When Jade and David Presnell felt called to adopt an older boy with Down syndrome, they learned to overcome their fears — and let love win.
Sometimes, all it takes is a sleepless night scrolling through social media to change your life forever.
Well, at least that’s how it happened for us.
I had been following the Facebook page of Reece’s Rainbow — an advocacy organization dedicated to finding families for children with Down syndrome and other special needs — for many years. I always felt drawn to these children, largely because of my work as a behavioral clinician supporting adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Occasionally, I would check their waiting child photolisting and scroll through photos of amazing, resilient children waiting to be united with their forever families.
One random night in July when sleep was hard to come by, I scrolled through the photolisting and felt “something” when I saw the picture of an adorable Chinese boy wearing a yellow T-shirt, denim shorts and a large, mischievous grin. Though still gawking over his cuteness, I ignored that “something,” shut off my phone and went to bed.
Except when I woke up the next morning, that “something” came back. So I returned to the photolisting and took a screen shot of his picture. Not knowing why or for what reason.
For the next two weeks, I found myself looking at that photo daily. Unbeknownst to my husband, David, I would cry every morning while getting ready — thinking of this precious boy, Micah, with the mischievous grin, and of all the other precious children in China waiting to find the security and love of a family. THEIR very OWN family.
When people say that God “calls” them to do something, I always imagined it to be a gentle nudge — a sweet, tender hand on the shoulder urging you forward, steady and loving. But for us, it felt a little more uncertain and unsettling — scary even.
We questioned if we were ready to be parents, how our families would respond to our decision, could we come up with the necessary funding, and whether we were truly capable of providing the best possible life for an adopted child, particularly one with unique needs. To be transparent, adoption had come up occasionally over the years, but we had never sat down and had a real discussion about it.
But the more we prayed and opened our hearts to this child, the more we knew that we could not ignore this part of God’s plan for us. We pushed aside our fears, worries and uncertainties and moved forward in trust and faith.
It was the best decision we ever made.
Fast forward and our sweet son, Micah, has been a part of our family for five months now and it has been the most incredible adventure! Micah is so full of light and love. He has changed our lives for the better and the hearts of all of those who know him. He is incredibly loved by our families and friends. He is full of joy and laughter. He works hard and loves to help others. Micah is a warrior, a comedian, a helper, an empath, a learner, a mover and a lover of all.
“When we think about Micah’s future, we feel an incredible sense of excitement for what is to come and the successes and joys that he will experience.”
He is truly our most precious gift. He also just happens to have an extra chromosome! Down Syndrome is an integral part of who Micah is, but it’s not the whole part. Every day, his strength, capabilities and resiliency shine bright. And at the end of the day, he’s just like any other 5-year-old kid — strong-willed and fighting for just a few more minutes of his favorite show before bedtime.
In hindsight, the seed for special needs adoption had been planted years earlier. Investing our lives and careers in education (David) and mental health (me) has naturally led us to have hearts for service, but most importantly people.
Special needs adoption just seemed to be a natural extension of all the things we valued and worked so hard to advocate for in our community — human worth and dignity, respect for all people, social justice, human rights, and the importance and value of relationships. And when the timing was right, that seed sprouted and our special needs adoption journey unfolded.
It doesn’t take an extraordinary person or people to adopt. It just takes love, perseverance and patience — like ALL great things. I am thankful for a God whose plan is bigger, better and more incredible than anything we could ever imagine. Adoption is so special, but it doesn’t take special people to adopt — only imperfect, faith-filled people who are willing to take a chance at something magical.
We strongly encourage other families to not shy away from special needs adoption! What you don’t know or understand, you will learn. What skills you lack, you will gain. What fears you have will be erased when you pray and seek the support of others, especially those who have made a similar journey. In fact, our support system has grown tenfold since we brought our son home.
God will provide in the most miraculous ways. He will bring in the funds to you through amazing family, friends, agency grants, fundraisers and even complete strangers. Most importantly, please remember that ALL of the scary stuff will fade away the day you meet your child and look into their eyes for the first time.
Without hesitation, growing our family through adoption has been the most incredible journey of our lives. Our faith has been strengthened in so many ways. There is not a day that goes by that we do not feel humbled and grateful for the people that loved so big on us as we worked to bring our son home — and that still do today.
There is also not a day that goes by that we are not in awe of our son. He began attending preschool for the first time in November at 5 years old and is thriving. He loves to learn and have fun with his friends. He is saying some short English phrases and loves to sing and dance. He loves his family and showers his “mama” and “dada” with hugs and kisses daily.
When we think about Micah’s future, we feel an incredible sense of excitement for what is to come and the successes and joys that he will experience. Those with Down syndrome continue to break barriers and demonstrate limitless capabilities in the areas of relationship-building, education, employment and independent living.
These individuals are challenging the status quo and changing how we understand “disability.” They are integral to their families and communities, and continue to contribute to the world in meaningful ways. They are showing that they have nothing to prove, that they are valuable and worthy just as they are. And we continue to celebrate that Micah is valuable and worthy just the way he is.
At the end of the day, when we tuck our son into bed under an animal print quilt that was specially made for him when we were still waiting to meet him, we are so thankful that we allowed love — and not fear — to win. Thankful that our son, so fearfully and wonderfully created, finally made it home to us, his forever family.