National Adoption Day 2015 – My Starfish

I didn't rescue her, she rescued me. She is my starfish and I am hers. This National Adoption Day we soak up our time together, knowing it is just a season.

I always hope that I’m going to have something inspirational ready to post on National Adoption Day, but here it is, and I don’t know what to say this year except being an adoptive mom makes me .  .  .

a mom, maybe not the same kind of mom as someone else, but the one I was meant to be.

Having a biological child was never possible for me, and I’ve grieved that loss. Yet, I realize now, that if I had, I wouldn’t have the daughter I do today. And she is perfect, sometimes perfectly rotten, perfectly loud, a perfect disaster, but my perfect starfish child.

Sometimes, raising just this one child feels like a drop in the bucket compared to the millions hurting in this world. But God didn’t ask me to save the world, He asked me to raise this child, and I’m reminded of the starfish story, the one about the little girl throwing stranded starfish back into the ocean. She couldn’t save them all, but she didn’t stop trying because her efforts mattered to ‘this one’.I didn't rescue her, she rescued me. She is my starfish and I am hers. This National Adoption Day we soak up our time together, knowing it is just a season.

Sometimes, I hear my daughter say “Mommy” and it sounds false, too good to be true, too fragile with all the extra dynamics of adoption and biology and legality.

But it is true. For today, I am her mom, her only mom. I guess that is what I wanted to say. She is mine. We are really family. Sometimes though, I think we forget our real place in the equation, when we talk about our kids being ours.

I have had to share all my children. My three children from my previous marriage called me mom, but we shared custody. We share my two current stepsons with their mother and stepdad. Now, we share this child with a biological family that may someday be in her life, and with God who adopted her before we did.

Sharing children is difficult and challenging for all sorts of reasons, but entirely beautiful because I’ve learned that these children are mine only in the sense that I’ve been put into their lives for a time, and what I do with that time is mine to claim responsibility over.

For me, the fact that she is only mine through God’s plan has made a huge difference in my parenting. I’m only borrowing her. God plucked her off the beach into my hand for a season. I’ve been given this window to reach into her life and be her mom. That’s it. Temporary.

When people tell me how lucky she is to have me as her mom I feel like a fraud. Don’t they know how selfishly I wanted to be a mom? She didn’t just fall into my lap. It was hours of copying paperwork, weeks of gathering documents, months of preparing our home for a study and a baby we might never get, years of saving money, and decades waiting to be a mom.

Even the starfish allusion, implies that I’m somehow saving her, but like to think we’re part of saving each other. I like it because it reminds me how powerfully one life can matter to another, how much responsibility I’ve been graciously given. She changed me. Watching her relate to me made me see myself in relation to God so clearly.

And just like that, I’m like every other mother, nothing about being a mother was what I expected. I didn’t expect to love this much. I didn’t expect it would change me this much. I didn’t expect that being a mom would break my heart into a million pieces daily and yet be what my heart beats for. I really didn’t expect how mothering would bring me to the feet of the Father.

I’m so thankful I’m His adopted starfish, as she is mine.

World’s Biggest Birthday Bash

And YOU are invited to be part of the celebration! turning this day into one of joy.

“Birthdays should be joyful occasions when parents celebrate the accomplishments their children have made in the past year, often talking of how they’re “growing up too fast”.  For us, that’s not the case. For our family, each birthday is a painful reminder of the decline we will continue to see if something doesn’t happen soon. Turning 5 years old should not be so bittersweet, and I know come November 16th, the tears will flow. We made it a point early on not to cry in front of our children, especially Eliza’s big brother, but it has become more difficult.  Emotions hit you when they hit you.  My son asks me “Dad, are they happy tears?”  “Yes, they are buddy” is all I can bring myself to tell him.

This is a pivotal time in the life of most children with Sanfilippo, and Eliza is just over the top of her roller coaster, which is starting down. It’s unfortunate, but we can halt it and soon.” – Glenn O’Neill

Have you ever saved someone’s life?

Most of us outside of the medical or military professions would probably say no. Can you imagine being an integral part in saving not just one life, but ending an entire disease? This Sunday, November 16 you could literally save lives by joining in the world’s biggest birthday bash for Eliza.


How can you join this birthday party? Go to the Facebook Event page , select “Going.” Go to and donate. Then invite all of your Facebook friends to the party.

As of today, in order to fund the trial for this gene therapy, we need around 5,000 people to donate $100 which will put the Sanfilippo foundation at the dollar goal necessary to get this trial started on time to potentially make a difference in Eliza’s life and the lives of all the children living with this disease world-wide, approximately 1 in 70,000 births.

Why should you join? I could wax eloquent and have in my posts The Last 365 and Too Late, but I don’t think I could say it better than her father, so I’ve shared his excerpted letter.

This is Eliza’s Father Glenn. I’m writing, first and foremost, because I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for your support this past year. You have been an integral part of saving my daughter’s life, and our family can never express how grateful we are that you would help us to stop Sanfilippo Syndrome and save Eliza.

Together, we’ve come so far, and your support has been humbling. But now, well over a year into our journey to try and give Eliza a chance at life, we as a family are exhausted. It is a grueling process, putting your family’s struggles out into the public in hopes of saving your child’s life. But we won’t give up.

If you’ve been following our journey, we know YOU are probably tired as well. Tired of our campaigns and requests. And so we’re hoping to reach our goal and finish this struggle once and for all with one final push: one day, the remaining $600,000, and a chance at life for Eliza. Allow me to explain.

We live on hope, but as my wife said in the SavingEliza video, “Hope is a nice word, but we need action.” Well you’ve shown us action.

We plan to raise the remaining $600,000 as her birthday gift, on this one day at  With more than 30,000 unique supporters, it not only ‘can’ happen, it will. It is ambitious, but you have already made us believers in the impossible. You’ve made us believe in happier birthdays in her future. We can see it. It’s no longer a far-flung hope, but a very real possibility: a 10th birthday, an 18th, and a 30th. Christmas mornings and Prom dates and arguments with her parents who “don’t understand her” all seem so possible now.

To reach this goal, on November 16th, we’d need 6,000 supporters at the $100 birthday gift level, or 12,000 at the $50 gift level. This will be our ONLY donation request to you this year, as it must happen now. If you were planning to give again later in the year, please do so on Nov 16th. This request is to you. Her chance at a real future is one $600,000 birthday away..curing this disease within reach and in time for Eliza.  Will you be able to give this birthday gift of $50 or $100?

What better way to end the campaign than to complete the funding on Eliza’s 5th birthday?

I always struggle with how to thank someone that has literally helped save my child’s life… Words aren’t enough, and I don’t know what sort of actions would be sufficient. I feel you’d want us to thank you by simply holding her, hugging her, loving her, and making sure we are doing everything in our power to save her. I can assure you that we are, and we will.

Thank you with everything that I am, Glenn O’Neill (Eliza’s Dad)

I ask you, Heaven Not Harvard reader, to share this post, share this Facebook party, invite your friends. Get ten friends together, have a party and donate on November 16th. Help us further this crucial research that may give Eliza a chance at many, many more birthdays, something all little girls deserve.

LIKE, SHARE, spread this one last campaign. #1Day1Goal #SavingEliza