I think a lot of people assume we searched out a child with special needs. There are a lot of amazing families who do just that. Their hearts are aching to help those kids that others toss aside. That wasn’t our story though. I never imagined being a mother to a child with Down Syndrome.
To be honest, children with special needs scared me…made me uncomfortable. For no reason of their own. It was always my unwillingness to see them for who they were. To educate myself on their abilities and to see past their diagnoses. I look back on so many opportunities lost, and pray that maybe I can prevent someone else from doing the same thing.
So here’s our story…
Our family was complete before Jana. Or so we thought. Already having 3 amazing kids, my hubby and I never thought more would be in our future. Adoption was NEVER an option we thought we had. Living on a family budget makes it difficult to imagine raising the thousand of dollars that go into private adoption. But God had a purpose for us and He started working on us about 4 years ago.
After having a deep, deep desire to mother another child again, my hubby and I finally came to the realization that maybe we can do good by being foster parents. In our area, the need for foster homes is tremendous! My hubby was hesitant. He was so scared I would not be able to hand that precious child back to their biological parent. Because that is the purpose of foster care…reunification! But with a lot of prayer and convincing, we agreed to go through the certification process. After about a year, we finally got certified…I was so ready to open our hearts to a little child. We even had a crib set up in our bedroom, all set up, and empty. We waited, and waited, and waited. Not understanding why we hadn’t been called, I was getting frustrated.
On June 22, at 4:15 in the afternoon, we finally got our call. Our social worker called to inform me she had information on a baby who needed a home. She was told she was about 3 months old and currently living with a temporary foster family. This little girl wasn’t named, she didn’t have any family to call her own, and because she was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, she didn’t have any families lining up to take her. Even though we were foster parents, we were asked if we would be interested in adopting this innocent child. I called my husband to explain what I learned and he instantly without any hesitation said, “YES!” I was so thrilled that he felt the same as I did. We didn’t care what disability she had. We knew she was a baby girl who needed love, and we had plenty of it to give her.
After 4 days of crying, praying and bugging our social worker non-stop, our precious girl was finally home. She was only 1 month old and weighed a whopping 7 lbs. She was this tiny little peanut all curled up in her car seat. Before she arrived, I honestly prepared myself for the worst. I researched everything I could on Down Syndrome and expected the worst-case scenario…which looking back, I’m not even sure what that would have been. But what I saw when I looked at this little girl’s face, was pure joy and love. She had the most beautiful almond shaped dark brown eyes (the exact shade of brown of my hubby’s eyes) She had the perfect skin tone and soft light brown hair.
Honestly, she reminded me almost instantly of my biological daughter.
I didn’t see Down Syndrome…I saw perfection! Instantly my husband and her bonded together. She was a Daddy’s girl from the moment he held her in his arms. Her siblings took to her instantly. She was the baby sister they never knew they were always missing. It took me a little longer. I don’t know if I was scared, or just unsure. But it took our 2 am feeding time, her asleep soundly on my chest, to truly feel like her mama. I never imagined I could love a child who wasn’t biologically mine as much as I loved this little girl. It didn’t matter that she didn’t share our DNA. What mattered was that she shared our heart.
It took 7 long months for the adoption to finalize. On January 28th 2016, just 4 months shy of her first birthday, Jana officially became ours. Many times we’ve had people ask us if we understood what we got ourselves into. Some people have only seen the struggles we’ve faced with her and pity us. They can’t see how much happiness she has brought. Not a day goes by that she does not amaze me. She is so full of life, determination, and strength. She is so much more than a child with Down Syndrome, but at the same time, Down Syndrome makes up every part of her. I wouldn’t change any of it. Removing DS from her would change everything that is amazing about her! She is worth all the therapies, doctors’ appointments, and trips to the ER. All the fears and worries are all nothing compared to the love we have for her.
We’ve had people tell us how amazing we are to open our hearts to her. But I have to tell you, she is the amazing one! It is not hard to not fall instantly in love with her! We are the lucky ones who get to call her ours! She completed our family and opened our lives to an amazing community of people. I think back and wonder about the families who said no to her simply because they were scared. They missed out on an amazing opportunity to know greatness!! By sharing Peanuts story, I hope maybe one day someone will think of her if they every get the same call. That they might see the possibility and not just the disability.
Jennifer is a proud wife and mother to 4 amazing kiddos, 3 biological and one brought to them through adoption and rocking an extra chromosome. Jennifer lives in southern CA and runs her own photo studio, she also loves to crochet whenever she can. Follow along Jennifer’s beautiful daughter on instagram @raising_peanut or on her blog Adopting Jana.