We are honored to be able to share Ivy’s story with you. We would especially like to thank Mary and Bryan S., Ivy’s parents, for not only opening their own hearts to a child with complex CHD, but also for their willingness to share their precious Ivy with us. Thank you, Mary, for your beautiful words¦
Honoring our Hero,
For those of you who are new to our story, our precious Ivy Joy went home to Jesus on March 20, 2017. Ivy had a complex heart defect with many complications and many miracles to follow. She came home at 21 months, unrepaired and very sick, but more importantly, incredibly wanted and incredibly loved. She would undergo 5 open heart surgeries in 10 months, have set back after set back, and miracle after miracle. She just never stopped fighting and she never stopped smiling. Friends, when our girl could have said, ‘why me?’, she said, ‘How blessed am I?’ Honestly, she never ever complained or felt sorry for herself. She woke up every morning, choosing JOY in spite of her circumstances. She is such a special child and she knew it, boy did she know it!!!! I know our girl is alive in heaven, singing with the angels, dancing with all the other precious children whose mommies and daddies also had to say goodbye for now, all too soon.
When I left for China to bring our precious 5-year-old daughter Charlotte home, my biggest fear was that my plane might crash and Ivy would no longer have me to mix her medicines, remember all the right snacks to take with us for her ongoing cardiology appointments, or care for her the way I do. I prepared the girls Easter baskets before I left, telling our older daughter where they were in case anything happened to me. The last thing on my mind was the thought of me, having to learn live life without Ivy.
On March 20, 2017, just hours after meeting Charlotte in China, our baby girl, the light of our lives, took her last breath at home and took her very first breath in heaven. Our lives were turned upside down in one second and I am here to tell you, we continue choosing joy because she taught us how. So, we continue to strive each day to make her proud of us as we count the days till we see her and hold her again. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t like it, but she taught me well and Jesus made a way for us to be together again so I have so much to be thankful for. He never promised she’d make it past her first surgery, but she did. I vowed to Him the day she came out of her first open heart surgery on ECMO that if He took her home that night, I’d still praise Him, I’d still thank Him, for the blessing of being her mommy even for just a few months. Well, with miracle after miracle, Ivy did come home. And we snuggled and giggled and grew and laughed and loved and learned so much from her for 5 precious years. Oh how I miss every single thing about her. It is new grief every single day and new mercies get us through every single morning.
I traveled to China on March 18th for a March 20th gotcha day. I was so very blessed to have had a friend traveling with me on this trip. And I will never forget just laying on my bed, screaming out in pain and agony and complete brokenness. She came to me, so completely broken and scared and worried and she said, ‘honey, what do you want to do? whatever you want, however you want to go about it, no one will judge you, everyone will understand that there is no wrong or right here.’
And without even having to think, with the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of all the modeling by example Ivy Joy had done for me over the 5 years I was blessed to have her on earth, I answered.
I said, ‘Kim, Charlotte waited 5 years to have a family, she did nothing wrong, and there is no way that Ivy would have any part of me leaving her in China. I am Charlotte’s mom as much as I am Ivy’s. And what I want is to get home to my family as fast as anyone could ever fathom, with Charlotte holding my hand. I want God to move mountains for me to get home tomorrow, so I can grieve with my family and see my baby for the last time, even if it’s just her shell.’
And so, with my friend’s non-stop work, and with the efforts and kind hearts of both the Chinese and American consulate, and the constant help and support of Madison Adoption Associates, Charlotte and I made history and finalized her adoption the next morning, and came home. My poor girl was so confused and scared watching this new mommy of hers cry so much. And it got even more frightening when we arrived to a group of 8 more people crying and grieving. But she was grieving too, so we quickly bonded, as we all understood what loss felt like. The beauty of our grief was that we had each other to grieve with and at that moment, it was the only thing that mattered.
February is such an important month in our home! February is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness month and February is the month that we adopted Ivy and she became our beloved daughter! We met on February 13th (her gothcha) and on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, we signed all the China documents that made it official. How perfect that her family day was on Valentine’s Day!!!
I will end this with a testimony of the gift our daughter was to us. If I had a chance to do life over, with this same scenario and this same outcome, I would have my hands in the air with the biggest YES just to be her mommy for however long God gave me! YES it was worth it, YES it was hard, YES it is hard, and YES life is so much better because she was in it. Easy is just that, easy. Easy would have meant that there was no Ivy Joy. No being Ivy’s family. We know that true joy is chosen. It is searched for and chosen. We give thanks for so much more than just things that can be seen. We have experienced the richness of life, we have seen miracles, and we have watched doctors scratch their heads as Ivy recovered from things that she was not expected.
We have seen heartache that we wish NO ONE would ever have to experience. Every moment, every high and every low, was so worth it!
Reading the file of a child with heart defects is scary stuff, it’s not for the faint at heart, it comes with no promises. But behind that file, is just a little child who needs a family! We had no idea how much we needed Ivy, but it was certainly more than she needed us. Our YES was hard; but with our YES came unspeakable joy!
Don’t let HARD scare you. Hard teaches, hard grows us, hard matures us, and hard causes us to reach out for the only hand that will always be there for us, today, tomorrow, yesterday, and infinitely.
With Love and Joy,
MAA is humbled to offer the ‘For Ivy’ $1,000 grant to families adopting any child with complex CHD. And while we are featuring Ivy’s story in February in honor of Heart Awareness month, we are happy to offer this grant year-round, as we stand by all children with CHD like Ivy, and strive to get them all home as soon as possible. To meet some of the children we are advocating for with complex CHD, please visit our website.
If you are not in a position to adopt, but would still like to help bring these children home, please consider donating to the For Ivy grant so that we can offer this grant for years to come!