Monday, August 6, 2012

Part 1: How God Opened Our Hearts to HIV

In February 2010, when we weren’t sure whether Ugandan adoption would ever work again, Brad and I saw the picture of an HIV positive two year old boy from Ghana. He was breath taking. Precious. And he needed parents.

In a small way, I loved Sampson instantly. I think anyone would have. His big round eyes begged for you to hold him, and we wanted to. We didn’t know if God was closing a door to Uganda, and nothing looked more inviting than his little face. But… what do we do with the phrase “HIV+”? By the time Brad and I struggled, and then emailed for more information, a loving family had already committed to pursue his adoption. I can’t say we were too disappointed… we weren’t sure whether we were “up” for the challenge of HIV. But God was starting something in us.

Days later, I read on our agency’s blog that Sampson had died of malaria… a totally preventable and treatable disease in the U.S.

I sat in my living room and sobbed. We were not his parents, and my heart ached for those who had planned to be. While he was never meant to be ours, I could still picture that precious little face running through our kitchen. HIV was no longer a stigma in my mind. Heartbreaking, yes, but a game-changer for my love? Never again. Sampson’s face had beautifully wrecked that view in our minds.

I think God used Sampson’s precious face, life, and death to awaken many hearts like ours. I have seen his story on several blogs. In my own soul, I finally told God “yes” to special needs children.

In the months after Sampson's death, I wondered whether we should change our adoption route. As we thought about the implications of pursuing a child with HIV, we began the quest for information. I spoke with many mothers to HIV+ children. Brad and I met behind closed doors with doctors at the local infectious disease clinic. We read countless medical articles regarding the life and care of those with HIV.

In the next several days, I want to share with you some of the lessons that we learned.

Amelia does not have HIV. She is a perfectly healthy baby. When we started our adoption process, long before being matched with any particular child, and before seeing Sampson, we checked a literal “no” box in regards to HIV, and this "no" was attached to our home study, CIS approval, and Amelia's visa. By the time sweet Sampson caused us to reconsider this, it was nearly time to be matched to a child, and our adoption process had already stretched longer than we’d ever dreamed. Changing routes towards a special needs adoption would have extended our adoption wait even further.  Eventually, we decided to stay the course for a healthy adoption this time, and reconsider special needs for a later adoption.

Because we are not the parents to a child with HIV, we have the freedom to speak out for those who are.

We do not have a family member with HIV, but my heart burns with passion on the subject. And since no one in our family faces this disease, we are free to speak loudly where others may face stigma. I hope you will stay with me in the days that follow. You will probably be shocked, and hopefully empowered, by what you learn.

(Originally posted 8/30/2010)


Kara Chupp said...

Your girls are beautiful :)
And I appreciate your heart in this HIV series. We adopted twice and have some friends who did adopt a little one who is HIV +

RACHEL said...

I hope we can say we adopted twice before too many years go by! Thanks for stopping by. I'm going to check out your blog now...

jacqui said...

The thought of adopting has entered my mind many times, but never a child with HIV. Literally, I have never considered the number of children who have HIV that need parents.Thank you for raising awareness for this. I want to read through your series with a very open heart.

RACHEL said...

What a perfect comment! Truly, you made my day. What more could I hope for than someone prayerfully considering whether they can love a child with HIV, for the glory of God? I pray God soften all our hearts, and THANK YOU for stopping to write and say that you are open...

sarahkocischeilz said...

rachel -- with a heart for adoption, I read your blog with a heavy but hopeful heart. Thanks for sharing, friend, from your close perspective. Excited to read more.

Anonymous said...

I have to post anonymously because I do love 2 precious children who are orphaned-no-more and hiv+. They are my best friend's children and because of the possible stigma, all of us who know (there are very few) are careful to protect them. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you a million times over. My heart bursts with thankfulness that there are people speaking up for these children who need more people to say YES. It isn't scary and isn't hard. In fact when my friend had to travel to adopt her daughter, I kept her son at my house for 9 days. I treated his hiv by giving him his meds twice a day. And that was it. It really does keep the disease at bay and lets these kids live a long, happy, normal life. Again, THANK YOU!

Cameron said...

I love how God uses you and your blog to put his heart into words.

RACHEL said...

To the anonymous poster - THANK YOU for your comment! This is just another proof that MOMS ARE DOING THIS IMPORTANT and NOT ALL THAT HARD WORK! The stigma is the worst part. The rest is so much easier than almost any other parenting issue. Please, if you know an HIV+ child, comment on how their life is honestly! Let's expose the lie of the stigma!

Cameron... love you!

Deidre said...

Friend, you know I love this!! :) Loved it the first time you did it and so thankful you are posting it again.

Sweet Sampson touched so many people. I am so thankful that his memory is still alive and God is still using his life to change so many others. I think about him on a daily basis and my heart still wished he was home with us. Looking forward to seeing him in his healed body!!

Keep on spreading so many truths on your blog!! LOVE IT!

Lauren @ mercy(INK) said...

Hi Rachel: Thank you again for speaking truth! And thank you for linking up at - will be featuring your post tomorrow :) Hope you'll join in again this week.

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