A Special Need Adoption
It’s hard to even believe that this picture was taken on December 28, 2009. Maggie came to us as a quiet, floppy, shocked little girl. She had no idea what was happening and, really, neither did we. We had no idea what a complete joy and blessing Maggie is or how much we would love her immediately. We also didn’t know she was deaf. Looking back at our China pictures now, I see how Maggie was so confused and detached. She couldn’t hear what was happening around her, and she had to have been scared to death. She did not respond to her Chinese name or to our voices. She did not take a bottle for 3 days, got very constipated, continually looked at her hands, and laid her right ear down on tables or floors to hear the vibrations. (She preferred to lay down on the floor rather than sit up.) Her little body went through so much as she grieved and tried to understand what was happening. I think her way of dealing with all the changes was to just shut down. How could she have known that we were going to love and care for her, that she would have a forever family and all the hugs and kisses she could stand. She couldn’t. She didn’t. But, that is okay. We have taken it slow; and, day by day, we have watched her unfold like a beautiful flower.
Her special need was multiple. A heart condition (a small VSD, ventricular septal defect) and microtia/atresia which we later found out was also severe hearing loss (a.k.a. deaf). We were told she could say “ba, ba, ba,” smile, and stand on her own and that she was lively and liked musical toys. All the pictures of her showed her to be a healthy looking little girl. We had done all the research, read special needs blogs, attended a seminar on what to expect when you adopt internationally, and prayed a lot for our daughter.
I remember when I first saw her through the curtain at the adoption center in Guangzhou. Maggie looked a little like her pictures; but, really, she looked very different. I saw her head was crooked to one side, her facial expression was out of sorts, she had what looked like bug bites on her face, and her head was oddly misshapen. Chuck and I waited til it was our time to officially meet Maggie, and she was first handed to me. With a pink toy duck in one hand, I reached out to Maggie. Finally, I was holding my baby girl. This was the moment I had dreamed about for so long. There was a big smile on my face, and my heart was beating so fast. I took a good look at her. I loved her so much already, and it was evident Maggie had some things to overcome. She was more like an infant than a 14 month old. She would lean way back when I held her, and she stared at her hands constantly. At one moment, I stopped to pray and tearfully thank God for Maggie. I asked for wisdom to be her mother, and I prayed that Maggie’s pain would be washed away, that she would know she is accepted and not rejected. It was a crazy Gotcha day, and I was so overcome with emotions and questions. Was she ever held? Did she ever have toys to play with? Just how neglected was she? I thought she was lively and talking? What really went on in her orphanage? I had a feeling that Maggie was severely neglected. I was right. I also watched her intently and knew that she was very smart, and she was a fighter, chosen by God to be my daughter and destined to overcome her special needs. I saw it. I knew it. My heart felt it.
Although we did a lot of research on what to expect and knew the self-soothing and floppy, flat affect was “normal” for a child who was institutionalized in an orphanage in China, nothing could really prepare us for the reality of it. You see, Maggie was just another baby in the orphanage. She probably spent over 20 hours by herself in a lonely crib with no toys and no sounds. She learned not to cry and to soothe herself by rocking back and forth and looking at her hands. She was given a bottle with a big opening, filled with formula and rice cereal. It would have been propped up and no aid was given if it spilled. Everything was on a tight schedule. She was bathed with cold water that was poured over her. She learned to just survive. I was once told by a fellow adoptive mom that there is a difference in surviving and thriving. She’s so right.
Because now, we see Maggie thriving. She laughs and smiles, plays and discovers, hugs and snuggles. She is changing every day into this bright, sweet little girl who we knew was there somewhere. Sure, we still have days she looks lost and sad or she stares at her hands too long like she doesn’t know what to do. But, then, she’s back and laughing in her daddy’s arms. All Maggie needed was love, someone to give her a chance, to believe in her and tell her she matters. Her special need was that she needed a family. Everything else is minor compared to that need. She has completely and totally captured our hearts, and we are forever changed. How could we not be?
Would we adopt a special needs child again? Yes!!! A thousand times, yes! Was it worth all the unknowns, money, and time? Yes! Every child is precious and important: the whole and the broken, the sick and lame. My heart breaks to know that there are 147 million little Maggies around the world who need a family and someone to say to them, “You matter. God loves you, and so do I.” My prayer is that by sharing Maggie’s story, more families will hear the cries of the orphans and say YES to adoption. I pray also that James 1:27 will burn in the heart of Christians: “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our father means that we must care for orphans.”
Thankfully, Maggie’s story does not end here. Eight months later, she has caught up developmentally with her peers (except for language). She can do a front flip, play peek-a-boo, twirl, and run. We have had a hard time with her bone conduction hearing aid and are waiting on her new fancy hearing aid to come in. Maggie is still not talking, and I am still having a hard time being patient. God is teaching me so much though, and I am learning that He is in control of Maggie’s life–not me, not the doctors.
Kathy is a mom blessed with a great, funny, handsome husband; two wonderful boys; and a precious daughter adopted from China through the special needs program. She is a Jesus lovin’, homschooling, adoption advocate, chocolate lovin’ momma. You can learn more about her family and their adoption journey on their blog.