What No One Ever Told Me About Special Needs Adoption
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Our decision to adopt was an easy one. After a very difficult pregnancy with our biological son, my husband and I decided that we wanted more children, but not necessarily any more pregnancies. The risks were simply too high. I expressed to Chad that I had always wished to adopt and he thought it sounded like a wonderful idea.
The path to our new family member was unclear. All we knew for certain was that we wanted to work with honest people and adopt a waiting child, younger than our son (he was 4 when we started). We began with one country but changed our minds when things just didn't seam "right". We looked into domestic adoption through the foster-care system and got nowhere. Then, one day, I had what I refer to as my "adoption break-down". I couldn't stop crying, couldn't focus on work, we've all been there, right? I left work and went home. I knew in my heart that my child was out there and I couldn't find them. I got on my computer and pulled up the Rainbow kids web-site (for the 900th time!) There, in the center of the page, I saw these eyes that spoke to me. She looked wise beyond her age, which was the same thought I had when I looked at my son for the first time.
I opened the window and read the information on this tiny soul named, Wu Ping Wan. A 12 month old baby girl with a congenital heart defect who was to be my child and I knew it. I sent an email to the adoption social worker, and told her that we were paper-ready (except for a country change) and could we adopt this little girl? I received an email in return: yes!
Congenital heart defect: scary words, huh? Her actual diagnosis turned out to be plain old Tetralogy of Fallot. We forwarded the information that our caseworker sent us about her condition to some doctor friends of ours, basically wanting to know what this was and could we fix it. In a nutshell, Tetralogy of Fallot is 4 different problems with the heart. A hole between the two chambers of the heart, narrowing of the pulmonary valve, thickening of the wall and an "over-riding aorta" (which means the aorta straddles the two chambers). But, more importantly, YES it can be fixed and is actually not that uncommon.
Chad and I discussed this precious little girl's special need and surprised ourselves by deciding to adopt her within a 15 minute discussion. As an engineer, Chad usually engages in 3 months of research just to change cell phone providers. But somehow this little girl just felt right to both of us. Don't get me wrong, we were scared and worried and all the things that you would expect. We discussed and questioned: could she die, would she die? One thing was for certain, if no one adopted her, the answer was yes. Think about that. For many of these kids, the answer is yes.
We moved ahead, got the paper-work finished and went to China (which we loved) to receive our daughter. We were so nervous the first few days! We kept careful watch, waiting for her to "turn blue" or pass-out. But, we have been home now a few weeks, and she has yet to turn blue. In fact, with the exception of us noticing a little "bluing" on an inter-country flight while in China (which were very hot and stuffy) and the fact that her finger and toe nails are a little blue, you wouldn't know there was a thing on earth wrong with her. She plays and laughs and gives kisses. True, she doesn't have the energy of a healthy 20 month old. She gets out of breath and reaches up for me to hold her for a few minutes. And, sometimes, her condition makes her a little fussy. Holding her and comforting her takes care of it, no complaints here! Honestly, we don't really think much about it on a day-to-day basis. She has no wires, or tubes, or monitors, just a heart that needs to be fixed. We have started the testing necessary to move ahead with her surgery and that will be done as quickly as possible. We don't know yet if she will need open-heart (probably, she will) or if it can be done with a scope surgery. Some of the babies that you see with heart conditions on the "special needs" lists may only require scope surgery.
Mia is 20 months old, a few months older than many children that come home to their families. I can only say, please don't be afraid of a baby that is a bit older. The toughest part of this entire process was that she did not instantly come to me when I met her. However, I viewed this as a sign of intelligence. I was a stranger. Also, it can actually be a sign of an attachment disorder if a child her age does go to a stranger instantly. Plus, think how we must look to these babies: big goofy grins, blubbering like idiots, and babbling in some language they have never heard before! However, in less than a day she was attached to me and in less than two days she was gazing into my eyes and reaching up to touch my face and hair. On day three she was playing games with me and smiled for the first time. I honestly know that she liked me before we left China and I know now that she loves me. She took a bit longer to warm up to Chad and she still prefers me, but so did our biological son. It's sometimes just a mommy thing!
Now, the good parts! She is still very much a baby. She takes a bottle and some of my favorite times are night-time feedings because she looks right in my eyes and reaches up her little hand so I can kiss it. She is sure to turn her hand over, so I can also kiss the back. She loves to cuddle and sit in my lap. She puts her little forehead against mine and giggles. She sits on my lap and puts her face right up to mine and rubs my hair as though she is as in love with me as I am her. She leans in for kisses from Daddy and gives him the sweetest smile as if to say, "I love you, but I'm gonna stay on Ma-Ma's hip for now". She often wraps her little arms around my neck and pats my back. She walked over to her brother today and rubbed his arm and said, "Ahhh, da baby".
So, we have a sweet, loving, beautiful baby girl, who can also throw a fit, be stubborn, grouchy, and feisty! Just like any other baby. Before Mia came home, our son, Will, asked why Mia didn't have parents. He thought that Mia had not "grown in someone's tummy". I explained to him that she had, but that her mother couldn't keep her and she had left her for the orphanage to find, so that she could have a new home. My son said to me, "oh, that must have been what broke her heart."
People often remark what a lucky little girl she is, but we are the lucky ones. We have a precious addition to our familyour baby girl, with a broken heart. Mia is special, there is no doubt. But more and more each day I realize, the "special need" was ours.
There is more to that child than the special needs glaring at you from the page
It is important that you find a professional who has specific training, continuing education and experience in the areas of childhood trauma and attachment
In an advocate's words
Lessons learned through a personal journey to grow his family through adoption
Only two US adoption agencies are accredited to provide adoption services in South Africa
Family dynamics shift when a new family member is added