I can remember wanting to adopt for a long time — specifically wanting to adopt a daughter from China.
My amazing stepdad adopted me when I was 12 so, since I was young, adoption has been close to my heart.
When my husband and I married in 2004, adoption was something we knew we wanted to do one day….
In 2009 I gave birth to twin boys and another son in 2011. By the summer of 2013 we were ready to begin the adoption process. But where to start?
Even though I had always wanted to adopt from China, the waiting times for a match through the non-special needs program were 6+ years, which we didn’t want to do. But the idea of adopting a child with ‘special needs’ was intimidating. So we researched other adoption options.
After much research and prayer and education we decided to move forward with the China Waiting Child program. After laboring many hours over the Medical Conditions Checklist, we checked limb difference, cleft lip and palate, and a handful of other conditions.
We were LID in June of 2014 and began to wait for a match. After nearly a year of waiting, I was told that we would most likely be waiting for a match for a child with cleft lip and palate because all the other conditions on our MCC were rare. I was also told that we would probably still have another six months to wait for a match. Needless to say, I was totally shocked and excited when, about a month later, we received a phone call from CCAI telling me that they had the file of an 11 month old girl with limb difference for us to review.
The woman began reading this little girl’s file to me: she had missing toes and fingers affecting all four limbs, on her hands she had only her pinkies and a partial palm, and on each foot she had two toes.
In that moment, when she read that to me, my excitement faded. My heart dropped. This need seemed like too large of a need.
(We later found out this is special need is called ectrodactyly, or split hands and feet, and involves the absence of one or more central digits of the hands and feet. Often times the remaining digits on either side of the ‘split’ are fused together. Zoe’s form of ectrodactyly is a little more atypical, but is the same as seen in the YouTube video by Meg Zucker.)
I didn’t know if her hands would ever be functional or if she would be able to walk well. We also worried about what this would look like for her as a teenager and adult. How were we going to help her navigate things if classmates were unkind to her? Would she get married? If so and she had kids, would they be born with ectrodactyly?
In my mind I really thought that we would not be able to accept her file, but I told the agency that I wanted to see it anyway. When we received the full file my husband and I were both concerned, but we agreed that she was definitely a cutie.
We only had three days to review the file so we quickly sent it to our pediatrician and to a children’s orthopedic surgeon that was recommended on CCAI’s website.
During that time, we also prayed fervently and talked a lot about it. Both doctors told us that they did not see any reason why we shouldn’t adopt her, they felt that she would adapt and do well.
This was a huge relief to hear. Even though the other questions still swirled around in our heads, we did not feel that they were good reasons to say no to this little girl.
Three days later we accepted her file and submitted our Letter of Intent with excitement and a little fear.
We decided to name her Zoe Grace. Zoe is Greek for ‘life’ or ‘new life’ which we thought was fitting, and we added the Grace because we believe that children are one of the greatest graces God gives us on this earth.
As we waited for travel approval our excitement grew. There was still fear and anxiety at times, but by that point we had chosen to love our future daughter no matter what… we would deal with any issues as they came.
Finally it came time to travel. October 12, 2015 was a day that forever changed our lives; it was “gotcha day”. Gotcha day is hard because it is a mix of joy and excitement, but also fear and grief. It is the beginning of our new life as a family, but it is such a big change for these kiddos who have already gone through so much, and they don’t know yet that being adopted is a good thing.
Our daughter didn’t know that we would love and take care of her no matter what.
It all takes time, but even while in China this slowly began to change. She began to trust us and we all began the process of attachment. Our fears melted away as we began to get to know and love our new daughter more deeply every day.
I was no longer afraid that she wouldn’t be able to use her hands when I saw her pick up a single grain of rice with one of her precious hands.
I was no longer afraid about her being able to walk well when she took her first steps in China.
The other fears we had?
Yes, we will still have to navigate those issues, but it doesn’t cause fear anymore because she is our daughter. We love her, and we will work through things together.
Now almost two years have passed since our sweet Zoe joined our family. There have been some difficulties as with any adoption, but far fewer than I thought. And even fewer of those have had anything to do with her ‘special need’.
Honestly, I do not think of her as having special needs because she really doesn’t. She does absolutely everything that any other two year old does.
She was evaluated recently by our school district to see if she showed any delays and might therefore qualified for free services. I am happy to report that she did not qualify for anything because she showed zero delays in any areas…including fine motor skills!
How awesome is that?!
It really was not a surprise to us, or anyone who knows her, though. She is such a go-getter. She is independent, smart and super determined. She can color, cut (with special scissors), thread beads, open door knobs, twist caps on and off and get herself mostly dressed and undressed.
On top of that she is funny, helpful, bossy, sassy and as sweet as can be. She fits in so perfectly with our family. She has three older brothers so… she loves Power Rangers, but also loves having tea parties. She loves holding toads, and also loves twirling in ‘princess’ dresses. She often tells me that she is beautiful, because we tell her she is beautiful…
Because she is indeed so beautiful.
We believe that God made her perfectly. I tell her that I love her little hands because they fit perfectly in mine.
She is loved deeply by us and her brothers and she loves in return. She blesses us every single day and we cannot imagine life without her. We have learned that we cannot let fear make our decisions for us.
It is very important to use wisdom and do your research, but at the end of the day you have to make a choice, and don’t let that choice be ruled by fear of the unknown.
If we would have done that, we would have missed this.