Antonio being in our family was a God thing from the very beginning. I stumbled upon his picture while doing research on the internet about children with special needs. I was grieving the death of Tim’s and my daughter, Faith Anne. I could not stop looking at his sweet face. I kept pulling it up again and again on my computer and finely just printed it off for me to keep close. Every time I looked at his picture I felt an exhale in my soul from the tension of sadness we had lived thru day and night for months. I showed his picture to Tim and Tim said to ask for his file.
God had been so good to us. He was there totally as we walked thru the hard days after Faith Anne’s passing. I never felt alone. I cried out why... I went through so many overwhelming emotions and questions flooded my mind till I felt physically sick. But… When I felt as if I could not breathe. God breathed for me. When I would wake up from sleep, and remember, and it would all rush over me again fresh. He held me. He reminded me to get up every day and be there for the ones that still needed me to at least act like I was ok. God is real and I can never explain how much He was ever present and always has been there thru our life. But especially, though our journey of adoption of children with special needs. He has never left us and is with us always to this very day.
I know…one can never replace a child, ever. No one could ever replace our precious first daughter Faith Anne. But when I saw Antonio’s picture it somehow started a healing process in my heart. An acceptance of all that happened and we had gone through. A time of taking small steps forward and not just going thru the motions of daily life. The days of me just getting up and doing the necessities of life and then climbing back into bed every time I had a chance to escape in sleep, were becoming less frequent.
We did receive his file and received the go-ahead to start visits. I remember the first time I saw him in person. Tim and I drove to Atlanta to DFCS for the first introduction. He was so much smaller than I thought he would be, so frail and tiny. I had never seen, in person, a child that was five years old and weighed just 24 pounds. I was a little afraid to hold him. He was very stiff from the Cerebral Palsy and just bones. I didn’t want to hurt him. But his foster mom just walked over and placed him in my lap. As I held him he talked away. He was just so precious from the very beginning. I had long hair and he kept feeling it saying that my hair was the most beautiful hair he had ever seen. Ok, that did it… I was putty in his hand. Tim and I were smitten. From that very first meeting…in our hearts, he was our son.
We went thru all of the visits, learned his medical history and his care. Also what to watch for if his shunt was failing, how to keep a check on his lungs and know when to give breathing treatments. It was not long and we were doing overnight visits and then he was home forever. Several months later the adoption was finalized and he was officially a Nichols!
When we received all of his paper work and history, at the time of adoption, I read thru it with great fervor. I wanted to know about the before. About his past before he came to us. I wanted to know every detail about the first five years of his little life. As I read, I was shocked. There was not one picture of the day he was born as a 23 week preemie. Not one mention of all he went through or record of how he celebrated his birthdays. The very earliest picture I have of him is his school picture taken just a few months before we first met him. His whole life history packet…even though it was a complete record because he was in care from birth…was only full of technical medical records. I was so sad over this. How can a child live for five years and no one snap one picture or take record of even once special day? I knew that for the rest of his life things were going to be done different. That even though he was in care his whole life and no one had taken one picture to put in his file. That even though no one had ever tried to adopt him, that OUR goal, was to see him happy and well cared for, for the rest of his life. Adopted, our son, loved and cherished and appreciated forever.
We have been so blessed by God to have him for our son. God knew what He was doing when he introduced me to his picture on an adoption website all those years ago.
Yes, his medical care has been extensive. Yes, his hospital stays have been many and at times lengthy. Yes, he has had hours upon hours of therapy. Yes, his daily care takes a lot of time. But those things have NEVER been regretted or a burden to us in anyway. If you could meet Antonio in person you would see. He is always smiling. He is always happy. He is always loving. He dishes out complements to everyone he meets. He asks to hug everyone. Anyone who meets Antonio, that takes the time to have a conversation with him, walks away a changed person and feeling totally blessed. He loves the Lord with all his heart and is content in all areas of his life. Even with the way his body is with his CP. Even when he is hurting or in pain. Even when he is facing another surgery. Antonio loves the Lord and never asks why me. He is a blessing and inspiration.
As I gave him his shower this morning and chatted away with him. I was in awe that he is 19 years old today. As he made a joke that I was the first one to diaper him and dress him as a 19 year old…all I felt was gratefulness. Grateful that God brought him to us. Grateful that God brought him through every life threatening illness, infection and surgery. Grateful and honored for all the prayers he prays for us all every day. Grateful to be able to care for his needs.
We all love Antonio so much. We all spoil him a bit and try to give him whatever he wants. Because his wants are so few and usually in them, is an angle to do for others as well.
Oh, God in heaven thank you for Antonio! Thank you for these 19 years he has lived!
And Antonio…I don’t think you will ever know how much you have meant to us and do mean to our family. May you have the happiest of birthdays today! Gods blessings be upon you now and every day for the rest of your life.
Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Love always and from the bottom of our hearts,
Dad, mom, Stephen, William, Carolyn, Zeke and Elizabeth