It’s been one year since the Stewart family welcomed a very special little girl named Maria into their lives. And now, they are showing the rest of us just how much this 3-year-old with the “most contagious smile,” has changed all of them.
Adrianne Stewart and her husband Jason recently shared a video of their daughter’s miraculous journey from the Philippines to their home in Utah on Facebook, to mark her first adoption anniversary. That video has now been shared in a Facebook post on the popular site Love What Matters, and has been viewed close to 900K times.
“When we found our daughter, we did not think that we were qualified or prepared enough to parent a child like her, a child born without arms and legs … [B]ut we knew that we could love her and that loving her was what mattered most,” Adrianne wrote in the Facebook post.
Their story first began back in 2014, when the Stewarts — along with their two biological daughters and adopted son, who is also from the Philippines — decided to add to their family once more. Adrianne tells Babble the family wasn’t originally planning on adopting a child with special needs, but when they saw the photo of Maria on a list of children waiting to be adopted, they just fell in love with her.
Working closely with the adoption agency, Hand in Hand, the Stewarts began the daunting task of filling out piles of paperwork and waiting patiently for word of when they could meet their daughter.
And while Adrianne and Jason waited, they asked their children how they felt about welcoming a sister who didn’t have any arms of legs into their family. All three of the kids had questions and concerns, but it was the response from her young son, that shows just how remarkable this family really is.
“Her have eyes, her can see,” he declared. “Her have ears, her can hear and her have brains.” And that was enough for him.
Adrianne says her other children don’t even see Maria as having a disability — to them she is just their little sister.
Still, it would take until October of 2015 before they laid eyes on 2-year-old Maria. “We were very anxious and excited to meet her,” remembers Adrianne.
And it’s easy to see why the family may have been a little anxious.
The Stewarts had only ever received one photo of Maria (from when she was 6 months old), so when they finally went to bring her home, they had no idea what she was going to look like or what her level of development would be.
But any hint of anxiety would quickly be erased as soon as Mom and Dad laid eyes on her and held their daughter for the first time.
“We were filled with so much joy and couldn’t help but fall in love with her from that very first day,” says Adrianne.
Now a year later, the Stewarts say they’ve settled into a routine as a family of six, and Maria continues to thrive and excel in her new home. She attends preschool twice a week and also receives speech and occupational therapy services.
“We put limits on her abilities and then we see her doing exactly what we thought she was not capable of,” explains Adrianne.
Adrianne says her daughter loves playing pretend with her stuffed animals and will spend hours coloring pictures using her custom made mouthpiece. (Rumor has it she also LOVES music and especially likes rocking out to ’80s bands!)
Knowing her daughter’s life has meaning and purpose and that she can be just as happy as someone living without limitations means the world to Adrianne. “She has given us far more than we will ever give her; she is so full of joy and light, and is an inspiration to all who meet her,” Adrianne explains. “We are so blessed to have her in our family.”More On