The Life I Waited For Arrived In A Different Way

April 5, 2011
Written by Rachel Garlinghouse in
All About Family
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Love trancends race and ethnicity

I once had a plan for my life. It started with marrying my boyfriend (now husband). We’d have a townhouse full of monogrammed towels, china, and framed wedding photos. I would go to graduate school, get a job teaching, and my husband and I would take numerous beach vacations along the way. After a few years, we would buy a house and then have children. Our life would be perfect.

Some of my dreams came true. After our wedding, we moved into a townhouse full of nice things. I did go to graduate school and moved into a teaching position at a local university. We took beach vacations and purchased our first home. However, that’s when our plans took a detour.

I was 24-years-old when a trip to the emergency room changed my life forever. After a slew of tests and exams, I learned I had Type I Diabetes before they carted me off to the intensive care unit for a five-day hospital stay. My body had stopped making insulin, a life-sustaining hormone, and without insulin, I would die.

I remember being curled up in an angry ball in my hospital bed, listening to the diabetes nurse educator attempt to kindly inform me on the intricacies of diabetes management, when she broached a subject that was dear to my heart, children. “Do you and your husband plan on having kids?” She asked me. We both said yes. She said, “You still can.” And immediately, the word “adoption” popped into my mind.

After many heart-to-heart discussions, a lot of research on the pros and cons of carrying a child while being diabetic, and an informational meeting at an adoption agency, we decided that adoption was the best option for us. Pregnancy could be very dangerous for both a mother and the unborn child. That was a risk we weren’t willing to take. So, we began by filling out the paperwork, scheduling interviews, and getting fingerprinted and writing checks.

We waited 14 months for our first child, an African-American baby girl whom we named Andriella. Two years later, we decided to complete another home study with an adoption agency, and on our very first day of waiting, we were surprised to learn we had been chosen to parent another African-American baby girl.

When out in public, we often get looks for various reasons — perhaps because I’m testing my blood sugar or injecting a medication, or because we have two babies close in age, or because our children are black and we are white. We have quite a story to share with strangers who give us a double take and then often ask, “Are those your kids?”

There is nothing glamorous about a life with a chronic disease. I have to wear comfortable shoes to accommodate my nerve-damaged feet. Syringes and vials are common objects found on my kitchen countertop and in my purse. I see about eight doctors every year, check my feet daily for any abnormalities, and have to quickly chew up glucose tablets to bring up a low blood sugar.

My diabetes is constant, demanding, and at times, incredibly frustrating. However, at the end of the day, I know that without my disease, we wouldn’t have chosen adoption, and without adoption, we wouldn’t have our beautiful baby girls. And without our girls…well, I cannot imagine a life without them. I love this quote from Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Every time I feel Andriella’s arms wrap around my neck, or I plant a tender kiss on my infant’s cheek, I know I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

All About Family