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.