Such a short phrase can carry so much defeat behind it.
It’s a phrase that I was sure we would hear often when my husband and I were called to adopt a child with a limb difference.
So many questions and emotions ran through my mind the day that I stared at our referral picture for a precious three year old girl without a left hand.
Four years prior, I felt that the Lord was leading us to build our family through adoption, specifically international adoption. We had already been blessed with two biological sons, and we were very happy as a family of four. My husband had not felt the calling just yet at that time, but told me that if that is how God was leading me then to continue praying. I did for several more years.
Soon we began having hypothetical conversations about what it would look like for our family if we did adopt. That lead to praying together as a family and researching everything we could. All the while, we never really discussed ages or special needs. We did look at several different Asian countries and our hearts again and again were drawn to China.
The doubts of “if we should adopt” lingered.
Is God really calling us do this?
How can we afford it?
How will this affect our other children and family members?
We did not know anyone who had adopted internationally. As we continued to seek His will, a family who had just moved from out of state visited our church one Sunday morning. They sat directly behind us with their beautiful daughter. We believe that it was no coincidence that she was adopted and Chinese. Over several months we were able to talk with and get encouragement from this lovely family.
It was just the nudge we needed to jump full on into our adoption journey.
The very day we said yes to adopting, my husband said, “I don’t picture a baby and I think our daughter will have some sort of limb difference.” I was blown away because in my mind, I too pictured an older child with a possible limb difference. I had assumed that my husband would have wanted to adopt a baby as young and healthy as possible.
The day we received our referral was amazing and scary.
Included with our daughter’s pictures was a short video of her carrying around a baby doll. She was cute and sassy yet I couldn’t help wondering what she would be capable of. I worried even more about how other people would react to her. Could I help her and be a good mom to her? I had to — we loved her already and there was no going back.
Fast forward six months and we found ourselves in a government office meeting our daughter, Lily, face to face. The first thing that stood out to me was how brave and dignified she looked sitting on the sofa with everything she owned in a little pink backpack strapped on tightly.
Our greetings were reciprocated with understandable tears and resistance. It would take time to bond. There wasn’t any more time to try to win her favor in the government office because our guide announced, “Now we will take a trip to Wal-mart to buy things for the kids!” Okay.
Lily remained emotionally distant through the store and shook her head no as we tried to win her over with various toys and candy. At that moment of desperation, trying to get her to like us just a bit, I think we seriously would have bought her a real pony if she had asked. She finally resigned herself to grabbing a children’s book off a shelf and nodding yes. We still think she picked it just to shut us up.
When we arrived with Lily to our hotel room that evening, the first thing she did was hop up onto the western-style toilet and took care of her needs all by herself. She even washed up at the sink afterwards! Needless to say, we were pretty impressed.
Looking back, it is obvious that we were seeing small glimpses into her unique personality. Lily is nothing short of amazing. She is a go-getter and nothing stops her from accomplishing everything she sets her mind on doing.
She likes to help in the kitchen. Her favorite part is cracking eggs and she has rarely ever gotten any shell fragments into the bowl. She flies up and down the street on her scooter and bike. At the park, Lily can pump her feet and swings as high as the swing will go.
Lily just recently learned how to swim without her swim vest. Several weeks ago at the pool, she unzipped her swim vest, tossed it aside and announced, “Swim lesson time! I want to swim like my brothers without a vest.” I was slightly skeptical but did not let it show. Into the water we went and, of course, within an hour or so she was indeed swimming on her own.
As far as other people are concerned, I did not have much to worry about. Sure, we get plenty of stares out in public, but I think it is mostly out of curiosity.
Overall, adults and children alike have been kind and considerate. Lily has many friends and people who love her. A few very young children here and there have been scared of her limb difference. Sometimes when we meet children for the first time, they have questions about her arm. Sometimes Lily answers their questions cheerfully. Other times she rolls her eyes and sighs loudly.
We try to use these moments as a teaching opportunity of giving grace to others.
It has been almost three years from the first time we saw our daughter’s picture. What was scary at first quickly became a non-issue. What started off as our biggest concern has become the least of our worries. We have grown to love and appreciate her “little arm” more and more. It truly makes her beautiful and unique.
And, we have come to realize that there isn’t anything this girl can’t do!