Faith

“I would choose her again and again”: This mother’s adopted daughter has development delays, but she is grateful and committed

Salt&Light wishes all mothers a very happy and blessed Mother's Day.

by Theresa Tan // May 10, 2024, 5:31 pm

Screenshot 2024-05-10 at 4.13.20 PM

When church workers Cynthia Chua and Kelvin Tan got married in 2010, they imagined they would have children one day.

When they started trying but pregnancy did not happen, they went to the doctor. 

It turned out that they had fertility issues. Their only choice was to undergo in-vitro fertilisation. 

After nine years of marriage and four failed IVF procedures, Cynthia and Kelvin, who both work at City Harvest Church, entered a life-transforming journey of adoption. 

Through a series of God-led events, they became parents of a newborn baby girl, Mireille. 

About 18 months later, they discovered Mireille had Global Developmental Delay. 

Cynthia, 40, shares her journey to becoming a mother with Salt&Light, and tells us how God was there with her, Kelvin and Mireille through every up and down.

Through God’s revelation, Cynthia and Kelvin realised that humankind was adopted into God’s own family through Jesus Christ. This opened their hearts to adopting a child. All photos courtesy of Cynthia Chua.


The challenge of infertility

When I was 19, I taught 4- and 5-year-olds in a kindergarten enrichment class. I think a seed desire of becoming a mother some day was deposited in my heart at that time.

Kelvin and I got married in 2010. He had always wanted to be a father — to four kids! But because we wanted to have some time alone as newlyweds, we didn’t jump right into trying for one.

While we weren’t actively trying to conceive, less than a year after we got married, different friends started having dreams about us being pregnant or becoming parents. These dreams ignited an expectation within us. 

During a stressful conversation, I tearfully blurted: “I’d rather adopt a baby than go through IVF!” 

We started trying. When we had difficulties with conceiving, we decided to go for fertility check-ups.

That was when we discovered that Kelvin had extremely low sperm count and motility. The doctors said IVF was our only option.

I wrestled over this with Kelvin and God. Because of my low pain threshold, I just couldn’t imagine myself going through IVF which involves many injections and procedures. 

I battled with myself. On the one hand, I knew how much Kelvin wanted to be a father and I wanted to see him become one. 

On the other hand, all courage and hope of becoming a mother had left my heart when we discovered our fertility issues. Pregnancy seemed impossible; becoming parents felt like a distant dream. 

One day, during a stressful conversation, I tearfully blurted out to him, “I’d rather adopt a baby than go through IVF!” 

Kelvin replied, “But don’t you want a baby from our own loins? I want a ‘baby Cynthia’, one who is just like you.”

After much wrestling in prayer, coupled with wise counsel and support from our pastors, we felt the faith to do all that is humanly possible and to leave the outcome to God. 

Mireille was adopted in the middle of the COVID pandemic, allowing her new parents time to stay home and bond with her.

So despite my overwhelming fear, we registered for our first IVF. One IVF led to another. That whole journey was saturated in the grace of God, because now, I don’t think I could ever do that again!

By then, we had been married for almost a decade. 

Waiting is the hardest part

Many “sermons” were birthed out of this journey to becoming parents, sermons we preached to ourselves and to the members we led in our cell groups. 

We swung between extremes: Fear and faith. Hopelessness and hope. Shame and surrender. 

In retrospect, so many treasures were discovered in that dark season of waiting.

Whenever there was an altar call for those who were trying to conceive, I also vacillated. 

At times, I felt so ashamed: “People will know something is wrong with us. We will be labelled as infertile.” 

At other times, I felt deeply encouraged that there must be a divine plan in this waiting: “My baby will be born at just the right time for her generation.” 

Then there were times I wanted to run out of the church hall to hide. When the first IVF failed, it took me some time before I had the courage to show up in a group setting again! 

Yet, every time we heard a testimony, faith filled our hearts to believe again. 

It was such a long journey, but in retrospect, it is one that I wouldn’t have changed. So many treasures were discovered in this seemingly dark season of waiting. 

Eventually, we came to a place where we decided we would “thrive” in our souls while waiting. 

On one of our regular prayer walks late one night, Kelvin asked me, “What does it really mean to be blessed? Are we blessed? We have no car. We don’t even have a baby. But do we conclude we are not blessed?”

We both concluded: “Not at all. We feel so blessed!” We were contented just having God walking closely beside us, and just being able to serve Him. 

That night, we both decided that if God were to give us a baby, we would praise Him for the dream fulfilled.  

Before she turned 18 months, Mireille was diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay. But “never for a moment have we been disappointed with God about Mireille,” said Cynthia.

But if we were not going to ever become parents, then we would enjoy each other for the rest of our lives. Either way, we would praise Him and serve Him fully. 

Something shifted in our hearts that night. We finally came to a place of sweet surrender and trust.

Preparing for adoption

When we were starting our fourth IVF procedure, God started directing our hearts towards adoption. 

Through His revelation, Kelvin and I saw that the entire gospel is a story of humankind being adopted into God’s own family through Jesus Christ. 

We could feel our hearts coming alive to the beautiful act of adoption. Whether we were reading the Bible, a devotional, an article, or even watching a Korean drama – coincidentally or divinely – everything pointed towards adoption! 

I found myself thinking, “If I am able to take an unwanted baby into my family as my own, like Jesus brought us into His family, why wouldn’t I do so?” 

We decided: If we became pregnant through the fourth IVF, in the future we would adopt a baby as our second child. 

But if this attempt failed, we knew our next step: We would start our adoption process immediately.

Ready to adopt, but COVID happened 

All those years of waiting, we had only one baby name in mind: “Mireille”, which means “miracle”.

Our fourth and final IVF failed. This time, with expectation (and not a tinge of sadness) in our hearts, we started our adoption process.

From waiting nine years to conceive to “suddenly” becoming parents nearly overnight, Cynthia and Kelvin found themselves parents of the baby girl that they had named “Mireille” by faith, many years before.

We approached one of the four adoption agencies authorised by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

It began with a pre-adoption briefing, and a process which took about four months. This included paperwork submissions and interviews with an adoption assessor.

“God led us into this adoption journey. Surely He has a specific baby in mind?”

We finally got our home study report (HSR), which permitted us to look for a baby to adopt. That was in the middle of the COVID pandemic.

The common practice is to work with various private adoption agencies to source for babies from foreign countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. 

One day, the adoption agent sent Kelvin pictures of an Indonesian baby boy. He excitedly showed me the pictures and asked if we should say yes.

I looked at the photo and said to him, “I am so sorry, babe, but I don’t feel a connection. I don’t want to just choose any baby.”

That led to a quarrel. He said, “Adoption is all about choosing a baby. What do you mean there’s ‘no connection’?” 

I replied, “God led us into this adoption journey. Surely He has a specific baby in mind?”

The agent then sent us a picture of an Indonesian baby girl. This time, my heart was more open, but for some reason I didn’t feel the peace to proceed.

Soon after, all international borders were closed and it would be a long time before they opened again. 

Once again, it seemed like we were thrown into the waiting game. We needed to adopt before the HSR expired, but how could we, with all the COVID limitations?

The miracle of Mireille 

Two weeks later, our adoption assessor held a Zoom meeting to tell us that a young family had approached the hospital for an abortion procedure.

As the pregnancy had crossed 24 weeks, they could not legally abort, and were redirected to place their soon-to-be-born infant for adoption. 

She asked if we were keen to consider adopting once this baby was born. 

Tears rolled down our cheeks, and we immediately said, “Of course, we are keen!” We didn’t even need to discuss. 

Cynthia had concerns that her daughter would grow up lacking things that she could not offer her, not being her birth mother. But God has caused them to have a supernaturally close relationship.

Our adoption assessor added: “By the way, it’s a baby girl.” 

That made us bawl. This had to be Baby Mireille. 

Mireille was born during the pandemic, and we were able to raise her from birth. 

She came to us at just the right time – when the whole world was locked down, and “work from home” was the norm. 

“I cut myself off social media for a season, so that I wouldn’t compare Mireille with her peers.”

It was everything we needed to bond with this precious baby God led to us.

The first few nights, I felt like I was sleeping with a “stranger”. At the same time, I felt like I had known Mireille forever. 

It was surreal that we were suddenly parents. After a decade of waiting, our baby came … suddenly! 

We were overjoyed at the fulfilment of the promise. However, I was plagued with fears: Her every whimper and cry overwhelmed me.

As I did not give birth to her, I could not breastfeed her. There were nights when she was thrusting her tongue, as if she was looking for bonding and soothing. 

I carried her close to my heart, weeping. I wondered if she would grow up lacking so many things that I could not offer to her, not being her birth mother.

But with each passing day, we began to know her better and better. She is 100 percent our baby. I know her so well. 

We share a bond that’s supernaturally close. What’s most amazing to us is that Mireille feels like a blend of Kelvin and I. So often, we feel as if we gave birth to her.

“I get to have her as a baby for a longer time”

When I became a mother, I bought an app to track Mireille’s developmental milestones. It was such a joy when she started blabbering and laughing heartily at just a few months old. 

However, I began to notice that she was lagging behind all the suggested milestones at each stage. 

I decided to delete the app, so that I wouldn’t stress over it. I even cut myself off social media for a season, so that I wouldn’t compare Mireille with her peers. 

When Mireille was over a year old, she had what seemed like fits, and that really scared us. 

We took her to a paediatric neurologist who sent her for a brain MRI. She was diagnosed with benign myoclonus, which she eventually outgrew. Thank God!

Every time Cynthia and Kelvin look at Mireille, they remember how their daughter might never have been born, if God had not intervened.

The same doctor noticed her delays and suggested that we bring her to the child development unit. 

Mireille was tested for five major developmental areas and had a grading of 1/5 for every area. She was diagnosed as having Global Developmental Delay (GDD).

“If God saved her very life, GDD is nothing to Him.”

That morning, we left the hospital, joking: “Mireille failed her first exam in life!” 

But when we looked up “GDD” online later, our hearts sank. Just like that, we embarked on a journey of navigating delayed growth in every area of Mireille’s life. 

This was also the start of our own journey of learning to let go of all expectations, comparisons, and to trust that the God who saved her life would continue to help her grow.

God’s great love and encouragement have sustained us every step of the journey. 

One night, I encountered something unpleasant relating to Mireille’s delays. Feeling discouraged, I stood in the shower, letting the water rain down on me.

Then I heard God’s still, small voice within me saying, “You’ve waited so long to have a baby. Now, you just get to enjoy her as a baby for a longer time. Don’t worry, she will grow in My time.” 

That still encourages me and Kelvin to this day, every time we see our toddler still being very much like a baby. 

It hasn’t always been easy but never for a moment have we been disappointed with God about Mireille. We are eternally grateful for her. 

One day, we asked each other: “If we could turn back time and give birth to a baby from our own loins – but that baby wouldn’t be Mireille – would we choose to give birth or would we choose to adopt Mireille?” 

In a heartbeat, we both said, “I would adopt Mireille!”

We love our daughter. We know God’s higher ways led her to us and He will make all things beautiful in His time.

Every time we look at Mireille, we remember how this tiny life was almost aborted, had God not intervened.

If God saved her very life, GDD is nothing to Him. We are so grateful for her, and we are fully committed to her.

We would choose her again and again!

“We are so grateful to God for her.” Cynthia and Kelvin and Mireille worship as a family at City Harvest Church.


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Finding God’s unexpected love through raising a child with developmental delay

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About the author

Theresa Tan

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