My husband and I have always dreamed of having a large family. Our first baby arrived nine months after our wedding and at one year intervals thereafter. Life moved fast and money was scarce. There was little time to think of anything beyond coping. When our first five children were ages 5, 3, 2, 1 and 3 months, we learned about the thousands of children in the United States waiting for adoptive homes.
Chuck and I both felt our hearts burdened for unwanted children. We had a desire to provide a home for a child who has none. James 1:27 defines pure religion as looking after the fatherless and widows. We wanted to share our family with a child desperately in need of one. We began taking the classes required by the state of Washington to adopt. We learned that adoption can be very low-cost (even free if you use the state agency). Children taken from the state system are eligible to receive free health insurance and adoption support (a monthly stipend for upkeep).
We had several obstacles ahead of us. First of all, we needed to provide proof of immunization for all of our children. Our oldest child was the only one who had been immunized, and we stopped these before she was a year old. Several of our younger children had never seen a doctor, even for a check-up, so we didn’t have a family doctor. After praying over the phonebook (I know it sounds silly, but I didn’t know where to begin) I made an appointment for our physicals.
The first thing the doctor said to me was he didn’t want us to go broke paying for physicals. He only charged us forty dollars apiece, instead of the usual 120 dollars (we had no health insurance). After I explained to him that my daughter had a bad reaction to her DPT shot at four months and quit breathing, he made a note in my other children’s charts, stating why they were not immunized. The adoption agency accepted this with no comment.
Next, the agency wanted to know how we could provide for another child on what our caseworker described as my husband’s “modest” income. This was solved by pointing out that we had no debt, only our mortgage.
We applied to adopt a child of either sex, age seven or under, with special needs. The term “special needs” can mean anything from mentally or physically handicapped, abused or drug exposed, to simply being “older” or even non-white. Adoptive parents are given lists of certain special needs so they can determine what type of child they are willing to take. This helps the caseworker make a good match when looking at prospective parents.
After being certified to adopt, we waited four months to get our son. We received four long phone calls during that period about babies ranging in age from not-yet-born to thirteen months old. We were open to take any of them, but God closed the door on each one, and found other homes for those babies.
In September 2002 we received a call about a six-day-old African-American baby boy. He had been exposed to alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and cocaine and was born missing some fingers and toes. We jumped at the chance to take him. It took two long weeks to complete the paperwork and make arrangements to pick him up. This included a contract with his birth mother, agreeing to send her occasional updates and pictures. These are sent through the agency, so his birth mother does not know who we are or where we live.
On October 1, 2002 we picked up our four-week-old son, Mordecai Courage. What a joy to look at this new son and celebrate the newness of life and wonder at the way God brought him into our family. Seven weeks after bringing Mordecai home, I gave birth to our seventh child, Jubilee Harvest. We now had two babies 2 ½ months apart, and seven children under the age of seven.
I had hoped to breastfeed the baby we adopted. During the seven weeks before Jubilee was born, I concentrated on bonding with Mordecai. I wanted him to be very attached to me in preparation for nursing him. He slept with us at night; I gave him all of his bottles, and carried him in the sling daily. This effort paid off. As soon as my milk came in after Jubilee’s birth, I sat down with a sleepy Mordecai to nurse. To my surprise he latched on that very first time and even fell asleep at my breast when he was done feeding!
Despite the great beginning, nursing Mordecai turned out to be incredibly difficult. He had a “disorganized suck” due to an immature nervous system. He often had difficulty establishing a good suck-swallow pattern. We had noticed this in bottle feeding him, but it made nursing nearly unbearable on my already sore nipples. The only thing that kept me going the first few months was the knowledge that I would always regret it if I gave up.
What followed was months of sleepless nights as I nursed one baby, then the other. We would begin each night with each baby in their own crib. When Jubilee woke up to nurse, I would bring her into our bed. When Mordecai awoke, I would lie down and nurse him on the couch. I would sleep with him there until Jubilee was up again, then I would put Mordecai back in his crib, and go nurse Jubilee. I was so tired from this that on two occasions I mixed up the babies, thinking I was nursing one, only to discover it was the other!
Mordecai continues to grow and thrive. A week after he began nursing, he was off the bottle completely, and never had another drop of formula. He has continued to be on target developmentally, despite the drug exposure. Not even missing several toes on each foot slowed him down – he walked at 12 months.
At his 18-month check-up his doctor thanked me for bringing him in and said, “You know, he’s done better than I expected him to. In fact, he’s done better than I ever hoped he would.” I am happy to say that at 2 years old he has only seen the doctor for his well-baby check-ups, not one sick visit!
Mordecai and Jubilee are inseparable. They have a very special relationship and are convinced they are twins. They are always together and more often than not into trouble. Jubilee is Mordecai’s gift. Because of her birth, he was able to thrive on my breast milk.
I sadly weaned both babies at one year due to morning sickness (yes I got pregnant nursing two babies). May 4, 2004, our eighth child, Hezekiah, was born.
We would encourage every family to consider adoption. Is your heart open to one more? Mordecai has brought immeasurable joy to our lives.
Bellingham, Washington, USA (2004)
Renee is happy to give information to anyone interested.
Look for and click on, A SPECIAL DATE of how Chuck and Renee adopted another little baby into their family. And since then Chuck and Renee and have adopted another three children into their family from Liberia, West Africa.