Talking is my strong suit. I love to talk. My grandmothers would both comment on my ability to talk, even at a very young age. I remember being at a Shoney’s (a restaurant) when I was around five or six years old. My grandmother shushed me several times. It was then I realized how much I loved to talk – and how loud I talked! My voice still tends to get louder the more excited I feel.
Words are my way of communicating. Words mean the most to me and how I feel loved.
Just ask my husband. After almost twelve years of marriage he still marvels at how my love tank is filled with a short post-it note handwritten before he heads to work in the morning.
Words are my passion.
I love unique words.
I love beautiful words strung together.
As I lean deeper into this adoption journey, following a path I didn’t choose, I’m discovering I love more than words. I love communicating.
You see, as a lover of words, it feels funny to say I have a non-verbal daughter. I never dreamed I’d be on this path, but here I am. I’m looking around at the view and it is awe-inspiring.
Rocky and a lonely, but I’ve found little flowers along this path.
I gather them up and keep them in my pocket to remind me of the beauty, even on a rocky path.
My daughter has been with us longer than she hasn’t been with us. If you had asked me two years ago (when we were handed a rag doll) if I thought we would still be struggling to form words, I would have been devastated. Instead, now, I’m just along for the ride. I love how God has shown me His hands, and changed this word-loving-girl into someone who values more than words.
You see, I’ve found words are just one way to communicate.
Even though my daughter struggles and can’t express herself with words, she communicates. She may be nonverbal, but she is not non-communicative.
One day a few months ago I woke her up from a nap, and we had our first conversation:
First, she made the sign for butterfly.
Did you dream about a butterfly?
She shook her hand, signing yes.
Was it big or small? I smiled to the sleepy child.
Small, she signed.
What color was it?
White, she said with a huge smile.
The timing of this simple conversation was a gift from God. You see, the previous night my husband and I were discussing how our girl couldn’t verbally “talk.” How we were going to parent and prepare her for the world? She can understand every word that is spoken to her, but cannot answer back. How would she navigate a world with so much emphasis on having a voice? The questions hit me as I rocked her to sleep.
What were sleepovers going to be like?
What if I wasn’t around?
How would they understand if they didn’t know sign language?
What if she got hurt?
Would I ever hear the sound of her voice?
My heart ached to think she would be confined to a life without talking. The next day she and I had that simple conversation about the butterfly. A conversation to remind me – God is still writing her story. He isn’t finished yet. If she could tell me about a white butterfly, she could communicate other things as well.
Is it hard?
Oh my yes.
We have meltdowns daily because she can’t express herself. We’ve struggled with connection because she cannot verbally say “I love you…” And I can’t see deep inside her heart because she can’t tell me. So many days we play the “yes-no” game.
Do you want mac ‘n cheese for lunch?
Do you want lemonade to drink?
Do you want to watch this show?
If you have a non-verbal child, let me tell you some things I’ve learned in my two-year journey. It isn’t much, but they are beautiful little truths to keep in your pocket.
Take these truths out, hold them in your hand, and remind yourself: God isn’t finished with anyone’s story yet.
1. Look for ways to communicate.
Sign language. Toys. Pictures. Writing. Whatever you can use to help your children communicate will benefit. Don’t be discouraged if it isn’t the “normal” way – if are you able to tell what they need – it is all that matters.
2. Touch is vital.
There are many times my children will grieve, and just a simple hug or kiss speaks volumes. When our daughter feels upset, scared, or mad we’ve taught her to come and give us a hug. She is reassured with my touch more than my words sometimes.
3. Connection is king.
Communication is about connection. Don’t forget there are so many more ways to connect to a soul without words. Sometimes I’ve learned I need to concentrate on connecting, not on communicating.
4. God understands the heart.
I have taken such comfort in knowing God sees inside my little girl’s heart and He knows what she needs. He hears her, even when she is not speaking. He understands why she is crying, even when I can’t. Sometimes I just hold and rock her, whispering to her that Jesus loves her.
5. God is equipping you.
Don’t doubt yourself in this journey. I did. I still do…. but just because you aren’t the “first” choice – you are God’s choice for your child.
Will my daughter always be nonverbal?
I don’t know. Speech specialist have told us, “no” but I can’t live in the “one day in the future when she talks…” I live right now. In the present. So, I focus on the daily and finding the hope and truth for today.
I think it was a perfect picture of God’s faithfulness when my daughter dreamed about the butterfly.
The other day I saw a white butterfly at the park and it reminded me of the time she told me her thoughts. It reminded me of God’s faithfulness. Like a butterfly, like the whiteness of spring, and New Life – God is always busy working towards making things new.
I thank him for leading me on this path, and showing me grace, wisdom, and how even the hardest path is sprinkled with beauty along the way.