“I am lucky because I said a ‘scary yes,’ and stepped into God’s goodness,” says Heather Avis, author of the new book The Lucky Few. “I think that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, and getting to sit in these places where God has to be powerful, and where I am weak, has been such a gift.”
Four years after then-20-year-old Heather married her husband, Josh, the couple decided to begin trying for their first child. Heather was surprised when she didn’t immediately become pregnant, and after eight months of trying “the panic set in,” she says.
The day I won the lottery
Heather and Josh underwent three years of infertility testing and treatment, after which Heather experienced a “freak infection” from a particular test. When Heather’s OBGYN informed her that the damage done by the infection likely rendered her permanently infertile, and that IVF would be her only chance of having a biological child, Heather and Josh began considering adoption more seriously. “We have a strong moral conviction that life begins at conception, so IVF was not an option for us – although I hesitate to even talk about that because I truly understand the tender heart of a woman making that choice,” says Heather.
Although adoption was something Heather and Josh had talked about even before they were married, they had always counted on being able to have biological children first – especially given their youth and good health. “Even though we knew adoption was a good thing, we didn’t necessarily have a moral conviction about it. And, at first,” says Heather, “our decision to pursue adoption was purely about satisfying my desire to be a mother.”
So, determined to be parents, and with a desire to adopt a healthy infant, the couple went with a costly, private adoption agency. It was by chance – or divine intervention – that 10 months into the adoption process, Heather and Josh first heard about the little girl who would become their first daughter, Macyn.
“She wasn’t being offered to us – she had Down syndrome, a congenital heart defect, and a lung condition – so, it was literally through a passing conversation with our social worker that we first heard of her,” says Heather. “But, we left for a vacation in Greece, and all of our conversations kept going back to her.”
Heather says they kept coming up with reasons why they couldn’t adopt Macyn, but that “none of them (her health problems, her special needs) were good reasons for people who loved Jesus.” “So,” says Heather, “we found ourselves not wanting to say ‘yes,’ but knowing that ‘no’ was not the answer, and our big, final ‘yes’ was more of a weepy whisper.”
My son is so much more than Down syndrome
“It’s by God’s grace,” says Heather, “that none of Macyn’s health problems mattered to me once I became her mother.” The process of adopting Macyn transformed Heather’s heart to be “more like God’s,” and by the time of their second adoption, Heather says, “We had finally realized that God was going to give us the child He wanted us to have anyway, so why fight it? There are hundreds of thousands of children who need parents, and we are parents; those two pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly.” Heather and Josh now have three children via adoption: Macyn, another daughter named Truly, whom they adopted via the foster care system, and a son, August, who also has Down syndrome.
For many of us, the prospect of parenting a special needs child or a child from the foster care system can be daunting – even scary – no matter our pro-life convictions. But for Heather Avis and her husband, their three children are a reflection of Christ whom they feel privileged to parent.
“I believe that God lovingly placed an extra chromosome into each of my children with Down syndrome,” says Heather, “and there are so few people today who get to experience the joy of having people like them in their lives. They approach life with such courage and bravery, and they have a way of looking at the world I would have missed out on without them.” Heather believes that she and Josh are truly among “the lucky few” who get to see a special side of Christ’s face that’s sadly disappearing in our world today, where at least 90 percent of American children with Down syndrome are aborted, and where that percentage is closer to 100 percent in other countries.
Heather’s recently published book, The Lucky Few, chronicles the experience of growing her family via adoption, parenting children with special needs, and recognizing that it’s God’s plans for our lives that are best – even if those plans are hard and messy. The reviews on Amazon and GoodReads are overwhelmingly positive, and Heather thinks her honesty and frankness might have something to do with it. “I am real and raw to a fault. Who I am in the book is who I am in real life. And I don’t sugarcoat the hard things,” says Heather.
The last point is particularly true. For Heather and Josh – and surely for everyone who’s ever welcomed an adopted child into their home – the joy of adoption has not been without its share of tears, and she’s incredibly honest about that.
“But,” says Heather, “The best kind of love requires all of us, and it requires heartbreak and risk. After all, adoption starts in a broken place, and there is no way around that. But God doesn’t redeem things that are whole – He can only redeem things that are broken.”
To read more about Heather Avis and follow her family’s story and adventures, visit her web site.