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How We Opened Up to Special Needs Adoption

Special Needs AdoptionIn the beginning stages of adoption, there are a lot of decisions that come up. Country preferences. Age. Money. Agencies.

But probably the most important, often uncomfortable and soul searching one is: “What kind of special needs can we handle – if any?”

For us, it was hard to sit down at the computer and check off boxes – medical terms we had no idea about. Conditions we’d never heard of. How did we know what we could handle?

We went back and forth on this. I want to tell you that from the first moment we decided on adoption we threw open our hearts and arms and said, “Come what may, give them all to us regardless.” But for the sake of complete honesty – that wasn’t the case. We weren’t trying to be selfish or pick a perfect child, but we wanted to be realistic. We had concerns:

  • How would choosing a child with special needs affect our daughter?
  • Would we be able to provide the time and care needed?
  • Would our military lifestyle make it harder?
  • What if we were placed with a child who we ended up not being able to care for?

I’m telling you right now – these are valid concerns. Do not feel as if you need to ever excuse your reasons for choosing a certain process during adoption. Just like a couple considering another high risk pregnancy (like we did), or to go ahead with a pregnancy that might not end well, or choosing not to have children at all for medical/personal reasons, adopting parents face their own challenges.

What it came down to (for us) was this: Our sons would have more than likely had severe special needs had they made it to 24 weeks before I’d delivered them. We knew this because the doctors told us many times after my water broke at 18 weeks what the risks were. But we were willing to wait it out, to care for them no matter what happened. They were born at 19.4 and didn’t survive, so we never got the chance.

So here we were on a different path. And to us – adopting a child with special needs no longer became a choice. We struggled about it all so long, wondering about what was fair to Bella, to a child, to our life; that we finally just said, “We’ll treat this process like a pregnancy. Come what may, we’ll welcome any child we qualify for.”

I’m not trying to make a child with special needs or the caregivers for them out to have this simple life/job. Or that we are such amazing people that we would do this. We really wrestled with this, it will mean a huge life change – but no one talks about this in adoption. No one wants to bring it up except when we judge each other on it.

It seems to be that if you are “privileged” enough to adopt, you should adopt waiting children/special needs. But I don’t know if I can classify any child in an orphanage waiting for a family as not having a kind of special need. However, for us, it was pushing aside the political correctness and guilt trips and the comments of, “I certainly hope you’re adopting a special needs child,” and searching our hearts for the answer. I understand someone reading this may think, “She’s using ALL THE WRONG TERMS” and explode with the tactlessness of it all, but this is my heart explaining what I know is a very tough, complicated process.

Now, just like in a pregnancy when things turn out different, there are those issues here. We currently do not qualify for any of the waiting children in our agency because of age and/or finances. But when the time comes to talk with our social worker about this, we will open our arms to whatever we qualify for, and know that this was our, personal reasoning behind a decision like this,

“Simply because they’re not our child yet, doesn’t mean we can turn down a chance to have a child with special needs. We fought to hold onto our biological sons no matter the outcome, so we’ll do the same for our adopted one(s).”

And that’s what we will do. Girl, boy, twins, single child, normal neonatal conditions or more severe – they’re already our child. We’re just waiting till they come home.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Kat Clay

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Diana blogs on raising a toddler daughter, the loss of her twin boys, and their families’ Korean adoption in progress on the aptly named Hormonal ImbalancesSmaller glimpses into her day are on Twitter and Facebook, and pinning working hard on Pinterest.

MORE FROM DIANA:

Just How Much Does Adoption Really Cost?

Bumps in the Road: Why Adoption Takes So Long

14 Unique and Eye Catching Adoption Finds From Etsy.com

Pondering International Adoption? 10 Tips on Choosing an Agency

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