As a medical mom, I went into a special needs adoption with eyes wide open. I dusted off old medical journals, updated myself on the current care guidelines for Down syndrome, consulted with colleagues, and scheduled with trusted specialists. I understood the ramifications of a spectrum disorder like DS and felt prepared for whatever ribbon my new little human came packaged in. I was eager and ready.
On our first morning together, I counted his ten little fingers and ten little toes. I found his two tiny freckles and memorized the color of his chocolate eyes. I inhaled his soft (sweaty) smell and rubbed my nose in his sweet skinny thighs. He was a perfect little boy and I was finally his Momma.
As I explored him I also snuck in his first well child check, jotting notes in the corners of our adoption paperwork:
EYES: mild R strabismus
EARS: stenotic canals
HEART: blowing 4/6 murmur
LUNGS: clear throughout
ABDOMEN: small ventral hernia
MUSCULOSKELETAL: hyperflexic, low tone
DEVELOPMENTAL: approx 9months
SKIN: 1cm scar posterior neck…??
There were several findings that hadn’t been noted in his referral, but expected with Down syndrome. I had prepared for them & wasn’t worried so I mentally scheduled the speciality appointments we would need in order of importance for when we got home. But the scar…where did the scar come from?? There was no medical reason for the scar. The placement, the size, the angulation. In all my medical travels, I couldn’t think of one procedure in any culture that would have left a scar like this. Which only meant one thing…there had been injury…and pain…
My baby had been hurt. Whether by accident or intention, there had been damage. When did it happen?! With his birth parents? Did they have access to medical care while our child was bleeding? Did someone try to hurt him?! Was it with his foster mother? Did she know what to do? Was the orphanage notified right away? Did my little boy cry? Who dried his tears and held him close? Did anyone care that he was in pain??
Intellectually, I knew that pain, emotional & sometimes physical, were-ARE- an inherent part of adoption. It was in my head; I had read all the books, blogs and posts before leaving for China (seriously, ALL the books). But it’s easy to romanticize adoption, especially with a young child who can’t articulate or even consciously remember life before their new Forever. That scar changed everything; my medical brain couldn’t explain it & my momma’s heart was crushed by it.
The scar screamed at me: there was a life that included pain before you arrived and there is nothing you can do about that.
I know my Lord has a deep understanding of scars. In His perfection, He still bares the ugly marks of my redemption. I also know He takes special care for those that have been wounded… “He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds..” (Psalms 147:3). Oddly enough, there is no mention of a lack of scars; I assume they are implicitly implied? Often, I’ll tell my patients before a procedure, “when we are done, you’ll probably have a bit of a scar, but that’ll be the only reminder of what was causing your pain.”
But I wonder if that is really what the Lord sees in His scars? Not a reminder of the pain, but a stamp of His glory: I am both your Great Physician and Heavenly Father. There was brokenness and I healed it. You were hurt and I comforted you. What was, will be no more. MY scars are proof of your adoption.
It’s been nearly two years and those words are still bringing healing to me and the pain I carry on behalf of my son. When he is playing quietly, I often catch myself staring at that little scar. His sun-kissed neck highlights the mark even more now, but it’s a reminder of how healthy he is; not of where he was, but where he is now.
In those times my mind wanders to what possibly happened, the Holy Spirit reminds me of His miracle in our lives and His constant hand of protection over us both. A physical scar may remain, but it can now be a testimony of God’s redemptive story…what was, is no more…we have our own stamp of His Glory.