Family Stories

At No Hands But Ours, we love family stories. Since our inception in 2008, we’ve featured a wide variety of family stories – and we continue to add new stories regularly. Please use the links in the right sidebar to click through to stories on specific special needs, or you can scroll down this main page to read all our family stories.

If you are home with your child from China, and would like to have your family story featured here, just use this form to let us know.


Nothing Is Impossible

July 17, 2018 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

We had been home with our Laura Cate for 12 months, when a family member made a statement that took my breath away:

“Your adopted daughter just doesn’t have the same potential. She will never be able to do all the things your biological daughter can do.”


We adopted Laura in October 2015, when she was 16 months old. She was born with a cleft lip and palate. Her lip had been repaired in China. She came to us tiny and malnourished; her hair and teeth had not come in due to lack of nutrition and she was terrified of being left alone. She slept on top of me for a month, next to me for several more, and never let me out of her sight for a year. She would sit on me, or follow me, and always with some food in hand (she didn’t like having food out of sight either).

She had her first palate repair after two months home. Although the palate surgery and long recovery were difficult and emotionally exhausting for all of us, it has been her speech delays and attachment concerns that have been more of a challenge.

After one year home, Laura was not speaking. She would grunt and cry, but she did not use any words. She wasn’t attempting to use any words. She did not put sounds together or babble. She communicated basic needs with sign language.

She understood basic directions but couldn’t process questions asked to her. She did not understand how to answer. Her speech therapist diagnosed her with severe speech delay/apraxia of speech. As we spent hours every week in therapy, you could see her mind working, trying to process what was being asked of her, but she struggled to mimic or create sounds or words.

However, after one year home (and at 2 ½ years old), Laura was excelling in other areas. She could put together a puzzle that my five year old would struggle to complete. Her hair and teeth had come in and she had packed on 10 pounds in one year. She had a contagious giggle and delighted in stacking blocks or playing with her toy kitchen. Although our girl was still not speaking, she communicated with signs and gestures. And she was building confidence in herself and in us. She would stay with family (without Mommy) for a short time and enjoy herself; she had learned I would come back.

Although her speech delay was concerning and definitely very frustrating at times, we saw so much growth in every other area, that we were confident our girl would catch up on speech too. It was just going to take some more time. Some more work. Some more patience and love.

Then, the comment that set my teeth on edge. It came out of nowhere as she and I watched the two sisters play. “You’re adopted daughter just doesn’t have the same potential. She will never be able to do all the things your biological daughter can do.”

I am usually slow to engage in conflict, but this was my daughter and I felt Mama Bear rising to the surface quickly. “Why would you say that?”

“Just look at them… she is so far behind.”

“But look how far she has come. I reject the idea that she has limits. God is bigger than her past. She may have to work harder, but nothing is impossible.”

Raised eyebrows and silence ended that conversation. And I continue to reject anyone’s limits on our daughter. So far, we have blown by all those limits together, with Laura doing most of the work and the rest of us cheering her on.

The imposed limit of, “She won’t be able to drink through a straw, but that isn’t a really important life skill,” (from a pediatrician) was met by a few days with chocolate milk. She drinks from a straw just fine. And now knows how to use those muscles to make words.

The imposed limit of, “Some kids just can’t make the air come out of their mouth until they are older, or after more surgery,” was surpassed with bubbles.

For months we worked on blowing bubbles.
For several weeks, we just rounded our mouths in the correct shape.
For several weeks, we blew bubbles while holding our noses.
Then, finally, she learned to do it without holding her nose.
And our whole family cheered as that sweet girl giggled and blew bubbles to her heart’s content.

And then, she mastered the ‘oo’ sound, right along with the bubbles.

She works hard. And we work hard right along with her as she gains her voice, her words, her ability to communicate. And we celebrate every victory.

This year she turned four, and for the first time, she blew her candles out all by herself, and this mama teared up as I watched. She has made incredible gains in the past two years.

She can now ask for what she needs or wants with words, she can answer questions, and she can tell on her siblings. She has another palate surgery scheduled for later this month and we are confident it will help with her understandability.

Laura Cate will not be someone who can say, “Everything came easy to me.” But I hope and pray that she will be someone who will say, “Anything is possible.”

For with God nothing will be impossible. (Luke 1:37)

– guest post by Amy

Her Words Will Come

July 15, 2018 by nohandsbutours 8 Comments

A few weeks ago my husband and I and our four kids were at Legoland for a day of fun in the California sun. My four kids are all what you may call opinionated, independent, and vocal. Our youngest may be the sassiest of them all, but she also has a profound expressive speech delay. I was at an area for younger kiddos where my children had insisted on running through the line by themselves as I looked on from behind a roped fence.

My kids, one by one, were asked by the Legoland attendant to make a choice as to which slide experience they wanted. I’m pretty sure I held my breath as my youngest approached her turn. Her brothers will often interpret for her, as our family seems to speak her language better than others outside our little home tribe. But her brothers were ahead of her and she was on her own for a moment with nothing but her own abilities to communicate her desires to this stranger.

With calm excitement she used her words to communicate her choice. And with minimal gesturing the attendant replied,

“You want to ride the blue one?”

“Yesh!!” She nodded, eyes wide and excited.

It may seem like the most mundane of moments, the most minuscule of milestones. But our baby girl was understood by a stranger without our help. It was huge! Like I was nearly in tears in the middle of Legoland, huge!

Lest I give you the impression that one successful surgery or a few months of therapy have led to her new confidence in communication, let me back up a bit here. We adopted our daughter in China at 16 months of age not having much knowledge of the needs of cleft lip and palate. Her lip had been repaired only a few months before in China. Since then she has had two other palate surgeries stateside and received speech therapy 2-3 days a week and she is now four years old. As a former pediatric therapist, I was adamant (dare I say “pushy”) about beginning therapy as soon as we were able upon returning home. Within six weeks of getting settled we had begun weekly speech therapy. We’ve taken breaks for surgeries and family reasons, but our relationship with her therapists has been regular and wonderful.

Notice I did not say “consistently easy.” Nope. We have had therapy sessions where she spent 30 of our 45 minute session screaming under a table. Sessions full of eye rolls and moaning and very little “work”. Sessions that involved game pieces chucked across a play room and claw marks down my arm. Sessions where I wanted to crawl under the table for 30 of those 45 minutes and cry. Those days happen and golly they are awful! But unless our sweet girl is really truly ill, we stay for that whole therapy session no matter how arduous or how embarrassing it gets. We want her to know that we value that time.

And when I say “we” I mean us, her parents, her therapists, her siblings, her teachers and anyone in her tribe cheering her on whether present or not. She knows from our consistent insistence that going to therapy sessions to “play and work on our words” is important. We want her to know that we believe in her ability to work hard and be understood, that we have hope for her independent communication with the whole world in the future. We communicate the value of therapy to her through our actions and words.

Her growth in communication has been slow and we’ve made careful decisions along the way. Surgical repair of cleft lip and palate does not magically solve a problem as big as expressive communication. Surgery and great surgical teams are absolutely amazing! But those surgical interventions at best give our child the anatomy to make independent communication a possibility. Our child does not wake up in post-op suddenly rivaling their peers’ language abilities. I strongly believe that for most of our cleft-affected kiddos, therapy is really what brings about that ability. A partnership between a skilled speech-language pathologist, a parent, and the child will produce gains in independent communication.

It may take more time, more tears, more cost, and more long-suffering than we anticipated. It may even look very different than we expected. But it is worth it. It’s even worth the long drives and the phone calls to the insurance. I can say it’s worth it and we are not even “there” yet.

But I have full hope that she will be there someday, and until then we work hard alongside her, pray with hope, and encourage her to speak openly because her heart and her are so worth hearing, sass and all.

– guest post by Stephanie: Instagram || #herwordswillcome

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