Adopting a child with special needs can be scary. And even scarier when that child has needs that just might require a lifetime of parental care.
This month we are hearing from those whose parenting journey has diverged from what most would think typical. They’re parenting children who require more than what many would believe doable. And they’re doing it in a way that we consider remarkable.
Join us this month as we hear from those parenting their special little ones For Life.
My husband and I have had a long time to come to terms with having a child that would need lifetime care.
Thirty years ago, our first babies were born at almost 29 weeks gestation. Kyle died at five days of age and Codey spent the first 14 months of his life in the hospital. Through the years Codey has had numerous complications and is profoundly physically and cognitively disabled.
After thirty years, I can see a little bit of the elaborate tapestry that is our lives. I can see where Codey and Kyle changed us. I can see how they have led us down a path to which we probably never would have considered.
I mean who readily agrees to take in and love children with limited lifespans?
Well, in the end, we did.
Because Kyle’s death taught us that there is hope for eternity. Death is not the end. We knew we could handle anything with God’s strength. There is great pain in loss, but there is greater beauty in taking the chance to love.
I learned early on in Codey’s life that life is all about perspective. Codey was on the brink of death so many times. He was maxed out on his ventilator settings, needing full support, and still he lived. This happened so many times that it seemed like we were just waiting for him to die.
It was months into his hospital stay when we realized… we could spend every day filled with sorrow waiting for him to die, or we could celebrate every day that he lived.
They were both exactly the same situation – the only difference was our perspective.
I don’t believe for a second that God caused this to happen so that we would go on to do the things we did in our lives, but I do believe fully that God can work all things together for good. I believe God can take the most horrible of situations and – if we leave our hearts open for him to work – He can make them beautiful.
With Codey’s diagnosis, we learned the worth of children who will never measure up to what the world considers ideal. Codey’s life has made me a less selfish person, a more “it’s not all about me person”, a go-with-the-flow type of person, and all around better person.
Do I still cry over the fact that he won’t have a best friend, go to college, get married, or have children? Of course I do. We want our children to be happy doing all those so called “normal things”.
Therein lies the rub. It’s a hard topic. How can you say the act of your child going through hard times made you a better person and have that be ok? How can you say you love your life but hate what your child will never be able to do?
It’s not ok. It will never be ok.
But at some point, you must find peace with it, or your life will become consumed with bitterness and anger. Accepting the fact that you cannot change what happened is the first step. Realizing that God can make something beautiful out of the really awful was the next step for me. “Let go and let God” became something I repeated every day.
I don’t know if you have ever watched the show This is Us, but the first episode shows a couple who are expecting triplets. Unfortunately, one of the babies dies. This couple ends up adopting a child who had been left at the hospital.
The doctor in the show who delivers the babies has a quote that really touched my heart:
“I like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me, talkin’ a young man’s ear off, explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital… just maybe not the way you planned.”
This wasn’t the life I planned.
This isn’t what I would have chosen.
So when we set out to adopt again, we purposely didn’t check any boxes with cognitive issues on our Medical Conditions Checklist – the list of conditions that you feel you could manage.
We didn’t want to adopt children who would need lifetime care. Even knowing all I know now, even knowing it has made me a better person, and that this journey with Codey has brought me so much closer to God – I didn’t want to do it again.
So when we ended up in China with children who were going to need substantially more care than we had realized, some of them probably for life, it brought fear to my heart. This time, though, it wasn’t as overwhelming as with Codey and Kyle.
Maybe it’s because we chose this path of adoption.
Maybe it was because God lead us, the signs were clear, and we knew without a doubt that they were our children.
Maybe it’s because we were so much older and understood more.
Or maybe, it was just because we had come to so fully trust God that we could just move forward knowing that in the end it would make sense.
What we did know was just what love, family, and faith could do for a child; there is great potential in a child when someone loves them and believes in them. We knew what it meant for a child to be unconditionally loved… to watch them grow and learn, to love others, and to truly be happy.
And isn’t that what we want for all our children?
I feel so much wiser after these thirty years, not because I have it all figured out, but because I trust the One who does.
So if you find yourself on this path of life-time care, whether by choice or chance, I want you to remember these things:
– Give yourself grace as you learn.
– Know that you can do it and be all this child needs.
– Trust that you don’t have to have it all figured out today.
And my hope for you, thirty years from now, is that you see some of the pieces of your tapestry. I hope you can look back on your life knowing that, even though it wasn’t exactly as you planned, it turned out to be a pretty amazing work of art.