I didn’t set out on this journey to become the parent of multiple children with special needs. It’s a funny thing, though, to see a dream evolve.
As a young girl, I learned of the gender disparity in China and the preference for sons. In that moment, the seeds were planted in my heart and I decided then that I’d grow my family through adoption, holding on to a dream of a little Chinese girl for many years.
God’s plans turned out to be different and twenty years later, my husband and I welcomed our first son home through domestic adoption. Then, two years later, we adopted our second son, a little boy with profound cerebral palsy quadriplegia from Uganda.
After adopting two black boys, I’d come to the assumption that God had used China as the catalyst to opening my heart to adoption, so when we started our third adoption journey, I was taken by surprise that our social worker thought China might be the best fit.
We began our third adoption knowing we wanted to welcome home a child who may have a more difficult time finding a family. We reviewed several partnership files, but I distinctly remember reading about our now-daughter. At some point, someone had been looking at her file and had taken the opportunity to send questions to the orphanage. When I got the file, I anticipated reading many questions and answers, but there was just one:
“Do they think she’s developing OK?”
Their answer? No.
My heart broke at this.
She didn’t smile.
She didn’t laugh.
She didn’t respond when her name was called.
I saw a shell of a little girl that no one believed in.
In her file, she had been given the diagnosis of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, a brain injury at birth that’s often a precursor to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. As I learned more about the China adoption world, I read that HIE is one of the diagnoses that’s given fairly frequently, often without cause. But as the mother of a child with cerebral palsy already, I suspected from the beginning that it was accurate for our daughter.
Just a few weeks before I traveled to China, I got a call from someone who’d just had the opportunity to meet her. I was so excited to talk to someone who’d met her and held her, someone who could tell me about her personality. I was stunned when I realized that the call wasn’t to tell me how sweet and precious she was — it was to prepare me. I was told that this beautiful baby I’d said “yes” to was inactive and unresponsive throughout their entire visit. They never saw so much as a smile.
To say I was scared to leave for China a few weeks later would be an understatement. But I knew that she was my daughter, no matter her abilities.
The day I got our daughter was filled with anxious anticipation. I was so ready to meet her and hold her, but at the same time there were still so many unknowns about her. I had told my friend traveling with me that if if I got a smile from my new daughter, my heart would be content. If I got a giggle, I’d be over the moon!
The moment we saw each other, the fears melted away. Her ayi placed her in my arms and immediately my precious daughter, who was described to me just a few weeks before as inactive and unresponsive, immediately began giving me the goofiest, most joyful grin I’ve ever seen. Hours later, she began giving me belly laughs and that evening, she began rolling across the room to retrieve toys.
That night, our agency’s in-country representative called me and confessed that she’d also met my daughter. She had spent weeks worrying, afraid that when I met her I’d leave her behind. I said it was clear she was very delayed and very neglected, but I could also see that there was a beautiful little girl inside this shell, just waiting for someone to give her the love and attention she needed.
Lorelai has now been home for ten months. As we suspected, she does have cerebral palsy as a result of her HIE. Additionally, we discovered shortly after she came home that she’s almost completely deaf, which we think was likely the cause of her unresponsiveness in China. She got hearing aids in January and almost immediately began saying “no,” like most two-year-olds love to do!
Since coming home she’s made incredible strides in food aversions (she’d previously only been on a bottle), in strength, and in her ability to interact socially.
There’s no denying that Lorelai is very delayed, and we think it’s possible that she won’t ever catch up to her peers. What we do know is that this little girl, who’d been overlooked and neglected for her first two years, is a treasure.
She’s joyful and silly.
She loves to give kisses to her mommy and daddy.
She thinks her big brothers are hilarious.
She brings so much sunshine to our lives.
Had it not been for our first son, who we adopted domestically, we’d never have gone to Uganda to adopt our son with cerebral palsy. Thanks to our son with cerebral palsy, we said “yes” to this beautiful little girl with CP and hearing impairment.
Just knowing Lorelai has continued to grow our hearts for children with special needs.
We’ve once again said “yes” to a need that we may not have considered previously — Lorelai will become a big sister. This fall we will welcome home our second daughter from China, a beautiful baby with vision impairment.
And so the dream evolves.