‘We finally got the call. This baby was due in 2 months, and she had a heart defect that would require open-heart surgery. The second I saw her little face, I fell to the ground.’

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“Our story started long ago, when I was about 12 years old. That was when I realized that my future would look different than other people. That is when I knew I would someday adopt a baby with Down syndrome. Fast-forward to 18-year-old me, meeting the love of my life. When I met Kevin, we quickly fell for each other. Right away, I told him not to fall in love with me unless he wanted to pursue that for our future family. I am one lucky lady. That amazing man of mine not only fell in with me, he fell in love with our daughter with Down syndrome we hadn’t met yet.

Husband and wife smile in selfie
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke

After being married 4 years, we decided it was time for us to start our family. As soon as we had decided it was time, I started making phone calls. A week later we were starting our home study and doing everything we could to get on the waitlist with the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network quickly. But adoption paperwork doesn’t work like that. After waiting to get on the list and then waiting to be matched, we named our baby Millie and fell more in love with her every day we waited.

We finally got the call. I won’t ever forget that phone call. I sat in my car and wrote as many details as I could, which was only about five things. This baby was due in two months; we would be one of 3 families being reviewed for this sweet little girl, and they told me she had a heart defect that would require open-heart surgery.

We wanted this to be our baby so badly. We prayed for this little girl. We prayed for her birth family. We prayed for our empty arms to be filled. We prayed and we waited. Then we found out that we were selected to be her momma and daddy. We met birth family and happily agreed to an open adoption with them.

Two months later birth mom texted me that she was in labor. We jumped in the car and drove 8 hours to get there as quickly as we could. When we were three hours away our sweet baby girl was born. Birth family was there to love her and cover her in hugs and kisses until we got there.

Finally we were there. Finally I was a mom. Finally I got to meet my baby. She was in the NICU so only two people could go back to see her at a time. The first time I met her, birth mom and I went back together. I will never forget it. The second I saw her little face, I fell to the ground. I couldn’t contain my joy. She had to stay in the NICU for a few weeks, so we stayed by her side in a different state than our home. We spent as much time with her as possible and bonded with birth family in a way I never expected. Those weeks were beautiful.

Newborn girl laying on back in NICU who needs open heart surgery
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke
Mother sits in chair in NICU holding baby who needs open heart surgery while husband squats beside her
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke

After she was discharged we were able to finally take her home. Take her to the house that she would grow in, that we would bond in. Millie was home. I was finally a mom. I was her mom, the greatest honor. I wish I could put into writing the beauty that time in our life held. I don’t think there are words to express how wonderful it was to become a family of 3.

Pregnant woman stands outside holding stomach beside husband who holds daughter with down syndrome
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke

After being home for a few short weeks, we realized that Millie wasn’t gaining weight. We were sent to the children’s hospital closest to us. Millie was monitored and finally it was decided that she would get a NG feeding tube. At that time we were hopeful that Millie wouldn’t need that long. But 3 years later, after upgrading to a Gtube, Millie is still tube fed.

When Millie was 4 months old, it was time for her to have the open-heart surgery she required to live a long, healthy life. I tried my hardest to prepare my heart for that, but there is no way to be fully prepared. On Dec 8, 2015, I handed my tiny daughter off to a nurse, watched her walk away and prayed. We sat in a waiting room for almost 5 hours with few updates along the way.

After what felt like eternity, I was reunited with my daughter. Seeing her after surgery is an image I won’t forget. Though it broke my heart to see her like that, I was able to see just how strong she is. I was able to witness the sovereignty of Christ.  He is and always will be the one who holds her heart.

Baby lays in hospital holding parent's finger after having open heart surgery
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke

Just as we were thinking that we would be spending our first Christmas with our baby in the hospital, we were finally discharged on Christmas Eve. We were free.

With her big surgery behind us and only her feeding tube to worry about, we were able to get into a beautiful rhythm of life. We traveled together. We worked hard with Millie on the new skills she was learning. She over and over again impressed us with her development. She has always been a fighter. She is strong. She is able. That tiny girl was (and always will be) my sidekick. We took on the world together.

Mother smiles in selfie while she holds daughter with down syndrome
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke
Little girl with down syndrome smiles for school picture
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke

We were ready to grow our family. And with adoption as the foundation for our family, and my husband’s persistence, we decided to try for a biological baby. Honestly, I wasn’t certain we would have a biological baby. I had it in my head that we would try, realize that we didn’t want to wait and adopt another sweet babe. Two months later, I was pregnant. When I took the test I thought my husband bought trick tests. I couldn’t believe it. When they told us it was a girl, my husband thought that was a trick.

We were all thrilled. As my belly grew, Millie fell in love with her sister more and more. After a LONG 41-week pregnancy, our sweet Josie was born. Seeing her face flooded me with the same feeling of seeing Millie for the first time. This new baby was also mine. Somehow, by God’s grace, I was blessed with yet again another perfect baby girl.

Mother smiles in hospital bed with newborn in her arm beside husband in selfie
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke

I had been nervous that Millie wasn’t going to understand that her sister was born. I didn’t know if she would get that the baby I was holding is her sister, and that my belly was still big because postpartum is the worst! But when Millie came to the hospital to meet her little sister, she pointed to my belly and said ‘no.’ Then she pointed to Josie and said ‘yes.’

Mother smiles in selfie with newborn and daughter with down syndrome
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke

Yes. A simple word but so powerful. It’s the word that made my family what it is. Yes made my family this beautiful mess of people. Saying yes brought two of the most amazing humans I have even met into our life. Saying yes made our marriage stronger and our family bond. Now I get to continue to tell people, ‘yes, they are sisters,’ ‘yes adoption started our family,’ ‘yes, we go on trips with birth family and love them as our family’ and ‘yes, we would do it all again.’

Little girl with down syndrome lays in crib with little sister holding her hand and book
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke
Baby girl lays on her stomach smiling while her older sister with down syndrome sits smiling beside her
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke

I love our family story. I love that DNA or number of chromosomes doesn’t change anything. My girls don’t have the same eyes. My oldest looks just like her birth sister and my baby looks just like her daddy. But when I look at them all I see is perfection. It is amazing to how two different paths brought me to the same place, motherhood. I can’t wait to see what the next yes is for our family.”

Mother smiles outside holding her baby daughter beside husband who has daughter with down syndrome on his shoulders
Courtesy of Bekah Behnke

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bekah Behnke of Missouri. You can follow their adoption journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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