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Part of Your World: A Mermaid Tale

June 28, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

We first saw her profile on our adoption agency’s web page. Her special need was listed as lower leg deformity, a layman’s term for fibular hemimelia, a congenital condition of missing/shortening of fibular bone, curved tibia (shin bone) and underdeveloped foot. I turned to my husband and said: “Hey, she looks kinda cute, but we can’t adopt her. My mom would freak out.”

Months earlier when my mother first learned about our decision to adopt a child with special needs, she lost sleep and cried for several nights. When she was an infant, she contracted polio. Thus became the one with a “leg problem” for her whole life. She told me the tears that my grandmother shed for her could have made a river.

Understandably, parenting a child with a disability in my grandmother’s era, especially in an Asian culture, probably wasn’t the easiest thing to do. “I don’t want you to suffer like that,” she said. I assured her that we didn’t even check “leg problem” on our special needs list.

My husband said to me in a disagreeing tone, “Is your mother going to raise her or are we going to do that?” I looked at him in surprise, realizing he was serious about this child. So we contacted our agency and, long story short, five months later she officially became our daughter.

My mother’s reaction when she first saw our daughter’s picture (which I intentionally cropped) was: “She looks like you when you were little!” Then in a few seconds, she asked, “What’s her problem (meaning special needs)?” I sheepishly said that she had a moderate “leg problem.” Her response was not what I expected. “Tell her to be confident. A leg problem is not a big deal. You can still lead a full and meaningful life. Just look at me!” Apparently my grandmother’s tears and effort had paid off – and that’s probably why I’ve never really had a problem with a “leg problem”!


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A divine appointment

Due to the doctors’ availability, our first medical appointment was not to an international adoption clinic, but to an orthopedic surgeon at CHOP – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The surgeon rushed us through the options we had after a long wait. Basically, amputation would be an easier and quicker fix with one surgery, while leg lengthening/straightening procedure requires a series of surgeries throughout childhood. Although what the surgeon told us agreed with our prior research, I still felt the need to have a second opinion.

A fellow adoptive mom in Guangzhou gave me a phone number of her friend whose daughter had a similar condition. I called that momma from Alabama. Her daughter had the lengthening procedure at the Limb Lengthening Center in Sinai Hospital, Baltimore. It was a very informative conversation. The next day after our phone call, she texted me asking if my daughter was from Baotou? Yes, she is! This momma then texted me a whole bunch of my daughter’s pictures when she was 14 months old, a year before we adopted her. It turned out she went to Baotou on a mission trip and because our daughters had similar conditions, she was drawn to her and “prayed and prayed” for my daughter. This of course brought tears to both of our eyes. What a divine appointment and no wonder I felt such an urge to call her for advice!

Another divine appointment happened later in Sinai Hospital’s waiting room. I saw a Caucasian woman pushing an Asian girl in a stroller. Thinking this could be another adoptive family, I struck up a conversation with her. The little girl was also from China – the youngest of the seven girls adopted from China. I told her where my daughter came from — her state orphanage and her foster center. This woman then scrolled on her phone and showed me a picture… “Is this your daughter?” Yes! The photo was taken a week before we met our daughter. She had visited my daughter’s foster center! I felt so amazed and touched to meet a complete stranger who was able to provide us with another piece of my daughter’s history.

I was even more touched when I learned why this woman visited the foster center. One of the girls this woman adopted had died from a complicated heart condition due to lack of proper care when she was in China. This woman promised her daughter that she would help children who also were born with complicated heart conditions. She formed a charity organization to train orphanage staff and Chinese doctors to recognize and treat children with heart conditions. On one of her mission trips she visited my daughter’s foster center and took that picture of her. I started to realize how fortunate I was to be part of such an incredible community through my daughter’s adoption.


The amputation and a mermaid leg

I thought the consultation in Sinai Hospital with Dr. Herzenberg would put us in a hard place to make a decision. I expected him to persuade us to go through the leg lengthening procedure because that’s his specialty. But after seeing my daughter’s x-ray, he told us that the condition of her leg was quite severe and her ankle was very fused. Even if she went through the lengthening procedure, my daugher still would not have a very functional foot, plus she’d have a weaker leg (they can lengthen the existing tibia bone, but can’t give her the missing fibula bone).

He went on to tell me that there’s nothing that would stop my daughter from doing whatever she wanted to do. And then looking me straight in the eyes he said, ”Don’t worry, she won’t blame you… she won’t remember at this age.” I don’t think he was trying to persuade us in either direction. But I felt relieved that for our case, the decision of amputation was going to give our baby the best quality of life. My husband liked Dr. H for his knowledge and experience. We decided to have Dr. H as our surgeon for this surgery, and tibia straightening to fit a prosthesis later.

The surgery went smoothly and our hospital stay was only a few days. The harder part was the five weeks after the surgery when our little girl was in a spica cast that wrapped around her leg all the way up to and around her waist. No shower, creative diaper changes, and not much moving around made for a cranky girl who had nothing better to do than to watch movies on the iPad. Plus two weary parents who had to carry a cast-laden girl up and down the stairs. After the cast came off, we waited about six weeks for our surgeon to give us the go ahead to have the prosthetist make her new leg.

Shortly before our daughter’s surgery, my husband broke his toe and had to see a foot surgeon. He asked the doctor who he’d recommend for a prosthetist for our daughter. He recommended Swiss Orthopedics. And that’s eventually whom we decided to use. We were impressed with their professional knowledge and that they make their products in-house.

One thing they asked us to do was to decide on a favorite pattern. They would laminate it onto on the leg so it’d be more fun and meaningful to wear. I thought our daughter would pick a Queen Elsa pattern (and that’s probably what most little girls would choose, isn’t it?), but she chose the Little Mermaid instead. One of the first things we noticed about our daughter was her love of water – water for hand-washing, teeth-brushing, drinking, toilet flushing, water in any shape or form – and not to mention water for swimming!

And the day finally came. The prosthetist put that mermaid leg on her and for the first time, I saw my little girl standing with both legs. I couldn’t help but cry. Our little mermaid finally got her leg! She started to walk, to swing around and dance. She was so in love with her leg.

However, she isn’t too in love with the physical therapy sessions that we have to go through twice a week. Children’s Specialized Hospital has a great gym facility and nice staff, including a receptionist who always gives my daughter special treats. At first she was very excited to go to the gym. But between the hurtful stretches, difficult movements, and having to walk a certain way (the correct way) instead of her own way, she lost her willingness to cooperate.

Eventually – with mommy’s persistence, the dedication of a physical therapist and prosthetist, and the wisdom of Dr. Uustal, a rehab doctor who specializes in prosthesis – the little mermaid was able to walk and run like any other three year old in just two months.


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Part of your world

In Disney’s “Little Mermaid” movie at the end when Ariel finally marries the prince of her dreams, the background music sings the song of her heart: “Now we can walk, now we can run, now we can stay all day in the sun. Just you and me, and I can be part of your world.” Although our little mermaid can walk and run with us, I feel it was not her becoming part of our world, but us becoming part of hers.

We’ve entered the world of special needs because of our daughter. When I see parents with children who have special needs, I’d want to pat them on their shoulder, let them know that they’re not alone, pray for them and cheer them on. I’d want to be their friend so I can find out what kind of incredible journey they’ve been on and how God has offered them hope on this long and difficult road.

As we have entered the world of adoption, we have realized that this is a world full of traumas and losses, yet at the same time of love and redemption. In one of the Empowered to Connect conferences I came to realize that God had called an army to join Him in the orphan care ministry, and what an honor it is to be a part of it.


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I probably will never fully grasp the depth of my daughter’s losses and traumas, the extent of physical difficulty she does and will experience, or the emotional impact due to people’s lack of understanding of her special need. But through our little mermaid, God has opened our eyes to a world that we never knew existed. I am forever grateful that we get to be her parents, and to be part of her world.

– guest post by Yih-Pai

Waiting Children: Holden and Arlo

June 28, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Holden is almost 3 years old and has a sweet smile. He is described as full of energy & ticklish. He has repaired cleft lip and palate and his file notes that his development is behind other children his age. As of Dec 2015 when his file was prepared he was able to sit up for brief periods of time and was not yet walking. He is able to stand and take a few steps while sitting in a walker. Referral videos are available.


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Arlo is a sweet little boy who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. He is almost 5 years old. His caretakers describe him as lovely, a little shy, but full of energy. Arlo can pick his favorite toys to play with, can turn pages in a book, and can imitate sounds. We have new photos and a video of Arlo on file.


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Both of these boys are from one of AWAA orphanage partnerships and their files are designated by the CCCWA as special focus files, so a family or a single woman at any stage of the process or just beginning the process is eligible to review these files.

America World has had assessment teams at this orphanage. A family reviewing his file will be able to connect with individuals who have been to his orphanage and who may have additional information about these children and the orphanage. If you would like to learn more about how to make Holden or Arlo a part of your family, please contact AWAA.

What exactly is “smart parenting”?

June 27, 2016 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments

I figured when I shared here on NHBO about our decision to wait to see Finding Dory on DVD that it would be a well read post. The movie had just come out which meant that there were a whole lot of mamas and dads perusing the web for reviews and the like before a family night out at the theater. What I did not expect was that the post would be so widely shared and that it would generate as much dialogue as it did right here via comments and on other associated social media platforms.

Dialogue is good. It connects us, makes a one-way conversation an interactive one, challenges us. This time was no different. Some parents appreciated my take on things and approach with our kids as described in that post; some were glad to have the heads up about the movie; some not so much. I’m quite okay with that really. I devote a lot of time to researching and processing and being intentional when it comes to parenting our kids — after all, I actually get paid by the hour to help other adoptive families do that sort of thing, so I better be doing it myself, right? But, in the end, I’m just a mom trying to put what I know to be true into practice who often feels like I need the support and coaching that people come to me for. It’s by God’s grace that I get things right when I do. So, yeah, to those who said I was overthinking it; you are right, I totally was. And, to those who said I was sheltering our kids, I can see that, sure, I might be.

While I didn’t read it all, I did read a good bit of the dialogue about the post. One particular comment made me take pause:


“…I am so glad my parents weren’t like you. I mean seriously, come on, you honestly think dosing out a movie to your children with constant ‘let’s explore our feelings’ barrages is smart parenting? I emphatically disagree….life is never so soft and safe as your delivery method. Our children are in for hard times and heartbreaks, no matter how we try to warn, prep, or train them to deal with. I’d rather mine have a little more ‘hide’ on them, and some room to discover themselves and their emotions without mollycoddling them like you mention….”

Wow.

I don’t think that drawing any sort of conclusion of my parenting skills based on one explanation of my approach to a single movie is not “smart logic.” But, this man’s comment did lead me to ask myself how I would answer the question: what exactly is “smart parenting” anyway?

When I come alongside parents who are looking for some help with strategies to help them help their kids, I always emphasize message over the strategy itself. The message drives the strategy. As I approach our own kids, I do my best (which is far from perfect) to do the same and consider message over strategy. What am I telling my kids? What message am I sending them when I do a, b, or c? And, what message are they receiving? Do they match up?

Whether I am seeing a less than stellar report card for the first or twentieth time, responding to a tantrum, breaking up a sibling argument, catching him or her in a lie, responding to another unreasonable demand, facing a breakdown over something seemingly insignificant, or being proactive to give my child a little extra support to better set her child up for success, I want my child to hear the following messages:

There is hope. Always. You are never stuck where you are.

You are capable. This may be a challenge; it may be hard; but, I believe in you.

I am for you. I may not always agree with choices you make but, I am on your side. And, I not only want what’s best for you; I also am your biggest cheerleader.

My love for you is not shaken now and won’t ever be. It’s forever, baby. It’s no matter what.

Challenges will vary; strategies will vary; the messages should not. Twenty years from now, my kids (both those who joined us via adoption and biologically) may commiserate when they talk about me when I’m not around (and maybe when I am around). In fact, I’m sure they will; that’s what kids do. I’m nearly positive they won’t recall that I didn’t take them to the theater to see Finding Dory. And, I’m nearly positive they won’t specifically remember any little comments I may make about my own feelings and potentially theirs when we eventually watch it at home on DVD.

They will recall my approaches in general and how I tried my best to use opportunities to crack open doors of conversation. I don’t do it everyday; though they might laugh, roll their eyes, and say I did. They may say I was always overthinking and that my approach was overly “soft and safe.” If they do, I’ll just smile and take it because I’ll know that the messages I intended to send in all those “soft and safe” approaches was received.


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Twenty years from now, I pray that my children who already know more about hard times and heartbreaks than many adults are able to look back and say, “My mom didn’t do everything just perfectly. There are some things she did great; some things not so great. But, even when she did things not so great, I knew she was doing it because she wanted us to know that there was always hope, that I was capable, that she was for me, and that she loved me no matter what.”

I will continue as best I can to be intentional in my responses to my children and consider what each one can handle alone, what he or she can handle with support, and what he or she cannot yet handle. I will continue as best I can to ask questions and make observations when I see an open door because sometimes they walk right through those doors and we have amazing conversations that leave me in awe that even in my frailty, I get the exclusive and significant task of mothering these specific children. I will continue to parent forward, keeping in mind not only the here-and-now but where we are headed as a family and as individuals. If you want to call all that “mollycoddling,” you can. To me, it’s “smart parenting.”

– image by Tish Goff


No Limits: Adopting a Child with Amniotic Band Syndrome

June 26, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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As mom to four biological boys, I remember the ultrasound appointments where the heart, kidneys, bones and limbs were surveyed and carefully measured. I was blessed with healthy boys and encouraging news from each of those prenatal appointments. Often, I wonder if my girls’ China mommies had ultrasounds, and if they knew prior to birth …Read More

I See Love By Choice

June 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 7 Comments

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Sometimes I can’t bear CNN. I can’t stomach Facebook. My heart can’t hold another story of gut-wrenching loss, more video of violence, another photo of a child swollen from hunger, yet more stories of families fleeing from hate in their homelands. I can’t read another word about ugly politics or strands of hateful, intolerant status …Read More

A Few of Our Favorite Books

June 24, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

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We love reading at our house. Love it. As a middle school Language Arts teacher, this love makes my heart soar with delight. So. Yes. We have a ton of books. And yes, we have many, many books about {China} adoption stories. As well as stories set in China, stories about China, toddler/preschool books with …Read More

Why We Won’t Be Seeing Finding Dory on the Big Screen

June 23, 2016 by nohandsbutours 37 Comments

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*updated to add: due to the wide readership of this post, and the resulting comments, a follow-up post can be found here. Debuting on the 17th, Finding Dory has blown box office records out of the water, making its debut the highest grossing one for animated movies ever. It’s as if the crowds have been …Read More

5 Waiting Children from Bethel China

June 22, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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During the month of June we are joining Bethel China in highlighting children who are available for adoption. All of these children are blind or have significant vision loss. All of them need a forever family. For more information on any of these children, please email Anna at Bethel China. Josh is five-year-old boy who …Read More

How Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale Found Its Way

June 21, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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We all have a history. Even my picture book, Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, carries a unique backstory. When I was four years old, I had three goals: a husband, a daughter, and a book. I was sketchy about how to accomplish the first two, so I tackled the book. In purple crayon, I …Read More

Different Than What We Asked for, Better Than We Imagined

June 20, 2016 by nohandsbutours 5 Comments

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When considering the orphans of China, many think of the the one child policy and specifically the incredible amount of girls that were abandoned as a result. When my husband and I began our adoption process we too thought that it was the girls most in need of homes and loving families. Like many others, …Read More

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