Iwill never forget the summer day Tyler was born. A friend and I had been swimming in the pool to escape the heat. We came inside and heard the wonderful news on the answering machine: Tyler had been born. My friend and I started jumping up and down and squealing (which made her three-month-old cry). Then I asked, “What do I do?” She suggested that I should call my husband, Randy.
Getting On The A-List
See, we couldn’t have children because of decisions Randy had made in his first marriage; so we decided on adoption. We checked several places that were Christian-oriented, but all doors were closed, all lists were full. We were heart-broken, but we trusted God knew best. We asked Him to help us accept His will. One day, out of the blue, we received a letter from one of the adoption agencies. They were reconstructing their lists and if we were still interested, we could be placed on a very long adoption list.
But After three years on the list, Randy’s job was transferred from Alabama to Tennessee.
There were differences in how the adoption list worked in each state. In Alabama, potential parents wait until their number comes up. In Tennessee, they had an open adoption process. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. We immediately went through a home study and were approved, which eased my fears and helped me to see the benefits of open adoption. Randy and I completed a portfolio, but we never needed it. God had already chosen our child for us.
I received a call from a new friend I had met shortly after our move. She had met a lady who planned to give her baby up for adoption and wanted a Christian couple to adopt her child. We met with her and in August 1995, just five months after our home study approval, our son came into this world. I cannot express my gratitude to this mother. She wanted more for her child than she could give. God had brought us to this exact place, at this exact time, for this exact child. It still gives me chills to see the mighty hand of God at work.
For years I had prayed for a child and to be a stay-at-home mom. Now the time had come. Randy and I were talking on the way to the hospital and I reminded him of how ugly babies are when they are newborns. But, oh my goodness! The sight of that little boy, our son, took my breath away. We had the nursery to ourselves since the other babies were in their rooms with their mothers. We held him and fed him and changed him, and he immediately had our hearts. We brought him home from the hospital the next day.
There were some complications with the adoption. The birth father did not want to sign surrender forms. He and the birth mother were not married and they had broken up. Through all of the uncertainties, we knew God would work everything out. We became foster adoptive parents until January, when we finally adopted our sweet baby boy, Tyler.
Life with a child is different (that is an understatement). We were struggling with many changes in our lives, and it really put a strain on our relationship. I was overwhelmed and tired. Tyler was a very fussy baby and constantly had ear infections and high fevers. I was lonely and felt useless in my walk with God. I had been so involved in ministry in Alabama, but in Tennessee I had nothing. God convicted me that I needed to get into a Bible study, but I was scared. What would I do if Tyler cried during the study? I talked to his pediatrician, a very godly man, and he explained that I had baby blues, postpartum depression, even though I wasn’t Tyler’s biological mother. He reminded me that babies cry. So, I took a leap of faith and got involved in ladies’ Bible study.
I remember seeing the homework I was required to do every week, and thinking, “How in the world do I have time for this?” God told me that if I gave up my soap operas I would have plenty of time. Oh my! You mean I couldn’t be “young and restless” or “bold and beautiful” in “another world” at the “edge of night”? It was a huge sacrifice for me, but I realized how I had been allowing these soap operas to dictate my days. So I gave them up.
I also took on an additional Bible study. God told me during this time that I had been too busy “doing” for Him. I had neglected my time with Him. He wanted my time. He wanted me. I grew more spiritually than ever before. I learned that when God is all you have, you realize God is all you need.
Not Quite Right
At eight months old Tyler had ear tubes put in. They made a huge difference, but things still were not quite right. At twelve months old, we realized he was not meeting his milestones. He couldn’t sit up from a laying down position, he wasn’t crawling, he couldn’t pick up Cheerios. At first we thought he was just a little slow. But he wasn’t making the marks.
At fifteen months, his pediatrician wanted to do some blood tests to check for several different potential problems. One of those was Fragile X syndrome. I remember going home and reading about it, and I knew in my heart that was what my son had.
Fragile X is a genetic disorder passed from the mother to her child. In this syndrome, the X chromosome has a break. Because boys only have one X chromosome and girls have two, boys are more seriously affected by this syndrome. With fragile X, the body can’t make enough of a protein it needs for the brain to grow and develop correctly. It took a couple of months for the test results to come back. When the doctor gave me the news, I broke down and cried. I cried all night. But then I looked at my sweet, precious little boy and realized he was the same little boy today that he was yesterday. My resolve kicked in. I was determined he would be the best he could be.
Years earlier when we filled out our adoption paperwork, there was a specific area we were sure to mark. This would be a “non-special needs” agency placement. We knew there was no way we could raise a child with disabilities. But God’s ways are not our ways. Our pastor from Alabama shared Jeremiah 29:11 with me when we found out about Tyler’s diagnosis.
For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Randy’s boss gave me a book called “Trusting God.” It talked about how God doesn’t make mistakes, how everyone has a purpose. I claimed those promises that day. Tyler had fragile X for a purpose. God had a plan for his life. I held on to that.
Tennessee Early Intervention Services (TEIS) became a part of our life. My case worker was a gift from God. She gave me great council for Tyler’s needs, and she gave me step-by-step directions for all the places I had to go (I am very directionally challenged). Tyler had all sorts of evaluations and recommendations. Occupational therapy was a big need; we were advised he begin right away. When I met with Vanderbilt, I was told there was a waiting list and that it could take months.
I remember leaving there that day and telling God, “I know You love Tyler and know what He needs.” I would trust Him.
The very next week a woman called and said,”You are not going to believe this, but we have an opening for occupational therapy. Your son can start next week.” I responded, “Yes, I do believe it, because that is what God has in store for him!” He started occupational therapy at 15 months old and speech therapy at 19 months old. He had physical therapy and we were involved in a program called the Milieu project which helped with his communication skills.
The road has been hard. There have been disappointments. There have been dreams that we had to accept would never come true. But I continue to grow more and more thankful for the gift of my son. I am thankful for his birth mother who was ridiculed for giving away a child. I am thankful that when his birth mother was told to have an abortion, she instead chose life for her son. Tyler is a blessing from God, one I certainly don’t deserve. While I found that many parents with disabled children saw them as a curse and a burden, I saw a blessing and a gift.
Tyler is a breath of fresh air. God shows Himself to Randy and me everyday through our son’s life. Tyler loves with no conditions. He holds no grudges. He has no worries, except maybe what he is going to eat! He is innocent. He is happy and joyful all the time. And, he loves music! He can often be seen charismatically ‘directing’ the choir from his pew at church. Oh, if we could all be more like him!
Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, Randy’s job was moved back home to Alabama in 2008. Now, Tyler is a senior and he will graduate from the same high school I graduated from many years ago. He attends a life skills program at the technical school. We have plans for him to start a job this summer. We love the Lord, and we are thankful for what he has done in our lives.
I have many spiritual markers in my life. The first was surrendering myself to Christ. My next mile marker was my move to Tennessee and being stripped of all my busyness. I learned to spend time with God. That is the most important thing I can do for Him. Another marker was becoming a mother to a child with disabilities. God used my hard, stern personality to help me advocate for my son. Most of all, I learned that God’s ways are not my ways. I don’t always understand but I know that I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).