BRAVE SERIES: It's okay to be scared.
“It’s OKAY to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something
really, really brave.” - Mandy Hale
“It’s OKAY to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.”
The first time I read this quote, I was sitting in the waiting room at a local pediatrics office, scrolling through instagram. I had just got off the phone with Jon, my husband, who was going to be 15 minutes late to meet me there.
As I looked around, I realized I hadn’t been in a pediatrics waiting room in almost 20 years. The toys in the play area had changed a bit, but the fluorescent lighting, the smell of lysol, and the sound of a screaming child getting a round of shots was mostly the same. I felt uncomfortable as children were awkwardly staring at me while they waited with their parents. I was already nervous and these little humans just made it worse. Maybe it was because I was the only adult in the room who didn’t have a child with them? Was it because I am small, but I have wrinkles like an adult, so they were trying to figure out if I was a child? I am not sure, but regardless, today was not a great day for Jon to get off work late.
I was as scared sitting in that waiting room then as I was as a 5 year old little girl who knew needles and band-aids were in her near future. My palms were sweaty as I held the folder of medical documents, my heart was racing, and my nerves were starting to give me a headache. I don’t remember who posted the inspiring quote on instagram that helped me get through that nerve-wracking waiting room experience, but I am forever grateful.
Two weeks prior to this moment, Jon and I were sitting on our front porch enjoying a warm Tuesday that had graced us in the middle of fall. We had received an email earlier that morning from our adoption agency with a list of “Children in Need of Homes.” As we sat on the porch and read through the names, sweet pictures, and background summaries of each child, it was the very last one on the list who caught my eye. His picture was different from all the other children. They were all sitting up in a chair in an office, but this little boy was laying down on his tummy in what seemed to be someone’s home. His smile warmed my heart, his name had significance that I will get to later, and I turned to look at Jon and said, “This is my little buddy. I just feel like he is our son.”
Jon agreed that we could inquire about the child, but that we obviously would not be making any affirmative decisions until we thoroughly reviewed his medical files. He was in good company though, because our agency required us to do the same.
I had reached out to our facebook community asking if people had recommendations for a pediatrician who had experience with international adoptees around Nashville, TN. We received a hand full of suggestions, and chose the one closest to our home. So, that is how I ended up here in this local pediatrics waiting room.
When Jon finally arrived and sat next to me in the fluorescent lit, lysol smelling, waiting room, I felt a ton of relief. I think the surrounding children were relieved too because they stopped staring at me. I guess they thought my dad had finally arrived.
For the days leading up to this appointment, we prayed that this particular doctor had experience with South Korea, the country we were adopting from. Not just experience with adoptees from Ethiopia, China, or Haiti, but specifically from South Korea. We wanted to make sure these medical files were being reviewed with a certain level of understanding and confidence. I still remember sitting in the car before walking in and praying this request one last time.
Shortly after Jon arrived, our name was called. A sweet nurse walked us back to our room, asked us a few questions, and said “The doctor will be with you shortly” before she quietly closed the door. Jon and I sat there for the first few moments in silence just looking at each other with a nervous excitement in our eyes. We then began talking about our childhood memories of going to the doctor.
I still remember going in for the shots I had to get to begin kindergarten. My Gramma took me to this appointment and the moment the nurse brought us back to our room, I darted. My poor Gramma, she was way too old for this. I was screaming and ran to hide behind a filing cabinet. Gramma and the nurse didn’t even chase after me. They just calmly sat there and used stickers to convince me to come back. It ended up not being all that bad. I left that day with 4 Sesame Street bandaids and 10 stickers.
In the middle of our storytelling, Dr. E’s smiling face entered the room and he introduced himself. I liked him from the start because he had grey hair, and to me that communicated that he knew what he was doing. He asked us some questions about when we had started the adoption process, why we were adopting, and asked to see the files. As we were handing over the files he stated that he was actually an International Adoption Specialist. My heart swelled with joy as those words came out of his mouth. Surely, being an International Adoption Specialist, he had experience with South Korea. As he opened the folder, he said, “Oh! You’re adopting from South Korea. I adopted my daughter from South Korea!” … Y’all… it took all of me to not just cry right then and there. Not only was this Pediatrician an International Adoption Specialist, but he adopted his very own daughter from South Korea. He had way more experience with South Korea than we could have ever asked for. How kind was God to make that part of this story!
Dr. E needed some time to review the files, so he stepped out and we continued to wait. We thanked God for His evident hand over our appointment and continued to pray for the news Dr. E would have when he returned. And to be honest, the news we received that day was not super comforting. Not all, but some of the words he used were hard to hear and my worried-self focused on those.
After looking over the scans, Dr. E could not promise us that this little boy would not have cerebral palsy (CP). His baby check ups did not show any developmental signs of CP, but because of things Dr. E saw in the scans, he could not rule it out. As he continued to explain to us what CP was, my mind began racing through all of the “what ifs.” I did what any good parent would do and immediately began my Google search on cerebral palsy as soon as I got home. The next couple of days I spent my lunch breaks and hours after work calling neurology specialists in our area. Turns out, I could not find a neurology specialist who would look over the files without seeing the child in person. They did not want to be held accountable for delivering information on a patient they were not able to see for themselves. So, here I was, sitting in my living room, staring at the ceiling fan, feeling totally helpless, scared, and lost on what to do.
I reached out to one of my adoption mama friends and asked if she knew any other adoption mamas who had children with CP. She did in fact know someone and she connected us on facebook that evening. This mom, on the other side of the country who I will probably never meet in person, called me and talked to me for half an hour about her adoption and her family’s life living with CP. And you guys, I cannot explain how encouraging it was. Was it still scary? For sure. But did it instill hope and a sense of comfort? Most definitely.
The clock was ticking to get back with our agency on our decision. We talked to a few of our closest friends and family to be praying for us as we continued to pray through our decision. We had someone very close to us tell us not to pursue this child because of how much it would affect our lives if he did indeed have CP. However, we also had people like my mom, who encouraged us to lay down our lives and to move forward.
My mom worked at the well-renowned Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for 13 years as a medical receptionist. Though she was not a nurse or doctor, she saw a lot and learned a thing or two about the medical world. Despite her giving medical advice, ultimately it was her words, a mother to a mother, that I will never forget. “Honey, will days ahead be really really hard? Yes. Parenting is hard even if there aren’t any medical needs involved. But, you know in your heart, that he is your son. If you don’t pursue this child, you will wonder every single day of your life where he is.”
And so, after many prayers and many conversations, Jon and I agreed to pursue this beautiful little boy. The planner in me wondered if our strict HOA would allow a wheelchair ramp on the front porch and I began figuring up how much it would cost to get a minivan with a chair lift.
I learned that night that to adopt means to BE BRAVE. You don’t have a choice. Even when a child is in the womb, we don’t get to choose how they develop. We don’t get to choose what medical needs a child may or may not have. But ya know what, even thinking of all the “what-ifs” and “worst case scenarios”, we could not think of anything more important to be called to in this life than to be a Mom and a Dad to a child who needs one. Regardless of what needs our child may have, at the end of the day, our child is our child and he will be worth it all. Every minute,, every tear, every laugh, every hug, every kiss. And it was okay to be scared, because it meant we were about to do something really, really brave. We just had to keep choosing to BE BRAVE over and over and over again.