Annie was the sickest baby that lived in my home. She was born at 22 weeks gestation and began a battle for her life the moment she was born. Her mother was young and her twin sister did not survive the birth. This sweet baby taught me the value of a single life. Her medical bills were counted in the hundreds of thousands. On paper, she was an expensive mess that would probably not see her second birthday. CPS called me and said my home was a last ditch effort, as they did not feel medically she would live much longer. I picked her up and proceeded to load my car with more medical equipment than a general hospital room. In my naivety, I wasn’t freaked out or worried. And thus it began, the hardest year of my life. Annie’s care consumed our days and nights. She required round-the-clock breathing treatments, medications, and assessments. We became experts at troubleshooting equipment and learned to function on very little sleep. Darren and I took turns during the night to administer breathing treatments and medications. If her oxygen saturation dipped, we were calling 9-1-1 for a helicopter transport to Phoenix. Her heart and lungs were so fragile that any fluctuations in breathing pattern or numbers indicated she was going to crash on us. Our address was well-known to emergency services and this baby clung by a thread to life. I can count at least four times that we were told she would not last the night. I would sit with her and pray and talk as the life support machine breathed for her tiny body. And then miraculously, she would once again prove the medical teams wrong and pull through.
When I looked into her eyes, she seemed to speak directly to my heart. I loved this baby as much as anyone I have ever loved. Her worth was invaluable and every sleepless night and tear-filled day was worth her smile. At this moment in time, I cherished every moment holding her tiny body or coaxing a giggle. Annie was special.
Annie was also expensive. She was hospitalized more than she was home. When a foster child is hospitalized for long periods of time, the state cannot pay for a foster parent to stay with the child. So any help we received for Annie stopped when she went into the hospital. Darren and I made the decision that I still needed to be there for Annie and I would drive to the hospital (1.5 hours away) several times each week and stay with her. This required gas money and money to pay someone to stay at my house with my children. At one point, we had $12.00 in our account and the hospital called to say that Annie needed me: she was having a bad day. My heart was broken and I hit my knees and cried out to God, “I cannot do this, I have no money, I need your help.” I was lying on the bathroom floor and crying; I was absolutely spent. Within thirty minutes my husband called home from work and said that our pastor had just called him with the most incredible story. Apparently someone had written us a check for a large amount of money. This couple had broken down in our area on their way home to Florida. They were stuck in town over the weekend until repairs could be completed. They decided to check out a little church called Verde Baptist. On that particular Sunday, a family with several adopted children were speaking about the beauty of adoption. They were touched by their story and several months later, God laid it on their heart to send a check to this family. The family had not asked for money, but they felt God was leading them to give. This check made its way to the church and our pastor called to let us know about it right when I was on my knees pleading to God for help. I loaded up into the car and drove to be with Annie praising God for his provision.
As much as I loved Annie, she did not stay with me. I was with her through open-heart surgery, a tracheostomy placement and various other surgeries. I had held her tiny body when death seemed imminent and rejoiced when she would start breathing on her own. Through these hard circumstances I formed an unspoken bond with this child. I pleaded with God that she would become my daughter, but that was not His design for her life. She was not going to stay and it was a devastating day when CPS placed her back with family. Annie taught me unconditional love. I was willing to spend myself for her and received nothing in return. God’s love is so much greater than this. As we get closer to meeting Dylan, I know that many wonder how bad off he will be. What if he is worse than they are telling you? What if he never walks? What if you spend all your money to save him and he never leaves your home? What if? So I remind myself that the “what ifs” are conditional. Already I love this child and I guess the worse off he is, the greater he needs us. We will love Dylan despite what he will become or who he will be. It’s just like this with God. When we are bad off and lost, God still loves us. Annie was our first lesson in God’s unconditional love and I walk into the adoption of Dylan with heart wide open.
Update on Dylan – We are still awaiting our FBI clearance. Our financial support has been amazing. We are at $13,400.00 of the $24,000.00 we need. I have been humbled how God has provided through His people. The encouragement and love from community and friends has been overwhelming. When I have felt discouraged, a random friend will show up to support us. I am so grateful to everyone for walking this journey with us. So exciting!!!!
Update on Annie – Annie’s mother contacted me a year ago to thank me for taking in her baby. She sent a picture of Annie at school. It was beautiful to see and she will always hold a piece of my heart.