He Gives and Takes Away (Part 3 of Our Adoption Story)

July 18, 2013

How did a family with three *fairly* normal birth kids morph into a family with twelve *crazy* kids with a nineteen year age range?  It’s an amazing, God-filled story with so many crazy twists and turns.  Like I promised, I’m here to share my part of the story and give you a little insight into the brain of one of those birth kids.  I’ll be including some tips for adoptive families for things to do and not to do to attempt to make your adoption a good experience for the whole family.  I’m no expert but I feel that I’ve learned a lot from talking with other birth kids, leading workshops on the topic, and experiencing it myself.  If you have question about what I suggest, don’t hesitate to email me at susannah.kellogg (at) gmail.com If you missed part one – adopting my two sisters or part two – adopting my brother, John – you should check them out! ——– Before sharing the next part of the story with you, I wanted to fill you all in with some information my dad let me know regarding our second lost adoption.  The little girl from Russia was named Maria. She was missing both legs – not just one as I had remembered.  The reason we were denied permission to adopt her was not due to our family size.  It was because she had been promised to our family but then “assigned” to a different family as well.  Since the other family was farther along in their paperwork, they got first choice to adopt her. Once my family found out we weren’t able to adopt Maria, the decision had to be made what to do with the paperwork that had already been started.  Should they just scrap it or should they look into pursuing another adoption?  Like when we were denied permission to adopt Pearl, my parents’ decision was to see if God opened the door for another adoption. At this point, we heard about a brother and sister in Ethiopia in need of a family.  We began the process of adopting Andrew and his baby sister.  Of course my family was very excited that Andrew was joining our family. We knew that an eight year old who was able to care for his baby sister was a very special kid. We were also ecstatic to finally have another baby! Since I was the last baby my parents had given birth to and the youngest adoption prior had been a four year old, there had been no baby in the home for fifteen years. My mom and I prepared baby Leah’s nursery, got baby clothes, and made so many plans for what we would do with her. GARDNERA (513) In February of that year, about two months before we would be able to go pick our kiddos up all those plans stopped. We got a call from the adoption agency saying that baby Leah had passed away due to a congenital obstruction of her esophagus. I still don’t know exactly what that medically means but we later learned it could have easily been fixed here in America. My family was devastated when we got the news that our precious baby had died.  Not very many people in our church, schools, or community really understood why we were so devastated. Some people said that it was not as though we had even met her yet. But in our hearts she was a member of our family and we grieved because a loved one had died.  (I later discovered that the grief we were going through mirrored the grief and emotions that accompanied a late term miscarriage) My dad got a flight the next weekend to Ethiopia and visited Andrew. He went to comfort Andrew and let him know that we still loved him and were doing all we could to bring him quickly home to us. While my dad was over there, Andrew expressed a desire to still have a little sister. He said he did not want to replace his sister, but that he loved caring for younger children. The only young girl available for adoption in the orphanage was a little, developmentally delayed baby named Dinah and my parents decided that they would change the paperwork from baby Leah to Dinah. Andrew & Dinah Gardner These actions comforted most of the members of my family and reduced their grief, but they had the opposite affect on me. I grew very bitter. I was angry at God for taking our baby from us, angry at my parents for agreeing to (as I saw it) replace baby Leah by adopting Dinah, but mostly angry at myself for being so self centered and bitter. I fell into a pit of anger, bitterness, and grief and I hid it from everyone – friends, family, and people at church.  I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I was struggling so much.  I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I was battling the deepest depression I had ever experienced.  I thought something was incredibly wrong with me.  I did not want anyone to know about my feelings, especially my anger toward God.  I felt like my anger toward God made me a horrible Christian.  I wanted people to believe I was the same good Christian girl I had always been, so in love with God I would trust Him for everything. I would go to church with my family and pretend to be worshiping when inside I was screaming at God. Since He had laid it on my family’s heart to adopt these children, I did not see how he could take baby Leah from us and still be a good, just God. dinahandrew This went on for a few months and those months were the some of the worst months of my life. I now hated it when my mom prepared for the arrival of Dinah because it reminded me of baby Leah’s death.  I wanted nothing to do with anything to do with the adoptions.  I did not care about church or spending time with God since I was so incredibly angry at Him. PICT0021 Then, one day at youth group, my attitude changed. It was a day that I was really struggling and I finally, trying to drone out my own negative thoughts, just sat back and listened to the words of the song being played by the worship band. They were playing “Blessed Be Your Name” and the lyrics hit me hard. I realized I could not bless God only when He did what I wanted him to do, I had to bless Him even when I did not understand His plan. Then the words, “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name” were sung. I realized that although God had taken baby Leah from us, He was giving us Dinah. I needed to thank Him for that even though I was grieving the death of my sister.

Blessed Be Your Name by Tree63 on Grooveshark GARDNERA (347) As much as I tried to hide it, my parents knew I needed healing.  Since my dad had flown to Ethiopia when baby Leah had passed away, he couldn’t get the time off work to travel again when it was time to pick Andrew and Dinah up.  They blessed me by allowing me to travel with my mom and uncle to Ethiopia to pick the kids up. My time there touched my heart so much. I saw the orphanages first hand and realized how much help is needed.  I was able to forgive the nuns who ran the orphanage and the nannies who cared for my sister for not catching her sickness in time when I saw how full the nurseries were and how hard they worked to care for the babies.  I will never forget one baby boy in the nursery at the orphanage who literally looked like a holocaust victim.  He was all skin and bones, the little hair he had was falling out, and he didn’t have anything but a blanket to keep him warm.  I asked the nannies if I could rock him and they said I couldn’t because he was dying. This broke my heart because even a dying baby should have someone to love him, especially in his final days. The trip changed my heart so drastically!  Little Dinah, the baby I didn’t want, became my pride and joy.  She learned to roll over the very first night we had her and progressed in hyper-speed after that.  With all the love and encouragement she received from my family, she was developmentally completely caught up in about six months.  She is beautiful, funny, smart, and I can’t imagine my life without her. GARDNERA (411) After this trip, my mom began working with orphanages in Ethiopia.  She travelled there a few times a year, meeting children that were in need of a family.  I’ll bet you’ll never guess what happened…  (Why yes, she did meet a kiddo who was destined to be her son.)

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