- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

WETUMPKA, Ala. (AP) - Cory and Whittney tried.

The Burdettes tried for five years to have a child, to the point that they experienced every emotion possible multiple times.

From anger to hope, to eventually - eventually - giving up control. They let go of their own hope, their own dreams, and instead turned their desires to their faith. And once that happened, things moved fast.

A 2 pound, 5 ounce boy named Grayson entered their lives and unraveled all the plans they had. Born at 28 weeks, the premature baby was up for adoption in Birmingham. This was not the route the Burdettes had mapped out in their lives.

“A lot of times as Christians, we say it: ‘God has a plan for our life,’” Cory Burdette said. “You just spit it out without thinking about it.

“But then you go through something like this, and you think, ‘He really does.’ And it may not be the way you had it pictured, or your timing. Or you may have to wait longer, or you may not even know what the plan is. But he does. And if you’re patient and put your trust in him … I mean, it’s amazing what will come out of it. And (Grayson) is proof of it. It’s really been incredible.”

The Burdettes

Married for seven years, Whittney Burdette said she was born to be a mother.

She and her husband are both the oldest of three children in their respective families, and it became hard to understand why it seemed everyone around them was having children and they were not. After trying for five years to conceive, they were introduced to adoption and fostering, and went through the Elmore County Department of Human Resources to start that process.

On any given day, more than 415,000 children are living in the U.S. foster care system and the number has been rising. Nearly 108,000 of these children are eligible for adoption and they will wait, on average, four years for an adoptive family, according to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

And while there are no national numbers of parents waiting to adopt, the figure could sit between 1 million and 2 million couples, according to the National Committee for Adoption.

Through the adoption process, the Burdettes underwent home studies, attended classes, had criminal background checks, disclosed financial statements and devised an evacuation plan.

And not long after they had submitted everything they needed to possibly foster or adopt from Elmore County, Whittney Burdette learned from a family member about a premature baby who was brought to UAB. Burdette was given the phone number to the adoption attorney handling the case.

She called, and was asked to email a biography of her and her husband, pictures of their home and of each other.

This was not their plan.

But later that afternoon, of the seven families the birth parents looked at, the Burdettes learned they were one of the top two parents chosen.

They met the birth parents the following day. Grayson was only 1 day old. And 15 inches long.

“Over five years, you go through every emotion possible wanting to start a family,” Whittney Burdette said. “But once we actually turned it over all to God, he just laid it all out.”

Days after meeting Grayson’s biological parents, they received the news they had been wanting to hear for years: a child was entering their lives.

“I lost it,” Burdette said. “Completely lost it. I looked at (Cory) and said, ‘We’re going to be parents. We’re going to be parents.

“I went through a spot where I was really mad at God,” she said of being unable to conceive. “Really, really mad. I didn’t think he was hearing me. And the more we pressed on, the harder it got. ?But a couple of years ago, we decided for real, let’s be serious. Let’s give it to him. There was nothing else we could do. We’ve been through all this stuff, and we tried to do it without his help, and we need his help.”

Through their trials and days of waiting, Burdette found Psalm 55:22: Cast all your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you.

“I live by that now,” she said. “Because it could not be more true. Once we did that, I felt just lighter. We constantly prayed. Constantly said, ‘Whatever you put in our path, we’ll do it.’ That’s when the foster/adoption route was presented. It just landed in front of us. We just felt led to do it. And he has been with us every step of the way.”

Grayson’s progress

Grayson Fisher Burdette was born on Aug. 6.

His biological parents, the Burdettes said, had plans to place him up for adoption before he was born prematurely. On a Friday - just seven days after Grayson’s birth - Cory and Whittney were given the news they were chosen to adopt their new baby. And three days later, they signed guardianship papers.

“The birth parents said goodbye, and we moved in,” Whittney Burdette said of both Grayson’s life and the NICU at UAB. “We’ve been with him since he was a week old.”

The decision in caring for the baby came with 83 days in the NICU. It came with bringing him home after nine weeks. And it came with a countdown of Grayson’s weight gain on social media.

“To go from 2 pounds, 2 ounces, nothing but skin and bones … so fragile and helpless to a big ole chunk that he is now, I don’t know how someone could not believe that God exists,” Cory Burdette said.

Born 2 pounds and 5 ounces, he dropped to 2 pounds, 2 ounces within a few days.

On Aug. 29, he weighed 2 pounds, 9.6 ounces, and just a few days later on Sept. 2, weighed 2 pounds, 14 ounces.

On Sept. 17, the family announced he weighed 4 pounds.

Every pound, and every ounce, was celebrated with family and friends.

At 2 months old, he weighed 5 pounds, 7.3 ounces.

On Oct. 9, he weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces.

And on Oct. 18, Grayson weighed almost 6.5 pounds.

The Burdettes were told that Grayson would be at normal functionality by the time he is 2 years old. The now 6-month-old lived with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) for about two weeks in the NICU, and before being able to leave the hospital, they were waiting on “desats,” or desaturation numbers to remain stable.

“It’s the oxygen level percentage in his blood,” Cory Burdette said. “They didn’t want it to drop below his threshold.”

Where an adult threshold sits at between 95 and 100, Grayson’s was set at 88. He had to go five days with no desaturation and no heart rate drop.

“That was the biggest thing we were waiting on,” Burdette said.

Living at home

Today Grayson wears a nasal cannula and is on oxygen because “when you intubate a baby, it damages lung tissue,” Cory Burdette said. “And their lung tissue as a child can create new healthy lung tissue for up to two years. So as he’s getting new healthy lung tissue to overcome that, he just needs to be on oxygen for a little bit.”

His parents will visit his doctor next week to see when he can take it out.

It has been a long road, but today at 6 months, Grayson weighs 18 pounds. And this past week? He slept for eight hours straight for the first time.

Walking into the house for the first time with Grayson after leaving the hospital brought small nerves.

“Because it’s not like we’re in a regular newborn home,” Cory Burdette said. “You bring equipment home … he’s still hooked up to the monitor. It’s like a mini hospital room. But once you get over those first few days … we had already had so much experience.”

Some days, Whittney Burdette said she still looks at her son and asks, “How did this happen? It’s amazing. I wouldn’t have a testimony without the past five years. He is my testimony.”

___

Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com


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