Today's post is written by Holly, mother to four - two adopted from China through the Special Needs program. Holly blogs at Purpose Driven Family.
I remember when we were praying and contemplating over her file. Was SHE our daughter? How could we ever know? There are so many orphaned children in need, how could we possibly choose? Her file said "anal atresia" and heart condition - ASD. At the time I was more afraid of her heart condition than I was of her anal atresia, known in the United States as "imperforate anus" diagnosis. I started doing my research. The more I read the more I panicked! What if she never obtained continence of bowel or bladder?! What if she had neurogenic bladder and had to be cathed multiple times a day? (that scared the bejeebers out of me at the time) What if she was missing some of her female internal organs? What if she had a tethered spinal cord? (that sounded downright scary to me at the time too) And then her heart defect...how serious was that going to be? So many questions and fears swirled through my mind. But every door continued to open and we felt gently lead towards THIS specific little one. So we said yes.
Love is first a choice before it is a feeling. If the feelings come first, it probably isn't genuine love (yet). I grew to love all of my children and my love grew with time as we got to know one another. It's been almost a year since I first met Elaina in China. I can't believe that it's already been that long! I am so glad that we said YES to her. I realize now more than ever that you don't say YES to a certain medical condition any more than you say NO to a certain medical condition. A child is so much more than a medical issue! We said YES to Elaina.
Her medical stuff is just a side note really. I've heard so many people say that they could never adopt a child with the conditions that Elaina has. Too scary, too uncertain, too much work...etc. But here's the thing - they way I see it, you don't really choose your children. They are chosen for us. I didn't choose my biological children. I didn't choose my adopted children. Sure, I had more control with them, I could have made some excuses that would have seemed acceptable to the world as to why I just didn't feel comfortable with their medical needs, and turned them down, but I didn't. Why? Well it WASN'T because I am anything great or wonderful or super spiritual. It was because my husband and I were seeking a higher power wholeheartedly, knowing that if we were left to make our own decisions we would probably mess it up!
I mean, this is shallow but at that time, if I had been choosing, I wouldn't have chosen Josiah. I didn't have a clue what a treasure he was or how much we would be blessed and taught through this boy. I would have chosen a little girl, and of little girls I would have likely chosen the cutest one with the least amount of medical intervention necessary. (There goes my image out the window!) We did say no to another little boy before Josiah. It wasn't because of his medical issues, but because we clearly believed we were supposed to WAIT for another. Indeed, another family, the perfect family, came forward for that little boy we said no to. Josiah's special need could have been a lot more complicated than it has turned out thus far to be. His bigger leg could have grown out of control and gotten to be a very big issue. We had no way of knowing what his future would hold. Regardless, it is our privilege and blessing to get to be his parents. His special need is no big deal. Nobody even realizes his legs are slightly different sizes unless we point it out.
Why am I telling you all of this? I guess because I really want people to see past medical conditions. On paper, they can sound SO scary, but behind all the big words are very real and precious children who first and foremost need to be loved and accepted.
I never thought I would be able to do some of the things I've done in the last month to care for my daughter. (She spent the month of August in Cincinnati undergoing testing, surgery and recovery.) In fact, I had one of the nurses convinced I was in the medical field because of the way I was handling Elaina's care regarding her catheter and stitches. I didn't know a thing before but learned along the way and the unknown became known and I could do it! It wasn't scary anymore! She is just a few weeks post op and she has bladder AND bowel control. She is 3 years old!
My hope is that someone reading this will realize that they too can handle more than they thought and the medical condition that sounded so scary really is barely an inconvenience at all. The blessings that children bring to the family far outweigh any inconvenience of their care!
The Bible says that children are a blessing, or a REWARD, from the Lord, a godly inheritance! It does not say that "healthy" children are a reward, a godly inheritance or a blessing. In fact I have come to dislike the term "healthy" and even "non special needs" because it is misleading! My little girl who just went through a ton of testing and major surgeries is VERY healthy! In fact she hasn't been sick more than once with a cough/cold in the year she's been home! Her medical issues do NOT make her sick.
Non special needs - who can claim that really? Don't all of us have SOME special need? Be it physical or emotional or spiritual... we all have something special about us, but my "special needs" children are not "needy" medically. In fact I can say with all truth that my adopted children's medical needs have NOT been a big deal at all. We had more issues with attachment, anxieties, overcoming sensory issues and adjustments than we have with any medical issues! These are issues that ALL adopted children are likely to struggle with "healthy" or not!
I just don't like the image you get in your mind when someone says, "special needs". You imagine a sickly child in a hospital or something along those lines probably. This could NOT be further from the reality! I could have filled a sheet with "special needs" as a child from asthma/allergies to chronic ear infections and some hearing loss, to dysmennorhea and endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome and probably more but that's just off the top of my head! But I never had someone try to put all my particulars in a 2 page format for potential parents to scrutinize as they considered if I was a good candidate for adoption.
I wish there was a better way, a way to capture the essence of each child waiting rather than just a 2 page medical form and a one paragraph about the child's daily schedule and favorite toy.
I am begging everyone who reads this to see past the diagnoses you will see on every waiting child's file. I know so so so many people in the process right now as I am typing. They will soon be perusing file after file trying to find the right child for their family. Some of you will feel a strong tug towards a specific child but you will feel fear because of the unknowns. Knowledge is power and every parent should prepare for their child's homecoming to include research regarding known medical conditions. However, a child is so much more than a medical condition! Listen closely to your heart. Don't allow some big medical words keep you from one of life's richest blessings!
When any parent of a "special needs" child describes their child....they don't describe a medical condition! My son is a deep thinker, but he can be silly too! He is very tenderhearted and forgiving. He has a great memory and also is a quick learner. He is a family guy, a little reserved in new situations and very loyal. My daughter is full of zest! She is a charmer, she knows it and she works it! She has a warrior spirit and she is tenacious! She loves fiercely once she loves and she adores all sugar laden foods! :) My children are beautiful members of our family. We don't think of them as "special needs"...we just think of them as special! Some people tell us how lucky our adopted children are. We always correct them. We know we're the lucky ones!