Today’s story just might break your heart. If there’s one thing that we’ve learned throughout doing this series it is that even before we choose these sweet babies it seems they have already chosen us. So proud to know people like the Gainers who make the hard decisions for all the right reasons. We can’t wait until you get to hold little Daphne in your arms again!My name is Rachel, and I’m an adoptive mother of five–four on earth and one in heaven. I have three girls (ages 7 and 4 + my angel) and two boys (age 2). My boys are two months apart; they are my twins through adoption. All of my children have special stories, but today, I’ll just focus on our second child, Daphne.
Daphne was born on January 20, 2011, in Birmingham, Alabama, and immediately placed for adoption with an agency in Utah. Shortly after birth, she was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect that prevented blood from returning to her lungs to receive oxygen and resulted in a severely underdeveloped right ventricle—essentially leaving her with half a heart.
On Monday, January 24, our adoption agency contacted us about two situations. The first was a healthy baby girl in Virginia, and the second was Daphne. Will and I hadn’t planned on adopting a baby with special needs; in fact, when we learned about Daphne and her life-threatening heart defect, we felt terrified and inadequate. At first, we convinced ourselves that the healthy baby in Virginia was a safer, more logical choice, but we couldn’t forget about Daphne, and we knew she was meant for our family. We were afraid, but we were also confident we were making the right decision.
Two days later, I flew to Alabama so that I could be with Daphne for her first heart surgery. The first moment I saw her, she was sleeping peacefully in a clear, enclosed incubator. She weighed just 4 lb. 9 oz. and was 17 in. long. She was so tiny and beautiful. She captured my heart from the very first moment.
We spent every day in Alabama snuggling in a rocker, our mobility limited by various tubes and cords. Daphne was a calm, content baby, who cried only when she was hungry or angry about being poked and prodded by the nurses. She loved to be swaddled and wailed when she was unwrapped. She was a greedy and speedy eater, a rare blessing in a heart baby.
For the first two weeks of her life, Daphne’s cheeks and eyelids were so puffy that she couldn’t open her eyes all the way. When the swelling finally disappeared and she fully opened her eyes for the first time, she looked completely shocked by her surroundings. After a while, her eyes took on a more curious and questioning appearance. She seemed to be appraising and studying her world and the people in it. I loved those amazing eyes!
Daphne underwent her first heart surgery when she was two weeks old. When I saw her after surgery, she was swollen, sedated, and surrounded by cords and monitors. But she had made it, and I was filled with joy and peace.
After almost a month in Alabama, we took a commercial flight home. A few days after we arrived in Utah, Daphne began showing signs that her heart wasn’t circulating enough oxygen. She was admitted to Primary Children’s Medical Center for observation and tests. After a week, it was clear she wasn’t doing well, so the medical team decided to take her back into the operating room to redo her first surgery. But when the doctor arrived to deliver this news, he discovered that Daphne had made a miraculous recovery, and he decided to send her home without surgery.
We enjoyed two incredible weeks at home as a family. Our oldest daughter, Shelby, loved helping me take care of Daphne. She insisted on holding Daphne’s bottle during feedings and pushed my hand away if I tried to help. When Daphne fussed, she offered her a pacifier and whispered comforting words. Despite Daphne’s 50-foot oxygen cord and bulky pulse-ox monitor, Shelby loved her sister and did everything she could to make her feel comfortable in this world.
After two weeks, Daphne began to decline again, and she was readmitted to Primary Children’s. This was her last trip to the hospital. She passed away on March 18, 2011, just hours after her second heart surgery. Daphne’s life on earth lasted just 58 days, but she left an everlasting mark on our hearts.
After losing Daphne, I was afraid my heart would be closed for a very long time, that having more children might not be in my future. But just one month after Daphne passed away, my husband and I had the opportunity to adopt our third daughter, Phoebe. And less than two years later, I got the wonderfully crazy idea to adopt two babies back-to-back, and we welcomed two boys, Noah and Jaimen, into our home. Adoption has been a wonderful blessing in my life. But we have also faced our share of disappointment and heartache. I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned and for the joy we have discovered in the journey.