Busy Georgia couple Eryn and Chris Austin already had two kids on their hands in 2015, but nonetheless they did not consider their family a handful. Advocates of adoption, the pair began scouring the internet for a potential new addition to their clan. Then Eryn came across a picture of a baby girl on a Facebook page. And as soon as the mom-of-two looked into the infant’s distinctively piercing blue eyes, Eryn knew she was looking at child number three.
In 2015, Chris and Eryn were both 32 and lived in the small town of Braselton near Atlanta, GA. Although they operated a health and fitness franchise and had two kids under the age of ten – Madelyn and younger brother River – the married couple did not think their lives were complete. Consequently, they took to the internet, looking for the final piece of their family jigsaw.
Scouring social media for a suitable new son or daughter, Eryn came across a Facebook listing with a picture of a baby girl and was instantly convinced that she was the one. But the mom did not know how she was so sure, as she admitted in a Special Books by Special Kids video uploaded to YouTube in December 2016. “I don’t understand why. I don’t have any explanation,” Erin said in the filmed feature by the diversity charity. She just had the overwhelming feeling that she was looking at her daughter.
Eryn immediately sent an email to the adoption agency responsible for the photograph. She wrote, “Tell me about this little girl, what’s her story?” But, by this time, it did not really matter what the baby’s story was, Eryn and Chris had both set their hearts on the opportunity to help write the next chapter. The Austins both knew that they had to have her and started the groundwork for adoption. After all, when you know – you just know, right?
Unfortunately, however, the adoption process would prove not to be a smooth and straight-forward one. It turned out that the little mite was lying in a crib halfway across the world in China. But not even the seemingly endless red tape involved could tie up Eryn and Chris for too long. And, in January 2016, the little one arrived at her new forever home in Braselton.
The Austins had decided to name the newest member of their family Primrose Lin, and they were aware that her fresh beginning in Georgia would take some getting used to. The infant had been plucked out of the only world she had ever known. According to Erin, it was a world where no-one came for Primrose when she cried. And a world where she struggled to feed because no-one had the time or patience to teach her how to do it properly. It was also a world without love. But most of all, for Primrose, it was a world of darkness.
Sadly, the baby had been born with a blinding hereditary condition, which had turned Primrose’s eyes a piercing silvery-blue color. The disorder had put many people off wanting the sightless child, including – it seems – her biological parents. Nonetheless, it was exactly this factor which had drawn Eryn’s attention in the first place, and convinced her and her husband that the abandoned baby belonged to them.
Eryn had seen nothing like it before, but Primrose’s eyes were showing the terrible effects of congenital glaucoma. This disorder involves damage to the optic nerve caused by a build up of fluid in the eye. Unfortunately, in Primrose’s case, the condition had made her completely lose her eyesight. On top of this, the toddler was partially deaf and unable to communicate verbally. So, not only was Primrose in the dark, but she was unable to effectively communicate her fears.
For a very small child living with these huge disabilities, no doubt the world can seem a scary enough place. And although Primrose had not enjoyed the best start in life over in China, it had been the only life she knew. But now she had been plucked from the familiarity of her surroundings and popped down again halfway around the globe.
When Primrose arrived home with her new family that January day, the baby was unable to support her head and had difficulty feeding. It seemed obvious to the Austins that their youngest child did not know what it was to be loved and cared for properly. But Eryn and Chris were up to the challenge – they vowed to love Primrose as much as their biological kids, Madelyn and River.
On Primrose’s second birthday, in late February 2016, Eryn wrote a celebratory entry on the special needs children adoption support website No Hands But Ours. In the post, she described her daughter’s first days in the Austin household, “She was scared to extend her hands away from her body. She still struggles with feeling safe enough to fall asleep.” But with the family’s perseverance, within weeks Primrose had begun to show signs of understanding what it is to be loved.
As Eryn went on to describe, “She has just now started holding our hands. She has just now started to know and trust us.” Without the use of her eyes, Primrose began to learn how to rely on the power of touch. Her mom claimed that this was a sensation which was largely lacking in the baby’s crib in China during the first two years of her life.
But happily now Primrose was experiencing all kinds of stimuli. “A lot of our life is narrating,” Eryn explained in the Special Books by Special Kids video. “‘Primrose, we’re going to walk over to the chair.’ Or, ‘Primrose, you’re about to touch a door knob.’ Or, ‘Here’s a wall.’ She’ll remember those and later on, when we’re walking upstairs, she’ll be like, ‘Oh here’s my wall! I have to hold the wall to get upstairs.’”
But as well as the challenges Primrose was discovering, her new parents were finding their way too. They faced difficulties when their daughter became upset or sick, due to her limited ability to communicate. Eryn and Chris were not always able to understand exactly what Primrose was feeling or why, so the power of love became an all-important tool.
Fortunately, however, Primrose also had extra love and support from her elder siblings. When Madelyn, River and their baby sister were playing together, Primrose could sometimes become stressed but the older two were always quick to comfort her. As Eryn explained in the YouTube video, “Before I can get [to her] one of them has anticipated her needs and picked her up, put her chest-to-chest, squeezed her or rocked her.”
For Chris, helping the blind, partially deaf and non-verbal Primrose navigate her immediate surroundings was both a serious undertaking and a joy. “It’s constantly trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with no corners and no end pieces,” he told Special Books by Special Kids. “You’re just… trying to sort out random pieces. And sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t. But the process is fun because you can see the progress.”
These days, Eryn is trying to learn more about Primrose’s world and how she functions in it by watching her in action. In an Instagram caption from May 2018, the mom wrote, “As much as I long to hear her speak, I’m fascinated by how well she communicates. She’s really started trying to get her point across to us, mostly using her voice and body language.”
And sometimes this communication is something the Austins do not necessarily want to hear. It seems that Primrose is just like most other children her age – lively, curious and mischievous. As Eryn informed told Special Books by Special Kids, “Adoption is hard and beautiful and brutal and the most miraculous thing. I mean, the idea that a child not born to me is mine and is mine through and through, as though she is blood and bone, that’s a miracle.”
And Eryn added that if ever she finds herself stressed out or frustrated – feeling like she’s fighting a losing battle – the mom simply looks into Primrose’s eyes. After all, that is where it first started. Eryn said, “I mean that’s everything that brought us together. That first picture, seeing her blue eyes. Not really even knowing what that meant.”
But now the Austins all know exactly what it meant and continues to mean, and it seems they love and accept it. “Every day we fight for Primrose’s heart,” Eryn explained in the YouTube clip. “We want her to be safe, we want her to know she’s 100 percent ours forever. There is never any going back. And that’s a fight. It’s not in her brain to trust or to understand that. So we have to show her that unconditional, forever, family love.”