My daughter Charlotte is one of my life’s greatest joys. She is the spirit of our family, a child whose very presence will bring a smile to your face. She is our child who sings and dances her way from room to room rather than merely walking. Looking at Charlotte now, one would never guess that her life got off to a bit of a rocky start. You see my precious daughter was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) that meant her little heart had to work very hard to do its job. Tasks that you and I take for granted such as eating took a lot of energy, and, as a result, Charlotte struggled to thrive during her first year of life.
We were matched with our daughter via Holt’s Waiting Child program in early November 2009. Though our daughter’s initial paperwork suggested a minor CHD, the pediatric cardiologist suspected after reviewing her paperwork that we were looking at something more serious. Within a week of receiving her paperwork, we got an update confirming the doctor’s suspicions; we were looking at a heart defect that, while likely correctible, was more significant and would most certainly require open-heart surgery.
I still remember the wait to bring her home to join our family. Over the next few months after getting her referral, additional issues cropped up. Each update seemed to bring more difficult news and more uncertainty for our sweet baby. While Charlotte’s medical needs presented some risk and there were a number of “unknowns”, we were certain of one thing: she was our daughter, and we were committed to her. With that in mind, we waited and worried for her and waited some more.
We finally got permission to bring our daughter home in late April of 2010. She was beautiful, yet petite, not even on the growth chart. She tired easily. Generally speaking I think everyone who met her would agree that she was having a bit of a rough go of it. In addition to her known issues, as a result of her heart defect, she had developed some ancillary issues related to nutrition that needed to be addressed.
We spent the next several months working with the doctors and clinicians at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital to address her feeding and nutrition issues and to determine a game plan for addressing her CHD. In mid-September 2010 Charlotte underwent open-heart surgery. The surgery was a complete success, and Charlotte’s heart defect was able to be fully corrected. Though Charlotte will need periodic follow-up, her surgeon and pediatric cardiologist both expect her to have a normal life span with no restrictions on her activity.
Open heart surgery was like a rebirth for Charlotte. Our child who once struggled to engage with people, who never smiled, and who seemed so unhappy, blossomed almost overnight. Literally within days of getting out of the hospital, Charlotte had energy and joy to spare. For the first time we saw her smile. We were so happy for her!
An Unexpected Blessing
A handful of months following Charlotte’s surgery I was looking through Holt’s website and spent some time lingering on the sponsorship page. We had been long-time supporters and proponents of Holt’s child sponsorship program but had never really considered the possibility that either of our children was a part of the program. On a bit of a whim I sent a message to the sponsorship team asking them if either of our children had been sponsored. I received a reply saying that while our son was not part of the program, yes, in fact, our daughter had been sponsored. Not only had she been sponsored, she’d had several sponsors supporting her.
It’s hard to describe the feelings I had upon finding this out. Grateful. Blessed. Humbled. To find out that several families had each chosen to generously make a financial commitment to a child they did not know who lived half a world away in order to help ensure she got the care she needed…we were beyond touched. Those funds helped cover things like her echocardiograms and other diagnostic testing in Korea. Those funds helped her stay in a loving foster care environment. Those funds helped ensure she got the care she needed while she waited for a family.
It’s been almost 3 years since we brought our daughter home. Charlotte is healthy and thriving. She loves to sing and dance. She has energy, personality and charm to spare. I sometimes just sit back in wonder at how far she has come. I am still humbled and grateful for the role Holt played in matching us with each other. I am profoundly thankful to her sponsors for supporting her. I am blessed beyond measure to be her mom.
For more information about Holt International Children’s Services: http://www.holtinternational.org/
Also published in the Holt International Magazine, March/April 2013: http://www.holtinternational.org/magazine/2013/03/28/opening-your-heart-to-the-children-who-wait/