A few stories actually.
They all impact each other and come together in the end.
Story #1 - About 56 (I think) years ago John K. became the big brother to a delightful little girl named Shirley. Shirley has Down Syndrome. I don't know all the ups and downs of that sibling relationship but I do know that there is a lot of love shared between the two.
More than twenty years later John met and married Mary Ellen. She had had a little bit of experience with people with disabilities before meeting John and shared his love for differently abled people. Their passion for people with special needs grew and after having three birth daughters they began fostering and eventually adopted 4 children from the foster system. Two of them have Down Syndrome!
About 6 years ago they decided it was time to adopt one more child with DS and brought Aiden home from Bulgaria! He is a big wonderfully comedic 14 year old boy now with the best Bulgarian accent you will ever hear.
Story #2 - My husband Jon met the K family about fifteen years ago when their first adopted child with DS, Brent, was about 3. He remembers playing with and loving him at church each Sunday. They were good buddies. After high school Jon decided to volunteer with the K family at camp Amasa where they ran camps for adults and children with special needs. This was his crash course into the community of the differently abled. He can tell you many hilarious, life changing, perspective altering moments from that summer.
Story #3 - I had always been drawn to supporting, teaching and befriending people with special needs. My mom remembers it as young as 5 years old. When I was 16 my mom made the decision to bring Maggy in to our house. Maggy has Down Syndrome as well and fit in to our family perfectly. She actually could be credited with getting most of us through our teen years relatively unharmed. No matter how mad we where at the world or each other, we were never mad at her. She kept us coming home and was a calming spirit in our house. She is everyones favourite sister. When she joined our family I started talking about wanting to adopt my own child with DS.
Our stories coming together -
Jon and I met in college and started dating about 12 years ago. I remember talking openly about wanting to adopt a child with DS and him being completely on board. His work with Amasa and watching the K family grow had prepared him for me!
We followed closely and watched the K family adopt Aiden. I was so happy for them and wondered when it would be our turn. Aiden came home in October 2009 and in January 2010 Mary Ellen sent me an email from her agency for a file of a little girl needing a family. We didn't end up adopting that child but it got our wheels turning.
It was time for us to adopt a child with DS. Jon and I jumped in. Although it was much earlier in life than we had thought it was the right choice. We have been so blessed by the adoption process and by Sofie, our own Bulgarian angel. In August 2011 we brought her home.
At the airport, first moment together as a family.
Heather became a mom to Wyatt Timothy Vasil K and brought him home after more than 24 hours of traveling yesterday! (His middle name, Timothy, is after Jon's dad who passed away 6.5 years ago. He was the K's pastor as Heather grew up and encouraged her, reminding her she would make a difference.)
I got the privilege of being their chauffeur between the airport and ferry, as well as photographer for this momentous occasion! Here are the pictures from last night...
Nana's first sight. So much joy in her eyes.
This moment is pure emotion.
Joy. Relief. Thankfulness. Wonder.
Welcome Home Wyatt.
The family that made it to the airport.
He has a lot more of them to meet today!
I'm so glad that you stepped out and chose to adopt this little guy. You and him make such a perfect family together. I'm thankful there are strong women, like you, in this world who are willing to follow their hearts and make a difference. This is really just the beginning. Thank you for letting me be a part of this day and know that Jon and I will support you and little Wyatt in any way we can!
You can read her own blog and details of her adoption HERE.
I adore how all these stories have wound in to each other. I'm tempted to say that Mary Ellen and John's story has come full circle with Heather's adoption now but I don't think that's accurate. I think lives are going to continue to change because they have witnessed or been a part of our stories. I think more stories are going to be made and I can't wait to see that happen.
Thank you Shirley for being born and igniting a passion in your big brother.
Thank you Mary Ellen for marrying John and building the family that you have.
Thank you to you both for setting such a beautiful example of love and acceptance and perseverance in your own adoption journeys and family.
Thank you for preparing Jon for my world and having a huge part in the amazing man he is today. The experiences he has had with you were also a big part of why he was hired in his current career. So really our entire family's well-being is, in part, thanks to you!
Thank you Maggy for being the wonderful person and sister that you are and solidifying a passion for adoption and DS in my own heart.
Thank you to my mom for bringing Maggy in to our lives and being the strong, supportive woman that you are.
Thank you to Jon for being the truly remarkable husband, father and man that you are.
Thank you everyone who has supported us in our own adoption and parenting journey. We absolutely could not do it all with out you.
Thank you to Heather for listening to your heart and jumping in to this with both feet. You are incredible and are going to rock this Mommy biz!
And a huge thank-you to our Bulgarian angels! Aiden, Sofie and Wyatt! You are three miraculous children who have been through more in your short lives than most adults ever will. You are survivors, brave, funny, joyful and loving kids. I can't wait to see what you do in your lives and how you change the world! You've changed our world so much already! I can't wait to see all three of you together one day!