next shared list

A new shared listing is expected on May 19, 2010. Wonderful news for families waiting to be matched!

If you have been matched off the shared list recently, feel free to share in the comments and I’ll add a link to your blog… we’d all love to hear your news :)

Congratulations to the new families!
Amy at A Red Thread Connection

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.

Wish I Had More To Updateadoptive momma (China) Karen at Always In My Heart… an update on her daughter Cassandra, who continues to heal from an infection

So Blessed! adoptive momma (China) Kim at Our Journey to Addison Hope… about her biological son’s special need, which is osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease

adoptive momma (China) Sarah Kate at The Shoe Princess… about her daughter’s recent IEP meeting

I Don’t WANNA Have Special Needs!
adoptive momma (China) Holly at A Purpose Driven Life!… about her son’s recent expressions of frustration about his limb difference

Devastatedsweet Nikki at Ladybug Makes Four… this family needs us to cover them in prayer, as they just discovered that the daughter they were waiting to adopt from Nanning passed away

Sensory Detectiveadoptive momma (through foster care) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With Three Boys… on life as a sensory detective, struggling to determine the difference between tantrums and meltdowns

A new look on life

Well, the most recent eye exam didn’t give quite the results we were hoping for.

At the last visit three weeks ago Dr. F was encouraged by the reduction in pressure in our little one’s eye and hoped that we’d be able to avoid further surgery for months, possibly even years. But the pressure has remained the same since then and so our next visit in three more weeks is a combo eye exam/pre-op. At that time Dr. F will determine if the goniotomy was successful enough to try to open the second half of the drain or if it is time to go ahead with the Baerveldt valve implant. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, that news was disappointing.

But there was a really good part to visiting Duke again. Cause these precious little Julbo frames were waiting for us when we got there.

Our little girl has a new look on life. Her strong eye went from 20/60 to 20/40 and her helper eye went from 20/400 to somewhere between 20/200 and 20/125.

And not only does Dr. F (and therefore we) know she is seeing better, more importantly, it appears she knows she’s seeing better.

Cause she grinned as soon as they were on her face. Then she spent a little extra time studying mine. She never once tried to take them off all day. And when she reappeared from her bedroom after her nap, she was sporting her little pink frames.

Something tells me that her little grin means she thinks she looks as pretty as we do.

And you know what I love about my kids? Both of her siblings were supportive of her new look. Of course I wasn’t really surprised about that. These days, about 90% of the time, that’s the way these guys are. Loving life. Laughing. Smiling. Together.

Now, there is the news that we will start patching her strong eye so that the brain is forced to accept information from the helper eye. Three hours a day. Seven days a week. For the next two years.

Can’t say that I’m looking forward to it. Course from what I know about this little girl, she’ll roll with the punches. It’s what she seems to do best. And when she gets a questioning look from someone in public about her patch, she’s got her posse by her side.

When you got love like this on your right and left, who needs to worry about what others might think…

**reworked from a post on my personal blog from last week. It’s been a little hectic around here as late.**

Mean Mom

I have two daughters who were born just over a year apart. They are both smart, funny and beautiful. They love clothes and doing hair and shopping. One is dramatic and fiery and active. The other is practical and sensitive and still. One I have known her entire life. The other, I met in June of 2009.

Both my girls are creative and artistic. Both love dance and music and self expression. One of them dreams of flowers and meadows and princess dances.

The other dreams of Mean Mom.

Mean Mom looks like me. She talks like me. Her eyes and hair and body are mine. But Mean Mom is not me. My daughter always makes this very clear when she tells me about the dream.

In the dream, Mean Mom does one of three things: She leaves my daughter at the store or at church or in the park, she refuses to feed her when she is hungry, she laughs when my daughter cries.

Mean Mom is mean. Pure and simple.

For months after the first Mean Mom dream, my daughter eyed me with wary consternation. “How do I know, Mommy, if I am dreaming or awake?” she’d ask, and I’d feel my heart shiver just a little.

“What do you mean?” I’d respond.

“How do I know you are Nice Mommy and not Mean Mom?” She’d persist, and I’d tell her, once again, that dreams are never real, and that Mean Mom doesn’t exist. Then I’d renew my efforts to bond with her. I’d take her to the park and church and the store, and I’d always bring her home. When she was hurt, I’d cuddle her close and give her band aids and kisses. When she was hungry, I would bring her to the kitchen and let her help me fix a snack.

There were times when I doubted the effectiveness of my laid-back approach to my daughter’s dream. It was such a weird and bizarre thing, this manifestation, this haunting evil twin of mine. I had thoughts of doctors and therapies and years of working to loosen Mean Mom’s hold, but instinct told me love and persistence would win the day. So, I kept on the way I was going, reassuring my daughter until the dream faded and Mean Mom was nothing but a memory.

I have two daughters. One has suffered loss and trauma and betrayal. Cheeky’s past is so full of all those things that it seems the dream reflects her fears, her losses and all that she is afraid of losing again.

Yet, the dream is not Cheeky’s.

It is Sassy’s.

From the time Sassy was three until she was nearly five, Mean Mom was almost as real to her as I was. When we began the adoption process, I read books on bonding and attachment, and it occurred to me that Sassy exhibited many of the signs of a traumatized child. She did have a difficult birth experience. As I lay bleeding out, she was whisked to the NICU where she was poked and prodded. It was twelve hours before I was stable enough to see her and touch her and speak her name. Sometimes, I wonder if those hours cemented a thought in her brain, a chemical memory, perhaps, of betrayal. One way or another, I have always felt that I had to work harder to connect with my fiery girl. She loves passionately, but she has such a hard time being vulnerable.

Does that hark back to being ‘abandoned’ at birth, or is it simply a product of her personality and temperament?

I will never know, but the juxtaposition of my daughters’ dreams is interesting to me. Cheeky was abandoned by the world’s standards. It would seem that she should be the one dreaming of a mean mother who leaves her behind and laughs when she cries. Instead, she dreams of dancing and flowers and all things light and wonderful. Sassy, who was simply whisked away to be cared for by competent and caring hospital staff, is the one who suffered through months of thinking an evil mom lurked somewhere in the shadows waiting to snatch her away.

Why is that?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself often lately.

But the more I ask it, the more I realize that it doesn’t matter.

Mean Mom was here, and now she is gone – a blip on the radar, an odd chapter in my daughter’s life.

A battle we fought together and won.

And, I guess that is what parenting is really all about. Whether we adopt our children or birth them, we must be committed to fighting for them and with them, no matter the struggles, no matter the reasons for those struggles. There should be no thought that what our child brings to us is a product of who she once was or how she once lived and that her troubles are, therefore, not our responsibility. There must simply be acceptance and the understanding that her past is our past whether we lived it together or not. Only in embracing that truth can we discover the miracle of love – that it isn’t built on one defining moment, but on millions of mundane ones piled one upon the other until we are left breathless from the sheer wonder of it.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. May you find joy in the good times and peace in the trials, and may every mundane moment with your children be a miracle.

The Best Stuff’s Never Planned

The family photo shoot was certainly planned. The outfits, the hairstyles, the location, the photographer, all planned.

The head bonk, however, was not. And I love it.

The day before we left for China, five year-old Rose flew by herself to Idaho to stay with her grandparents. I snapped this picture at the airport, blinking back tears. My baby wouldn’t be the baby anymore. The next time I saw her, things would be different. Hopefully better, but different.

What if her new sister had issues that would now take the lion share of my time? What if I’d tempted fate and messed up the good thing we had going? Would this changing-point-in-our-lives moment be something Rose would thank me for someday or need to hash out with her therapist?

It’s been over three years now. Almost four. And the joy I see pass between these two little girls, even when they’re hitting heads (literally and figuratively), warms me through and through. Cholita, our baby number 4, was planned. Ditto with the trip to China. Finding Rose a best friend was unplanned. And I love it.

Artyom and Chrissie

For almost a whole month, I’ve been thinking about 7 year old Artyom who was sent back to Moscow on a one way, nonstop flight with a note pinned to his coat that explained that his adoptive mom no longer wished to parent him. I’m not going to go into how I feel about what she did because I’ve already hashed all of that out on my blog but it’s pretty obvious to most that this child had problems that his family were not equipped to deal with. If there’s a silver lining to his story, it’s that his next (and hopefully last) family will be MUCH more aware of his needs and better able to dedicate the patience, time, and resources to give him what he needs to thrive.

All children deserve to thrive.

Chrissie is trying very hard to thrive right now. She’s hooked up to a ventilator in a hospital in San Antonio with her mother near her side. Right where her mommy’s been since April 19th when Chrissie first arrived at the hospital to fix a heart defect that her new family knew was “incompatible with life.” They had all of the information they needed and they made the choice knowing full well that she’d need serious help to survive.

I’m almost ashamed to say that I’m not sure I could have made that choice. I know they didn’t do it to earn the admiration of people like me but they sure do have my admiration and respect anyway.

I’m thankful that there are people like Chrissie’s parents who will do this in spite of all of the emotional risks and I’m thankful that Chrissie orphanage in Serbia didn’t downplay or minimize (or completely withhold) the severity of her heart condition. If they had, an unsuspecting family might have easily fallen in love with her sweet smile and brought her home. But other than love, would they have been able to give her what she needed? Would they have been able to dedicate the physical, emotional, financial and medical resources necessary to give her the best hope of a full life? A life beyond her preschool years?

Could you do it? Could you adopt a child like Chrissie?

I couldn’t.

I know my limitations. If I’d been handed a child like Chrissie, I would have done my best and it would have been a fantastic effort and I’m pretty sure that nobody would find any fault with it but I’m almost certain that it wouldn’t have been as good as the mom and dad she has right now.


Because this family knew what was coming and they were prepared for it while most of us would only be able to respond to it.

Proactive vs reactive.

Two children.

Two countries.

Two adoptive families.

Two totally different outcomes.

Hopefully, they’ll both have happy endings.

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.

Stepping Out In Faith
an adoptive momma (China) at 1001 Tears… on stepping out in faith and trusting God throughout the adoption process

This side of surgeryadoptive momma (China) Kristi at Fireworks & Fireflies… describing a week after surgery, from the hour before her daughter roused from the anesthesia to the doctor’s report

1st Day of Schooladoptive momma (China) Cheri at Infinite Love… the first day of school for a newly adopted second grader

{My Hero} Ten Days After Surgeryadoptive momma (China) Steffie B. at Never Too Many… an update ten days after open-heart surgery

Surgery for Cassandraadoptive momma (China) Karen at Always In My Heart… on an upcoming surgery for an eleven-year-old with spina bifida and her memories of surgeries in China

Racing Towards a Cure for TSCadoptive momma (Korea) Carissa at My Everyday Miracles… an informational post on tuberous sclerosis complex as this momma prepares to walk for a cure

Alex’s Check-Up at the SB Clinic
adoptive momma (Russia, Siberia and the Ukraine) Christine at Smiles & Trials… their check-up at the spina bifida clinic

Cleft Bottle Projectteen adoptee (China) Julia at the group China teen adoptee blog One World… on the Starfish cleft bottle project

What Gets Your Goat?adoptive momma (foster care) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys… navigating the world of special needs – inside the pharmacy

Explaining "I Did Not Love My Adopted Child" to My Very Real, Very Loved Daughter

A final guest post, contributed by KJ Dell’Antonia (aka Lola Granola). KJ is now a regular contributor at NHBO, so you’ll hear from her monthly beginning this month.
KJ is a writer and mother to four children. Her youngest, Rory, was adopted from China in July 2009. She blogs about real life at Raising Devils.

In the the wake of the Torry Hanson case, I wrote a piece for Slate Magazine (where I’m a regular contributor to the DoubleX section) that my editors there titled “I Did Not Love My Adopted Child,” or, if you came to it from the first page, “I Didn’t Love My Foreign Adopted Kid at First, Either.” I liked the second title better – and actually proposed changing the first; I wanted to call it “Adoption Sucks – But that’s No Reason Not to Do It.” But the title held, and it worked – I don’t have any way of knowing exactly how many people read that piece, but certainly “a lot” is probably an understatement. And that’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted what I wrote to be as helpful to people as Melissa Fay Greene’s essay “Post-Adoption Panic” in the book A Love Like No Other was to me. I came back to her words so often in the difficult months after we brought Rory home that the book falls open to her pages. I treasure her description of her son: “a fit-throwing, non-English-speaking, snarling Bulgarian four-year-old,” and I recited, like a mantra, the advice she attributed to a friend “You can just pretend to love him… Just fake it.” That’s what I hoped for, and I think I succeeded – at the very least, I encouraged people to believe that it’s ok to work hard for the happy ending – but, of course, I have to live with my words, and their title, forever. And the big question, asked by everyone from commenters to friends to a caller on Talk of the Nation, is – how are you going to explain this to Rory?

I’m not sure I’ll have to – at least, not in the sense of her suddenly being confronted with this from out of the blue. Because the thing is, like Greene, I was faking it, and – because unlike Greene’s son Jesse, Rory had had a mother, a loving, devoted foster mother who I hope will always be a part of her life – I firmly believe that, at least on some level, Rory knew it. That’s what I think of, when I picture Rory reading my words. She knew I didn’t love her. And she knows I love her now. And I’m even more determined that by then she’ll know I’ll love her now forever.

She was there, after all. The awful truth is that, although she was every bit as miserable and anguished and angry as I described her, she was ready to love me, or at least to need me. She had just been torn away from everything she ever knew, and her foster mother told her to love me – to love us, to go to us, to adopt us as her own – and she was willing, probably because it was her only hope. I was the one who didn’t meet her halfway. She knows that there were moments when, as she sobbed hysterically (actually, with her, it was usually firetruck screams of rage) over something – no, she can’t play with my phone, no, she can’t drink all my coffee, no, she can’t stand on the trash can, no, she can’t flush the toilet over and over and over and over, no, Wyatt shouldn’t hit her but she hit him first, I saw her, no, she can’t just take Lily’s doll, no, that’s not her cookie, she already ate her cookie – and I knew, because I’m not stupid, because I DID read the books and I DID think about what we were doing and I DID think I was prepared – that she was really screaming about being taken away from everything she’d ever known and loved – she knows, in short, that there were moments when all she needed was comfort and I put her down and I walked away. Those were most emphatically not some loving moments.

And she knows that I don’t do that any more.

So what I think is that that’s part of our story. I’ll have to be sure to put words to what might have otherwise gone unspoken, and that forever, when we talk about that summer, it will be the summer when we were learning to love one another. That I will have to, when I talk about our becoming a family, use love the way I used it in the article – to mean our secure and ongoing connection. I will tell her that I was always committed to her, and that even in the hardest moments, I would never have sent her away, never have hurt her, never have let her have her world torn apart again, and I will tell her that I never meant to fail her, but I know that I sometimes did, and that the fact that we learned to love each other anyway will always be one of the abiding miracles of my life. I think our love will be even stronger for having all that out where we can see it and own it.

And it will also be the summer when she fell asleep on the tag-a-long and fell off the bike, and ate Doritos at the pool, and learned to swim and jumped off the diving board for the first time. Because, you know, I write about this a lot, and I think about this a lot, but mostly, we just live our lives. I didn’t love Sam the day he came home from the hospital nearly the way I love him now; I hated Lily for coming between me and Sam, and for all the fierce love I feel for Wyatt now, when he was a newborn I’d have left him by the side of the road if I’d had to do it to save Sam and Lily, who I’d known and loved for so much longer–and I write those words, and I don’t worry about them reading them someday. Love grows. That’s what it’s meant to do. And then it never, ever goes away.

A different family could tell a different story – I loved you before I met you; I loved you before you were born, I have always loved you. For me, that would mean that I loved the idea of my children as much as my children themselves. That’s not us, that’s not me, that’s not our story. That’s not what I mean when I use the word love. I did not love “my adopted child.” But oh, I love my daughter now.

So, thanks to everyone who cared enough about us, and our progress, to ask. I could say a lot more about this. I could write a whole book about it. Stay, I guess, tuned – but know that Rory went to bed tonight with a bunch of kisses, an extra hug and a smile on her face. Of course, when I said “I love you, good night,” she said “Meow,” but I didn’t take it personally. Everybody knows cats can’t talk.

special needs?

I am a most ordinary person.

I drink Diet Coke with my McDonald’s French fries. I love Target and People Magazine. I drive a mini-van for goodness sakes.

Back when we were just starting out on our adoption journey, I began to hear bits and pieces about the ‘Waiting Child’ program that the CCAA has in place for children with “special needs”. I assumed that this program was for kids who weren’t ‘normal’. For children that would probably have too many needs for a family like ours to parent. Especially considering our four other children who were already at home. “I don’t have the time or the energy”, I thought.

Plus, I have a real fondness for all things ‘normal’.

What I did not know at the time, but soon learned, is that the children in the waiting child program are normal. Not only normal, but healthy. And wonderful. The more I researched the waiting child program while we were waiting for our non-special needs referral, the more I realized that adopting a child with special needs was something our family could do. Easily.

There were definitely some needs that we felt would be too much for us, but many of the needs seemed very manageable. A few seemed even, dare I say it, easy. It took Chris a few months to come to a place where he was ready to consider taking on the additional responsibility of adopting a child with special needs. He, as the head of our household, had to consider all the logistical aspects of what it might entail. But God calmed our fears and soon we moved forward in faith. We submitted a medical needs checklist and waited to see God’s plan unfold.

On February 7, 2005 I received the call of a lifetime. It was our agency’s Special Needs Program coordinator. And she had a referral for us to consider.

Isabelle at referral

That referral was a tiny 7 month old girl with a minor heart defect. We knew immediately that she was our daughter and accepted her referral. We have never looked back at the traditional non-special needs program.

Adopting a waiting child has been such a multi-faceted blessing for us and for our whole family. We didn’t start out on our adoption journey as a rescue mission, but indeed we did rescue a child. A tiny girl with a hole in her heart that needed to be repaired. And we were, with the help of our insurance and a wonderful children’s hospital, able to have her heart repaired to normal. Now we can watch our ‘normal’ child grow up with the love and safety of a family she might have never had in China.

Luke 6:38
“If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over.”

Since bringing home Isabelle in 2005, we have brought home her sisters Sophie and Vivienne, and her brothers Jude and Shepherd. All waiting children. All with differing special needs. And we have been blessed exponentially by being able to provide each of them with the medical attention they need while watching them grow and flourish as they find their place in their forever family.

Every night as I go to bed, I am grateful for the opportunity that God has given me to parent these children. I have been blessed. We have all been blessed. Our children have learned that children with medical issues or disabilities are more than their ‘needs’. Each and every one is precious. And, above all, every bit as deserving of love and a family as a ‘normal’ child. We have all been forever changed by our decision to step out of the boat and follow God’s prompting to consider special needs adoption.

Isabelle today

Certainly not every family is cut out for the waiting child program. And for those that feel lead to stay in the non-special needs program most definitely should. It’s a decision each family must make thoughtfully and carefully, it is a lifetime commitment to parent any child.

But for our family, the blessings have far outweighed the risks. We can’t wait to bring home our next waiting child. Whoever they might be, whatever their special need, we are certain of one thing. We will be blessed to be their family.

1 Corinthians 2:9
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

**I wrote this post when we were waiting to bring Jude home in 2007. But our story is as true today as it was back then. So I thought I’d update it and share it here. I hope you enjoy it.

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.

I Had High Hopes!adoptive parents (China) the Ferrills at The Ferrill Bunch… on last week’s visit to the hematologist

{The time has come for Andrew’s surgery} and Andrew’s Progressadoptive momma (China) Steffie B. at Never Too Many… on her son’s open-heart surgery this past weekend

Hospital Pics and What Faith Can Doadoptive momma (Columbia and Serbia) Lorraine at All Are Precious In His Sight… her daughter was on life support last week, but is stable now, so please stop by and offer some encouragement

At Which Point I Employ Sarcasmadoptive momma (China) Shirlee McCoy at And Then There Were Seven… a recent conversation about albinism at Chinese school

Labelsadoptive momma (China) AmFam at American Family… looking past the labels to truly see her little girl, realizing that it’s not about “fixing” her girl

adoptive momma (China) Wife of the Prez at Room For At Least One More… her daughter starts speech therapy this week

How Far We’ve Comeadoptive momma (China) Cheri at Loving Lia… an update affter two years home with their daughter, whom they originally thought had a brain cyst, but found out after adoption that she has cerebral palsy, seizures, institutional autism and verbal apraxia