snow fall. A few days later we our plane landed in Taiyuan, the capital of Sabella’s province which was very cold and icy, with their first snowfall. Taiyuan’s air was very dirty and polluted, with no one speaking English. We would meet with our guide who spoke English but only for a few hours a day.
To pass time we would try to take naps and we would go to bed so early and then wake up in the middle of the night thinking it’s time to get up. Then we fall back to sleep and get up at 6am. But this day we closed our eyes for a little bit and the phone rang. It was our guide. She heard from the orphanage director. Sabella’s city had snow and they may be forbidden to go on the expressway. We thought Sabella would be travelling to Taiyuan on a 7 hour train ride. This is how we would have gone to her orphanage and would have loved to have picked her up ourselves, but it was discouraged because first Sabella had to meet us in Taiyuan and then we would have had to turn around and take her on a 7 hour train ride back to the orphanage if we wanted to see it. We decided this would be confusing for our little daughter. Although to this day, I still wish I would have been able to visit the institution she lived in for 4 years.
The next day our guide informed us that Sabella is traveling by bus with her orphanage director.
We arrived at the Taiyuan Civil Affairs office at 4:30pm. We waited 10-15 minutes when Sabella walked in she was very wobbly. She then turned towards us and walked into our arms. Our guide introduced us as Mama and Papa. We could hardly believe our eyes she was absolutely beautiful and so small. Our daughter who we had been waiting for was finally with us, 4 years old and 34 inches tall and only 23 pounds. We couldn’t wait to love and nurture her.
While in China we witnessed something that was and will be forever disturbing. Sabella was absolutely starving. I am sure she never knew what the feeling of “full” was in her life. The Chinese servers at the restaurant continuously asked her if she was full. Charbolama is the word in Chinese. Sabella understood their language completely and kept shaking her head no. This went on for several days, Sabella ate more than my husband and I combined. We could not believe our eyes! We were reaffirmed over and over why the Lord sent us to our daughter. Or should I say why He sent her to us. We were helping our daughter, previously an orphan, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. We would have taken ten children with us, no child should go hungry. I couldn’t stop thinking of little Sabella so hungry and in need of a family, our family.
Sabella did eventually eat herself sick. It happened in Guangzhou at the breakfast buffet at the hotel. She vomited all over herself and the table. We knew this could happen and just the night before a father was telling us about his son Noah eating himself sick.
Scripture is clear that we are called to care for the orphans and we know that God has his hand in our adoption journey. We are teaching Sabella about Jesus and this is an absolutely beautiful experience. My daily prayer is that our daughter will feel God’s love through our family.
We were learning that God granted Sabella to us to look after and for that alone we are forever blessed.
It’s been 5 months since Sabella has been home and she has brought so much joy to our family. We know that if it wasn’t for Simon, we wouldn’t have Sabella; we most likely would have never considered adoption. Sabella has taught us to stop and take in the moment that God gives us. Everything is a first to her. We are so appreciative that we have food, shelter and freedom and can share this with her. We are not the same people we were before Sabella. Our hearts continue to be molded by Christ. Yes, our story is part of God’s plan and all children possess inherent dignity and value regardless of their diagnosis or label. Our daughter deserves medical care and an opportunity to thrive. Sabella was from the poorest region in China and became another vulnerable child that was abandoned at birth. Yet, I am forever grateful that she was given life. She has so much value. I love how the Lord led us to her country and gifted us with a beautiful daughter.
We are honored and humbled by the generosity of the Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Adoption Fund and their donors. The adoption assistance grant was an absolute blessing to our family. We are so thankful and continue to pray that this adoption fund may be of assistance to other families like ours who at times struggle on a single income. May the Holy Spirit stir in more hearts every day and be blessed by the miracle of adoption.