November 28, 2010

Let's Talk About Labels

Every month the excitement quickens.

Every month the chatter on groups and the *official* website for all things China adoption takes on a new level.

Every month a few announce their joyous news for a referral of a child from the shared list. And that never gets old: to know a child who was once an orphan now has a family ready and willing to bring him or her home as soon as the paperwork trail is traversed.

Every month people express disappointment that more *matches* are not made. Some even express disappointment at the lack of young girls' files released or at the magnitude of needs for those whose files are released.

And every month ... every month thousands of children continue to wait for their turn.

Every month the same children wait and wait and wait.

Many of those children are listed with multiple needs. Many of those children are boys. Many of those children are girls older than three. Many of those children have more than one listed need.

And the questions are valid: Do they have syndromes? Do they have a chance for a *normal* life? Do they have a chance to have a *normal* lifespan?

Unfortunately I suppose those are not really questions that can often be answered. At least not from the other side of the world.

Here is the thing though.

We are talking about children.

Not an order we place.

Or even the perfect match.

Does anyone else feel a bit or even a lot uncomfortable with the use of the word *match* when it comes to the lists of children available and the referral of children. I much prefer the word referral not that my opinion matters. It is just that the word match conveys all sorts of things in my mind at least. Things I'd rather not have conveyed in my mind.

I mean, we are talking about children.

I know I already said that, but you see I have three children who were adopted and they don't fit the most desired criteria. Or even the manageable or moderate categories really. And they certainly came with way too many labels for many people to even take a second glance. And not many people would even consider looking at their files. Because of the labels.

And yet they are the most wonderful children and they really are a blessing. I just don't see them as a burden or as the potential to be a burden or ...

Less than.

But I have come to terms with the fact that many people do.

Even in the adoption world.

See many children waiting on the lists right now as less than. Many of those children have the SAME needs listed that my children did.

Complex heart disease, unrepaired.

Unrepaired cleft lip and palate.


10 years old.

CHD, repaired, CL/CP, unrepaired.

And the list goes on and on and on. So many children with those needs who wait and wait and wait.

Our daughter. Adopted with unrepaired complex heart disease and unrepaired cleft lip and palate at 3 years old. She was born with transposition of the great arteries and one ventricle in her heart among other defects. And she was also born with cleft lip and palate. And she was waiting at 2 1/2 years old with all of these needs having never been repaired in any way. And she weighed 18 pounds and her eyes are assymetrical and her fingers were clubbed. And her head didn't fit very well on the growth chart. And she may not have a long life.

Our youngest son. Adopted with repaired heart disease and repaired cleft lip and palate at 5 years old. Born with tetralogy of falot, preemie weight, with cleft lip and palate. Listed for adoption at two years old after receiving open-heart surgery and cleft lip surgery in China. After visiting missionaries pleaded with his SWI to put him on the list for adoption persuading them someone would want him. As his paperwork became older and older, he continued to wait with so many labels and so many unknowns. So many questions no one could answer. Turning three years old, then four years old. Still waiting. Oh and did I mention ... a boy. Not a girl. And his age. And his head measured small and so many markers for a syndrome. And the life span question. No guarantees there.

Our second oldest son. Adopted with repaired heart disease at 10 years old. Listed at eight years old. A special need in and of itself. A BOY. Still listed at nine years old. And with unrepaired heart disease. What about damage to his lungs? Or about the possibility he was abused? Or the fact he is a boy and not a girl? And he was nine years old. And still had unrepaired heart disease.

Too much.

Too much risk.

Too much at stake.

Too much time.

Too little time.

Too much unknown.

Too much lost.

Too much left unanswered.

Too much.

Too old.

Too risky.

Too major.

Too complicated.

Too much.

On the other hand.
Our children are WHOLE people who bless our lives and our family and who are just as normal as the next child.

They give us hugs and kisses. In being their parents, we are given an incredible opportunity to place our faith in the Creator God over and over again to meet all of their needs and ours as we take care of them.

We have a different perspective than we did before on what really matters.

More appreciation of the here and now.

More respect for those who may not be *normal*.

More of an understanding that *normal* is all about one's perspective.

More children in our home to love and who love us back.

More blessings than we can count.

Yes, more doctor's appointments.

And more laundry.

More prayers.

More tears.

More food to purchase.

More smiles.

More laughter.

More people to tuck in one last time before I crawl into bed.

And did I mention more laundry?

And most of all, more and more thanksgiving.

That we did not see them as the many labels they had attached by their names.

Or by the ones that might apply to them once we got them home.

Thankful that instead we are their family.

Thankful to know that medical needs, syndromes, and physical limitations are in fact minor in comparison to the immeasurable holes in our hearts that each one of them has uniquely filled.

Our Second Oldest Son. Today.

Our Youngest Son. Today.

Our Daughter. Today.

If you are waiting for the perfect *match*, please consider that maybe your child is already waiting for you ... perhaps with a label attached.


  1. Oh this brought tears to my eyes and an ache to my heart. There are so many, so many waiting for families. We who foster hope and pray for the parents that are out there for our often broken children. But they are indeed children who long for a family.

  2. Wonderful post and many tears shed for all the children waiting. Our daughter had many special needs listed when we reviewed her file, but all I could see was that she was our daughter. And, she is amazing in every way. She is also Beautiful and has several special needs (and labels) that do not slow her down or make her any less deserving of a family.

  3. Thank you for this post. For pointing out that 'labels' are just that... labels. And that these children are just that... CHILDREN! They are fearfully and wondefully made. EACH one of them. And I understand what you are saying about the word 'match' which case, I too prefer 'referral'. Your children are BEAUTIFUL and you are so blessed to have them, as they are you! God bless! <><

  4. Amen!! and Amen!! We are in China now to bring home our 7 year old with repaired cleft lip and palate. Some things have cropped up that we didn't quite expect, but I would not trade him for anything!!! I am starting to realize the labels that will be attached to him, and my heart hurts for him. But he also will have other labels - son, brother, brilliant, fun, loving, thoughtful, and our lists of labels grow every day we know him. He is an amazing treasure and waited way too long for us!!!!!!
    Thank you so much for your thoughts, and as always, your words are so appreciated!!

  5. HOORAH - I thought that might be you posting before I got to the sig - always enjoy your 'cut to the chase' insights!

    And the one that really confounds me is "matched with a referral" - mixed metaphor there eh? ;)

    You just keep on putting it out there - one day they'll all be home!

    hugs - aus and co.

  6. beautiful. our adopted son has spina bifida. his home country wouldn't even list kids with his level of disability as adoptable until a family showed interest. you never know where God may lead your family...

  7. As always....perfectly stated!!!

  8. Girl, I'm in tears!! I have been praying about how to blog this! I have so many thoughts but struggle with the right words and you did a great job!

  9. Thank you for such a wonderful and beautiful post.


  10. This was great!!! So close to my heart. How I wish I could go back now, and again, and again to get more BOYS.

  11. Thank you for your wonderful words about these children. My daughter also came with alot of labels. I recall the whispers at an agency travel meeting that I was going to adopt "her" from the in house list -this in a roomful of Christian adoptive parents all not wanting to step out of their comfort zone! Oh well, that is "their" loss because my daughter continues to defy the odds of her labels with a sparkling personality and such true strength to overcome. I hope and pray to have the opportunity to bring home another child just as special. Many blessings, Shirley

  12. Thank you so much for this post. After reading it yesterday morning I went back to our agency's waiting child list, and found the most precious angel ever imaginable. We've contacted the agency to place her on hold. Now we're praying for the monetary provisions before sending in our LOI. Please continue to speak the truth in love about adoption. There are too many angels waiting. Thank you again!
    God's blessings,
    Sarah :)

  13. Sarah! WOW! Congratulations!

    Thank you so much for sharing. Truly blesses my heart to read your reply.

    Will be praying right alongside you for the monetary needs. Please know God will provide though it may seem insurmountable.

    There is a wonderful ministry called Both Hands. Check it out. We were able to participate alongside some good friends and the amount given toward their adoption was miraculous! In turn, you and your family/friends get the blessing of helping out a widow in need.

    Please know I'm thrilled to read your news!!!

  14. And thats why you leave your post on the board "L" cause you never know what God is doing through you.

  15. sarah go read this blog this fits you right now I think

  16. Great post, WOP - always good insight, and your passion to see kids find families, regardless of the obstacles and the "labels" is always so inspiring to me. We're at the earliest stages of a second adventure, and praying for His plan for our family. We do know this - we're going SN from the get-go and we're expanding our list of SN's. We've learned soooo much along the journey, from friends like you, sites like this, and more. Can't wait to see who the next little Gang member for us will be :)

  17. Wow...I think that post may have just changed our future...

  18. What a beautiful post!!! We are currently waiting to bring home a little girl with bilat CL/CP and a little boy with ToF. Thanks for sharing!! Beautiful children!!!

  19. Thanks for sharing that - it is such a great reminder. I, too, hate hearing of the disappointment of the low numbers of AYAP girls each month. Our son-to-be has many labels, likely syndrome, it seems overwhelming at times...but he's our son. There's no doubts about that. He has waited too, too long already because no one would see past the labels - we almost didn't. But I'm so glad we have a Father who loves us despite our labels...and He's shown us our child is more than any description on a Chinese medical form or agency SN list. He's an amazing child of God and we can't wait to bring him home and officially label him "son," "brother," "grandson," "nephew" and "cousin"!