By Gail, mother to William Michael with cleft lip and palate
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
~Edward Everett Hale
I am a mother to 3 children. One by birth(now 23) and 2 by adoption from China(ages 6 and 3). We were blessed with our beautiful daughter Grace when we adopted her in 2003. I knew when we were in China that we would be back again to adopt. The trip to China, experiencing it’s culture, visiting her SWI and adoption has changed both my husband and my lives forever and we can’t imagine it any other way.
In May of 2006 we felt called again to adopt and started the process with our agency, LifeLink. At the time I didn’t know much at all about the SN program. I was a former Registered Nurse and worked for many years in children’s hospitals in NICU’s(Neonatal ICUs) and PICUs(Pediatric ICUs). As a nurse I cared for critically ill infants and children and supported their families. It was incredibly rewarding, but I saw much loss and some very sad stories. It was overwhelming at times and I felt like I knew too much about what can go wrong in many ways. I was hesitant to adopt a SN child and to be honest my husband had no desire to adopt a SN child and I felt that I had to go with his wishes. At that time we decided to go the NSN route and our dossier was logged in with CCAA in November of 2006. We were so excited in our letter to CCAA and asked to adopt a NSN as young as possible little girl.
At the same time some dear friends from Grace’s travel group also started the process to adopt their second child from China. From their agency’s SN list they found a 3 year old little girl with a repaired cleft lip and unrepaired palate. They asked to adopt her and were approved. While we waited for our child, we saw their daughter come home, transition to their family and have her palate repaired. We also saw the miracle of a little girl who lived in a SWI for 3 years come to her forever family and blossom like a flower with the love and care of a family. My husband and I fell in love with “Emily.” It was Emily that changed my husband’s heart about SN.
After being logged in with CCAA for about a year I felt God was leading us to the SN program but I didn’t know how to proceed. After much prayer I felt that God was showing me that my nursing and medical background would be an asset to the child we would adopt and I strongly felt we were being lead to a son. In February of 2008 we spoke to our agency and changed our request from a NSN girl to a SN boy OR girl specifically with a cleft lip and palate. A couple of shared lists came though and in April of 2008, 4 days before a family trip to Disney World, I received an email from our social worker with a shared list. There were many boys on the list. She also attached a list of 4 boys that only CCAA made available through LifeLink. I called our social worker immediately because there were 2 boys with cleft lip and palate. She read me the description of William, where he was born, his age and his birthday and I knew right then he was our son and I hadn’t seen his picture yet. He had a Grade 3 bilateral(both sides) repaired lip and unrepaired palate. The next day I received his referral and brought it to our pediatrician to look at. From then on the process really went at lightning speed. We were approved very quickly because our dossier had already been reviewed by CCAA. Later we found out that William didn’t reside in a SWI but in the Hidden Treasures Foster Home which was founded by an American family that now resides in China. Will had lived there since he was 3 mos. old and we also found out that his palate had been repaired too! William was placed in our arms on July 20, 2008.
As I write this 6 months later, William is now 3 years old and is a happy, energetic, funny, smart and loving little boy. He is all boy! He adores his Jie Jie and she loves her little brother dearly. He is being followed by the cleft team here in Madison, Wisconsin where we live. His surgeon has determined that his cleft palate repair that was done in China “looked outstanding” and she couldn’t have done a better job herself. He will not need a cleft revision presently. He had ear tubes put in recently which is typical of cleft affected children. Around age 7 he will have a palate revision to widen his palate to allow his adult teeth to come into place. He will be starting Speech services soon, though his articulation is quite good because his palate was repaired early in China.
Sometimes the path you start out on isn’t the one God had planned for you all along. I encourage anyone who is in the process of adopting from China or thinking about adoption to consider a child with a SN. If you have any questions I’d be most happy to answer them. I’m not an expert on medical special needs but can help you research them and guide you to resources that can help. This blog also recommends outstanding resources. You can contact me though our blog here.
Will lived for 2 and a half years at the Hidden Treasures Foster Home in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. We are eternally grateful to this family for the love and care they gave our little boy.