I’ve debated whether or not to write this down, to put this out there for the internet world.
Two years ago, when we first said “yes” to adoption, we sensed the Lord asking us to be willing to hold our story loosely. Asking us if we were willing to not only go on this journey, but to also live it out loud.
We agreed to that. We created this blog. We began the journey with openness and candor and have tried to remain, even through the hardest of times, transparent about the reality of adoption and the goodness of God in the adoption story.
Sometimes I wonder if I would have known what I was saying yes to, if I would have hesitated more than I did? There have been some moments where that vulnerability has felt like a curse. I didn’t want to share the grief of letting go of our initial match in our first adoption. I didn’t want to be vulnerable when it was hard in the first few months home with Elliott. And for many months of this adoption, when things felt pretty cloudy and the way ahead was dark, I didn’t want to process or write. And sometimes the hesitation to share is not just about me. Sometimes I wonder if I am oversharing my children’s stories, if they will be harmed or angry by so much of their lives being broadcast.
I have experienced some good things as I have poured my heart and soul out on this laptop time and time again, however. Some beautiful things. Things that made me glad I have chosen to stick with it even when vulnerability was uncomfortable. I have found that with vulnerability comes connection. I have been loved on, supported, and cheerleaded through the last two years by people I know well and people I have never met. I have had the joy of mentoring some precious mamas praying through the adoption process and beginning the process. And I have been forced to process, to reflect, to remember, and to choose to give God glory in both the peaks and the valleys of all of this.
I realized that by not sharing this piece of our journey, I was eliminating a beautiful piece of the story that has been written for us.
The adoption program from China is a special needs program. The children who are in orphanages and adopted out generally all have some sort of medical need or diagnosis. This can range from correctable things to mild things to more moderate things all the way to more severe needs. The term “special need” can be a little daunting, but these needs can be everything from birth marks to developmental delays to cleft lip/palates to heart conditions to limb differences to blood disorders to problems with the brain. And everything in between.
At the beginning of the adoption process, you complete a Medical Conditions Checklist. The MCC lists lots and lots of medical conditions. You research conditions, indicate if you would be open to that or not, and then prioritize by age, gender, and medical condition.
During our first adoption, we poured over the MCC. We researched every single medical condition listed. We cried as we checked no to some things, feeling like the worst people on earth for marking that we would not be open to a child with this need or that need. It felt like one of the heaviest, scariest, most heartbreaking things we had ever done.
This adoption it felt drastically different. We have seen so much now. We have made friends with people who live all over the country who have children with different special needs, children who thrive, children who live beautiful lives. We have seen how families operate with deaf children, with blind children, with children in wheelchairs, and with children with chronic, lifelong conditions. We have learned that these are kids whose greatest need is a family, who may happen to also have another diagnosis or two. And all of it has become significantly less scary for us.
I think this time I filled out our MCC by myself over the phone with our caseworker. Looking back at our MCC from last time and from this time, last time we checked yes to very little and this time we said no to very little. It felt much more like we were prepared to consider the needs of a child in front of us and how they might fit into our family.
Someone in the adoption community asked me a few months ago, as we waited to be matched, if there were was any need I was particularly hoping for. In reality, there was not. Elliott’s listed need is Developmental Delays. She was likely premature and at the time her file was beginning to be prepared for her to be made available for adoption, she was very, very delayed. By the time we got to her, she had caught up a little. In the last 13 months, we have seen her catch up in crazy, miraculous ways.
In considering needs this time, we mostly thought about it in terms of our life as a whole and our other children. Could we manage something with lots of hospitalizations? Could we manage something with lots of surgeries? Which needs might work into our already busy lives, as we add our FOURTH child?
I’ve already written about us reviewing a file this time before we were matched with our son. A sweet, 10 month old baby boy. A baby with Cerebral Palsy.
Although we ultimately said no to that file, part of the process of reviewing a file is to gather information, to talk to doctors, to pray, but to also consider: how might this need fit into our life? For us, Cerebral Palsy (CP) was not a need that we had considered much. Or at all. To be truthful, it sounded pretty scary initially.
Like most diagnosis CP exists on a spectrum. It is, essentially, some sort of damage to the brain, generally during birth or soon after, that results in motor skills being effected. It can cause other disabilities as well.
After reviewing the file of the baby boy, we realized that his needs were beyond the scope of our ability to care for him. He would most likely fall on the more severe end of the CP spectrum.
While it was heartbreaking to say no to this little guy, both for him and for us, through the process we realized we could imagine ourselves with a child with this need in a more mild form. Something that would require ongoing maintenance like physical therapy seemed much more manageable in our life than something that might require a lot of surgeries.
A few days after we had said no and were back to waiting, I was telling Russ how frustrated I was with all of it. Basically having a small temper tantrum. Why did we have to be sent a file that wasn’t our son? Why couldn’t God have spared us from that this time? Why did CP have to seem like such a good fit for our family when he wasn’t our guy?
Nine days after we said no to that baby boy, our agency called with another file for us to look at, the file of an adorable, 23 month old little guy. I held my breath a little on the phone that day as the director of our agency told me what I already knew, he had a diagnosis of mild Cerebral Palsy.
Below is the video we got of Isaiah a few days later. He has some left side weakness and will benefit from physical therapy, but we think he looks pretty perfect. Our only fear is that he might not think the stuff at our house is as cool as the orphanage (hello, drum set).
Just under two years ago, Russell and I sat on our bed one night and combed through all the diagnoses on the Medical Checklist. If you had told those two people that day that they would rejoice at the phone call of a little boy with CP less than two years later, they would have looked at you with shock and disbelief. Those people did not even check yes to CP on their first Medical Checklist. Those people were walking on the shakiest of legs, feeling like they could be knocked down by any breeze that came by, completely unsure of every step.
In this journey we have been on, I have learned that God does not waste anything. Times we have waited. People we have crossed paths with. Ways He has provided. Files we have reviewed and said no to. He allowed us to flounder through the saving and the fundraising for months, so that He could astonish us and be glorified by providing $20,000 for our adoption in one week. He’s allowed us to wait, longer than we wanted to wait, so that we might be forced to trust His timing. And He allowed us to imagine ourselves as the parents of a 10 month old baby boy that was not ours because we needed to see that what used to be a “scary” special need was not. We needed to be able, just 9 days later, to see the boy behind the need. Our boy.
He’s not wasted any of it.