Tuesday, November 30, 2010

National Adoption Awareness Month - Week 4

If Buddy had been identified as having special needs at the time of his referral, I'm not sure we would've adopted him.

It makes me feel sick to my stomach to say that, but its the truth. Granted, his needs are not severe, but I'm not sure we would've been comfortable with even minor special needs. As first time parents, becoming a mom was overwhelming enough. I imagined the extra work and worry of parenting a child with special needs and I didn't think I'd be able to handle it. I imagined parents of such children were better than me - more patient, less prone to anxiety, better at seeing the glass half-full. And, if I'm being honest, I felt like we'd already struggled enough. The years trying to get pregnant, the fertility treatments, the miscarriage...it was our turn to be happy, not to commit ourselves to years of extra work, worry and heartbreak.

Thank God none of Buddy's issues had been identified at the time of his referral. Thank God he hadn't been "labeled" as special needs.

That label could've been the difference between Buddy becoming our child or another family's son. Far worse, that label could've been the difference between Buddy being adopted or becoming a waiting child, sent to live in an orphanage with a greatly diminished chance of ever joining a family.

I can't imagine what that label could've done to Buddy's life. I can't imagine what it could've done to mine.

By the time we arrived in Guatemala to bring Buddy home, it was obvious his development was not following the path of a "typical" child. I never would've walked away from him at that point; he been our son from the moment we'd accepted his referral 9 months earlier. But I won't lie and say we were instantly comfortable and confident we could handle the situation either. Those first few months I definitely had many "Why me?" and "I can't do this" moments. Truthfully, those feelings still surface from time to time.

The difference is I know now that just because I struggle sometimes doesn't mean I can't be the mom Buddy needs me to be. Parents of children with special needs aren't perfect, they aren't saints. Even someone like me, who is impatient and easily frustrated and prone to pity parties, can do it. Not only do it, but enjoy it.

Ordinary people can parent a child with special needs. Don't convince yourself you can't. Don't turn way from waiting children without really considering it as an option. I know that might sound like ridiculous advice coming from me, since I stumbled into this situation instead of choosing it. But if I had known then what I know now, I would've chosen it...should we ever decide to adopt again, the waiting child list will be the place we start.


  1. Great post! I have said before to people who ask me (who are considering adopting waiting children) what SN I consider to be managable--the ones your children have. As parents, our kids stretch us and grow us in ways we never could have imagined possible, and thank goodness for it!

    I agree, if we ever adopt again, I can't imagine looking anywhere but the waiting child listings....

  2. This is a beautiful post. I can understand where you are coming from since we felt very similarly then and now. And you're right... my child was my child the moment I accepted that referral! This gives me happy goosebumps.

  3. I think you make an excellent advocate for parenting a special needs child BECAUSE you "stumbled into it." Adam and I chose the SN route because it seems to be our pattern (first with cats, now with kids) and it's a passion in our hearts. And I get that not everyone feels equipped to handle extra efforts on top of the normal ones that parenting presents.
    I *totally* know what you mean about those first few months being spent wondering how in the HELL you can do this. I still have those days, frankly. But you're right - any parent can handle a SN child. All it is is living each day as it is. Never before have I been able to appreciate each moment for what it is. Now that I have kids (esp those with extra needs), I can do nothing more than live day by day. I don't mean that in a depressing, nothing-to-look-forward-to kind of way, but more as a very exciting, Buddhist, live-in-the-moment kind of way. I LOVE that I have to check my calendar before making plans for tomorrow. Because it means my focus is on my family and nothing more.
    Parenting SN kids is so freakin' hard, but isn't parenting hard in general? And as we all know, the challenges are SO worth it when you reap the rewards.
    Thank you for advocating the adoption of SN kids!

  4. what a beautiful, thoughtful, and honest post...thank you for that.

  5. What a beautiful post. Buddy is such a wonderful little boy, and I appreciate everything you said about your experience. Andy and I feel the same way. If we ever do it again, we'll start with the waiting child list too.

  6. Beautiful post! I agree... As a first time mom, I might not have accepted a referral of a child with special needs. My child is an amazing joy and blessing every single day.

  7. I am so thankful you wrote this lovely post. What a wonderful perspective you provide.