by Laine, mom to Candace from China with bilateral microtia/atresia
After experiencing toddler adoption (two at one time!), my husband and I felt the call again from the Lord to adopt… only this time He called us to an eight year old girl who has bi-lateral microtia/atresia.
We saw her picture on an agency’s individual list of children. This was right before the shared list became the primary way families are matched with children. We knew without a shadow of a doubt she was our daughter. We also knew we had no experience in older child adoption, and we would be adopting out of birth order. This child would fall right smack dab in the middle of our other six children. But, walking by faith and not by sight, we sent in our LOI for Candace in February, 2008. Honestly, we went into this adoption with much fear and trepidation. We had such confirmation from the Lord that we were walking in His will, but our hearts were scared to death of bringing home a child who had been with the same foster family for eight years. I know – that doesn’t sound very trusting does it? Regardless, we received our PA for Candace in May with a great big sigh of relief and a big THANK YOU JESUS!
But that fear was still in my heart. I was scared to death to adopt an older child. I read the book “Our Own” which will totally prepare anyone for all the possibilities with older child adoption. I hunted down other families who adopted older children and asked them to give it to me straight. I wanted to hear the good, bad, and the ugly. I wanted to be prepared! I heard how older children can reject you, run away from you in public, “parent shop” to find nicer parents, and exhibit awful and annoying behaviors in their grief. All through these months of preparation, the Lord spoke to me reassuring me this was His will! Basically He said “I know you’re afraid, just do it afraid!” I prayed fervently for God to prepare her heart, prepare OUR hearts for what may come.
We traveled to China in October, 2008 to finally meet our daughter. When we landed in Beijing the fear was at its highest level. Part of me just wanted to get back on a plane and fly back home. Thankfully, my husband reminded me of all of God’s promises and how Candace was meant for us. And God gently reminded me of Abraham and Sarah. How Sarah must have wanted to go back home when Abraham moved them to an unknown place! But she obeyed. She did it. Even if she was afraid.
We landed in our province and eight hours later we met our daughter. We were prepared for the tears, the anger, and the deep sadness. Candace walked into our hotel lobby grinning from ear to ear, and she hasn’t stopped since! All those behaviors I was prepared for… they never happened! At least not to the intensity I thought they would. She attached immediately to me and my husband and our six other children. Candace does grieve over this loss, she cries at times, but she is very easily comforted. She has an easy going personality, yes. But I also know the Lord moved in her heart to prepare her for our family. It feels like she has always been with us! She fits seamlessly into our family, praise the Lord! When asked if we would adopt an older child again, our reply is “YES! IN A HEARTBEAT!”
Candace’s special need, as stated before, is bi-lateral microtia/atresia. She had one surgery in China at the age of four. The surgeons attempted to create a canal, but it closed back up. When we met her, her ear was draining an odorous fluid. We brought her home and had her hearing evaluated. She has severe hearing loss in both ears. When they put a BAHA headband on her, she passed the hearing test! This is because her hearing bones are intact, she just lacks ear canals and ear drums. Two months after arriving home our surgeon opened her canal back up, and also placed a BAHA screw. When this heals, she will wear a little hearing aid device right behind her left ear. We are waiting before we decide to do surgery on the other ear. We are also consulting with a plastic surgeon about reconstructing her outer ears. Candace has another special need that was not noted in her paperwork. She is not growing properly, probably due to malnutrition for so long a period. We will be seeing an endocrinologist February, 2009 for further testing. She is SO tiny, but her smile can light up a room!
In many ways, adopting an older child has been a lot easier than adopting toddlers. First, it is less physically exhausting as you are not running around making sure a toddler is not getting into every little thing! Second, Candace is a great sleeper. That makes for a happy child and a happy mama! Third, Candace is a very sensible child. She is so responsible and gets along really well with her siblings. Adopting out of birth order has not disrupted the flow of our family life; it has enhanced it!
In other ways, adopting an older child has been harder. First, I grieve over the years I missed seeing her grow up. I have to make myself stop thinking about all the lost times, and instead be thankful that she is with us NOW. I focus on all the future memories we will make! Second, it is more difficult to bring in a child who has a set personality and is set in her ways. Younger children you obviously have more time to shape and mold their little lives. Third, because of the longer period that Candace was in China, the language barrier feels like it is as big as the ocean. As of this writing Candace has been home three months, and the language is coming very slowly. We know her hearing loss has a lot to do with this. I was not prepared for the language issue. Everything I read and heard made it seem like other older adopted children caught on so quickly. Not so with us. But then, three months of English compared to eight years of Chinese… we’re still in the beginning stages!
I have written about the differences in our experience of adopting an older child and adopting toddlers, but please do not let what I write sway you in one direction or the other! There are positives and negatives to every situation in life. I am just sharing what we experienced. Your experience could be completely different. I trust that if you are making the decision to adopt, the Lord will lead you to exactly the perfect son or daughter for your family. And remember, if you’re afraid… just do it afraid!