My husband and I met in middle school. We didn’t date until right after high school, but were close friends from early in our relationship. We dated through college and got married right after my graduation.
We met a family who had children through adoption, and that was when the seed was planted. We knew we’d love to adopt someday.
We focused on our home and careers before giving birth to two perfect baby boys. We relished their sweetness, and were soon ready to start the adoption process. We had always planned to adopt one baby, one “healthy” baby, because, of course, we couldn’t handle any special needs. That would be too much.
We were too busy.
We weren’t equipped.
That was for “other” people.
We just thought adoption would be a way to complete our family. We’d get to choose the gender, and of course we’d choose a young, healthy girl. Then we’d be the perfect family.
And we waited for that perfectly healthy, as-young-as-possible baby girl for 2.5 years. All the while, completely and totally ignorant to the millions of “less-than-perfect” children who were waiting for families.
So there we were, as a family with three perfect children, two boys and one girl.
We thought we were done. Until we started to feel like there just might be one more little one out there for us. Another baby girl… to make our family even more perfect: perfectly symmetrical and perfectly balanced. Everyone would have a playmate.
Only we realized then that finding that “perfect, as-young-as possible baby girl” who was healthy was no longer very realistic. There were way more families waiting for perfection than there was perfection available. Hmm. What to do?
So we carefully began researching the world of special needs. Cautiously. Of course, it would have to be a “minor, correctable” need.
Nothing that would change our lives or be too hard or time consuming.
We poured over the special needs checklist provided by our agency, and even paid for a consult with an adoption doctor who helped us rule out all the “major” needs that would just be too much. Certainly, we didn’t want any need that wasn’t correctable.
Nothing that required a wheelchair or lifting.
Nothing that might mean life-long support or therapies.
Nothing that would require more than a couple surgeries to “correct”.
We were matched with a gorgeous baby girl with a cleft lip and palate. And we quickly learned that, while she needed more care than we had envisioned, she was indeed also perfect.
She brought joy to our family that we didn’t anticipate. She brought laughter and silliness and cuddles and kisses.
We brought home a child with a special need, and we didn’t break.
We were stretched and challenged, absolutely. We quickly learned that a cleft lip and palate are not minor things. But we’ve only been strengthened by that experience. And, of course, then we were done.
Full car, full house, full plates. Two boys, two girls (two dogs, two cats…). A different definition of perfect than we had envisioned, but perfect for us nonetheless. However….
As a member of online advocacy groups, I see dozens of faces of children who are desperate for families.
Many of them with special needs, some significant.
Many of them boys.
Many older children who have spent their lives waiting.
Countless times, I would be moved by a child’s face or a child’s story and I’d show him or her to my husband. But we’d quickly dismiss it because “we were done”. We had enough on our plate.
But then one day, the face of a particular little boy popped up on my screen.
He had the best smile and simply struck me as extra special. But all I could see were the things he couldn’t do… his knees didn’t bend, his arms didn’t work well, his mobility was greatly affected.
It was a significant need.
It affected daily functioning.
It was not correctable.
It was life-long.
It meant a wheelchair at times and probably surgeries and castings and therapies. We’re a very active family, and this is a kid who has significant physical limitations. It was a need that we had said “absolutely not” to when filling out the special needs checklist for our daughter a while back. Not to mention the fact that he was eight years old! And a boy! He’d be smack in the middle of the ages of our other kids, and we already had an eight year old boy!
Everyone in the adoption world knows that disrupting birth order and artificial twinning were frowned upon. And bringing home an older boy with younger girls in the house would be a recipe for disaster, right? I felt a strong tug toward him, more so than all the other sweet faces I’d seen being advocated for, but there was no way we could bring him home.
He continued to tug on my heart for months. His face continued to pop up on my screen and make my breath catch. I couldn’t get him off my mind or out of my heart. We discussed him off and on for many months, and each time we’d decide “no way” and promised to pray for him and advocate for him instead.
This went on for quite some time. Yet along the way, we began to receive signs from God that maybe, just maybe, we should say yes.
Maybe this child, with his physical imperfections… maybe he was our son.
We finally said yes with nothing but crazy faith.
We knew nothing about his special need. We knew nothing about what this would mean for us as his parents, how it would impact our lives. God doesn’t call us to plans that are laid out in detail. Somehow, along the way, it became more important to us to say yes to God than to let society tell us to say no.
Yes, it made no sense.
Yes, it’s a big need.
Yes, there are risks and hardships involved.
Yes, it has changed the emotional makeup of our family.
Yes, there are lots of appointments and daily implications.
And yes, it’s hard and messy and exhausting.
Our son has arthrogryposis. It’s a condition that affects the joints and muscles. It affects every person differently, and figuring out his body and his needs has been quite an adventure.
It can be improved some with therapy, castings and surgery, but will never go away. His knees will never bend normally. He’ll never have the strength and mobility that most of us have. He’ll probably always rely on a wheelchair at times. He’ll always have to make adaptations.
But you know what?
Oh yes he is.
Perfect for our family.
He’s adorable and funny and insightful and smart and incredibly adaptive and patient and such a people-person and oh-so brave.
Now we focus on all the things he can do instead of the things he can’t. And our entire family has been stretched in the best of ways. God has grown our faith immeasurably.
We have learned not make our decisions based on fear. We no longer make our decisions based on what society tells us. We’ve learned wheelchairs aren’t scary! We’re learning to live sacrificially, and our kids are learning the same.
We’ve learned that saying yes to God’s plan is exhilarating and rewarding and humbling and freeing and perfect in its own hard, messy, amazing way.
We’ve learned that it’s more important for him to have a family, to know Jesus, and to have hope than for us to stay snuggled up in our comfort zones.
And we have been blessed immeasurably by him! He has softened us and made us laugh and brought us joy and helped us see what a true miracle adoption is.
Our definition of “perfect” has changed completely.
The labels that were put on him (major need, older child, boy…) have fallen away and he’s simply our son. Beloved son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew. Perfect.
I promise you, we are nothing special. We are not anywhere near “perfect”. We do not have this parenting gig all figured out. We didn’t not walk into this journey perfectly equipped.
We still have no idea what we’re doing. And that’s okay. We’ve learned that God equips us when we let go of control. And getting to be a part of God’s Kingdom plan? Well, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.
All we did was say yes.
There are millions more children with needs and situations that appear to be “too much”. But I promise you, they are just kids whose greatest need is family.
And they too, are perfect.