Not So Different


At church Wednesday night, there was an argument between several girls and my older daughter. I was home sick with a migraine, and I heard about the problem Saturday morning while driving to a meeting with the pastor’s wife. Hearing about Sassy squabbling with an entire group of girls over rules to a game they’d made up wasn’t the way I wanted to start my day. But hear about it I did, and I returned home an hour later with my patience worn thin and the desire for an explanation simmering in my gut.

I barely managed to keep the anger out of my voice as I asked Sassy to tell me about the problem. Sassy is, after all, sassy. She tends to speak first and think later. She has quick-fire responses to everything, and she isn’t one to let an affront (perceived or real) go unchallenged.

In a nutshell, I believed that the problem and the resulting argument was her fault, but I wanted to give her a chance to prove me wrong.

To my chagrin, she did.

You see, the argument was about Cheeky.

There is a wonderful little group of eleven and twelve-year-old girls who have taken Cheeky under their wings. They adore her, and I appreciate the sweet attention they send her way.

Wednesday night, those girls decided that the rules of the game they were playing needed to be adapted to suit Cheeky’s visual impairment. They outlined the new rules, and Sassy went along with them until they decided that no one could toss a ball to Cheeky. The ball had to be walked to her and then handed over.

Sassy wasn’t keen on this idea. “We can toss the ball to her,” she said.

“No. She can’t see it,” was the response.

“She can see it fine. Just throw it gently,” my daughter replied.

And that’s when things heated up. Sassy, according to these sweet young girls, was mean to not consider Cheeky’s special need.

I asked my daughter what her response to that was, and she said, “I told them that Cheeky isn’t any different than any other kid. That she wants to play the game the same we do and that she doesn’t want people always talking about how she’s different. Just because her eyes aren’t so good doesn’t mean she’s different.”

And I could see the tears in my daughter’s eyes. She was angry and hurt and confused about all the extra care and attention paid to her little sister.

You see, we don’t treat Cheeky differently at home. Everything the other kids do, she does. She jumps, climbs, runs. She plays ball, tennis, badminton (albiet poorly). She does chores and is expected to do them well. There are points when we must consider her visual impairment, but we never make a big deal out of it. We expect that she will be able to achieve anything any other child can achieve, and Sassy knows it.

As I looked into my oldest daughter’s eyes, I felt two things- pride in her ability to let everyone know that Cheeky isn’t so different and relief that we’d discussed Cheeky’s SN and people’s responses to it with our older kids long before we brought her home.

Adoption, you see, is not only about the bond between parents and child. When there are other children in the home, it is as much about the bond between siblings. Bringing home a child with a very noticeable special need puts the entire family in the spotlight. It isn’t only Cheeky who is impacted by the stares and comments of others. It is all my children. Before Cheeky entered the home, I talked to the other kids about the questions they might be asked. We role played different scenarios and practiced responses to comments and questions. I wasn’t sure until this week that the things we talked about and the plans we made had sunk into my children’s brains.

But they had.

And Sassy was prepared to stand up for her sister’s right to be treated just like anyone else. She was prepared to be labeled mean in order to give her sister the chance to be labeled normal. She was prepared to argue her sister’s right to be seen as typical rather than different. At just a week past her ninth birthday, Sassy handled a difficult situation with courage and passion.

She has learned what many never do – that physical differences don’t limit a person’s ability to achieve great things.

And I have seen once again how knowing and loving Cheeky has changed us all for the better.

Birthday Realities

*** I originally posted this on my blog in Oct 2009.
Our son Luke came home from China in May 2007. ***

Monday was Luke’s 4th birthday. I had planned a light airy post about Luke’s party and how far he has come since arriving home. However, that was not what the Lord laid on my heart.

There is something special about Luke… and I’m not talking about all his “special needs”. There is a certain knowledge. One that we can’t ignore.

See, when we adopted Luke…. his life was truly saved.

Now, most times when people talk about adoption they talk about “saving a child’s life”. And in the larger sense that is absolutely true. You are providing an orphan… a child that has nothing, with a family, medical and dental care, education, food, a warm bed, etc.
And you are “saving a life”.

But what I am truly talking about are the orphans in critical medical condition. The kids with complicated special needs or that have just been ravaged by the orphanage system. Kids that will most definitely die if they are not adopted. Luke was one of those kids. However, we didn’t know this fact until we received him in China. Up until Gotcha Day we thought he was a typical orphanage cleft kid who had acclimated to his life at the orphanage and was doing “OK” waiting for us to come get him. He wasn’t. He was struggling, he was barely hanging on.

He was slowly withering away.

We were told by several medical professionals that if we hadn’t traveled when we did that Luke would not have seen his 2nd birthday.

He would not have LIVED.

He was that dehydrated, mal-nourished, delayed, compromised and frail.

When I think about this my heart is simply….heavy.

Luke’s adoption was when I truly understood what “saving a life” was all about. It wasn’t something we were prepared for. It was something we were thrust in to and it was a big burst of reality for us. To me it was the “other side” of adoption. The side that’s not all fairies, rainbows and ponies. It was the heart-wrenching reality of child desperately struggling. And the knowledge that the child was desperately struggling for a long long time. With no relief.

Jake and Kiah’s adoptions had been very typical. Jake and Kiah were both loved, fed and cared for. They were doing well in their respective environments while waiting for us to come get them. Same with Logan and Ava. Logan was in a great orphanage in XuZhou, Jiangsu and Ava… she is at the fabulous Philip Hayden Foundation.

But kids like Luke…. kids who are in desperate situations at their orphanage, kids with diagnosed and undiagnosed special needs….every day is a struggle for them. Every day is spent withering away. Everyday their little spirits get more and more crushed.

Every day they become weaker.

Even though we didn’t know what we were getting into, there is an overwhelming sadness knowing that your child was that compromised and there was no escape for them until you came. So on Monday when we celebrated Luke’s birthday it was with happiness that we have this boy but also with a heavy heart. My heart is heavy for the knowledge and reality of all the children who are in desperate need of a forever family. DESPERATE NEED.

I pray that each of these children find their way to a forever family sooner rather than later. And that God directs all of our hearts to these waiting children so that these sweet young ones can find love, comfort and relief.

The wisdom of elders



This is a bit of a roundabout story to explain a little something about what lead me to the Special Needs adoption program in the first place, so bear with me. This is a story that begins with a moment between my own mother and I, just after I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 29. It bears mentioning that my mother had suffered from the same kind of cancer at about the same point in her young life, and had survived it. I had been in fourth grade when she was diagnosed, and after watching her go through surgeries and chemotherapies, the poisoning, the wasting and the hair loss, I had come to believe that this was the worst and most barbaric manner of thing in all the world. All through my childhood I secretly swore to myself that if I ever found out I had cancer, I would just let my life end, rather than suffer through anything like what I’d watched my mother go through. (But, oh, when you are very young, you fear death so much less).

On the day that I was diagnosed, I really couldn’t believe it. I felt the bottom dropping out of my world. I felt trapped. It’s one thing, after all, to think in the abstract about a diagnosis like this, and about the possibility of just letting your life come to an end with that diagnosis. I sat at my mother’s table and I felt that, meteorlike, I weighed several tons. Like I might just drop right through the crust of the earth and out the other side into the stratosphere. I felt like I might spontaneously combust, or just drop dead on the spot. But none of these things happened, and there I sat – just me and my life sentence, my worst fear made real.

What I did, of course, was start to cry.

“But what…?” I whimpered. “But how…? But, I can’t DO this!”

My mother, sitting across the table from me, didn’t get up and hug me, or even take my hand. Instead, she said four sharp words: “Snap out of it!”

I couldn’t believe my ears. She might as well have slapped me in the face. I felt like I had just experienced the ultimate betrayal – as if at the moment of my greatest need, when I had hit bottom and all of creation had abandoned me, my own mother had turned the cold shoulder to my grief and panic.

Let me just say that this is not at all like my mother. She is a loving and gentle person, a person who will do anything for anyone. Yes, she is strong and athletic and independent, fearless, practical, adventurous. But my mother wouldn’t hurt a fly, and has the habit of apologizing whenever someone is angry with her, even if she would be better off standing up for herself. So it turned my world upside-down when she said those words to me. I was deafened by them. I could hear nothing else for weeks. Those words made me angry. They sparked a thermonuclear rage in me. They ignited a firestorm of self-righteous fury which hardened my skin into a carapace and honed my mind to a sharp and deadly point. I had no mission left in my mind but to show her that I was too tough to be hurt by her belittling words.

Can you see where this is going? Naturally, the anger that my mother had stirred in me was the one and only thing that made it possible for me to make it from the day of diagnosis through my first dreaded chemotherapy treatment without losing my mind with fear and panic. It got me through my first couple of chemos, determined to show that I could be as cold and tough as she had been at that moment. By the time I began to simmer down and agree with my then-boyfriend who had tried to reason that maybe, just maybe she had a point, I was in the swing of treatments and realized that not only could I survive this, I already had begun to do so. No point in turning back now.

There is a survival instinct that comes into play at the darkest of moments, and this carried me through the year of treatments (which become worse and worse as you go along). And before I knew it, as things happen in life, my year was done and I was set free from my shackles again, astonished to discover, as the months passed and my hair grew and my skin lost its chemical pall and regained some luster, that I was capable of rebirth.

It was only much, much later that I got over my anger with her, and realized that those four sharp, seemingly heartless words: “Snap out of it!”, were the only words that could have carried me to a point where I had the necessary will to survive.

Ultimately, though it took some time (maybe two years after the end of treatment) to find my feet and my confidence in life again, my experience with cancer changed me for the better, and drastically so. I also think that without that experience I would most likely not have considered applying for the Special Needs adoption program. (and I think I should mention that Special Needs adoption relates to the adoption of any child with medical needs, surgical, medical, therapeutic etc) With everyone around us saying that we wouldn’t be wise to take on a child with medical issues, I probably would have given in to the fears of others were it not for the fact that I myself, an unusually hearty and healthy child with no medical conditions whatsoever, had turned out to have an indicator for cancer in the prime of my life. No one could have predicted that, certainly not my parents (no study has proved that our type of cancer is genetic or transferable in any way). So I figured, even if I had given birth to a biological child, or adopted a seemingly healthy child, I would have run the unknowable risk that that child might have an undiagnosed and potentially life-threatening condition. Why, then, would I want to reject the adoption of a child with a known quantity of medical needs? What made me think that the choice of a “healthy child” was mine to make? In my experience, it was not.

I am endlessly grateful for that early experience, then, no matter how traumatic. Without it, there is every chance that I would never have had the privilege, the unmeasurable joy of having the Q as my daughter.

footnote: I fully believe that my survival instinct would have kicked in, even without my mother’s very wise and well-timed wakeup call. I do not believe that I really would have let my life end at the age of 29. I am an optimist to the core, and the base instinct for survival is built in to the human condition. We are capable of suffering so very much more than we can ever imagine in our rational mind (as has been proved time and time again in the aftermath of the Haiti quakes). That said, I shudder to think how I would have made it through those first few weeks without the anger that my mother gave me from the depths of her own experience. Having been through it herself, in an era when the cancer treatment was far more barbaric, random and unrelieved than it is now, she knew in some part of her what I most needed at that moment. She must also have known that I would react with anger, and that she herself would have to suffer through my wrath in addition to her own fear for the life of her only daughter. Her act, albeit instinctive, was one of the greatest and most unexpected gifts that she has ever given me. I can only hope to repay it by giving my own understanding of the world, and how to survive it, to my daughter as the years pass.

- Maia http://wanderersdaughter.blogspot.com

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.

One Year Ago Todayadoptive momma (China) Shirlee McCoy at And Then There Were Seven… describing the day she and her husband first saw photos of the girl who would become their daughter

Andrew’s Surgeryadoptive momma (China) Steffie at Never Too Many… insurance frustrations during the weeks leading up to her son’s open-heart surgery

Next Surgeryan adoptive momma (China) at Room For At Least One More… discussing her daughter’s surgery history and her upcoming cleft-palate surgery

Spinal Defects Clinic
adoptive momma (China) Kris at Tell Her This… detailed news after meeting with her daughter’s medical team at the spinal defects clinic

Good timing, bad timingadoptive momma AwesomeCloudMom (China) at Zhe shi wo ying… discovering the date of her son’s next scheduled surgery

word from CCAA

**update ~ a second agency has also confirmed this statement from the CCAA regarding the individual lists. This agency will be sending their individual files back to the CCAA very shortly **

We have recently learned of an agency that is stating that the CCAA will no longer be designating agency specific lists. This means that the files of special needs children will be accessible through the shared listing only.

We don’t know when this change is supposed to take place, or what that will mean for the files of children that are currently designated to specific agencies.

When we know more, we will share it here.

Lilah

by Paige, mom to Lilah from China with a SN of Tessier Cleft

In April 2007, while attending a ladies morning out program, an advocate from Compassion Canada came and spoke to us about international adoption. While sitting there, God spoke very clearly to me and told me “It is time”.

I immediately went home and began researching international adoption and Christian Adoption Services. I very quickly was led to adoption in China and it instantly felt like the right place to be looking.

It took me five days to talk to my husband about what I was feeling, but when I did he was more open to it than I had expected him to be. (I had been praying for five days for God to open his heart to what I had to say). My prayers were answered. He took a few days of praying and thinking, and his heart was opened and he and I could be completely excited about this together!

I have always felt we would adopt at some point. It was something we talked about doing “someday” quite often. After having four kids, it felt like we should be done. God had other plans for our family… The moment he told me it was time, I felt ready in every way and knew there was an empty spot in my heart for this new little girl.

The wait time is almost unbearable… We were logged in the regular program September 25, 2007 and slowly the wait time grew and grew and it looked possible we wouldn’t see our daughter until 2015! In May 2008, we switched to the waiting child program and we were instantly comfortable with our decision and all it would entail. We were told at that time that our wait would be about a year. In July, CCAA changed the way they did the waiting child program and we found out that suddenly we were at the “top of the list”. Since then there have been a few bumps which were very hard to deal with, but we knew that we will see our daughter in God’s perfect timing.


In January 2009, we finally got “the call”! When I saw her I wanted her to be the child I was waiting for, but was not sure how my husband would react. Her paperwork stated that she had a cleft lip and a right eye deformity. When we went over the paperwork together we felt completely overwhelmed and weren’t sure if this type of medical condition was something we could handle.

God gave me a verse that day in my devotions. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. — 1 Samuel 16:7. After talking to some family and close friends and just taking some time to think, we sat down with each other and told each other that this was the child God meant to join our family.

My husband is a Plastic Surgeon, and so we had asked for anything Plastic Surgery related. When he first looked at her picture he knew that is was more complicated than her paperwork indicated and that there would be many unanswered questions until we could get her home and seen by many different doctors. Lilah was born with Tessier 4, a unilateral craniofacial cleft that runs from her lip, up along her nose and into her tear duct. These clefts are numbered from 0 -14 to indicate the location and extent of the cleft. Tessier clefts involve not only the mouth and the nose, but also the rest of the face. It may involve a split in the bones and skin or a misshapen facial feature.


We went to Gaungzhou in May 2009 to get Lilah. She had been in the care of True Children’s Home since she was three months old. She had surgery to repair her cleft lip when she was eight months old and was then placed into foster care (which was overseen by TCH). Lilah had just turned two years old. Her adjustment to our family has been amazing, but with a few bumps along the way! She is a very strong willed and smart little girl. She is doted on by her parents and her four older siblings!

There was a lot of issues that her paperwork never mentioned. She has a very misshapen head, but it has nothing to do with her cleft. She is iron deficient and has been put on supplements. Her cleft is not genetic and shouldn’t be an issue when she decides to have children of her own. She is very small, but because everything is proportionate, the doctors are not worried about it. We weren’t sure if her palate was affected, but it is not.


We are still waiting to see what and when her surgeries will be. But they will be big. She now wears glasses, as her right eye is very farsighted. The next step is to get a CT scan to see exactly what it looks like under the skin. The first surgery will be to build up the bone in her cheek, and at that time they will put in a tissue expander to stretch the skin, so that they can repair and make a new lower eyelid. At this point, I don’t have a time frame for her surgeries, we are taking it one day at a time and one step at a time.


But I do have to say this… Lilah is amazing. She learned English within the first two months and speaks in full sentences and can carry on a conversation. Her speech is clear. She has great motor skills and tries to write letters and draw shapes. She runs and spins and dances. She is very affectionate and loves to be held and read to. She is now potty trained and she sleeps like no other child I have ever had! She does look different and the biggest adjustment has been how to deal with the stares from strangers. But, we have not had to deal with speech therapy, developmental or physical delays of any kind. She is a perfect, healthy, intelligent and beautiful little girl. What a gift!

Feel free to visit our family blog here!

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.

Adopting Cleftadoptive momma (China) Jean at There’s no place like home… sharing their cleft surgery journey (both past and future) with their daughter

We’re Home!!!! and Liquid/ Soft Food Dietadoptive momma (China) Sherry at Our Adoption Journey… an update just one day after cleft surgery

Visit to the Cardiologistadoptive momma (China) RedMaryJanes at The Seventh Diamond… a recent visit to the cardiologist reveals some news about her girl’s heart

Choosing Your Child
adoptive parents the Straights at Straight Talk… navigating your emotions during the special needs adoption process

and some will be a test
adoptive momma (China) Kris at Tell Her This… describing a day of invasive medical tests

arrested developmentadoptive momma (China) MAMA D at the life that was waiting… practicing separation in the face of anxiety

It’s the little things…
adoptive momma (China) Annie at Cornbread and Chopsticks… a momma finds that dealing with food issues is much more difficult than their daughter’s medical special need

P-flap vs. z-plasty adoptive momma (China) Sharon at In the Light of Eternity… facing a surgery decision, a momma asks for advice

From Uncertainty to Confidence: Learning about HIV adoptive momma (Ethiopia) Lisa at the group adoption blog Grown In My Heart… conquering their fear, a family decides to adopt a child who is HIV+

How Can I Adopt A Precious – Maggie, Josie Love, Abe, or Liam ?

This post has been written in my head for over a year and it is just time to write it … The problem is I am truly writing it to the choir, but my heart has been aching lately and I need to cleanse my heart …

I will never forget bringing Emily home (our first adopted angel) … She was breathe taking, smiling, happy, attached easily, and simply adjusted with ease … The following were comments that I received daily …. “Oh, if I could adopt an EMILY, then I would adopt tomorrow,” “If I knew I could get an EMILY then I would start the paperwork,” “Why don’t you just give me her and you can go back and adopt again,” or “If could adopt one that looked just like EMILY then I would do it.”  … I don’t think any of these people were trying to be cruel or insensitive, but the words are exactly what is wrong with our culture … Adopting is not a beauty contest, a status symbol, or something to do – Adoption is a call from the Lord  …

My precious Maggie came home with more than one issue to deal with and I have aged, gained weight, lost hundreds of hours of sleep, and been drained of every ounce of grace in my body, but the joy of obeying the Lord is priceless … The miracle of watching her heal … The joy of being called this precious angel’s mother is a gift from the Lord because I was obedient … Maggie has been the one to draw our family closer to the FATHER because she helps us to focus on His will for our life and not people expectations of us, societies pressures to fit in, or the crazy media standards… She may not smile at a stranger, run into your arms and make you feel all warm and fuzzy or even look you in the eye, but if you take the time to get to know her and understand her journey, then you will grow as a person, you will learn more about the Lord, and you will receive the true gift of trust that you hear in her laugh and giggle !!!

I know many people right now considering adopting a SN angel and I want to encourage you to look deep into the FATHER’s heart and find His will for you … In the beginning, I was the one time trying to figure out what SN could I handle and that is seriously a joke … I can’t handle anything, but with the Lord’s strength, grace, and love, I CAN DO ALL THINGS !!!

When we started the adoption process again to Uganda for a son and a daughter we marked the box healthy because again we felt our hands were full with all that Maggie needed (and honestly scared) and when the call came and our precious son was almost completely deaf and very delayed, the answer came quick… He said in His quiet still voice “Will you do this WITH ME” …. God was calling us again to walk with Him … How could we say no … Now we are literally overjoyed to be CHOSEN again to parent a SN angel … We are falling in love daily with our son and daughter waiting for us in Uganda !

I tell you today that some of our most precious prayer time is spent praying for the special needs angels in our life … Josie Love (HIV +, just learned to walk, and can’t see very well @ 4 yrs old), Abe (missing his frontal brain lobe and can barely move or communicate),  and Liam (trapped within himself and struggling daily to cope ) … These are just a few of the children, who bless us … If you think their days are easy or a picnic then think again, but they understand the honor it is to parent their children … Our children teach us of the Father’s love … Our children teach us of the Father’s creative powers … Our chidren teach us of the Father’s healing !!! THEY ARE SURVIVORS and we could learn a lot about who our heavenly Father is by loving them, getting to know them, praying for them, and showing others that this is not a sacrifice, but our privilege … Remember a sacrifice is giving up something you need for NO gain  !!! I receive more each day than I deserve from my precious daughter … Just the look in her eyes that she now knows she is safe and loved is sometimes more than my heart can handle … Thank You Maggie !!!

So my prayer is that more people will find their path to a SN angel and see into the face of  God !!!

Blessings, Gwen

Celebrating Miracles

January 22nd had been circled in red on our calendar. It was a Friday, and like all Fridays before it during the past year, that meant an interferon shot for Cholita. Wednesdays meant blood work, Thursdays meant lab results, Fridays meant interferon; it was the rhythm of our weeks during 2009. But this Friday was different; it was her last shot and we planned to celebrate. Based on her past labs and based on conversations with her doctor, we were not celebrating treatment success, but instead celebrating Cholita’s amazing resilience, her patience, and her strength. When the nurse had told us months before that it was obvious Cholita had failed treatment, I fumed. My daughter had not failed treatment. The treatment failed her. It felt like an important distinction.

And so we’d celebrate Cholita’s triumph; labs be darned. And since this was her day, she was allowed a rare pleasure–she could wear any outfit of her choosing in public.

We ate pizza, we played games, and our little girl who’d had well over one hundred needle pokes in 2009 smacked around a syringe-shaped pinata. It seemed therapeutic.

Cholita blew out 12 candles on her cake, one candle for each month of interferon.
And we went home happy, refusing to acknowledge the nagging sense of disappointment. “I have no regrets,” I told my husband later that night. “We did all the research we could have done. We knew the odds going into it. We’ll find something that works.”
I thought back to a year earlier, a few hours after Cholita’s first shot. One minute she was fine and the next she had a high fever and screamed over and over, “My body hurts!” I thought of the first time I had to give her the injection. My husband, the shot-giver, was gone with our son’s Boy Scout troop canoeing near the Canadian border and I had no choice. I sat with her on my lap, my hand shaking as I held the syringe. “Just do it!” Cholita said, rubbing her leg with the antiseptic wipe. Soon the wipe dried up. “Ugghh,” she said. “Now I have to get a new one.”
Two wipes later, and still I couldn’t do it. We heard music from the next room; her sisters were watching a show and Cholita wanted to join them. She sighed and rolled her eyes. I breathed deeply. Finally, I looked away and dropped my hand down. The needle didn’t go in, just bounced off her leg, and a trickle of blood ran down her thigh. I wiped it off, angry at my own squeamishness and leaned in close to see the hole I’d already made. Determined to not inflict two wounds on my daughter in one sitting, I did what seemed logical at the time but what even my four-year-old could see was a bad idea. I set the needle down on the hole, closed my eyes, and pushed. By this point, months into her treatment, she had some scar tissue and it took more force than I’d guessed. I kept pushing until finally it went in, accomplishing what had to be history’s ugliest injection. Before Cholita ran off to watch her show, she patted me on the back and said, “I’m proud of you.” I dropped the syringe in our sharps container and prayed that this would work, that it wasn’t all in vain.
Two days before Cholita’s party we had her final blood draw. The nurses at our local hospital hugged her; we’d brought them flowers, one of them brought Cholita a serrated grapefruit spoon. An odd gift for a four year-old, yes, but in the course of their conversations throughout the year they’d discovered they shared a mutual love for a tart zing in the morning and Cholita was thrilled with the gift. It would take a week for her viral load result to come in. At last count it had been 27 million. I didn’t need the doctor to tell me that wasn’t encouraging.
I went to pick up the final results during Cholita’s preschool time. I’d accepted the fact that the treatment hadn’t worked, but I wasn’t sure I could completely contain my emotion when faced with the irrefutable evidence. Cholita, just happy with her grapefruit spoon and shot-free Fridays, didn’t need to worry about why her mother was crying.
The nurse called the lab for the results and soon the fax machine hummed and my palms went sweaty. The nurse handed me the papers with a sympathetic smile. I walked down the hall to an empty spot. I scanned the labs until I found what I was looking for: HBV VIRAL LOAD–the place that was always followed by a number containing lots of zeros. This time there were no zeros. This time there was no number.
HBV VIRAL LOAD: UNDETECTABLE.
I screamed and immediately started to cry. The nurse jogged over from the nurse’s station and fanned some papers in my face. I think she was afraid I would faint. “Is it bad?” she asked. I shook my head. “It worked.” My voice was barely a whisper. I said it again, more loudly than I anticipated, “IT WORKED!”
I went to my car and with my forehead on the steering wheel, said a prayer of thanks. Never have words felt so inadequate. It worked. I looked at the labs again. I checked the name on top. I read it again and again. And then I saw something else. HBeAG, the “e” antigen which shows that the virus is replicating, the antigen that has always been positive on Cholita’s labs. Now it said HBeAG: NEGATIVE. I cried some more.
When I told Cholita the amazing news later that day, she said, “Awesome…..can I watch a video?” She is, after all, only four.
And being only four, as she grows older she may not even remember her year of shots. But I will remind her, especially when she’s faced with trials, that when she was tiny, she went through something hard and she did it with grace. I will remind her that she’s strong and that she’s a fighter. And I will remind her that even when the odds seem insurmountable, God can accomplish miracles.

Fitting In

You probably think I’m going to tell you that my adopted Chinese daughters are represented by that lonely red flower but if you guessed that, you’re wrong.

My girls are actually better represented by the two lovely yellow ones (no pun intended) in the upper left. Can you spot them? One is taller than the other and they’re both standing happy and proud right next to each other. Just as you’ll almost always find them here in the real world.

At first glance, the yellow tulips all look the same. But are they really the same? If you look closer, you’ll see that they have different sizes and shapes. Some bloomed sooner and are already starting to fade while others are still waiting for the perfect moment to show the world what they’re made of. Many have imperfect or broken or missing petals. Some are so tightly clumped together that they nearly disappear completely in a bright blur of yellow while others seem to prefer to stand all alone.

I thought about this photograph when Gwen and Maddy brought home their Kindergarten class photo last week. I quickly scanned all of the little faces for my two sweet girls and then I took a moment to stand back and examine the entire class photo in a bit more detail. My girls have been talking about most of these kids for months so it was fun to finally be able to put the faces and names together.

The first thing I noticed was that most of the kids were Asian. I always sorta knew this (since we researched the school before we moved here) but didn’t realize the ratios had grown to be this wide. I specifically looked for Caucasian kids in each class (my girls are in different classes) and I only spotted one. All of the rest of the kids were quite obviously Asian or Indian (one or two Black or Latino). Really, I’m not good at guessing but I’d say that the overwhelming majority (75% or more) were clearly Asian while the rest were Indian and a tiny fraction (like one or two kids total) were something else. Only one was unmistakably Caucasian and I couldn’t help but wonder how it was going to be for THAT kid growing up.

What does this mean to my kids?

I think it means that they are the ones who will have to be tolerant and open minded and accepting of classmates who are “different” (instead of the more common situation in International Adoption that it be the other way around). I’m glad my girls will fit in — in almost all of the immediately obvious ways — but I also hope they’ll be kind and compassionate and make the red flower kids feel like they belong and fit in too because some of those red flower kids will discriminate against them when the tables are turned. And the tables will turn constantly.

The world is much more multi-cultural than it was when I was growing up but that doesn’t mean that kids will automatically embrace all of those differences. My husband and I have a big job ahead of us because our girls won’t always be able to blend in. We need to prepare them for that. But we also have to prepare them for the reality that other people will feel like they’re unaccepted too. It’s a big job and I hope we’re up for it.

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