Saturday, February 16, 2013

Why Would We Do It?

I hear this question a lot. Let's face it, when anyone is expecting a child, the first thing they want is for him or her to be healthy. When a baby is born healthy and whole, with all ten fingers and ten toes, it is a celebration. And then there are the ones born with an obvious difference. Maybe the child is missing fingers. Maybe he or she has the distinctive almond shaped eyes that mark Down Syndrome. Maybe the child has decreased movement on one side or in the limbs due to cerebral palsy. What then? Immediately, the celebration is dampened. The excitement of a new life is diminished by pity and sadness for the parents whose baby was not "perfect."

So why would we intentionally adopt a child with known special needs? Don't we know what *could* happen? Won't it be hard for us?

Yes. It will be hard.

As an adolescent, when asked, "What are you going to do when you grow up?" One of my favorite replies was, "I'm going to change the world." That got some interesting looks. Some thought me quite arrogant, but I was certain that if I put all of my passion and warrior spirit into something good, it would be a benefit to others. I can still remember the commercials for the Peace Corps in the early 80's. Their slogan was "The toughest job you'll ever love." I was sure at age 4...yes, 4, that I would join the Peace Corps when I grew up.

 Fast forward to age 18. I was graduating high school with two years of college under my belt already. My family had dreams of me earning a masters degree by age 21. I was excited at this prospect, but I did not go on in my education right away. Instead, I joined the Army. What better way to get to see the world and make a difference than by serving in the military!  Well, I saw the southern part of the United States and the California desert, but that was about it. I did, however, come out of the Army with a husband and a child. For the next decade, my life revolved around pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, diapers and potty training as 3 more children joined our family. I think we will have 12 years of continuous diapering by the time the youngest is toilet trained.

I would not change the last eleven years for anything. I have grown as a mother and as a wife and a follower of Christ. I have more compassion and empathy than I could have gained in any other way. Not all of my kids are 100% "typical" in their development, and that has helped me learn more about special needs children. But when it comes down to it, my biological kids can hide their differences. Their special needs do not show on the outside. And so I am spared the looks of pity in public, but they have presented us with challenges that have forced us all to grow in ways that were not always comfortable. I know why I have the soul of a warrior. I have had to be one for my children.

"That must be how you were meant to change the world, by raising your strong children and advocating for them."

This is true. I believe it.....and then I learned about the orphan crisis in the world. I learned how many children are warehoused in deplorable conditions. I learned that many of these children have living family who for one reason or another, could not care for them. I learned what happens to them as they grow up. Those who are healthy and typical may receive job training and may be able to function at least to some degree in their native countries. Those who are not healthy or typical will not. Those children will be warehoused forever in institutions where we Americans would not send our dogs. The injustice of it shook me to my core. HOW? HOW could they do this to children? How can workers honestly believe that a child who weighs 18 pounds as a teenager is acceptable? How can they not see the malnutrition? How can they believe that is due to an extra chromosome or cerebral palsy?

What can be done to help people in these countries to be able to keep their differently-abled children?
Thankfully, there are many organizations working tirelessly in Asia and Eastern Europe to bring reform. They are helping support parents who choose to keep their children who have differences. This is wonderful news! I hope one day that the orphanages in these countries are EMPTY because the children are all in loving home environments.

But change happens slowly. In the mean time, real children wait. Should we leave them there to prove a point? Should we allow them to lay in cribs while their muscles contract and atrophy, pulling their bones from their sockets so that they can remain in their home country? Or so that my life doesn't have to be any harder?  Do we really think that it hurts less when children in poorer countries suffer?

For now, adoption is the most humane and best placement for these precious children. If their countrymen won't adopt them, then others will, and they should be encouraged to do so. Human suffering is human suffering. Nationality does not matter.

No, I never joined the Peace Corps. I never started a charity that aids hundreds or thousands of children. I never found a way to solve the problems faced by their mothers that led to them being relinquished. I never discovered some way to end world hunger and bring world peace. Those things may not be within my ability, but adopting just one child will change HER world. I cannot think of anything more worthy of my time and effort than to rescue a child and bring her into our home where she will have a Mama and Papa who will love her just as fiercely as we do the four homegrown kids. Her disability doesn't matter. She is a human being. She is a child of God. How can I not go to her?

...Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
                                                                           Robert Frost -

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