what time?

Difficult conversations.

They happen in every house from time to time. Sometimes they are easy to see coming, other times they can hit just about blindsided.

And then there are the times you lay your own trap…

Last year I turned 40. The morning of my birthday one of my kiddos came in to wake me up and started immediately with the ribbing, “Hey Mommy, you are 40, oh you are 40, yes you are 40!” (sung to a catchy but made up tune)

Now as my birthday rolled by last April, we had just completed our fifth dossier and all the documents were fresh in my mind. So to throw off the child that was mercilessly teasing me about my age, I retorted with, “Actually, I’m not. Not yet. I won’t really be 40 until 2:09 this afternoon.”

Now this had my adorable tormentors full attention. “This afternoon? What do you mean? How do you know what time of day you were born?”

Without even thinking I replied, “It says so on my birth certificate.”

And just like that I launched a grenade at my child. Because the questions that followed are ones for which I have no answer.

“Oh cool! So what time was I born?”

“What time were you born? Well, actually we don’t know exactly what time you were born.”

(Insert incredulous stare upon admission that I had no clear answer).

“What do you mean you don’t know what time I was born? How can you know what time you were born if you don’t know what time I was born? Why does your birth certificate tell you and mine doesn’t?”

So we began a discussion in detail on why my birth certificate is so different than all of theirs. That my mother and father registered my birth at the hospital when I was born and that their respective orphanages assigned theirs at the time they were found. That mine had specifics on exactly what time I was born and what hospital I was born in and theirs give a day and the province (it is assumed) they were born in.

And it hurt.

It hurt my heart to have question after question pile up with no solid answer to give. Yes, my kids all are aware that they were born in China. Each of them knows that while I am their “forever mommy,” I am not their “belly mommy.” They know they were in an orphanage or foster care (or both) from their infancy until they became part of our family. We have for certain the dates they came into the care of their orphanage and the day, even the time, we met them. Those are facts I can give.

But the “whys” for which I have no answers…the ones that find my children living across the ocean, in a different culture from the women that gave birth to them…are overwhelming some days.

I’ve always tried to answer their questions as simply and honestly as I can even though some days I want to distract them with something else so we can avoid the topic of abandonment. (I mean, how do you break that down simply for a child under the age of seven to comprehend?) Of course I usually find that a simple sentence or two, even if part of my response is to say that I don’t really know the answer, is all they need in the moment. Then they’re back off jumping rope or kicking a soccer ball, just like any other 5 to 7 year old.

Don’t get me wrong. The abandonment of my children isn’t in focus on a daily, weekly, or necessarily even a monthly basis in our house. But the topic does rear its ugly head from time to time. And I…we all, as adoptive parents…need to not sweep it under the rug and pretend it will just go away. Instead we, as a community, need to be prepared to sit down and field those difficult conversations, long or short as they may be…for our children’s sake.



“but it said repaired”

I vividly remember reading our referral paperwork. I remember first reading the descriptions of her developmental milestones and evaluated her development through mom and teacher goggles… “she follows objects… she is tracking… she is grasping things… she is babbling and forming simple sounds… she turns her head when there is a noise… she can hear noises… she sleeps through the night… she eats biscuits… she laughs… she cries when seeing strangers… she is loved by her nanny.”

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I remember pouring through the detailed medical information. Everything from head circumference to congenital heart defect to precisely where they made the incision for her repaired tracheo-esophageal fistula. I read about when it was done, where it was done, exam notes from while she was hospitalized, and discharge notes for her prognosis.

I can’t say if every referral file is as detailed as ours was, but it seemed to be ridiculously detailed. I felt like I knew more about this child, this daughter I loved but had not met – than I knew about the children I gave birth to! Pages upon pages of information gave me insight into her past, present, and hope for her future. It is a treasure to me now even more than it was then because it’s her story before we joined her life. It’s all I have to fill in the missing pieces, and yet even as we returned home there there was much more to be learned.

XIN QIU MIN pic 2

I remember mentally checking off the Tracheo-esophageal Fistula (TEF) as “complete”, a “non-issue”, thinking “We need not worry ourselves about that because – (hallelujah) – it has been repaired”. And it was repaired. It was repaired “with excellence and precision”, we would later be told by specialists here. Grace was three weeks old at the time of repair because that is a repair that has to come very quickly in order to survive. At the time she was found, this TEF – this connection between her trachea and esophagus, allowed whatever she drank to be shared by her esophagus and her trachea.

The esophagus leads to her stomach. The trachea leads to her lungs. Fluid should’t go to the lungs because that’ll make you very sick. The connection, the fistula, was removed and the places where it was attached were closed. You would think that would be the end of that special need. The file said, “Repaired”. Sometimes repairs leave evidence that there was a problem. Sometimes healing produces scar tissue and sometimes in order to fix one thing – you inevitably create new challenges.

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So it goes with a TEF repair. Once repaired the trachea becomes compromised. It still functions but in most cases becomes “floppy” or is diagnosed as “tracheo-malacia”. When we met Grace she sounded cross between a sick seal, a babbling brook, and a veteran smoker in crisis. She was recovering from yet another bout of pneumonia but it was more than that. She was so very noisy. Noisy when she breathed, noisy when she laughed, noisy when she slept, and noisy when she ate. Leaving the less-than-
healthy China-air behind was probably the best medicine for her second only to her heart surgery.

Having a floppy trachea makes her more susceptible to infection. Things that should be easily expelled from our trachea isn’t always so easy for Grace, but – I hardly notice any noise any more; because there hardly is any noise any more. As she grows (and she’s growing) it is expected to improve and for as susceptible as she is to infection, she had only one in 11 months of being in the US. That is record-breaking for our little Grace. She is definitely one who defies the odds.

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The esophagus on the other hand, is both friend and foe and we do battle daily. Meals are the most difficult time of the day because at 2 1/2 little miss thing wants to eat what we eat. She wants to feed herself the way we feed ourselves. She longs for independence in the area of self-feeding, and we can not fully give her that independence. Her esophagus narrows where her repair was. There is scar tissue, and while it isn’t narrow enough to dilate (according to our specialist) it’s narrow enough to make eating a challenge in this season of life. Foods like yogurt, apple sauce, crunchy crackers that she knows to chew well, toast with a very thin layer of peanut butter or cream cheese, and some soups, are our go-to foods. Normal toddler foods like any kind of meaty nugget, cut up fresh fruits or veggies, some cooked veggies, any potato product, bread, pasta, and any kind of mixed texture is risky for Grace. Choking happens in the trachea – so I don’t call what happens to Grace choking, but it’s similar. Food gets stuck. It gets stuck at the point of her narrowing and one of two things happens:

1.) what goes down comes back up (sometimes not right away)
2.) what goes down eventually….goes down.

In addition to the narrow point, there’s a second consequence from her repair. In you and I, the esophagus has a chain of nerves that squeezes food down in a rhythmic contraction of muscles called peristalsis. When that chain of nerves was interrupted during Grace’s TEF repair their function became limited. We don’t know how limited, we don’t know if the function will return aside from a heavenly healing; but we do know that once passed the point of her repair – we rely on gravity rather than her esophagus to move the food into her stomach. There is evidence of reflux at the bottom of her esophagus which she may or may not feel depending on the degree of nerve damage, so she is currently on a twice a day dose of liquid randitidine (generic Zantac). Will it always be this way? Only God knows. Nothing is impossible for Him so we pray often for healing. As she grows, though, and discoveres what we veteran eaters know to be true: 1. Take small bites. 2. Chew food well. 3. Swallow small bits at a time. 4. Take a drink to help move things a long – things will naturally be easier for her.

We monitor her closely at meal times but despite our best efforts there have been many scary moments, and yet it’s very manageable. It’s nothing we can’t handle and there has been noticeable improvement since we met almost 11 months ago, and for that we are thankful.

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From what I have learned over these months, it is uncommon for post-TEF-repair patients in China to be flagged for tracheo-malacia and esophageal narrowing and reflux. Here in the US it’s expected. Our and ENT specialist both said, “of course she has these two issues, all post TEF kids do”. The funny thing is, that when you accept the referral of a child and you know they’re yours, very little on the referral information can change your heart. That is our story. Grace could have had a third eyeball, and eight legs and nothing would have kept her from my arms. It can, however, throw you for a loop when you believe that there isn’t an issue or a challenge or a significant diagnosis when in fact there are two or three, or more. Her heart defect was doing such a number on her tiny body that after traveling with a cyanotic baby and hurrying to open heart surgery it distracted us all and gave us the perspective of what is really hard and what isn’t. Caring for a cyanotic baby was hard. Watching her slump over mid-TET spell – was terrifying. Once that was over, if all I had to do was make sure she eats safely? – I’m good with that. Praise Jesus! I’ll gladly trade one critical need for two needs we can live with.

Perspective is very effective at pointing you to where you need to soak in thankfulness. Would I encourage a family to accept the referral of a child with post-TEF-repair? Absolutely and without question. It is a very manageable special need. I would strongly encourage them to read about tracheo-malacia and stenosis (narrowing) of the esophagus; and learn how to choose and prepare safe foods for their toddler to eat so they can be as independent as possible because independence is important.

Referral information is valuable, it is important to share it with experts who will do their best to prepare you to parent and care for your child. As with our biological children, we can never be truly prepared for everything. Even fifteen pages of referral documents doesn’t cover everything. It left out some important details, some of them challenging and some of them wonderfully surprising.

What the referral information didn’t tell me was what a little 22 lb. fighter we have in Grace. I didn’t expect her to be strong. She is very strong. I didn’t expect her to be brave, but she is that too. I didn’t expect all that she has endured between being found to surgeries to hospitalizations, transitioning from orphanage to foster home, and more hospitalizations. The life changing experience of adoption and heart surgery has each shaped her into such a fierce, yet little pint sized girl. I can’t help but wonder about all that she has endured and all she has survived without me, and all that she has overcome without a family. I see glimpses of how it has shaped her personality and still affects her behavior and I’m reminded again and again what a miracle she is. Sometimes even miracles need a chance. All she needed was a family, a home, medical care and love. There is no telling what will come from giving a child like Grace a chance. For us, this miracle of adoption all began with two words:

I will.

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Completely Natural

My virtual twins are thick as thieves. And they act like an old married couple. The bond they share is amazing to behold. They actually have the same type of relationship that biological twins do. The way God has grafted their two little hearts together is most amazing.

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With this relationship comes lots and lots of playtime. And given the day, sometimes lots and lots of arguing! But this morning I was in my favorite chair sipping on my coffee when I overheard them playing “house” together in one of their more adorable moments.

Cora: Caden, get in my tummy. I want you to be my baby.
Caden: I can’t. I’m too big.
Cora: Alright, then I’ll adopt you. Let’s pretend we’re in China….

I couldn’t help but smile as I listened to their dialogue. My “littles” are now both five years old, and are becoming aware of things. They have three older siblings that are my biological children. All of their friends from preschool are part of their original families, and some of them have younger siblings on the way. We’ve begun having the talks about babies and families…the talks that revealed they grew in another Mommy’s tummy in China.

With these talks come fear. Fear that I won’t give their birth mothers enough honor. With China adoption, we get so little information. The few sentences in their adoption files about their findings give me the only glimpse I have into the mothers who came before me. I fear our talks will bring them pain. And I fear that somehow they will see adoption as “less” than birth. Plan B rather than Plan A. But there’s no difference in my heart…whether their stories of joining our family begin in a hospital or a Civil Affairs office, my babies are my babies. And I want them to know that.

It amazed me…and pleased me…how quickly they made the jump to adoption in their playacting. Babies do grow in a tummy. I can’t deny that. But that doesn’t mean that somehow adoption is an unnatural way to grow a family. In fact, the relationship I have with these two little stinkers is so natural it’s breathtaking. We didn’t get there overnight. We still hit our little adoption-related bumps on occasion. But we belong to each other…and it’s as natural as can be.



what we’re reading: 4.3.2014

From the last few weeks, some good stuff we’ve read that relates to adoption and/or parenting a special needs child.

As always, if you’ve read or written something you think would be a good addition to a future What We’re Reading post, we’d love to hear about it…

To share a blog post or news article go here.
To share your blog with our readers, as a soon-to-be traveling to China family go here.

inthenews

Good Morning America takes a look at how Jenny Bowen – founder of Half the Sky – and how one mother, moved by the transforming power of love, has impacted the lives of countless orphans in China.

Heartbreaking pictorial of Chinese parents as they abandon their sick and/or special needs children at the Guangzhou “baby hatch”.

Another article about a baby hatch, this one in Tianjin. “… all 35 babies left in the Tianjin hatch have severe disabilities and illnesses, such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and congenital heart disease,” says Xu who runs the Tianjin baby hatch.

Maylaysia Airlines missing airplane exposes the devastation of the “orphaned” adults that were created in this tragedy due to China’s one-child policy.

Lisa Milbrand, mom of a daughter from China with microtia, blogs at Parents.com with her thoughts on why she chose to adopt a child with special needs.

A mother in Israel comes up with an ingenious way to help her son walk with her. He has cerebral palsy and this invention enables them to do all sorts of everyday activities together. She hopes her invention will benefit children everywhere with impaired motor skills.

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Oh my. Sweet, sweet portraits taken of some of the children at the Little Flower Project foster home in China.

Melissa, mom to two little boys from China through the special needs program, shares transparently about the attachment struggles she has encountered with her second adoption that she never experienced with her first. Great read for anyone home or in the process.

Karen, mom to a 5 year old home from China since 2012, shares her recent experience with trauma-related behavior in her daughter and how she was able to navigate those difficult times by utilizing The Connected Child.

And another post by Karen, about a recent trip to see the musical Annie and how it caused an unexpected reaction in her heart.

Experienced adoptive mama Kelly gives insight into how your newly adopted child is feeling in those first few days and weeks after adoption.

Annie, who recently adopted two sweet girls from China, shares her heart on the heartbreak and the healing of adopting children who have endured more than any child ever should.

Read something inspiring lately? Informative? Encouraging? Share the link HERE.

extras

Outstanding resource for adoptive families, Empowered to Connect. Be sure to visit the Resources page for access to an online library of articles, audio and video presentations for adoptive and foster parents, all free.

Adorable set of eight farm animal wall cards in Chinese.

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In China now, or just home with their child…

C&Alea

Our very own Carrie meeting her precious daughter Alea for the first time

Scarlet Threads
Difference for One
Our 7th Heaven
Bringing Home Emily Hope
Adoption Adventures with 2 Princesses and a Prince
From God’s Heart to Our Home
To Tallulah
To the Moon and Back

Getting close to travel for your little one in China? Share the link HERE.

P.S. A special thank you to everyone who submitted recommendations for What We’re Reading this week.


Confession

Confession: I am a reluctant blogger. I normally write because I’ve been asked to and while it is therapeutic to do so, I find myself more and more backing away from the computer, overrun by mommy blogs attacking my facebook stream. Some are beautifully honest and real, helping in the trenches and deep waters of everyday life and some are just plain fear producing and guilt pushing. It is draining and I tend to look away and step aside. At times though, there is one that will hit me between the eyes (usually on this site!) and I see through that blurred vision for a couple of days and I continue to say “yes” and read away. Those times change my direction for good and put me on a different course. A course that others have walked and found the air easier to breathe upon arriving. We need to hear this vulnerable place found stepping into truth.

It was in these past days that I have held “The Little White One” in my mind and ached for Kam’s friend Tamara and her son Zach. The “little white one’s” fight and Zach’s glorious trust that speak to something heavenly. They won’t quite let me go this week and it’s a good thing. Right between the eyes.

A beloved friend and I were chatting about adoption. Yes, we both have adopted children but on that day we were keenly aware of our own adoption. It was that divine mystery that held us in our conversation. That church at Ephesus who first heard our own covenant invitation as chosen children. That verse three of Paul’s letter that blows my mind every time. That because He chose us and we chose Him, we are blessed with everything. That we receive every spiritual blessing and that there is nothing left out and we essentially belong. Adoption that God is pleased to establish so that we get the abundance and overflow. There is no more scrounging for scraps but there is abundance to be had and enjoyed in a family. We are sealed with inheritance and it is holy.

So I have glided through my day, thinking of how “The Little White One” fights when she is held and fights harder when spoken to in gentleness. How I can at times look just like her when I don’t recognize the inheritance I have before my Father who loves me. How I am no different and how my eyes gaze deeply into the eyes of my own daughter, who is learning to receive the inheritance of having my last name and the bigger one of the kind intention of God’s will. How she will fight me because she can’t help herself and how I will see her as blameless because I can’t help myself. How Tamara says, “she’s insane” but her son Zach is trusting God, despite a disease that seems to be devouring him. He seems to be stepping into that unseen yet tangible inheritance, as his eyes that are enlightened to a wisdom and knowledge of God beyond His years – well, they humble my own older eyes that get out of focus now and then.

So, this reluctant blogger is thankful to read ones that hit me between the eyes. To walk in a community that is transparent and holds each other’s hands. Even lifts them up from time to time. Because adoption as sons and daughters gives us everything and then some. You can’t Pinterest adoption – it is too hard and too glorious to attempt. You almost can’t speak or write of it either…it is a divine mystery. “Little White One” and “She says they’re insane, but I say they ROCK” (both previous blog posts on this site) did a beautiful work of showing something in the now that points to something heavenly. Those moments when we relate to fighting against Love and those moments when Love conquers the most impossible things and days that seem impossible, are somehow okay. Divinely okay.

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she says they’re insane, but I say they ROCK

So we have some great friends in this life. Tamara & Jason are among them. We met back in the late ‘90’s when our hubbies were attending seminary in Fort Worth. We were carefree… with good jobs, a love for coffee, and no kids between us. We played often, laughed hard, took trips and lived out a fantastic friendship during these years.

After school, the Lord took them one direction and us another. But the ties that bind us remain unbroken and when my phone rang a few months ago, from Missouri, I thought… “I only know one family there…”

Tamara was one the other end and after the usual “Girl! How in the world are you???” stuff…she just began to open up about what the Lord was doing. I was really surprised, desperately happy and a little bit in awe.

They were adopting! That’s always music to my ears!

But here’s the kicker.

Several years ago, during a particularly difficult time in their ministry, Jason and Tamara had traveled to see us. They ended up staying the weekend with our family at my parents’ home. They needed refuge and respite. I’m not sure they got either! But we loved having them here and sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine.

At one point, their toddler son, Zach, was attempting to walk up my parents’ staircase. Tamara mentioned to me that they was concerned about him…that they actually had several concerns.

And they were completely founded.

Enter Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

We’ve watched them from afar raise their son with grace and prayerful parenting. We’ve begged God on their behalf and have grown in our love for them as we see the effects this devastating disease has had on their precious son.

We recently had dinner with Jason when he was in town for a ministry conference. He spoke a lot about Zach, DMD and their life…and their adoption. It got me to thinking, maybe some of you need to know Tamara. Maybe you need to hear from her. Maybe THIS is what No Hands But Ours is really about on some level.

So I wrote to her and asked for her help. I sent over several questions that I thought readers here may benefit from hearing the answers to. As always, this great friend of mine didn’t disappoint.


Tell me about your day to day. What does life look like with Zach?
Zach lost ambulation almost two years ago. He uses a powerchair fulltime. We use a hoyer lift for all transfers. We have a van with a built-in ramp. He is completely dependent on Jason and I to get dressed, get in and out of bed, use the bathroom, shower, etc. His arms are still strong enough for eating, brushing his teeth, using his laptop, etc. When we tuck him in at night, since he is lying flat, we have to physically pick up his arms and put them around our neck in order for him to hug us. (sorry, that is so sad but it is true…)

What is your hardest struggle?
Our greatest struggle is watching the devastation of this disease and being helpless to do anything about it. Others have compared it to your child being stuck on the tracks and a train is barreling down and there is nothing you can do to throw him off the tracks. The physical burden of caring for Zach is nothing compared to this. Most days are okay, some days it seems like this disease is devouring him.

What is your greatest triumph?
Our greatest triumph is that Zach has the best attitude and perspective on all of this. He has said out loud that he does not know why God allowed him to have this disease but He must have a good reason. He seems wise beyond his years and understands that God does not always give us the answers and that is okay. We can trust Him anyway.

Tell me about your adoption…
International adoption has always been a possibility for us. We always planned on having three or four biological kids and then adopting. After Zach’s diagnosis and my diagnosis as a carrier, we decided against having any more biological children. We often wondered how adoption would ever fit into our story. Caring for Zach is a full time job that requires so much of us, physically and emotionally. We had sort of put adoption out of our minds.

Then this picture of an orphaned little boy with Duchenne came across our path. We both felt that God had uniquely blessed us with everything we needed to care for this child. We have an accessible home, we have an accessible van, we have good health insurance, we have access to excellent doctors in St. Louis. How could we not share these blessings with this new child? How can we leave him there, knowing that he is going thru the same awful disease as Zach but without a mommy and daddy? We can take care of him, we can show him the love of a family and most importantly, we can introduce him to Jesus.

Since there is no cure for DMD, and knowing what you know as a parent of a child with this disease, how did you come to the decision to choose to adopt a child with the same need?
We felt that if not us, NO ONE may want him. How many families really want a child that cannot be “fixed.” Not terribly many. And that was too much to bear. We HAD to take action. We know that our adopting him will not save his physical life. There is no cure for this. But we can make his life better.

What do you want to say to other parents who are considering a similar situation or an adoption like this?
Don’t do it.! Just kidding. I don’t have a good answer for this.

What have you learned about yourself though this?
That we are insane.

Is this a risk? Aren’t you putting yourself in a nearly impossible position? {I only asked this because it is what so many are thinking. Tamara knows my heart, and our history in choosing a child with CHD after losing one to it in China. There is absolutely NO JUDGMENT intended from me in this question.}
Yes, this is a great risk. We are willfully opening our hearts to this child knowing that we will most likely outlive him. And he will most likely be the second child we will have to bury. But, we believe the eternal benefits outweigh the temporal. That in the end, when we are all with God in eternity, whatever sacrifices we made on earth will be worth it (Romans 8:18). And if our behavior is going to match our theology, we made the only choice we could. To obey God’s call to go get this boy.

Don’t you just love her!?! Don’t you want to reach through your screen and hug her neck and say, “YES!!!” Because no adoption is without loss and pain and heartache. But so many times, we as parents can make a devastating choice to let go of the expectation to play it safe {we’ve played it safe in adoption too…so again, no judgment whatsoever!}, to embrace the risk and the heartache and to LOVE a child that seemingly no one else is willing to love.

As she stated here, Tamara told me on the phone that morning that she knew that outside of an accident or some crazy unexpected circumstance…she would outlive both of her sons. She said to me, with a strength I don’t possess, “I know I’m likely going to bury them both, Kam. But what else am I to do?” She went on to ask me several times over the course of an hour {and a few times since then}…”Do you think we’re insane? This seems crazy.” And in the next breath she’d say, “But we know it’s right.”

I don’t know about you, but I love this kind of “insane.” I’m drawn to this kind of “crazy.” It seems to me that a little over 2000 years ago some pretty smart people were calling Jesus those very same things.

So, Tamara, my dear friend…you’re in excellent company.

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{In case you’re unfamiliar with DMD}

About Duchenne (from Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy)

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed in childhood, affecting approximately 1 in every 3,500 live male births (about 20,000 new cases each year). Because the Duchenne gene is found on the X-chromosome, it primarily affects boys; however, it occurs across all races and cultures.

Duchenne results in progressive loss of strength and is caused by a mutation in the gene that encodes for dystrophin. Because dystrophin is absent, the muscle cells are easily damaged. The progressive muscle weakness leads to serious medical problems, particularly issues relating to the heart and lungs. Young men with Duchenne typically live into their late twenties.

Duchenne can be passed from parent to child, but approximately 35% of cases occur because of a random spontaneous mutation. In other words, it can affect anyone. Although there are medical treatments that may help slow its progression, there is currently no cure for Duchenne.

it’s different

One of my friends recently shared on Facebook that she was struggling with being newly home with her second Chinese son.  She received so many encouraging comments, it was beautiful!  But she also received a hurtful comment implying that parenting biological and adopted children is exactly the same, and she should roll with the punches because everyone else had been through the same things with their new children.  Although I know this could be true in some cases, I also know that parenting adopted children is sometimes very different.

Of course, each child is unique and different.  There is no one-size-fits-all status for any child, biological or adopted.  But as a parent of both biological and adopted children, I see the differences, especially when they first become part of your family.  Parenting a new child who may have been institutionalized for the first part of their life – who may not have had someone to meet their needs consistently, who may not have been loved or told how precious they are, who may have been neglected and/or abused – can be very challenging and delicate compared to parenting a child who was loved and had his/her needs met consistently from the beginning.  While I know that biological children can also offer significant challenges, institutionalization introduces a number of issues not typically common with biological children.  Children who have been institutionalized can be traumatized, hurt, and delayed.  Children generally lose one month of development and linear growth for every three months they are institutionalized.  Our children often come to us with behaviors learned to survive.  We usually do not share most of those behaviors with others to protect our hurting children.

Teaching them that they have parents who love them unconditionally and will meet their needs often takes a lot of intentionality and time.  This may include not letting anyone hold our children or help with any basic needs until he/she is firmly attached and bonded to us as their new parents.  As much as we may want and desperately need the help that is very naturally accepted when we bring biological newborns home, we oftentimes hold off with adopted children because we know it’s best for our children.  There may not have been a consistent caregiver in their past.  They may have depended on only themselves to survive.  Survive is defined as “to continue to live or exist, in spite of danger or hardship.”  Survival is the most basic human instinct that children shouldn’t have to worry about.  If consistency is lacking, our children may think they can only depend on themselves.  Oftentimes the only way to teach them that mama and daddy will always be there for them is to be the only people to meet their needs.  It can be exhausting and isolating.

Add in the fact that you are parenting a new toddler (or older child in many cases) with a very clear personality for the first time … the road can be much harder and may look a lot different than parenting biological children.  Throw in a the possibility of a language barrier, institutional delays, weekly therapies, and medical special needs … it all just compounds how difficult adoptive parenting can be.  It may be easy to look at the beautiful airport homecoming pictures and new family portraits and think the family is filled with love and everything is perfect.  The truth is the family is filled with love and it is very beautiful indeed, but things are not always perfect.  Fortunately we are filled up daily with His perfect love and that shines through.  It is only from the Father that we have the strength in those first few months (or sometimes years).  Only He makes beauty from ashes and has the ability to redeem the brokenness of adoption.  His beauty and truth always shine through.

nicole

I do not think everyone should feel sorry for anyone or adoptive parents deserve a big pat on the back.  We all mess up daily (often minute by minute) just like every other parent on the planet and need Jesus desperately!  I write it only to offer a different perspective and to hopefully share that parenting biological and adopted children can be very different. It’s hard to understand for most people who haven’t parented children from hard places. I get that.  But when adoptive parents are struggling through something tough and are asking for support and prayer, it may not always be the normal everyday parenting stuff.  Of course, it is ALL worth it. Totally worth it. Biological or adopted, it doesn’t matter – every bit of it is worth it. Every child who we have the privilege of parenting here on earth is precious and unique. We get such a special opportunity to borrow them for a bit from the Father to train them up!  It is surely beautiful and we are overwhelmed with love.  Our children are gifts from the Lord and it is our privilege to parent them.



little white one

They call her “little white one” and the name suits. She’s a pretty little thing and can flit about like a little pixie at times, her snowy white head bobbing here and there, her cold wet bottom peeping out of quilted pink split-pants.

She’s a little singing fairy at times, but usually… she’s crying.

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When we first started working with this particular CWI, “Little White One” was a seemingly normal, happy child, but by our second visit two weeks later she was already looking more like an orphan.

What does an orphan look like? For one, they have nearly no concept of being treasured. They seek affirmation, affection and love from anyone who looks available and then as time goes by and they realize that nobody has time for just them they either shut down or go crazy. Sometimes they do both. Eventually, maybe, they develop a new normal and learn how to cope with not enough. Some of them just wither up, others become favorites and get “spoiled” which is (almost) the exact same as being “loved” in a family. And some little ones, like Little White One, hang desperately onto their innate need to be loved and fight for it, savoring each miniscule victory.

Someone held her today. Keep fighting.

No on wants to pick her up. Cry.

She was spoken to gently. Fight harder.

They snapped at her. Get in the way again.

Someone handed her a toy. Fight. Fight. Fight.

The other kids bullied her. Run to nanny even if she can’t do anything about it.

Someone put her on their lap and kept her there. Keep fighting.

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It’s a battle, and one that each of us working on the ground in orphanages need to be aware of, and actively engage in.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”

― Mother Teresa



Yes, No, Maybe*

Neatly laid out in Times New Roman in alphabetical order are a list of labels, special needs, what China calls diseases.

Albinism…Anal atresia…Cerebral palsy…Cleft lip/cleft palate…Club foot…Congenital heart disease…Delayed development…Down syndrome…Hemofacial macrosomia…Hemangioma…Microtia…Syndactyly…

Some of them you’ve heard of. Others you struggle to pronounce, and you wonder if they’re even in English. Little “x”s in columns with a ball-point pen seemingly have the power to determine the rest of your life.

Yes.

No.

Maybe.

Every adoption agency’s going to make you do it. And, even if it wasn’t inevitable to the adoption process, it’s important to think through. Are you willing and able to walk a child through multiple surgeries? Does your insurance company cover serial casting? speech therapy? prosthesis? hearing aids? Do you live close to specialists? Can you afford to travel if you don’t? Do you feel uncomfortable about physical differences that will invite even more questions? You have to have the conversations, as uncomfortable as they are, even though they make you squirm in your seat.

But, there’s something very important you have to remember—real life children who don’t lay neatly on a page in alphabetical order.

KangMing6He hates bananas and loves to dance.

MeiNuo8Don’t even try to take a cracker out of this one’s hands.

YaLi4She likes to ride behind a buddy on a plasma car.

XiaoYue8She’s pretty serious except when you tickle her and blow air in her face.

They may be listed in an orderly fashion by name, birth date, and disease on a database that your social worker can easily sort. But, do not be deceived by the order of it all. Every child listed there is very much a four-dimensional child who is way more than a special need.

Let your YESes be YESes. And, do not be afraid to let your NOs be NOs. But, maybe, just maybe, there should be more MAYBEs than anything else with a very un-neat * disclaimer handwritten on the bottom that says something like this—

*We do not necessarily feel called to parent a child with this diagnosis assigned to him or her. But, we are not comfortable closing the door on the possibility that He may call us to a particular child and that that child may come with this label. So, unless you hear differently from us while we wait, consider this a MAYBE because we’re holding this whole process in our hands loosely with hearts not only willing but desiring only to do that which He’s called us to do.

Feel free to blame me if your social worker has a mini panic attack. I can take it.



Upheld

We are connected, you and I. Our stories different, our kids’ needs unique, but I’m guessing we’re on a similar trek.

Is your family being refined and blessed by a medical needs child? Yep, mine too.

Are you worn out, and a bit fragile? Uh, huh.

Feeling deep gratitude for the care of friends and family, but somehow just a bit alone? Yes.

Your new journey intensely hard, but profoundly beautiful? With ya.

Worry that you are burdening friends with too much medical talk? Same here.

God is writing such stories with our families. We face heart defects, vision & hearing loss, blood disorders, cerebral palsy, kidney disease, deficiencies and syndromes. Some of us said yes to conditions pre-adoption, and others received diagnoses post adoption. Some have one condition and others have multiple. We are living in different states and our syringes administering different meds, but each of our hearts carry the weight of parenting a child with medical needs.

Connections have been made through Instagram, agencies and adoption events. We share stories and have quicker than customary, intimate conversations. We cheer each other on, pray, grieve, and follow along; carrying each other’s burdens in a tiny way.

Much of our experience is shared:
We are worn out.
Our planes touched down on US soil, and it was game on.
Some test results have rocked us, and others have driven us to our knees in thanks to a great Healer.
Our faith is both depleted and intensified.
Some days we are hopeful, and others, full of fear.
Nurse, advocate, and momma are the hats we wear.
At dinners with friends, we zone out during talk about TV shows or vacations.
We are on our knees more than ever, but have missed lots of Sunday services.
The little bodies we care for carry surgical scars, and we ponder how their hearts will process it all.
Our calendar boxes are filled with doctor appointments, surgeries, therapies and tests.
Our marriages are stronger, but stretched thin.
We need only five minutes to know if a doctor is going to be the advocate we seek.
Late nights are spent researching and typing questions to mentor mommas in FB groups.
We’ll travel long distances for the best doctor.
IVs are dreaded.
Strength is found in the faces of our little people, and we lean in for the lessons.
Weekly, we coordinate babysitters, not for date nights, but appointments.
Ice cream is spooned up post doctor visits, because we must celebrate as we go. 


We know the ins and outs of our insurance policies, deductibles and medical caps.
Our medical needs child has siblings, and we wonder if they are getting enough attention.
Still, we are in awe of the profound work being done in the hearts of those siblings, as they soften with a deeper kind of love.
Our mailboxes usually hold at least one medical bill.
Our kids need to be catheterized, dilated and medicated. They need therapy, glasses, wheelchairs, blood transfusions, cochlear implants, casts and ostomy bags. They’ve had MRIs, echocardiograms, X-rays, scans and blood draws.


rebecca

We are different, but the same. Many of us are FB, blog or adoption group friends. I read of your surgeries, and stop to pray, checking back later for an update. I grieve over hard test results. I celebrate with you when your child rolls out of a hospital in a red wagon with balloons. I’m humbled that you do the same for our family.

God has given us the blessing of this sisterhood, and calls us to “consider how we may spur one another on” (Hebrews 10:24). So be spurred on, friend, knowing that you are not alone.

I can’t be with you in the waiting room, or sit with you on your bathroom floor as you give a high volume enema, but I can pray. I can give you the name of a neurosurgeon and offer advice. I can tell you that your family is a light in this world, and is making much of God. I can tell you that I see such hard won beauty rising in you. The roots of your faith are deepening, and I’m challenged to dig deeper too. Most importantly, let me remind you that Isaiah 41:10 promises that each of us is upheld.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
 I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10


Dear sister, you are also the daughter of a Most High God, and He upholds us. Dictionary.com tells us that to uphold means to defend, raise, support, lift upward and keep from sinking. Um, yes, please.

So, as much as we medical adoptive mommas “get” each other, as much as we hold each other up, let’s lean most deeply in, as daughters, to God who is with us. His hands are so much stronger than ours. Let’s find rest first in He who promises strength and help. Let’s give Him whatever hard thing is penciled in next on our calendars. While at it, give Him the bills, the antibiotics and the therapy sessions.

Mentors and encouragers are a gift as we traverse this path, but ultimately this is bigger than you and I, or even you and your child. It’s about Him and us. Let’s let the needs of our little people draw us to God.

Be spurred on, sisters, knowing that we walk together. Pray for my family, and I’ll pray for yours?

Take your next step with brave faith, daughters, knowing your Father is actively keeping your family from sinking. You are fully and perfectly upheld.