Thursday, January 9, 2014

Adoption Option

     My family has a long history with adoption, so when the time came for my wife and I to explore various options due to medical circumstances, I felt comfortable with this possibility.
     Both my paternal grandparents had had younger siblings adopted due to parental deaths.  Grandma shared how her dad, a sugar plantation worker in Kihei, gave up the family's youngest for adoption to a family in Kula—where she eventually disappeared and was later found dead, drowned in a cistern.  When Grandpa was a child and both his parents died in close succession—his father by drowning when thrown by a huge wave off a commercial fishing sampan off Hilo and his mother from disease—his uncle, a barber in Lahaina decided he could manage to care for but one of the two children.  He therefore sent Grandpa's sister to live with relatives back in Japan.  As an adult, Grandpa, a Kula Sanatorium yard man, sent her money because her family was so poor, World War II ceasing all correspondence for a time.  Many years later, they resumed correspondence, and decades later, reunited in a sorrowful reunion at which Grandpa's sister couldn't stop crying.  Their second reunion, however, went much better as she had found peace amidst all the painful memories.
     My maternal grandmother died when Mom was a child so Grandpa, a farmer with a fifty acre plot in Honokaa and seven daughters to care for, gave the youngest up for adoption.  Though Aunt Mae seldom was included within the close, tight circle of all our other aunties (partly because she lived in Chicago and other faraway places), my mom and aunties corresponded with her and met up with her in recent years for vacations and other gatherings.
     My sister Joan adopted her sole child from Korea.  The two couldn't stop crying on their trip home together to Hawaii—my sister for joy and pity at her daughter's tears; my one year old niece due to fear of the strangers taking her away from her beloved foster mom.
     My sister's husband's twin sister was given up for adoption shortly after birth due to their mom not feeling up to the task of raising them both. I met Samantha at my sister's wedding—a beautiful, confident woman who is included in numerous of my brother-in-law's family gatherings back east where he grew up in New Jersey.
     And my half-Scot, half-Siamese father-in-law was as an infant adopted by a Chinese family in Malaysia.  He grew to six-foot-four and played for his future country's national basketball team as center, but quit when he saw the United States' team in which their shortest player was taller than he was.
     Our personal encounter with adoption came over a year ago when routine ultrasound images showed abnormalities in our eight-weeks-old fetus my wife Deanne was carrying.  Our doctor made us an appointment at a fetal diagnostic center and offered to later test for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome and spina bifida—early notice apparently to give us time to decide whether or not to terminate the pregnancy.  I told Deanne, who later brooded over the prospect of caring for a special needs child that if we didn't feel up to it, we could consider giving it up for adoption.  But if we did give it up, we'd have to do so at birth, because once we brought it home and cared for it, we'd become so attached, it'd be too painful to give away after that.  She didn't like the adoption idea because when her dad, as an adult, tracked down and talked to his biological mother, she outright rejected him and told him to never bother her again, which devastated him.
     Abortion was something neither of us felt comfortable with, so that left us with planning to keep the baby, possibly skipping the test, and praying everything would be fine.
     Two weeks passed and the next ultrasound showed the baby fine, clear, and healthy, but also an abnormal bulge in the uterine wall that the doctor said the fetal diagnostic center may better be able to identify.  Three days later, the fetal diagnostic center's high-tech ultrasound showed the same size fetus with no heartbeat, and multiple chromosomal abnormalities—possibly Down syndrome.  The fetus had apparently died in the intervening period.  We opted to wait for a natural discharge of the fetus' remains (or a miracle recovery), but ten days passed and Deanne seemed increasingly less pregnant.  At the next doctor's visit, the ultrasound confirmed no growth and no heart beat or blood flow.  The doctor recommended a procedure to remove the fetus, placenta, and other baby-related support systems to prevent infection, which Deanne and I agreed to.
     The miscarriage shocked and disappointed us.  We had been buoyed by the prospect of a fourth child yet stressed at the same time by the logistics of planning a preparing for its arrival and funding its future.  What eased the pain and emptiness was knowing God had decided for us.  It was if He said, “No, not now.  I want this child with me, chromosomal abnormalities and all—it doesn't matter to me, I love it just the same.”
     Deanne had a dream a couple days later of her deceased father (who recently died after a prolonged bout with colon cancer).  She placed a baby in his arms and said, “Here's Jen.”  Dad had never met our youngest child Jaren, who just turned six, and Jen was the name we had preselected from six-and-a-half years ago to name him, had he been a girl.
     A part of me wondered:  If God blesses us with another daughter, will we still feel comfortable naming her Jen?  It took us awhile to come up with that name (not her real name, by the way, we don't share that with anyone until after birth).  But after Deanne again got pregnant, we realized, no, Jen would not do.  So we came up with a different name.  God again called the fetus to Him (after two weeks).  It had been such a short pregnancy, and we had guarded our hearts just in case, so the shock of disappointment was not quite so severe.  God's will be done in all things.  He has been good to us beyond compare.

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