a beautiful story of love through adoption (&HLHS)

this past weekend was very special & it might just take me a couple posts to share…and i hope it blesses you as well.

one of the desires of my heart for this blog is that it’s a place of encouragement. i feel like jimmy & morgan’s story is truly an encouragement. God has blown me away with some of the precious friends he’s brought into my life over the last few years, primarily through my photography business. a “stranger” reaches out & asks me to shoot some images to use as a “hey family, we’re adopting” announcement-we meet on a warm day -tears well up in my eyes when i hear a tiny bit of their story and 13 months later ( along with multiple photo sessions in between), i’m flying to west virginia to enjoy celebrating the LIFE of their little man-and now i feel like part of the family.

i’ll share the pinterest worthy birthday party details on friday, but for now, i wanted morgan to share a little about gabriel. if you missed their backstory of hope, you simply MUST start here. ya’ll i’m telling you, ellen or oprah or lifetime needs to get ahold of this precious young family. while they’re just regular folks, they’ve faced some tough situations ( including traumatic brain injury & infertility) with strength & grace. regular folks make the best home-town heroes don’t they?

first read here & then if you missed what i shared on friday you can peek here for that…and then in morgan’s own words~

8

“WOW, what a year it has been! We celebrated our sons 1st birthday over the weekend and it is amazing to look back and see how much our life has changed since Paige so graciously shared our original story with you. I want to thank each of you for your prayers and hope provided on this journey! The outpouring of love from family, friends, and complete strangers has been nothing short of breathtaking and we will be forever grateful. Here is a quick peek into what God has had in store for us during the last 13 months…

As September 2014 neared its end, I received an invite from my brother to tag along on his business trip. The trip occurred over my birthday! The beach is my calming place so I immediately said yes and grabbed my bags. Something about the sound of the waves, sand between your toes, and smell of fresh air is just so relaxing. I packed up my computer (I mean who doesn’t love working from a beach chair with view) and off we went.
Jimmy and I were nearing the final stages of the home study process so there was a real possibility this would be my last childless trip…that was an adjustment we were more than ready for! In preparation for our adoption, we wanted to be as educated and prepared as possible. Although we thought God was preparing us for a transracial adoption, he had much different plans!

My first day back at work, post vacation, we received an email asking if we were interested in being presented to a birth mother. This was our first time being presented and we had only been “active” for a few days so to say we were excited and surprised is an understatement.
I sat at my desk as I opened the email. It disclosed a few details and briefly explained his condition and what it might entail. I immediately called Jimmy. We began researching the condition but frankly, what we were reading didn’t impact our decision. I am a firm believer that God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called. We knew that 1) If I was physically carrying a child with the condition, we would choose life and 2) no matter the outcome, if we were given the opportunity, we could love this child like no other regardless of the time we were allowed with him.

We said yes; the wait officially began!

We knew he would be arriving that week but understood the birth mother would review several prospective adoptive parent profiles and that it could take some time. The news that followed one year ago was the answer to years of our prayers and tears!

She said YES to life and YES to us!

We received the call around 11 AM. I was in an all-day meeting and Jimmy was away at school. I had my phone glued to my side and when I saw it was our consultant, I answered and heard most beautiful words came from her mouth! The years of prayers, failed treatments, and tears were all worth it in that very moment! I started crying right in the break room. Not only did our precious birth mother select us, but she was in the hospital and our baby boy would be arriving in the next 48 hours!

I immediately went home to start packing so I could head to the hospital. I didn’t know what to pack, where to start, what we did or didn’t have for our baby, how long we would be gone, or how drastically our world was about to change. At this point we had a diaper bag, a few essentials, and lots of love to give. Jimmy caught the next flight out and I picked him up at the airport around 9 PM evening.

Less than 36 hours late our miracle arrived! He was perfect, simple perfection! I never knew true love until I saw his precious face. There is nothing like a parents love for their child!
Although he was critically ill, he was stable and was able to remain in the NICU until a bed opened up in the CICU. Physically, his outer appearance looked like any healthy baby. However, our son was born Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS).

HLHS is a severe congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped. The heart’s left side has the job of pumping oxygenated blood into the aorta, the large artery that carries blood to the body. HLHS is most often fatal without early intervention. It will typically require open-heart surgery to re-direct the oxygen-rich blood and oxygen-poor blood in a series of three reconstructive operations.
Gabriel had the first surgery within his first week of life. He came back from the OR with an open chest on a ventilator. As a parent, this was difficult to see, but we knew we were his advocate and fought for him as he fought for life. He was on a ventilator for several weeks following the procedure and experienced withdrawals from the medication. His first outfit was on Halloween were he dressed as “Super Gabe” with cape and all!

In February, Gabriel had the second surgery known as the bidirectional Glenn. Post-surgery, babies often return to the CICU with huge (swollen) heads and horrible headaches. Luckily, Gabriel did very well. His pain was well managed and his hospital stay was about a week. We had a few complications; however, they were managed with new formula and frequent monitoring via x-rays.
The final surgery, known as the Fontan procedure, typically occurs between 1 1/2 to 4 years of age. Post full reconstruction, the right side of the heart will do the job of the left side (pumping oxygenated blood to the body). Additionally, deoxygenated blood will flow from the veins to the lungs (without passing through the heart).

Gabriel’s team currently consists of a pediatrician, cardiologist, pulmonologist, and therapist. He will require life-long care by a cardiologist. Some survivors experience serious health problems many of which remain medication, and additional surgeries may be required. As recent as 25 years ago, infants with HLHS didn’t survive. As a result, we don’t yet know the truly long-term effects of this condition.
Gabriel has experienced so many trials and obstacles during his short time on earth but has faced each one with a smile on his face. He is resilient, strong, and has many angels watching over and protecting him!

Although the party may have appeared extreme, his birthday was a HUGE milestone worthy of a fabulous celebration. It wasn’t about gifs or a party; it was about celebrating life and love with all who made this magical day possible through prayers, time, and dedication. We are so blessed to have Gabriel in our lives; though he may only have half a heart, he has completed ours!”

October 7, 2015 - 12:22 pm

chrissi - what a face. those eyes! thank you for sharing this story. not only are you three the cutest family ever, you are my new heroes….God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called♥ love that.my heart hurts with joy over reading this. God bless.

October 7, 2015 - 3:50 pm

beth - I, too, love how she says that God equips the called. So true, if we let Him. Hurry with the bday pics, please! Sweet family!

October 7, 2015 - 3:52 pm

Natalie - So wonderful!! My sweet nephew has HLHS….you would never know it. He turns 20 in December. I know my sister would be more than happy to lend an ear or advice should you ever be in need. Blessing to you all!

October 9, 2015 - 7:01 am

mickey mouse themed 1st birthday celebration! » simple thoughts from Paige Knudsen Photography - […] gabe and his super special family. if not, you simply must read a little backstory of his adoption here & […]