Lucy wore one of Ellie Kate's hair bows (seen slightly here),
while Bowen wore a matching bow which belonged to Lucy Belle!
- We truly felt God would bring a birth mom/bio mom TO us directly. We knew we wouldn't have to put out an ad, spend time searching, etc. in finding this special woman who would carry our child.
- We knew God didn't want us to go with an agency. We have no ill-will or bad experiences with agencies and in fact, have several friends who have successfully adopted through agencies they love! We just knew that wasn't how it would be for us. We didn't have the finances to adopt in this way (agencies are more expensive), so it was a clear, automatic closed-door to us and we didn't think anything about not having an agency to lead.
- We knew we wanted a girl and we knew God would give one to us. It could sound selfish and may be hard for many to understand, but since we've faced so much with our children's health, and since Our Girls both were born with terminal diagnoses, we had a desire for a Baby Girl who was relatively healthy (our perfect desire was for an absolutely healthy baby). If God so granted, we would love to experience all that comes along with a typical healthy baby girl, and we've longed for our boys to experience that as well!
What's sweet is that Mike and I had talked about adopting early in our marriage and it was something we were very serious about before we became pregnant with Sweet Conner. Even then, around 15 years ago, God had already stirred us both for this adoption adventure.
Toward the end of August 2016, I was contacted by one of Ellie Kate's former home health nurses who asked if we were still interested in adopting. Of course, my answer was open and honest, "YES!", we were interested and longed for it, but it was such a hectic time with school starting, and Henry was hurting both physically and emotionally. Mike and I weren't sure about the situation, but it sounded like the birth mom, an aquaintence of Ellie Kate's former home health nurse, was on the same page as we were on details. Mike and I told both the Nurse and Birth Mom that we would wait to make any moves until we found out the sex of the baby, and to tell you the truth, we really thought it would be a boy and surely thought God would shut the door right then and there! To our AMAZEMENT, we received the happy message that this baby was indeed a girl, and our eyes and hearts started to wonder in excitement!!
It's true - our family has a lot going on with a medically fragile child born with NKH, a terminal diagnosis. We are also parents of child-loss, a mom and dad to a typical son as well as a younger son, who also has special needs in PANDAS and epilepsy. To many, it seemed that we would be biting off more than we could chew. We were weary of that too in the beginning and from the very moment we heard about this little New Life, we asked God to clearly open and close doors for us, even if that meant in tangible ways.
Friends, we ONLY have wanted what HE has wanted for us and for our family because we well-know that life is just too short to waste apart from Him. We've been through too much to think we could do it on our own. So, after asking some close friends and a few Church Elders to pray, and after seeking wisdom from our doctors (and the kids' doctors, counselors, etc), we had confidence that we were in fact, supposed to step out and seek this New Life; we WOULD move forward until He told us not to. Mind you, we FULLY expected God to close and slam doors early on, BUT HE DIDN'T, and our hearts grew and opened as we became close with the Birth Mom.
God's Promises have been evident and recently, He's
tangibly reminded us of His Faithfulness through many gorgeous rainbows!
I had the absolute privilege of taking Birth Mom to doctor appointments weekly (medically necessary in her case). It was a JOY getting to know this gorgeous woman I wouldn't have otherwise known, if it weren't for her willingness in allowing US to raise HER biological baby girl, as our own. From the beginning, Birth Mom told us she felt as though she was simply a "vessel" for Bowen to come to us. This Precious Woman truly loved her baby, and yet she believed that her baby was destined for US, for OUR family. So, she carried Bowen in her womb, caring for the baby on our behalf. It is unbelievably humbling and too precious, too tender to fully be explained in human language.
When we found out Baby Girl was to be born in January, we sensed even more confirmation from the Lord that this was something completely and utterly from HIM. Was it true? Was God allowing us to receive this Unspeakable, Unbelievable, Most Precious Gift of Life during the SAME time we would be celebrating Our Ellie Kate's birthday and Heaven-Day? Truly, it felt too good to be true and I found myself crying before the Lord as I knew I wasn't worthy of such a gift. In reality, I wasn't expecting God to heal our hearts in such a precious way, to bring restoration to our minds and spirits, although He does promise to do such things for those who surrender to Him. Still tonight, I am in sheer awe and wonder at the thought of just HOW and WHEN God brought this all into place! I'm so underserving and He is SO
God's plan was to place godly people along our way so that we WOULD be prepared; so that I in particular, would be prepared for the physical, mental and emotional things which could creep up along the journey. I'm thankful for willing adoptive mommy-friends who literally have come to my house and answered questions, cried with me, served me with gifts, and most importantly, have prayed with us and for us (thank you, A, D, K and S!). The Lord clearly and fully spoke through these women, and I will continue to glean from their wisdom and friendship from here on out.
On the morning of December 23, 2016 Birth Mom and I went in for her early doc appointment and were both SHOCKED that labor was here. It looked like Bowen Jane could actually come on Ellie Kate's Heaven Day! I had imagined that scenario before that moment, but wasn't truly sure how I would feel. A Momma who has lost a child never wants to stop mourning for their Precious One and I wanted December 23rd to continue on as a "Holy" Day for us, where we recognized God's movement and nearness as we relived Ellie's life. However, God clearly reminded me that He is a God of RESTORATION and THIS was a way He would restore my heart and the hearts of everyone in our family (extended family included). He reminded me that this date was bigger than just me and my feelings - it was about my living children, my marriage, my parents and in-laws; and it was definitely about my Sister, Rachael who's birthday happens to be December 23rd as well. God was restoring things for THEM and not just for me (imagine that!)!
It was (and IS) one of the greatest honors of my life, holing the hand of a beautiful, selfless woman who had chosen ME to raise her child. I will never get over the gravity of that choice. Bowen arrived late that evening and she literally was THE most beautiful newborn I had ever seen. I didn't know what to expect - Bio Mom and I hadn't planned out exactly what would happen next, but as soon as that doctor pulled Bowen out and held her up, Bio Mom told ME, "Congratulations, Momma!" and I immediately hugged and kissed this brave woman who's entrusted me with so much of herself. Oh, how humbled I was and will forever be by her words and actions that night! They gave ME the gift of cutting the cord, then Bio Mom instructed the doctor place Baby Bow directly on MY chest, rather than hers. Tears will forever flow freely at the mere thought of that moment.
The rest of the hospital story was truly a Dream as we were able to have a room there, just as if I had given birth. On Sunday morning, we loaded the car and said goodbye to Bio Mom and her beautiful teenage daughter. WHOA. The gravity of it all was so strange to wrap our minds around, but we hugged and kissed and thanked each other and then we were off! Bowen Jane came home on Christmas Day.
Since that time, Bowen has only brought LIGHT, LOVE, JOY, and PEACE as well as a HOPE that had been lost inside of me at the death of Ellie Kate, and in the time following. Bowen is a HAPPY baby and loves everyone! She lives up to her name and is petite and victorious, hitting all milestones far in advance (which is new to us). She is Our, "Glorious Gift of God" and He has brought a tangible healing to the hearts of everyone - both boys, Lucy, me, Mike,
our parents . . . Bowen is the fulfillment of desires we almost were afraid to dream; she is a sign of Restoration to us as individuals and families.
Our lives have happily changed, becoming more busy than ever, but they are so rich and full and Mike and I stand in awe as we watch the Boys talk to Bowen or carry her around (with permission, of course). They kiss her and help me and often say, "Mom! I didn't know a baby could do that!", because to them a baby's abilities have been limited because of NKH. Our dreams have expanded and although we want Bowen to be and do all that she wants to be and do, Mike and I can't help but dream about dance class and tee-ball, kindergarten and sleepovers; hobbies and passions we get to watch unfold before our eyes. This Gift if not accepted lightly, of that you can be sure.
Please don't be worried that we've somehow tried to replace Ellie Kate with Bowen Jane. If you read through the story again, you will see how we instigated none of this, and that's another way we know it is absolutely from the Lord. HE worked it out in every detail, knowing the dates and times, as He is the Creator of every living thing; the One who puts planets into motion! It is impossible to fathom the thought of trying to somehow "replace" a child and that has never been, nor ever will be, our intent in adopting our Sweet Girl.
Ellie Kate and Lucy Belle are unique, wonderful Gifts from God - the MOST perfect gifts, better than I could have hoped for, because they've taught me the depths of Christ's love for me and the intimacy of the Holy Spirit. Because of Ellie and Lucy, God has given me desires and opportunities I never thought I would have. The Lord has sweetly refreshed my heart and opened me up to a deeper, fuller love for those around me - in my family, my community, and beyond. It's all because of the work HE has done, all because He chose to do so in and through MY Precious Girls. And you know what? Bowen Jane's life will have an equally important impact on my life and because of her, God has already tendered my heart toward so many things I didn't even know existed!
December 23rd will always be Ellie Kate's Heaven Day - the day she met Jesus face to face; her last breath here in our arms, was her first breath of eternal, perfected life in Heaven! God has chosen December 23rd as the Day Ellie Kate would meet Him again face to face, and we continue to trust His infinite wisdom, causing ALL things to work together for our good (EK's good as well!), and for His glory. Ellie Kate will always be my first-born daughter, the One I hoped and dreamed about since childhood, with her most perfect lips, perfect green eyes, full eye-brows, long eye-lashes, gorgeous skin which glistened in the sun, and those perfect little curls that would bounce as she did, all around the house. I will always have a deep longing in my heart for My Ellie-Girl as I continue to try and smell her sweet scent on everyone of her items still treasured in our home, as strain to remember and hear her deep giggle. I will forever yearn for the day when I will run to her upon reaching Heaven and scoop her up in my arms, never to be parted again.
December 23rd will always be the day Bowen Jane McLaughlin took her first breaths here on earth. It will forever be a day of promises fulfilled by our Covenant-God, who promised to restore all that had been lost, including our hope, joy, light, and laughter which have already been reknewed.
We will continue to celebrate life and death and yes, we will celebrate it on the same day. I don't know how, but we will and we'll continue to honor Ellie Kate's life and legacy of Reckless Love - the unconditional, compassionate love we learned by loving her and living with her during her short seven years on earth.
No, Bowen Jane won't be compared to her Big Sisters, but she will know them from the stories will tell and the pictures we share.
UPDATES . . .
Lucy's still struggling with severe pain and although we now have heavy meds on board, she still screams out, many times for hours on end. When she's not screaming, she's often sleeping, her body worn-out by the thrashing and crying out she's done so much of each day and night. We long to see Our Lucy, who smiles and laughs and loves to be tickled; the Girl who loves music and her brothers, even her new baby (she loves to give Bowie kisses and even allows her in her be sometimes). We long to see Lucy healed here on earth, with us but we also want what's best for her and admittedly, we don't always have that knowledge.
- Please pray for pain to ease in LuLu, for doctors to have wisdom as they treat her and wisdom as they learn to care for her.
- Pray for her home health nurses, that they would have strength and that they wouldn't grow too weary of the screams and the scratches and bites which often come with it.
- Please pray for the Tully's as they care for Lucy while we are with Henry at his next big appointment, that there will be clarity in every direction given, peace in every moment (for Lucy and parents), for protection from all illness and harm, especially while we are away.
Our Van tapped out last week and is STILL in the shop (a full week later - ya'll, that isn't good!). We hope to have it out soon but are also praying for a vehicle which can fully air and cool those in the back seats, including (and especially) Lucy and Henry who tend to seize in heat. The need for air is actually HIGH out-ranking the need for handicap-accessibility, which we could actually now do without. Go figure. Would you believe it??!!! Dear Friends loaned us their new van (non-handicap accessible) and it works Perfectly! It has changed our minds as far as what future vehicle we desire, especially with all of the air conditioning capabilities! We would love for your prayers alongside ours, that these special friends who've offered such a gift, would be richly blessed for doing so and that God would sweep in near to them as they too walk the roads of medical fragility and special needs.
Henry's appointment with the PANDAS/Neuro Specialist is MONDAY, and we are so excited to be gifted this medical trip! Even Mike, Conner and I are ALL able to go, which will be so fun and we are truly blown-away at God's goodness in giving us this special time with the boys. Somehow, someway, we are able to spend special time with just the boys, each and every summer and I know it's something they will remember and treasure always.
- Please pray for clarity for the doctors and wisdom ahead of time.
- Pray too for peace for Henry during the entire trip.
- Our hope is that we receive life-changing direction during this visit with the Specialist, direction which will allow Henry to feel comfortable among his peers and have the ability to function among society as he grows.
- We are SO desperate for God to move during this trip!
Conner is our Brave Bubba, who lovingly dotes on Bowen almost non-stop. He's grown a couple of inches this summer already which makes for sleepy days and sore muscles (growing pains). I cannot believe how grown-up he is with his deep voice, long legs and hairy armpits:)!
- We are GRATEFUL for Conner and ask that you would pray for any and all depression and defeat to be lifted from him
- Please pray with us, that the Lord would run in and capture Conner's heart in ways he cannot even fathom at this time.
- We want to see God move in Conner, causing a spark that can only come from God!
Thank you for joyously celebrating the addition of Bowen Jane to our family! Thank you too for continuing to pray for us, encourage us, support us, and love us as you are led. YOU make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around you and we are eternally grateful!