In 2005 we submitted our application for a Non Special Need (NSN) adoption from China but five years later we were still waiting. Afraid that our time would never come, we started discussing Special Needs (SN) adoption. We got all the necessary papers and permissions but struggled trying to figure out what kind of special need we thought we could handle. In the end we decided not to submit our SN application as we felt like we didn’t have what it takes to parent a child with a special need.
In 2011 finally it was our turn. A healthy little eight month old baby girl was waiting for us in China. We were so happy and excited and visualized our future together. We felt our love for her grow day by day and all I could think of was how a longed to take her in my arms, smell her and give her a cuddle.
Two months later, I didn´t recognize our little one when a nanny came in the room with a tiny little baby girl. This little girl couldn’t hold her head up and had to be carried like a newborn. But as soon as I realized that this was my child I was overwhelmed with joy. I couldn’t believe that I finally had my little one in my arms after years of waiting and longing for this moment. She was asleep when we got her and slept most of the time while we were in China, her way of coping with this dramatic change in her life. We were not so worried about her physical delays as we had been prepared for that but what worried us more was that we couldn’t get any eye contact with her. She just looked straight through us. Her medical files stated that she was completely healthy, so we hoped that she would catch up little by little as soon as we would get her home and get some professional help.
Little did we know. After we got home, we took her to a doctor and few weeks later we got her diagnosis: cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment and hearing impairment. The doctor explained to us that she probably had suffered from a lack of oxygen at birth and that had caused some brain damage. There was no way of saying how she would progress.
We were shocked, disappointed and so afraid. We were afraid of not being up to the task, we were afraid of how our life was going to change and we were afraid of the future. We wanted answers that nobody could give us. We wanted to know if she would ever talk, walk, go to university, get married, have children…
In looking for answers, I spent endless time online, reading blogs written by parents of special-needs children, especially when the children had similar special needs as my daughter. I didn’t get the answers I was initially searching for, but I got other answers far more important. I knew we were going to be alright. That this was not the end of the world and that SN families were just as happy as NSN families. For me it was a turning point when I read this quote written by a mother of an SN child:
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, ‘Wow, what a ride!!’“
That day I blogged myself and this is what I wrote:
“This is it. We only live once so it must be much more fun to tackle many different tasks that seem much bigger than you can handle instead of sailing on still waters. Every hurdle I have had to overcome in my life has made me a better person. Now my life with my little girl is waiting for me. Bring it on, I’m ready. I can’t wait to take on this new role, meet new people and learn to adapt to this new reality. I’m going to teach my little girl so many things, but I know that she is going to teach me more. The wait for her was long and difficult but it was so worth it.“
This is how it has been. It has been quite a ride but in a good way. We are so proud of our little girl and we love her to pieces. She has made steady progress although she takes her time. She has learned to sit, crawl on her stomach, walk in a walker, stand up, sit down, eat and drink by herself, uses about twenty words and so much more. Her vision is improving and she is much more aware of her surroundings. She wakes up with a smile on her face every morning and makes me smile when she calls “Mama“ and then grins and claps her hands when I reply. She goes to a normal pre-school. On weekends we do what normal families do. Go for a walk, play outside, go skiing, swimming, and so on. We just have to be a little imaginative and adapt to her needs.
We were so wrong when we thought our lives were about to take a u-turn when we got the diagnosis. We live the life we had always longed for. A happy family life full of love and laughter.
~Exerpt from “Exposed to Hope: Stories of Families who have Adopted a Child with a Visual Impairment from China.” The book has been compiled by Bethel China and is a compilation of stories of families who have adopted a child with a visual impairment from China. Parents write honestly and beautifully about the why, the how and the what happens next of the adoption process. Through real life examples, they share their experiences of meeting their sons and daughters for the first time, navigating the medical and educational system for visually impaired children, and what life as a family looks like for them. The book is available here for $2.99, but each time a child is adopted, the price will change to $0.99 for two days. There are 12 more wonderful stories in “Exposed to Hope,” which you can buy here.
Waiting girls with a visual impairment and possible delays:
Anna/Annabelle is a beautiful four year old girl who loves to be cuddles. She likes playing with other children and adults and she is an outgoing child. She can say some words but not many, and her caregivers do her self-care for her. We are not sure if she can’t, or if she is not given the opportunity to learn how. Her favorite activity is to walk outside and to sit in the sun. She is diagnosed with weak eyesight, but her file says that she can see light.
Evie is a little girl who has been waiting on the shared list since she was a baby. She is now 7 years old. She has congenital anopthalmus of both eyes (she was born without eyes). This gentle girl lived in a foster family for her first year, then was moved to Bethel where she lived for 3 years. In January 2013 she was moved back to her orphanage and we do not have a recent update. Evie is gentle, loving and she likes routine. She is also absolutely beautiful!
Lizzie is a little sunflower. She can see light and dark and she loves to sit by the window and follow the sun. She has a visual impairment and also is on the autism spectrum. Lizzie does not speak but communicates in sign and her teachers and ayis know her routine and help her to stick to it. She can do more and more self-care skills including get dressed, walk to school or home on her own, feed herself, play with toys. She loves cuddles and will always try to keep a hug going for as long as possible! Lizzie loves music, nursry rhymes and the swings and seesaw.
Naomi has the sweetest, most beautiful face. She has a visual impairment, which looks like it can be corrected with glasses, and also cerebral palsy, which affects all four of her limbs. We have very little information about Naomi, but what we do know is that she is a precious child that needs a mama! More information and pictures here.
For more information on any of these girls please contact Chloe Banks.