Happy Birthday Gracie!
16 years ago I felt like God was speaking to me. I felt like he was saying that we should have another child. This made no sense. I was almost 40 years old. I had had my tubes tied 12 years earlier after giving birth to Cassie. We had already adopted and knew what a beautiful thing adoption was but somehow my heart and my head kept going back to me being pregnant again.
I didn’t tell anyone what I was feeling. I figured it was just me wanting to be pregnant again or me wanting to hold a baby again. Maybe this time my pregnancy would go okay. Maybe this time I wouldn’t be filled with such fear. Maybe this time everything would be ok. I figured that maybe I was just imagining things. Maybe I was just having those pangs mothers have when they realize they would never care for a little baby again.
When Dan came to me a couple months later and said that he was thinking maybe we should have one more baby, I was ecstatic! I had been praying that if this was really something that God wanted us to do, then Dan would come to me. And Dan did. Dan said that he just had this feeling that it was the right thing to do.
We talked to our family doctor and saw a fertility doctor. They checked to see if my eggs were still good. To this day that sentence cracks me up, like we were in the grocery store opening up the cartoon to make sure everything was still fresh. Anyway, the doctor said that we could have the surgery but that insurance wouldn’t cover it. He said the odds of me getting pregnant after this surgery, and after having my tubes tied for so long, and being 40 years old were very, very slim.
Dan and I opted to proceed. We didn’t want them to do invitro we just wanted my tubes repaired and for nature to take its course. We figured if this was really what God wanted us to do then we would get pregnant on our own.
The very first month I got pregnant. We thanked God for this miracle and we celebrated this new life. We had routine ultrasounds every month because I was over 40 years old. 35 weeks in, at one of these routine ultrasounds, the ultrasound tech got very quiet. She left the room. I looked at Dan and asked him what he saw. He said that it looked like blood.
The tech came in with the doctor, who Dan knew because they worked together. The doctor informed us he was going to take a very big needle and draw off some fluid and if there was blood, we would have to do an emergency c-section. He put the needle in and pulled out the fluid.
There was blood.
He said he wanted to check one more spot, just to be sure. He grabbed another syringe and used the ultrasound to find another spot to pull off more fluid.
The syringe was filled with more blood.
The doctor informed us that we would have to go now. He told us to be thankful that we had the routine ultrasound because I was having no signs of distress with the baby and the baby needed to come out right now. The hospital was right across the street. I was devastated. Everything had been going so well. Why would God have me get pregnant to lose the baby now? How could this be part of the plan? This made no sense.
Cassie was devastated. She had wanted to be with me during the delivery, but she was with her siblings 90 minutes away at grandma’s house. There was no time for Cassie to get to me before the delivery.
Grace was born by emergency c-section the afternoon of March 23, 2005. We had wanted to have two pregnancies so there would be two children close together but when the high risk ob asked us what we wanted to do we said, “Tie the tubes. We don’t want to go through anything like this again.” He said good and informed us that he had no clue how we got pregnant in the first place. One tube was completely scarred over and the other tube didn’t even look hooked up. But we knew. We knew who had sent her to us and we named her Grace.
Gracie was the best baby. She was sweet and everyone loved her. She was an old, old soul. There was just something about her. She understood things that no little child should understand. She had great compassion and empathy. She was kind and loving.
We had been up at Dan’s grandma and grandpa’s house because Dan’s Grandma Ethel wasn’t doing very well. We all sat around and told stories while grandma rested in her chair. We knew Ethel didn’t have long. Gracie was one and 1/2. She held grandma’s hand. Grace offered Grandma her sippy cup. She was taking care of grandma even though Gracie couldn’t have known what was going on.
During Grace’s young years she lost a lot of people she loved. She lost her great grandma at 1 and 1/2. She lost two great grandpas (Dan’s grandpa and my grandpa), she lost a grandma (my mom) and a grandpa (my stepdad), she lost a great aunt (Kay), she lost an uncle (Dan’s brother – Rod), and she lost papa (Dan’s dad) between the ages of 6 and 10.
During the summer of 2012 Grace was sick off and on. We didn’t think much about it until we headed into the fall. Then it seemed like she just couldn’t kick this bug and she was tired all the time. We started to get an uneasy feeling and we decided to have her checked for mono because her strep tests had come back negative.
We knew there was something wrong when the doctor pulled us in the hall. He told us Grace’s labs were all off and he had made us an appointment for that afternoon with an oncologist. We didn’t know what to think . We didn’t want to worry without knowing for sure, but it seemed impossible not to worry. We showed up at the oncology appointment. There was blood work ordered and a bone marrow biopsy scheduled for the next morning. All of this happened over the week of Thanksgiving in 2012.
The good news was that Grace didn’t have leukemia. The bad news? No one knew what she had until she woke up with a butterfly rash across her cheeks.
It was systemic lupus erythematosus.
LUPUS! 6 year olds don’t get lupus, but I was wrong. They do.
Because it was a holiday, they said we could wait to see the kidney specialists at the Children’s Hospital, sometime after the first of the year. Dan made them do the urine test right away that weekend. Thank goodness we didn’t just wait for the appointment a few months away because Grace had stage 4/5 lupus nephritis. I could write a whole book about the times Dan has had a feeling and saved the children from something horrible, but that’s a story for another day. Grace had a kidney biopsy done and they started her treatments right away. Today her kidneys are doing well.
During your treatments, you never felt sorry for yourself. You took your boatload of meds. You comforted me by telling me that you were thankful to be alive and thankful that there were meds to take.
You raised money for other kids.
During all of this we were in the middle of our adoption and getting ready to leave in a few months for Ben and Maisey. We asked Grace what she wanted us to do. She said, ‘You have to go get them. They are my brother and sister. They can’t stay there. I will be okay. I just want my siblings to be home for my birthday.” We scheduled her chemotherapy treatments around our travel dates. We prayed and prayed that nothing would happen to her while we traveled a half a world away.
We came back to America with Ben and Maisey on Grace’s 8th birthday.
When we decided the very next year to adopt again, Grace was so happy. She loved Ben and Maisey and wanted to add even more children. She was thrilled when we added an older child, Jasmine. She even wanted to share her room with Jasmine.
The very next year she prayed and prayed for a child her own age and we brought Elyse home.
The year after that she knew, along with Elyse, that J.J. was her sister.
I say all of this to show what an incredible kid Grace is. She’s been through a lot in her 15 years. She opened up her heart and shared her room and gave up her spot of being the baby in our family to bring home NOT one more child BUT 10 more children.
Gracie is not your usual kid. The last couple years have been hard on her. It’s hard to be a teenager in a house full of the “talked about kids”. It’s hard to deal with the stress of kids who take their anger out on you. Heck, it’s hard for me and I’m a grown up.
There’s meds and doctors appointments. There’s the conflict caused when the sister closest to you in age isn’t able to do the same things you do. There’s more responsibility. I wish I could say that adoption hasn’t made Grace’s life harder, but it has made it harder. But when asked about it, Grace always says that she would do it all over again. She says she can do hard things and having family is the most important thing.
Dan and I try extra hard to not give her any extra work but she does have to babysit sometimes. She is able to earn things with her babysitting money and she loves that. Gracie babysits because she’s amazing. She understands Lainey’s seizures better than most people. She can administer a rescue seizure med and knows how to perform CPR. She knows how to do g-tube feedings. She knows when Max needs a little more supervision.
Gracie is amazing. It broke my heart this year when she told me that she lives in a house full of people who have amazing stories but she is just this ordinary girl. I tried and tried to get her to understand how amazing it was for her to share her family and her home with all these children. Her response? “Mom, that isn’t special. Anyone would do that.” When I explained that not everyone would do that, she informed me that they should so just because others wouldn’t do it, didn’t make her somehow special because she did.
I am taking this moment on Gracie’s special day and writing all of this out so she can see her story. It is AMAZING! Gracie, I hope when you read this that you really understand just how incredible your story is and how amazing your heart is.
Grace, you have opened your heart, shared your things, and gone above and beyond what most kids would have ever done. You are an incredible kid. I know that the teen years have been hard. Heck teen years are hard if nothing is going on in your life and you’ve got a lot going on.
You love and you love big. You weren’t afraid of adopting kids that might die. You were more afraid of not adopting them. You are beautiful and smart and talented. God knew exactly what He was doing when He placed the thought of “one more” on my mind. You being so open and willing to bring your brothers and sisters home is what made it easy for me to say, “Ok God. I will follow.”
Right now I know there is a little girl in China who has your heart. We pray and pray for her to have a family. I know if China opened up their doors to large families adopting again, you would be there filling out the paperwork and begging us to bring her home. Well, you already beg. We just can’t do anything about it. That shows who you really are. Your parents are 55 years old and you know that if something happened to us, you’d have to help care for your siblings and this new one that you wish you could adopt and yet you would instantly do it without any hesitation knowing how much more work it would be. As you tell me all the time, she reminds you of Lainey and look how amazing Lainey is doing. I love that about you.
I hope you understand how incredible you really are. You have an amazing heart and daddy and I are so proud to call you our daughter. Daddy and I love you so much Grace! Happy 15th birthday sweetheart!