A few months ago, I wrote for this website about the growth of my family by adoption. It was eight months ago that my husband Alex and I traveled to China to bring home our son Henry. He was just two and the journey to meet and bring him home was amazing, exhausting, and unlike any other travel or any other time in our lives. The past eight months have been fun and tiring, happy and stressful— all wrapped in one.
To anticipate a question we have received a lot: Yes, people do adopt boys from China. Far more girls are given up in China, but some boys are, too. We told our adoption agency that we were open to a child of either gender, and we were told that we would be matched more quickly because of that. We also learned that far more families in our program—a program for children with correctable medical needs—asked for girls, so that families open to boys were very much needed.
We learned about our beautiful little boy just one year after we applied. He had a congenital heart condition (hole in the heart) and it was unclear if he needed surgery or not. Otherwise, he was in very good physical condition and thriving. We knew we would not have all of the answers until we brought him home and had him examined by a pediatric cardiologist.
Adoption is, in part, a leap of faith. It was for us anyway. But we were absolutely sure of a few things. We wanted to love and care for this child. We would get him the best medical care we could find. We would love him no matter what. You cannot predict the future for any child, but his condition seemed fixable.
One month after arriving home, we took Henry to see the cardiologist and we learned that he would need open heart surgery sooner rather than later. The doctor confirmed that he had a hole in his heart, but that his hole had nearly healed itself. He did have another problem, a mass of tissue known as sub-aortic membrane. If left alone this membrane would permanently damage his aortic valve.
While the situation was not an emergency, we were urged to wait only a few months. We wanted to let our boy adjust a bit more, enjoy the summer, and then the holidays. Henry is a warm, open, social boy. The adjustment and bonding has gone very, very well. But bonding and adjusting and trusting take time. We gave him time.
So, we settled on January 6th for Henry’s surgery day. After the holidays were over, that day came toward us like a freight train. We arranged for family and friends to help care for our five-year-old son Owen, so that we could be at the hospital with Henry around the clock. We asked for prayers.
Many other parents understand the fear and worry of sending a child into a major surgery. I will never forget the moment we kissed Henry on the forehead and had to walk away, leaving him to his surgical team. The next few hours would be completely out of our control. Sometimes, you have to let go and just TRUST. That was one of those moments.
We were lucky to have a very caring chaplain by our side as we left Henry and returned to the family waiting area. We were grateful for the army of friends and family praying and supporting us. During our five days at Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital, where Henry received amazing care, we met many other families, many with critically ill children. And we counted our blessings.
While Henry will always need to have regular check-ups with his cardiologist, he is doing great and his surgery was a success. I learned a valuable lesson in going through a very stressful time: I couldn’t have done it alone, and I didn’t have to. For that and for the gift of this boy, I am grateful beyond words.
Erika Weisensee is a mom, a writer and a native Oregonian.