I think the phrase, “If I had a dime for every time someone asked me that question,” is one I can relate to. Well-meaning strangers, social workers, family members, friends, church members, discussion panels, you name it and they’ve asked. It’s not a question I take offense to, I actually don’t mind it at all and enjoy speaking about the subject.
Of course adopting two younger siblings, both with special needs, is going to affect my life and that of my three biological siblings. The adoptions of my sisters has greatly affected my life more than any other thing God has allowed or called my family to do.
Adopting my sister Chloe six years ago and then my sister Cora Jo last March affected each of my siblings and me differently. I remember well when we were praying about whether or not to accept the referral of Chloe – my younger sister, brother and I were confident and ready to say yes. She was 16 months old, very much still a baby, and we were very excited to get our hands on her! My older brother, who was 13 at the time, was not however. Down syndrome was nothing we had talked about when beginning our adoption journey, and he struggled at first with the idea of her having something that he could not fix. After our family had time to pray about it together and talk through what adopting her with this special need might look like, my brother came to us and said, “I feel that her only special need is that she does not have a family and does not know Jesus yet. The rest is just how God made her.”
When we decided to pursue the adoption of Cora Jo, another child with Down syndrome, neither my siblings nor I had any concerns. There were different challenges bringing Cora Jo home at the age of seven versus bringing home a baby that made it a little more difficult for all of us. She was not easily snuggled up to, soothed, or able to bond like Chloe was. The tantrums and fits were stressful to each of us, and not knowing what she was saying was frustrating. It was disruptive to our homeschool environment and meant that my mom had to spend much longer bonding at home with Cora Jo than with Chloe. We understood this was necessary, but at times was hard.
I do not feel that either of our adoptions were negative situations or were very stressful. Our adoptions were hard at times for sure, but we were blessed by how our bonding went with each of them. Both of the girls are my siblings and my very favorite people in the world. We will often be together as a family when my mom will ask us to share something kind about each other. However she will preface that sharing about one of the little girls is not allowed because it is always easy to think of something sweet they have done or said.
What has been difficult for us is other people’s reactions to our adoptions and to the girls’ special needs. Strangers that stare or give dirty looks or are trying to figure out what is ‘wrong’ with them is uncomfortable. Chloe is basically non-verbal but makes some noises and has various physical tics. When others stare or avoid us because of this, it is hard. And honestly? Sometimes makes us mad. (OK, most of the time this makes me mad.☺)
Family members who don’t understand why we would choose our little girls and not try to get to know them, or friends who ask offensive questions about their needs, is often hard to take. My dad compares how God would have us handle all of this to drinking from a fire hydrant. We had to learn quickly not to hold on to anger and to offer grace because so many just don’t understand. We wouldn’t understand either if God had not placed them in our family, or we had not experienced the adoption process.
Though it hasn’t all been easy breezy, and there have been hard times in both adoptions, I know for myself the things God has taught me have been very rewarding. In being hands-on with the girls and loving them so, God has given me a passion for the orphan and special needs. I am not sure that if my family had not adopted I would see the things I see the same way.
I desire to be an Occupational Therapist someday and to adopt children myself. I look forward to trips to special needs orphanages and a chance to love on the children there. Adopting my sisters has changed what I see as important, what matters and what doesn’t. It has taught me patience and has shown me the importance of family.
So that question I am often asked, “How has adopting your sisters really affected your life?” These adoptions haven’t just affected my life, they have changed my life. Besides the fact that I have two more sisters to love on for the rest of their lives, I have been given a better understanding of God’s heart and unconditional love.
It gives me a better understanding of God’s love for me and my adoption in Him. It has given me an idea of what I am gifted to do, and what I am excited about being a part of as I get older. It has required sacrifice and has not always been easy or pretty, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
(*cough* Dad are you reading this? ☺)
– guest post by Caitlyn who is 16 years old and the second oldest in a family of 6, her siblings are Connor (19), Cameron (15), Claire Grace (12), Chloe (7) and Cora Jo (7)