Once again, we are celebrating that October is Down Syndrome Awareness month with a beautiful story of adoption. While we do not have anyone in our family with Down Syndrome, I wanted to share our space to promote awareness, acceptance, and celebration of kiddos with bonus chromosomes. My friend Erica prayed about and committed to adopting a child with Down Syndrome YEARS before being matched with her sweet little Aiden. Absolutely worth the wait! I am so thankful this busy mama took the time to share her inspirational adoption story!
Let me start this story as I do every time I tell it. Please, please do not read my story and base your decision to adopt on my journey. My journey was very unique and now I can look back and see why I had the hard times that I did. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have living it.
I felt called to adopt in March of 2009. I was 28 years old and single. I felt God calling me to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. I thought about this and prayed for about a month before I told anyone. My questions we probably very similar to what is popping in your head as you are reading this. Why me God? I am single and there is no daddy on the horizon. You want me to do this alone?? You name it and I probably asked it. Well in April I told my parents they were going to be grandparents via adoption. As you can imagine, they we reserved in their reaction and we talked about it for a while. They were very supportive. I had done my research as I always do and had found an agency to do my home study. This was a quick process and I started in April and was certified by July. This was crazy because I was told it could take about 6 months to be approved.
That same month we were on vacation in Pennsylvania when I saw a profile on CHASK for a child, a boy with Down Syndrome due in December. I submitted my application and was told they wanted a mother and father family. I totally understood that. I kept praying and waiting. I sent my letters and applications out to a number of agencies and met many friends along the way. In September 2009, I saw that the same child was back on CHASK again so I resubmitted my application. This time they wanted my letter and information. So in October of 2009 I was picked. Everyday birth mom and I spoke at least 6-10 times a day if not more. She would send me ultrasound images and updates as well as forming a friendship with her. After all she was going to give me the biggest gift ever and we were going to have an open adoption. The months passed and I was hiring lawyers, making plans to meet and be there for the birth. As December arrives I had 2 baby showers and prepared his room for his arrival washing little clothes making sure we had everything for our plane trip. Well this precious little boy made his arrival 2 weeks early. I got a call at 2am from birth mom’s sister saying your baby is here. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. They had asked for a day with the baby. I called and woke my mama up and let her know our plane tickets would need to change and I started packing like a mad woman. We arrived late the next night and I got to meet him. We flew from Southern Alabama to California. We were exhausted, excited, and scared. When I laid eyes on him he was a doll. He was in NICU for breathing issues but doing well. Then we went and met birth mom. She was as sweet as she had been in our other communications. We went to our hotel and checking in and slept for as little while and back to the hospital we went. The nurses were amazing and so sweet. My hospital bracelet said adoptive mom. We met with specialist and loved him back to good health. But something was always off to me. I would sing to him but he didn’t feel like he was mine. I figured it was the adoption part of it and the connection would come. Well birth mom’s birthday was also at the time we were in California. So during one of our times we had to leave NICU, we went shopping for her. That night we went and delivered the gift to her in the hospital and the mood in the room was odd. Yet again I knew it could be a tense or awkward situation. The next day we went to visit and they said mom had been in to see him. I was glad because I wanted her to have time with him. Well that day as we left for lunch I got the phone call that everyone dreads getting. It was the nurses calling to say you can’t see him any more the parents have changed their mind. I was shocked!! The mom was going to abort him but couldn’t afford it and now she wanted to raise him. I was so confused. They said birth mom would call me so I waited anxiously. An hour later she called and said many things but finally closed with ‘I hope you find your baby.’ I was DEVASTATED!!! That was honestly the darkest time in my life. I kept praying God why did you work all this out and let this happen. My mama reminded that God does provide ways but people still have free will!!! This was not “My Aiden”. We stayed in town at the attorney’s suggestion to be sure it wasn’t birth hormones and she really wanted to do this. Finally 1 week later we boarded a plane for home with no baby. My family had gone to my house and moved all baby items into the nursery and when we got back took the baby items we packed to that same room. We had shipped the big stuff and had the hotel ship it back to us since our plans had changed. This was also 2 weeks before Christmas. It was a rough time for me. I took a break and regrouped. I grieved and was angry. I found things out after the fact of situations where birth mom had not been honest with me. That is not important here but did answer some questions that I had and gave me some closure. When I got home I shipped the birth mom the new parent basket we give to all new parents in our area for babies born with Down Syndrome, in hopes that she would use the books to educate herself.
It was not until Summer/Fall of 2010 before I started looking again. That November 2010 is when I found her. My Addison Brooke. I felt I had to many stipulations on what I was looking for so I went from domestic, boy, Caucasian to international, girl, African American. She was a beautiful 2 month old in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She had a heart condition that would need to be repaired immediately upon her adoption. So I had to update my home study, acquire a passport, prepare to tell family. I had cards made with her picture and a caption of coming soon on it. I got all the paperwork signed and signed a contract with them on Monday. I got some additional pictures of her and she was a doll!! A little girl we were so excited. That Thursday I got a call about the time I got to work and they said she was in the hospital and she was not doing good. They would let me know as soon as they had an update. About an hour later I got the call that my baby girl was gone. Her heart condition had become too much for her little body to keep up with. So my angel passed away before she ever felt my touch but she felt my heart and knew she was loved before she went home to Jesus. We still have a picture of her framed in our home. Recently, I learned that this agency was on trial for non-legal adoptions. They were not Hague accredited even though they said they were. I know what you are thinking, my goodness. But this is only half of our story.
March rolls around and I get an email that there is a little boy due in a month with Down Syndrome. I sent my paperwork over and the birth mom wanted to talk to me. I kept this one to myself. My family had been on this roller coaster with us and I couldn’t put them through the heartbreak again. My mama knew and that was it. I spoke to the birth mom once and she told the agency she picked me. By now I am to the point that I believe it when the papers are signed. Two weeks later we hear that they think she had the baby but she was telling the agency that the baby died at birth. I was hopeful that this was my turn but it wasn’t.
Along the way I had people tell me are you sure this is what you are supposed to do? Why don’t you just get pregnant and have a baby? Why don’t you just do Foster Care? Wow the audacity of some people!!! One of my best friends went the Foster Care route and I admired her because I didn’t feel like my heart could handle it. Well after failed adoption #3 I could do anything.
June 2010 I called and signed up for GPS classes to become a Foster Parent. I had only missed one class so they let me join instead of having to wait. I took the rest of those 9 weeks to prepare myself and learn about all the things that you might encounter. Now just for the final home inspection and the wait game again. During this time around December 2010 I had a family member that needed my help. So Foster Care was put on hold. However in May of 2011 they were back on their feet and doing well for their family. After this I worked to finalize my home and get certified. August 2011 I was a Certified Foster Parent!
August 2011 My friend was doing respite care for a precious little man with Down Syndrome and invited me to come over and play with him. This was the day I fell in love. He was about 6 months old and a cutie. We played and I held him as we talked and he fell asleep in my arms. She told me that was odd that he usually wanted to be in a room by himself to sleep. She told me that they were looking for a permanent home for him since his current home was not interested in adopting him. So here we go… I contacted my social worker the next day and we started the ball rolling. Back and forth up and down we went in an effort to let my home be his next home. The biggest issue his case worker had was that I was white and he is African American. Also he was listed as medically fragile and I would need an update on my home study for that. After many phone calls and meetings we had our first day visit scheduled. Usually it is a weekend but the case worker was confused as to why I wanted to do this as a single woman. We had dates planned but then they would change them on me. Again no one knew what was going on. The Friday before our visit, I had to go over to be shown how to feed him, since he had feeding issues. Finally on October 8, 2011 we had our first day visit, It was our local Buddy Walk (Walk for Down Syndrome) and his first ever. We walk up to Buddy Walk with a stroller and a baby. Needless to say we had a fun day and were able to surprise my family and friends who had helped out for years! The next weekend was our first weekend visit. We used our bottles and had no feeding problems! After our weekend visit I still was not sure how the placement was going as far as the workers but I was in love with this little boy. The following Wednesday I got a call at work around 2pm and said go pick him up at 5pm and he is now in your care. WHAT I was so excited I think I even squeaked in my office. I called my mama and told her the news and that afternoon she went with me to pick up the man that had stolen my heart. Bless his heart he started daycare the very next morning and did great. He was 8 months old and weighed 12lbs. He was tiny! He came to us on October 26th, 2011 and his Nana’s birthday was the next day. She says that was the best present!! His worker couldn’t understand why I did this because that cut our check by 2/3rd’s. But this was not the reason I was doing Foster Care but to make an impact on a child’s life. The next few months we lived our life as any mommy and baby would. February 2012 was a busy month. Aiden turned 1 and 2 weeks he was at Children’s Hospital for a week with pneumonia. Also in this time we got a new case worker (Praise the Lord!). December 2013 we had our first court hearing for Termination of Parental Rights (TPR). I went into this like it was a done deal. Nope God threw me a curve again. Judge decided since a dad was mentioned to the former case worker but was not on his birth certificate he needed to be sought out and given his chance to step up. I was so upset. But yet again I prayed for peace and it was granted. Our new case worker was AMAZING and we love her!!! Fast forward another year December 5th 2014 we are set for TPR part two for dad/unknown fathers rights. Our case worker has found alleged father and he wanted no part of his life. He was a sick boy and he didn’t want him. We get to the hearing and the dad’s attorney got sick so we were postponed to December 19th. AGONY!!!!! But when that magical day rolled around my dad was there with me and I was so nervous. This day the judge was not feeling good and by the time we made it to our case it was almost the cut off for that day which would mean another reschedule. Finally ten minutes before the cut off it was our turn. I was a basket case. At one point it was not looking good and the court secretary was beside me trying to calm me. Dad’s attorney couldn’t find dad but our case worker did. Oh wow judge was mad and I just knew we were in trouble. But finally with the nudge of DHR’s attorney and Aiden’s attorney both saying that this needed to be done, the Judge finally banged the gavel and said his rights were terminated!! Oh what a glorious day for us.
He was in Foster Care for over 1000 days. I also found out at this hearing that their original plan for this child was to send him to a home for disabled children when he turned 3. At court he was 3 ½ and thriving! But on that day he was finally on his way to be legally ours. He had always been ours but this would make it legal. Since I live in one County and he was from another we were able to pick which county to have the final adoption done in. Our County is much quicker than his so we filed and on March 10th, 2014 Aiden Benjamin Calhoun was adopted!!! We were surrounded by friends and family just like we dreamed it would be.
I always think it is funny how God works things out and his sense of humor. I was fully prepared to be a single mom and do this with our support group. However, I reconnected with my childhood sweetheart and first boyfriend in August 2013 and that October we were engaged and April 12th, 2014 we were married. Fun Fact: my friend that introduced me to Aiden while doing respite care is also my husbands first cousin so he is truly family like she hoped he would be. So now I have an amazing little boy who is in K-4 this year and an equally amazing husband who joined us both and now we are a little family.
Like I said at the beginning don’t look at my journey and make a decision on yours. God took me through all of this for many reasons and to teach me many things. Trust in him and know that if adoption is your path he will make it happen in his time. I was paper pregnant for almost 5 years and I would not change a thing!! I don’t share my story for a poor thing or you go girl. I share it to show how God works things out in his time and his way! My son is a blessing that I thank God daily for.
~Erica Calhoun Rambo
If you have ever thought of adopting a child with Down Syndrome I hope you will read this story as well as the others we have posted below! If you have thought adoption is out of the question because of the cost please see our How to Afford Adoption blog post – we are not a wealthy family and we used many of these tips when we adopted 8 years ago and again 4 years later. If you do not necessarily feel called to adopt but want to help a waiting child – our family loves the charity Reece’s Rainbow – which matches orphans with waiting families with grants!