The Road to CanaanCouple finds a miracle through adoption
When Leah Henson Milan was diagnosed with an infertility condition, having a baby was the furthest thing from her mind. At the time, she was a teenager spending her time in chorus and with friends at Pisgah High School.
Few people even knew that there was less than 1 percent chance that she would ever have a baby — little did she know that two babies would change her life forever.
Leah went on to college at North Greenville University where she dated the love of her life, Brandon Milan, whom she married in 2006. The two talked about traveling together and chasing their dreams.
"We were just trying to follow where God wanted us to go," Leah said. "We got married knowing that we would never have kids. We always knew that adoption would be a part of our story," Leah said.
Newly married and excited to be on their first adventure, the couple moved to Northern Manitoba, Canada, where Brandon was an associate pastor and youth leader. But in the midst of newlywed bliss, their lives changed drastically in the fall of 2009.
"I just started feeling funny and felt like I had lost my brain," Leah laughed. "I was just so tired all the time. Then I took a pregnancy test and it was positive."
Brandon bought several different tests just so he could keep seeing the little plus sign, she remembered.
"It was really exciting and for a few months we just felt complete bliss. We were just really happy. That in and of itself was a miracle. We just never thought that would happen," she said.
After reaching her second trimester, Leah was placed on bed rest and then went in for her first ultrasound a few weeks later. That's when the bad news came — doctors couldn't detect a heartbeat. They prepared the couple for a miscarriage within a couple of days.
However, they held onto hope that the baby would make it through.
"We had a lot of people praying and we felt like God had given us this miracle and surely nothing bad would happen," she said.
But just a week after the ultrasound Leah went into early labor.
"On this night in particular, I woke up and knew something was very wrong. I looked out the window and I could see the snow and I prayed and prayed," Leah said.
Shortly after, she gave birth to her tiny son in the bathroom with Brandon by her side .
"I'm really glad that Brandon and I got to hold our baby. He had fingernails and we touched his little hands," she said.
After going to the hospital, they found out what Leah had known all along — that she had given birth to a little boy, whom they named Cash. The doctors said he had likely stopped growing at 15 weeks and was born at 18. They called it a spontaneous abortion, a term that hurt Leah more than anything.
"It made it sound like he wasn't wanted and he was," she said.
The months that followed made up what Leah said was the "absolute worst and darkest time of my life."
"Honestly, I feel like we were kind of in a fog for years. I feel like we had good moments, but for the most part we were just existing and feeling hopeless," she said.
Though she misses Cash, she's now thankful that she was able to experience the happiness that pregnancy brings for those few months, which was a feeling she never thought she would know.
The couple moved to Haywood County in 2011, which began another life altering journey. At the time, adoption seemed like an impossible feat, but encouragement from family and friends, mostly those in their church family at The Vine of the Mountains, inspired them to go for it.
The adoption process wasn't easy and often felt like it might never happen. There was an intense home study followed by hours spent picking out potential birth mothers only to be turned down time and again.
"We really felt like we would like a child that other people might not want. There are a lot of unwanted children in the U.S. for adoption. Sometimes it's because they are biracial or have medical conditions. We were open to anything," Leah said.
Then there was the money — the couple knew that adopting would be expensive.
"For us the hardest part about adoption was just waiting and trying to raise and save money and figure out when a birth mother did say yes, how in the world we were going to pay for this," Leah said.
But when they began stressing over finances, one friend told the couple not to worry, "God has big pockets."
Of the nearly $25,000 it cost to adopt Canaan, almost $20,000 of it was raised and donated from friends and family with about $15,000 from people in Haywood County. The generosity and love for Canaan before he was even born was overwhelming to the couple, Leah said.
Finally, a birth mother chose the couple.
"We literally held hands and jumped around the living room for 20 minutes and we cried and screamed. It was very surreal and very exciting," Leah said.
Right away they learned that the biracial baby would be born addicted to methadone because of the mother's substance abuse problems. They also knew he had a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, for which he would likely need heart surgery.
But that didn't deter the couple — they knew that this was their child.
"It wasn't so much that we wanted to save a child. It was pure and simple that we just wanted to be parents and it didn't matter what might have been 'wrong' with him," she said.
Canaan was born March 22, 2013 via a scheduled C-Section because of his heart condition. Leah was allowed to cut the umbilical cord and hold him briefly before he was whisked away to the NICU.
But his birth meant new hurdles to overcome. After a week, Canaan's health took a turn for the worse and he underwent three heart surgeries before he was 3-weeks old. The couple stayed in Florida for five weeks before they were able to bring him home, where he then was forced to go through withdrawal symptoms.
"I think the hardest thing we had to do was get him completely weaned off the drugs. It was just days and hours of screaming and there was nothing we could do. Then he started smiling and laughing a little bit. It was like he just woke up one day and he was happy and himself," Leah said.
Canaan underwent another surgery in October to help with blood flow to his heart, but after all he has been through, he is expected to live a normal life.
At only 9 months, Canaan's dark skin, big brown eyes and sweet smile are enough to melt anyone's heart.
"His life has not been easy, but you would never know it because he is so happy," she said. "We are so lucky that we get to be his parents. All that we went through doesn't seem like anything if at the end of the day we get this guy."
The couple still thinks of Cash every day, who would now be 3-and-a-half now. On his birthday this year, Leah wrote in her blog, "Cash, we will never be the same because of you…I am going to make sure that we remember, that we make the world a better place because of you. And that more than anything else, we fight for joy. The Lord is faithful and gives good gifts. He gives and takes away, but is always faithful to bring joy with the morning."
Now, Leah says it's impossible for her little family to imagine moving away from Haywood County again.
"We tell everybody that he is the community baby because we all have an investment in him, and I love that people want to be part of his life," she said. "The biggest miracle out of all of this is all the people who have been so supportive. That just makes you believe in people again."