The NYTimes offers a beautiful reflection by a mother, who travelled with her husband to China to pick up her long awaited daughter, only to discover that the child came with a daunting collection of medical challenges completely unanticipated.
And now we were in a hotel room with a Chinese doctor, an older man who spoke broken English. After listening to Natalie’s chest, he said she had bronchitis. Then he turned her over and looked at her scar.
Frowning, he asked for a cotton swab and soap. He coated an end in soap and probed her sphincter, which he then said was “loose.” He suspected she’d had a tumor removed and wondered aloud if she had spina bifida before finally saying that she would need to be seen at the hospital.
There, they discovered more defects: brain damage, nerve damage, potential future paralysis, colostomy, and more. While they absorbed the diagnosis, they were offered a choice.
“In cases like these, we can make a rematch with another baby,” the one in charge said. The rest of the process would be expedited, and we would go home on schedule. We would simply leave with a different girl.
The amazing point to ponder is that they had no real obligation to this child. Their tie was emotional, based on a adoption match and having "mentally adopted" her -- but what to do? The operative element was the bonding that takes place when Providence hands you a person, really entrusts him to you.
Months before, we had been presented with forms asking which disabilities would be acceptable in a prospective adoptee — what, in other words, did we think we could handle: H.I.V., hepatitis, blindness? We checked off a few mild problems that we knew could be swiftly corrected with proper medical care. As Matt had written on our application: “This will be our first child, and we feel we would need more experience to handle anything more serious.”
Now we faced surgeries, wheelchairs, colostomy bags. I envisioned our home in San Diego with ramps leading to the doors. I saw our lives as being utterly devoted to her care. How would we ever manage?
Yet how could we leave her? Had I given birth to a child with these conditions, I wouldn’t have left her in the hospital. Though a friend would later say, “Well, that’s different,” it wasn’t to me.
I pictured myself boarding the plane with some faceless replacement child and then explaining to friends and family that she wasn’t Natalie, that we had left Natalie in China because she was too damaged, that the deal had been a healthy baby and she wasn’t.
How would I face myself? How would I ever forget? I would always wonder what happened to Natalie.
I strongly urge you to read this story, which is not meant as a pro-life testament, but cannot help but be one. It is a reminder that God provides the necessary graces to deal with events, no matter how unexpected or dire. This child has been blessed with extraordinary parents, and now thanks to a written testimony, more can learn that the curve balls in life are charged with grace.