Do You Really Love Me?

Today’s guest post is contributed by Connie, mom to eight children… two recently adopted (at the same time!) from China through the SN program, Kooper 14, and Kinley 2. Connie has shared their adoption story on our Family Stories page, and blogs about life as a mom of many at One More Ladybug.

There is a pattern emerging. One that was either non-recognizable or perhaps non-existent a few months ago in our 14 year old son.

It goes something like this: gently testing the boundaries, obedience, sibling interaction, affection, vulnerability…and then the emotional overload and outpour, usually in the form of anger. There seems to be no provocation for the anger. A comment or teasing gesture that it expressed often, which under normal circumstances would be inconsequential, suddenly becomes the catapult for an uncontrollable outburst.

While this pattern may look different in each child, I think it is common among children adopted as teens. So many elements of their past have a profound impact on their psyche. Perhaps neglect and/or abuse in the formative years, poor nutrition, poor education and institutionalization all cause the brain to develop ‘differently’. What has taken years to develop cannot be changed overnight.

So, why the outburst in the form of anger? Especially when everything seems to be going so well. As crazy as it sounds, that’s his ‘safe place.’ Becoming angry and distancing himself from his family, allows our son to remain disconnected with his feelings. As he begins to transition into accepting his new life, he becomes overwhelmed by his feelings. Maybe because they are unfamiliar or maybe because it means letting go of all he has ever known. Even though our son’s past was less than ideal, it was his. It was him.

These angry outbursts include backtalk, shouting, throwing objects, exaggerating and doing the opposite of what he knows is acceptable. It’s as if he’s saying, “Do you love me when I do this? How about this? Or this? Do you really love me?” He’s never known a ‘happy ending.’

After such an outburst our son used to isolate himself for hours and would refuse to eat or speak. We realize there are few things he can control, but two of those are what goes into his mouth and what comes out! The pattern is changing though, ever so slowly. Now he will go to his quiet place, the porch swing, and come back to apologize in a short time. By God’s grace, we are able to move on!

We still have so much to learn. I understand that love is not a feeling, rather a choice. In our family it’s a choice we make daily, sometimes every hour. According to our human nature, typically when people treat us badly, we can choose not to be around them. Not so in teen adoption. We get to choose daily to be with our son, no matter what. And that is how God’s love is manifesting itself in us.

We realize that apart from Him, there is no good thing within us. We can’t fathom His love for us when we reject and grieve Him, yet He chooses to pursue us and love us, showering us with His grace and mercy, not so it can stop here, but so we can extend the same measure to others. As God is patient with us, we must also be patient with our son. Since my Father endured so much for me, surely I can muddle my way through this season of trials, in His strength. Lord, grant me the strength to daily choose to love, no matter what, and show me how I can be Jesus to my son today.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Dealing with naive and foolish behavior in older adopted children
adoptive momma (Uganda) and missionary Mama in Uganda at Transformed From Glory to Glory… why this behavior happens and how to deal with it

Why there have been no developmental posts thus faradoptive momma (domestic) marydell at Torrefaction… while she enjoys reading others’ developmental update posts, she has yet to do one herself – here’s why

SPD Blog Carnivaladoptive momma (foster care) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With Three Boys… a blog carnival for parents with children who have sensory processing disorder

Getting by with a little help from my friendsmomma to a child with special needs Janis at 5 Minutes for Special Needs… on the maze that is navigating the pharmacy, insurance company, therapist schedules and on and on

new glassesadoptive momma (China) Cheri at Love and Laughter Enrich the Soul… Twink gets new glasses, and her sensory self doesn’t like them at all

Getting Ready for Sophia’s Surgery Tomorrowadoptive momma (China) Jonni at The Chronicles of Mommia… on tubes and a frenectomy

how do you know?

What will my child look like?

Will I recognize my child when I ‘see’ them for the first time?

These are questions that I think all adoptive parents ask at one time or another, especially in the special needs program. If you’re anything like I was, you manage to find sweet little faces, faces that need a mommy and a daddy. And as you pour over the pouty lips, round faces and somber expressions, you wonder, “Is that him?” or “Could that be her?”

There have been several times over the years that I could have sworn I was looking into the eyes of my child. And yet, I was not theirs. They were not mine. And while I’m not certain why this happens, I believe that God uses these children that capture us, if only for a time, as an opportunity to teach us something. To stretch us. To make us consider something bigger and often better than we might have imagined on our own.

Adoption isn’t easy. Adoption through the special needs program definitely isn’t easy.

And one of the hardest things a prospective adoptive parent has to do is determine if indeed a child is meant to be part of their family forever.

As parents to five children through the SN program, my husband and I have experienced the spectrum of referral scenarios. Isabelle, our first daughter, was referred to us after a mid-stream switch from the NSN program to the SN program. This was way back in 2004, when there really wasn’t a line in the SN program… and a wait for a NSN referral from China was only 6 months. Unbelievable, huh?

When we filled out the SN checklist, we had a very specific list of needs we were open to, more than a few, but certainly not the entire list. And we were very specific on the age range we would consider. My husband really wanted to stick with our original 6-12 month age range, despite my best efforts to convince him otherwise. We were backed up against a wall time-wise as well, and knew that if we didn’t receive a SN referral in a short amount of time, our dossier would be too far gone and we’d receive a NSN referral. Which would have been fine, wonderful really, except for the fact that my heart was telling me our daughter was SN.

So when, with just a few weeks to spare, we got ‘the call’, we knew she was ours. Without a doubt. When we finally looked into the eyes of the child we’d waited for… did we ‘know’? No, not really. It was the circumstances that confirmed to our hearts that she was ours.

And indeed she was.

Our second daughter, Sophie, came into our lives in a decidedly different manner. I saw her tiny, angelic referral picture in a newsletter, emailed to me by a small agency. And I fell hard.

Honestly, when I saw her cherubic face my stomach dropped, my hands started sweating… I couldn’t even think straight. It was a very surreal experience, to be sure. We had only been home for a few months with Isabelle, though, and I just could not fathom how she could possibly be ours. But I emailed the SN coordinator anyway… and God worked out every single detail. Even a husband who happened to be deployed to the desert at the time. I traveled to bring her home just 8 months later.

We started for Jude before we had a referral. In fact, when we started for Jude, all we knew was that he was going to be a he. My heart had been broken for all the little boys in China, and we agreed that a little guy would be the perfect caboose for our family (yeah, right!).

I had contacted several agencies and filled out as many SN checklists. Several weeks later, out of the blue, one afternoon we received a call: “I have the files of two very little boys. One with a cleft lip and palate, and one with clubfoot.” We asked her to send us the file of the boy with clubfoot… we were so anxious to see his little face!

When the pictures opened up we both. just. sat. there. Please don’t misunderstand, Jude is (and was) darling! It’s just we didn’t recognize him. There wasn’t that immediate familiarity that we had expected. And without the dramatic circumstances to point us toward a yes like we had with Isabelle, we just weren’t sure.

Was his SN manageable? Yes.

Was he cute? Adorable.

Did he need a family? Absolutely.

But was he ours? We just didn’t know.

So we waited and prayed and prayed and waited. I was so conflicted, I insisted my husband make the final decision. He woke up one morning a few days later and, after reading Hebrews 11, said “Let’s bring him home.” And that was it.

Slowly and steadily I fell in love with that referral picture. I slept with it by my bed and carried it in my purse. And now that Jude has been home for three years, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that we didn’t insist on fireworks when we first saw his face. He is our son. We just needed to wait on God to confirm it in our hearts.

Shepherd came to us through a series of events that was undeniably God at work. We had determined that we were open to adopting again, and most of all open to another child with uncorrected clubfoot. Knowing that being stuck on any particular special need might keep us from seeing His plan, we filled out a checklist for Lifeline with lots of ‘yeses’ and ‘maybes’, and ‘either gender’ circled. We were told it would probably be several months until referral, due to the long list of families already waiting.

Imagine my surprise when just a week or so later, I got an email from the SN coordinator asking me to give her a call. Turned out that all the families, of the 40 in all that were waiting, none were open to boys. And it just so happened that they had an 11 month old little guy with, amazingly, uncorrected clubfoot. Who very much needed a family.

We didn’t even have to think about whether he was ‘ours’ or not, God had already confirmed it by the circumstances, and in our hearts.

And the cherry on top? He was the cutest little bug we’d ever seen.

And then there is Vivienne. Who managed to find her way into our hearts before we really even knew it.

I had been doing some research for No Hands But Ours and had been in touch with WACAP about their Promise Child Grants. And, because I just am who I am, I checked in every now and again on their waiting child page.

One day I came across a picture that I sent along to my husband… and the rest is history. He knew she was our daughter from the first moment he saw her. He later told me he was so certain “because she needs us.”

Looking back I’m not sure who needed whom more… Miss Vivienne has certainly found her niche in our besotted family.

So, when I am asked, “How did you know they were yours?” I don’t really have a solid answer. None of our children came to us in the exact same way. What I do know is that God confirmed each child in our hearts as we waited to hear from Him.

Sometimes He speaks in a shout, and sometimes in a whisper. Our job is to be sure we’ve got our mind, our eyes and our hearts open to what He has to say.

“And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:11-12

free book download

Realistic Expectations - The first year home (click to visit site)

A 50 page guide on a variety of subjects…

A Different Perspective
by Cynthia Hockman-Chupp

Strategies for Building Attachment
by Karleen Gribble, BRurSc, PhD,

Top Ten Tips for Successful First Year Parenting
by Deborah Gray, MSW, MPA

Why Grandma Can’t Pick Up the Baby
by Sheena Macrae and Karleen Gribble

What is This Thing You Call Sleep?
by Dr Julian Davies, MD

Alone No More…Recognizing Post Adoption Depression
by Heatherly Bucher

Adding The Oldest
by Terra Trevor

Creating a Fit
by Carrie Kitze

“When Do You Tell a Child he was Adopted?” And Other Secrets We Shouldn’t Keep
by Adam Pertman

Unexpected Special Needs
by Nancy Hemenway

Positive Outcome: How Can You Combat the Effects of an Orphanage
By Mary Beth Williams, PhD, LCSW, CTS

The Impact of Trauma on the Adopted Child and Ten Keys to Healing Trauma in the Adopted Child
by B. Bryan Post

How to Find a Therapist Experienced in Attachment and/or Trauma
by the Attachment Disorder Network

Sensory Integration And the Internationally Adopted Child
By Barbara Elleman, MHS, OTR/L, BCP

Facts About Parenting a Child with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
by Teressa Kellerman

How to Avoid the Syndrome of Parent Burn-Out
by Harriet McCarthy

Being an Ally to Families Raising Children with Challenges
by Ellin Frank

Help Your Child Ward Off a Mad Attack
by Lynne Namke, EdD

Being with Your Child in Public Places
by Patty Wipfler

Strategies to Deal with Anger and Power Struggles
by Christopher J. Alexander, PhD

When Adoptions Fail
by Kim Phagan-Hansel

So, This is Love

I feel like crud, but I’m of a mind to post something because I had a Skype conversation with my youngest sis. As you may (or may not) know, she’s in Ethiopia. Today, she met the bio family of her two sons, and on Monday she and her husband will meet their new daughters. If you’re interested, you can find her here. She may not be able to post until she returns, but the story she has to tell is one of miracles both big and small, and I know you’ll be blessed by it.

Anyway, on to the Skype conversation. I was checking my email messages yesterday and got a video call from her. As soon as I answered, I knew something was wrong. She looked terrible (sorry, Sar). Her eyes were puffy and she was trying not to cry as she told me she was having a mini crisis. I thought for sure it was something to do with the adoption, but it wasn’t. My brother-in-law was MIA. He’d gone out to get something to eat because (poor) Sara was incredibly sick and could do nothing but sleep, and three hours later, he hadn’t returned. Sara woke at 11:30 at night and he wasn’t there, so she’d dragged her sick self out of bed and made her way down to the hotel’s lobby. Either she was too sick to make herself understood, or the people there just didn’t understand that her husband was MISSING.

So, there she was, on my computer screen, just eighteen inches in front of me, but an entire world away, and her husband was missing and she was sick and the phone in her hotel wasn’t working and she started to cry……

and I decided then and there that if her hubby didn’t show up soon, I was going to take my sick behind to the airport and find a way to Ethiopia.

It didn’t come down to that, of course. Her husband was alive and well, enjoying Ethiopian cuisine and culture, thinking Sara was sound asleep.

But that feeling I had, that feeling that I would do what it took to get to my sister and help her in any way I could reminded me of how deep my love is for her and for all my family. There is a bond with us that goes beyond biology and genetics. It harkens back to late night chats, laughter, tears, communal joy and sorrow. It’s built on shared experiences and cemented by mutual respect and deep affection.

I know I’ve talked about it too much of late, and maybe I’m getting boring, but love seems to be what I am coming back to again and again.

I was thinking of this verse from 1 John: This is love: Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, I think you’ll agree this is a compelling idea: that love would be given before love was ever received. That it could be poured on so decisively, so sacrificially before the person being loved was willing or able or even aware enough to return the affection and that it would continue to be poured out no matter how many times it was rejected.

Every time I read that verse I think of parents waiting for a child to be born or traveling to a far off country to meet a child or opening their home and their hearts to foster children. And I think: So, this is love. To give of the heart without any expectation of returns. To offer everything to someone who may not ever be able to return what is given.

This is love.

Not bonding or attachment or transitioning or getting to know, but simply offering acceptance, affection, a place to call home without demanding anything in return.

This is love, and it seems so easy, but it so very, very difficult, because we are not God. We are human, and we want desperately to have our feelings reciprocated, but they won’t always be.

It’s hard, but then I look at photos like this: .

and I wonder if it’s only hard because we’ve never had to live the pure and simple meaning of the word sacrifice. We’ve never had to give up everything to love someone. Maybe if we had, we wouldn’t think giving love and not having it returned was such a difficult thing. Maybe we’d just be happy to have our children in our homes, our hearts, our arms, and maybe more forever families really would last forever.


It’s something to think about, anyway.

The Stigma of Special Needs

Today’s post is written by a guest contributor, Holly, from Purpose Driven Family. Holly has three children, her youngest, Josiah, is from China. And they’re waiting for their newest addition, Elaina, to come home from China…

Like it or not there is often a stigma attached to the label “special needs”.

To the outside world it often means something is “wrong” with your child.

I hate it but I used to be in that world. I had no idea. I was ignorant. And I never thought about adopting before we were called to adopt.

Not once. I wish I had that story, but I don’t. When my husband and I both realized that God was calling us to adopt, we were pretty clueless.

We assumed that we would adopt a Caucasian child. We assumed that we would adopt an infant. We first looked to domestic adoption but it was clear to us that God had something else in mind for us…something that would take us farther outside our comfort zones than what we’d dreamed up ourselves.

Isn’t that just like God?!

We next pursued the idea of adopting from Russia. It made sense to us. If we were supposed to adopt internationally, then surely Russia was the place God would send us. Blonde hair, light skin… no one would ever know the child was adopted in our family!

But through a series of events, God closed that door to us as well.

He CLEARLY and separately gave both me and my husband a prompting to consider China. I was elated because I assumed that meant we would be getting another daughter and I’d always wanted a handful of girls! My husband held firm to the believe that God had spoken to Him that we would find a son.

In China? No way. Did I mention we were clueless? Yep. We were!

So we began slowly…and before we were very far into the process we were asked about what special needs we might consider.

What? Special needs? No thank you. Healthy please. As young as possible please. And beautiful to boot if you don’t mind.

I know. It sounds selfish, but it’s the truth.

But there was no peace in saying no. (Because God had already chosen our child…a child with special needs!) So we wrestled with that list. We prayed and we discussed and honestly, some of the conditions on that checklist were words I’d never even HEARD of before…
couldn’t begin to guess what they meant!

It was a daunting task that checklist. But slowly, we began to work through it checking things here and there, erasing, re-checking and all the while sort of hoping that somehow we could get away with finding a child that didn’t really have any of those conditions. In the end I wrote a note to our case manager telling her that we simply couldn’t know what God had in store for us so we checked off some of the boxes but really were open to whatever it was that God had for us.
And surely He knew that we couldn’t handle anything major, right?

And within weeks we received a referral for a 3 year old boy with a special need I still can’t remember how to pronounce. We never got the paperwork…. they tried and tried to email it but it just wouldn’t go through. So we spent the weekend praying and decided that God already knew so we could make the decision without the paperwork! God clearly told us both, again separately, to wait. This boy was not our son. He had a chromosome abnormality. It was confusing to us, but not to God.

I remember calling our agency on Monday morning to decline his referral in tears. I felt so GUILTY for saying no to a precious orphan. Though I had never seen his face, I knew he was precious. (I later saw his face and oh my word was he a doll baby!) I felt like I was abandoning him all over. It was the worst feeling.

I later found out that 15 minutes after I called to say that we were not going to adopt him, another family called to ask if the agency had a child with that specific medical condition that he had! They had another child with the same condition and felt prompted to call our agency on that day at that time to inquire. And he found his family! That really helped me to trust more in God’s leading. If we took a child out of guilt, we could be stealing someone else’s blessing!
The next week we received another referral call. Another little boy. 15 months old in a city in China even our coordinator couldn’t pronounce at the time! (Huhehot, also known as Hohhot, Inner Mongolia!) His special need – his right leg was bigger than his left leg. That’s it! Right leg was 2 cm longer than left leg. No word if it was also bigger in circumference, just length. Otherwise healthy. We couldn’t believe it! We poured over his medicals, talked to a doctor, prayed prayed and prayed some more. Within 2 days we both had our answer – he was the one – our son. His special need wasn’t even on the check list!

And upon our return from home we found that his leg length discrepancy didn’t slow him down at all. He compensated for it just fine. He saw specialists, had tests run and his official diagnosis? Ideopathic hemihypertrophy. Basically it means they have no idea what caused it but the lower half of his body is larger on one side than on the other.

We may have lifts put on his left shoes at some point. He may require surgery at some point. Our goal is to wait until he is finished growing and then evaluate to determine if it needs done and if so, do we lengthen the shorter leg or shorten the longer leg. We also have him screened for a condition called Wilm’s Tumor by having renal ultrasounds done every six months. Apparently there is some tie between the tumor and children with hemihypertrophy. We will continue to screen twice a year until he is six and then only yearly through childhood. He is a totally normal and healthy child. When someone approaches me and asks me what is wrong with him or how did we get a BOY from China… I struggle honestly with how to answer them. I usually tell them that there are so many precious boys in China waiting for families. Then they ask, “Well what’s WRONG with him?” They assume something is “wrong” because he is a boy… from China.

The wording stinks. Sometimes their hearts do not. I have to remind myself #1 I used to be ignorant too and #2 my son is listening to my response and my first priority is to consider his needs. People are nosy. But if we don’t TALK about special needs… the stigma survives!

What I’ve learned since our first adoption experience is that “special needs” kids are just like ANY OTHER kids! Really! I almost wish we could find a new label… but it would still be a label. Healthy. Special Needs. Both labels. Most parents want healthy children. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if more parents could recognize that children with special needs really are “normal” and wonderful and funny and BEAUTIFUL and they just might so happen to need a specialist once in awhile… or maybe often… or maybe only for a season.

After Josiah, God made us aware of the AIDS crisis in Africa and we realized how many children are orphaned because of AIDS. We realized how many children are infected with HIV because of lack of medications, lack of knowledge, lack of supplies, and we began to pursue the adoption of an HIV+ child. We made it through our homestudy approval and agency approval but God shut the door at the midnight hour and the child we were pursuing went to another family. They are a wonderful family and I am thrilled to have gotten to know them a little. She truly was meant to be theirs. We went from checking the boxes with trepidation to actively seeking a child with HIV. That’s a jump over the pond, don’t you think?

It isn’t because we became better people or more generous or kind-hearted or anything like that. It’s because we realized that love has no boundaries. A medical need or a label doesn’t define a person! And just like our biological children, we didn’t get to choose… they came out with their own distinct features and DNA.

There is a peace that comes with letting go and letting God show us our children.

The Lord has called us to a new “special need”- imperforate anus. What? You’ve never heard of it? Well join the club! We hadn’t either! We felt a tugging towards children with heart defects and God confirmed it to us in His unique way that yes, our next child would have a heart defect. But imperforate anus too?

And just like God, He has given us all the tools we’ve needed so far to learn about the conditions so we will be able to care for our daughter when the time comes.

We have chosen to let go of fear and embrace the blessings to come in the form of another CHILD. We will embrace HER. Her medical conditions are not HER. They are just a small part, and we are going to work through those together. As a family. After all, we have special needs too, but nobody bats an eye at our “handicaps” of corrected vision, herniated disc, endometriosis, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, etc!

I hope you are encouraged to consider a child who may be labeled special needs. I can assure you, the blessings will be all yours!

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Wherein She Confesses, And I Cryadoptive momma (China) Shirlee McCoy at And Then There Were Seven… a conversation with her daughter’s dance teacher leads to The Ugly Cry, in the best way possible

Black and White/ Memory Wednesday
adoptive momma (China) Sandra at The Daily Grind… remembering when she met her daughter, and how they learned of her special need

Next Stage for Lillyone of the many volunteers at An Orphan’s Wish… a photo of the brace used to treat club foot

it’s i.e.p. season againadoptive momma (China) mama d at the life that is waiting for us… on individualized education plans with school-aged children

Sunday Snapshot: Resourcefulnessadoptive momma (China) Annie at Cornbread & Chopsticks… on finding a solution to a toenail with amniotic banding syndrome

Being Her Voice
adoptive parents the Straights (China) at Straight Talk… on naming cleft-affected children

I Can’t Be Her Voice

As much as I’d like to put a protective cocoon around her and be her voice among other things, I can’t.

Let me preface this entry with two things: my heart is in my throat these days as we wait for our final piece of paperwork to travel to China for our sons, and our daughter, who is 4 1/2, has severe expressive speech delay. Though she can talk and does very much here at home and is even trying more and more out of our happy home, no one can understand her except for a handful of people.

That is so hard for me to accept right now. Sometimes it is easier; right now, it is really tearing my heart out. I watch her struggle and it tears me up inside.

Yesterday at the pool, she was so excited when some other little girls came. They are both about 6 months older than her, but they are really sweet little girls and played with her last summer. They know “she can’t talk like us” as they put it. They know she had something wrong in her mouth.

But yesterday, they sort of distanced themselves from her after awhile. And yet, she DID NOT GIVE UP. I wished so badly for her that she would just give up. But she kept trying to engage them with this toy or that toy she had brought, with doing this little jumping move or that. It was not enough this year. They are all getting older. I get that.

But my heart still aches for her. As she gets older, I know this is going to just be harder and harder. When you can’t communicate your wishes or answer little people’s questions, they assume you either can’t hear or you don’t want to talk to them. Oh bless her heart!

Yesterday I bit my tongue more than once as I wanted to scream, “She WANTS to play with you.”

“Yes, she likes the color pink!”

“Yes, she has a name, and she IS SAYING IT. You just can’t understand her.”

At one point, she came over and was looking rather sad. You see, she has been working SO HARD on pronouncing her name. And she is doing a marvelous job. It sounds so clear to me and to others in our family. Even her ST was impressed. But the little girls: they couldn’t understand her and told her as much. It hurt her feelings. They didn’t mean it that way; they were not being unkind. They really tried to and their moms did step in and remind them of her name.


I can’t be her voice for her for forever. She will be five years old in October. When I hear two-year-olds speak so clearly compared to her, it breaks my heart.

No one told me how hard the special need of not having a voice (or at least one that is understandable) would be. No one.

I do not wish to discourage anyone from considering adopting a child with a speech delay whether it be from cleft lip and palate or something else. I just want to prepare you and encourage you to prepare your heart for the hurt it will feel for your child as they struggle. But you see, it is her struggle to take on. She has to face this, and she is with more strength than I can even muster most days.

A year ago, the Prez and I swore we’d never take on the special need of cleft lip and palate again. Not because of the countless surgeries through adulthood. Not because of the way a child’s face looks. Not because of the rude stares and questions. No, not any of that. Only because we cannot imagine watching another of our children be cast aside because she refuses to speak knowing they won’t understand anyway or watching her fall apart in tears on the floor because WE can’t understand a string of sentences she has just said and she KNOWS what she was saying.

We can understand most of what she says, but she often uses three words or less because when she strings together several sentences, we get lost. And she gets mad. At us.

It is much harder than I imagined. But would we do it all over again?

Well, you know what they say. Never say never. I guess God had different plans, because we are doing it all over again.

Our younger son waiting in China was also born with heart disease and cleft lip and palate. As far as we know, his palate has not been repaired. He will be five years old next week. We know he’ll struggle and have to fight for every sound, every vowel, every consonant, every syllable, every word, every sentence. Most likely for years. And we’ll be there fighting alongside him. And no doubt so will his little sister.

*Edited to Add: After reading Debby’s comment below (THANK YOU Debby!), I need to clarify. I don’t always stand to the side and let her be her own voice with no help from me. I definitely find a balance. As her Momma, I can definitely tell when she needs and wants my help and when she doesn’t. My little girl is determined with a capital D! So anyway, I realized after Debby’s great comment with great points that I needed to clarify. It is definitely a balancing act. I in no way want to communicate with this post that we should never interfere, which could definitely be a detriment to their feelings of self-worth and self-confidence. But the truth is, our DD will probably always have a speech impediment and I need to help her learn how to overcome that and help build her confidence in her own abilities even if others tell her otherwise. I need to encourage her to talk and to keep on trying even when it would be much easier to just give up. Hope this clarifies my post and again, thank you Debby for your excellent follow-up comment.*

Life As A House

Anyone seen that movie? It was released in 2001 and the premise of the movie was about rebuilding.

Not just a house but about family, faith, relationships, etc.

I often reflect back on that movie.

Because our son Luke’s story is also a story of rebuilding.

But the rebuild was not all about him. Yes, he needed a rebuild. He needed a family, love, medical care, proper nutrition. All those things are a given.

However it was ME that got the biggest upgrade in the process.

Luke came home at the age of 19 months old. His listed special need was cleft lip and palate. We received updates from the orphanage during our wait which described a little boy who was mostly on target….one that was walking, riding a tricycle… doing all the things that a toddler should be doing.

We arrived in China in May 2007 to meet him and bring him home. And our spirits were crushed when we received him at the Civil Affairs office. This little boy was nothing like what we were told. In fact, he was the absolute opposite. He was a 19 month old who was the size and weight of an infant. He was a child who could not hold up his head, sit up, roll over or walk. He was clearly a child that had MANY MORE special needs then what was listed in his documentation. I mean MANY MANY MORE.

And I wanted to run.

I wanted to bolt out of there because I knew it would be difficult. But even though my HEAD wanted to run, my HEART and God’s leading gave me the courage to stay. But it wasn’t pretty for me. And I have been struggling with Luke’s reality ever since. In September 2009 he was diagnosed with an Intellectual Disability. My stomach turned over and over and I wanted to throw up.

Well… I DID throw up. But not in the office space.

That would have been disgusting.

Life with Luke…well… God is using Luke to be my teacher. My lessons are: realistic expectations, patience, faith, hope, understanding, perspective, diligence, etc.

In other words….for me it’s been a total rebuild.

Not that I didn’t have those things before. I did.

But it wasn’t at the level they needed to be.

It wasn’t at the level God wanted them to be.

So began a complete renovation. And folks, it hasn’t been gentle… at all. It’s been tough. Lots of tools and nails and lumber.

And in a way I guess I was scared with each adoption that I would be changed. I mean… I knew I would be changed in some ways but… it was the big ways I was scared of. I think no matter how much we prepare to adopt a special needs child- or ANY child for that matter- all adoptive parents are all scared of the changes we will experience: to our schedules, our home life, our relationships, our time and energy, our other kids.

But oh how I have come to learn to embrace how these children have changed me. Especially Luke. And I think that you will find it the same way if you commit to one of these beautiful children. Change is inevitable. How beautiful it is to have the change occur because you have loved and embraced a child with special needs.

-Nicole from

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

HIV+ Adoption: Filling the Roomadoptive momma (Ethiopia) Lisa at the group adoption blog Grown In My Heart… a short question and answer session with Lisa, who is not only an adoptive mom, but also a care coordinator for From HIV to Home

Racist me, against my childadult adoptee (Korea) and adoptive momma (China) Raina at Faiths & Illusions… on decisions about school grade levels and older child adoption

Mirrors… adoptive momma (China) Jean at There’s No Place Like Home… a discovery about orphanage life after talking with her daughter, who was adopted at an older age

She got her Birthday Wish!!!adoptive momma (China) Karen at Always In My Heart… home from the hospital on her birthday

The Long and Winding Road, Day 12adoptive momma (China) Robin at Dreaming of Tea for Two… an update after their most recent visit to see the neurologist

is this permanent?adoptive momma (China) mama d at the life that is waiting… a trip to the dentist offers an important opportunity for a mom who adopted her son at an older age

Homemade Sensory Diet for Summeradoptive momma (foster care) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With Three Boys… inexpensive ideas for sensory activities during the summer

Deaf, Not Dumbadoptive momma (China) Cheri at Infinite Love… new Phonak hearing aids and thoughts about how others treat those who are deaf

Jacinda’s Appointments Todayadoptive momma (China) Sherry at Our Adoption Journey… a day at CHKD to see Jacinda’s craniofacial team of doctors

Special Needs Adoptionexecutive director Amy Eldridge at Love Without Boundaries… information about their first video about a specific special need (this one is about thalassemia; the next one will be about albinism)