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Preparing to Welcome Home a Baby With Special Needs

Our road to Elvie has obviously been different in many ways from the ways others build their families. Even within the adoption community, our family is still somewhat unusual, and when it comes to specific special needs diagnoses, our daughter is literally one in a million. As far as we can find through various online adoption communities, there is no one who has adopted a baby with this particular diagnosis. So planning for the process of bringing her home as well as planning for medical care from halfway around the world has been somewhat challenging.

There’s no mom that I can call and ask how they managed the plane ride with their child who has this same medical need. There’s no one to tell me how long they allowed for the baby to get settled into her new home before beginning medical exams and treatment, and if they would do it the same way again. Even when we speak to doctors, when it comes to the particulars of the case, it’s a little like the blind leading the blind. Generally the physician will ask if we have the answer to a certain medical question, we’ll say no, and the doctor will say, “Make your appointment when you get home, and we will go from there.” Still, we are determined to be prepared as much as possible to welcome her into our family and get her the care she needs, and there are some specific things I’ve been doing to be ready.

First, I tackled the medical plan, getting a team of doctors in place for each aspect of her care. Though most of them can’t tell me much before she is in the United States, I have introduced myself, told each person what we do know about her case, and informed them of our timeline. Elvie now has a pediatrician, an international adoption doctor, and two surgeons who know the specifics of her case. We have a general plan for what gets done when, and a team of people we can call if there is an emergency before we have our first appointments.

Second, I tended to the practicalities. Because of Elvie’s physical difference, very few baby clothes that are available will work for her straight off the rack. A dear friend who is an excellent seamstress, in addition to being a superb problem solver, took a pile of onesies and fabric and created clothing that will work for Elvie. I came up with a diapering system that I’m half sure will work. When I found out her growth was slow, I consulted with our international adoption doctor to determine the best way to get more calories into her little body and had two other adopting families take specialty formula to get her started before we can get there.

Third, I have begun to envision what it will be like to hold her and care for her. Because her body is physically different than that of a typical infant, it will feel different when I hold her. I don’t want her to feel an ounce of hesitation from me when I pick her up, when I diaper her, when I feed her, or when I do anything that mothers do for their children. I want my arms and my heart to be ready for all of her, as she is. What I want to impart to her when I hold her is that she is loved just as she is, and that no part of me is afraid of mothering her. I have studied the photos and thought about where I need to put my hands to keep her comfortable as I lift her up, imagined what baths will be like and how to position her so she is comfortable when she has her bottle.

Finally, I have been preparing for her the way that you prepare for any beloved child. I’ve carved out a special little nook just for her in what is currently Zinashi’s room. I’ve chosen special things to decorate with and toys for her to grasp. I’ve shown off photos of her beautiful face to anyone who will look at them. Because she is not a baby with special needs as much as she is simply our baby, who we look forward to welcoming into our family with all of our love.

Read more of our family story on Finding Magnolia
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