March 18, 2010

Her Special Need

In late 2005 while AB and I were attempting to put our dossier together, we had a decision to make.  Before our paperwork could make its way to China and into what would become an abyss of waiting, we had to decide if we were willing to accept the referral of a child with "special needs" or specifically wanted only a child who could be deemed "healthy".  

We wrote a nice letter introducing ourselves, and made sure to follow all the guidelines and rules set out for families putting together these types of packages.  In that letter we made it clear that we wanted a "a girl, healthy, as young as possible".  I's dotted and t's crossed...

This is who we are.  This is who we want.  Something like that...

Each year that went by, paperwork would expire and we would find ourselves renewing those documents.  And again, that letter...revising only the date at the top.  Leaving the rest.

This is who we are.  This is who we want.

Over and over.  Reiterating to ourselves exactly what we were prepared for.  The type of child we were preparing for.  

And so, last December we received the call...that long-awaited, celebrated, anticipated call telling us who she was.  Introducing us through technology, pictures, and translated paperwork...finally learning who she was.  A baby girl, just five months old.  Healthy.

But we couldn't really know.  Didn't really know anything about her.  

Still the mantra of our whole adoption process playing in the background of our minds...this is who we are...this is who we want.

All the way to get her.  All those steps from here to there and into the same room with her...all those tears and difficult moments, making our way to be together after five years.  Such arduous, painful years without her...longing for her.

Longing for our baby girl.   As young as possible.  Healthy.

If you've been reading recent posts, you know already about that meeting.  If you're new, welcome, and you can read it HERE.  

And so this is what I came to say to you tonight...

With these sweet babies...I believe deeply that there is no honest differential between what is documented as "healthy" vs. "special needs".  

What Keira does not have in physical ailment, she makes up for in emotional devastation.  For children suffering physical ailment, the trauma is double.  

I would never have believed it.  After all, our attachment with Quint was textbook perfect.

But let me write that letter again...let me rephrase it.  Please!!  Because what I asked doesn't exist and it's unfair.  To me.  To her.  To all of them...even to my sweet boy, who may not feel the depth of his loss for years to come.

It's not reality.  It's not even in the same stratosphere of reality.  

Who are we to say that the brokenness of her entire family tree is neither special, nor a need.  That her pain is somehow less because it appears unseen to the naked eye?

To think that a young as possible...healthy by the standard of medical reporting would suffer such anguish and fear, insecurity and pain with the limited ability to reason in her short's beyond me to convey.  To think that she will carry that pain and loss her entire lifetime is more than this mother (who thought I knew who I was and what I wanted) can bear for her to face.  But she has no choice...she has to. 

I saw her need again...this week.  When for the briefest moment we walked through a new environment and new people approached us.  Unlike any healthy, young baby girl I have ever seen...panic, fear, anguish, insecurity, pain...all etched in her face.   Thick tears streaming down those beautiful cheeks instantly.  It took only seconds for both AB and I to realize that we had seen that exact expression before...only once.  In that first moment.

And it nearly broke us.  Both of us aching for her all over again, but with new eyes.

She thought we were leaving her.   

She thought she was being left...again

How deeply I was hurt to see her relive that fear in any fashion.  I could see this wound re-opening time and time again, manifesting in different ways over the years, as she tries to come to terms with her loss.   Over and over...

I would never intend to downplay the serious nature of medical conditions orphans the world over suffer from.  But neither would I ever again accept the idea that being "orphaned" means  children who have suffered loss of this caliber are not also children with a special need.  Healthy is a relative term.

Her pain and loss are debilitating for her emotionally.  Even now at this tender age.  And oh, how I loathe that I want to take it all up and absorb it so she won't have to feel it for one more second of her little life.  How I want to erase that hurt from her heart...that that one day when she's older, she won't have that gaping wound inside telling her she was left.  She was abandoned.  She was unwanted.  

Never mind we love her to the moon and back.  Never mind that!  Never mind we went on the journey of a lifetime to be together love care for her.  It's all wonderful.  But it doesn't take her need away.  Her need to know why.  Her need to understand all the reasons why she was not held onto.  It won't erase the gaping will only act as a salve to it. 

Oh that stupid letter - that horrid, misinformed, childish letter.  Why did I write it?  Who we are and what we want...

What about her?  What about what she needed or wanted?  Who she was...

Why didn't I instead write that I would love her, pain and all...anguish and loss, heartache and brokenness...that I would love her through all of that.  And that when she came to me, years later, and begged to know why this had happened to her...assuring me that she loved me, but hurting and wounded and feeling betrayed by her birth-parents...that I would love her still...and comfort her.  That I would say the right things to help her in her grief.  That I would not give up on her.  That I would always fight for her pain to be healed.  For her brokenness to be made whole.  Maybe not in this lifetime...maybe not until the next...but that I would love her through all of it.  Why didn't I write that?

And I'm left with the knowledge that there really is no difference.  Foolishly, I believed that I knew who I was and who I wanted to love.  And I didn't.  Not really.  Not in the way that mattered.  

Because I want her.  Love her.  Cherish her.  Just the way she is.  Always.  Forever.  

And it may take a lifetime of reassurances, reminders of how we love her, encouragements along the way to affirm who she is to us - what she means to us - all that she gave to us the day she came into our lives.  A lifetime to remind her of all the sweet things that came from the loss she endured.  A lifetime praying that God will restore her in His time, weeping with her as she grieves, and enduring with her as she endures.

Her special need was not noted.  Woefully left out of every document, every report, every picture.

A broken heart...

She has a broken heart

and sadly for her, that was lost in translation


Leah said...

What a beautiful post. I had to write a similar letter to Ethiopia when filling out the dossier. You are right though. . . all of these children have broken hearts. They've all been through the unimaginable.

Kayce said...

Beautiful post once again Christie and oh so real for many of us. Our girls have long roads to travel on before they are healed completely. Thank God Keira has you and AB to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her and help to make her heart whole again.

Love Letters To China said...

I've been reading your blog for quite some time now without commenting. I felt the need today to tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts and am so glad you touched on this important topic. Many families start on this journey feeling the same way as you did about a so called "healthy" child (I certainly did that too). My husband and I decided to open up our hearts to a child with special needs. We are so grateful we did this. Our son has brought unknown joy to our lives. We couldn't imagine our life without him.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Maybe this post will change someones mind about what a "healthy" child truly is. I think this post would be a great addition to the website.

Once again thank you for sharing.


The Gang's Momma! said...

Beautiful. I love it. I'm right there with you on so much of this. Our daughter has unilateral hearing loss, so there is a physical "need" present. But more present, more telling, more emergent on the daily life basis, is her "need" to know. Need to know that she is safe. Secure. That we will always be there for her. That she has a soft place to land. That we will always come home to her. That she can always come home to us. That's the pool of needs we deal with on a mostly daily basis, on some level or another.

This was a beautiful post and you are such a gifted writer. Thank you for the eloquence. It says very well what most of us in the adoption community know first hand. You nailed it!

Anonymous said...

The best thing our social worker said to us when discussing the special need question was that our baby would have a special need whether it was marked on her documents or not. She said most of what you said in this post. A child cannot endure the losses that our have and not have a special need(s). 3 years later for us, it still shows up almost daily, in ways outsiders wouldn't even notice. It is there.
Love this post.

Renea Lynch said...

Beautiful post. Referring other friends to your blog. Your words are from the heart and deeply honest. Just what everyone needs to read. ♥ Thanks and God Bless!

Neeson Family said...

I know you don't like negative comments and I apologize. How do we know she wasn't wanted?
Think of her parents and their circumstances.
How do we know she is heart can we possibly? My 3 girls are 13,13 and 14 and we have been back to China many times now. And now I understand so much more. I don't know if their is residual effects from their adoptions..........they say not. In the big picture it doesn't matter and all is well.

Ani said...

Our children were adopted as newborns, and every so often I wonder if they feel that loss, that pain... Obviously, in their case is not as evident as Keira's or I would KNOW (I like to think!)
But I will always wonder if they have a hurt that I cannot heal... and it breaks my heart as well.
Beautifully written, as always. Thanks for sharing.

Amy said...

Christie, I so appreciate this post...and boy oh boy do I agree with you. I will never forget speaking to my husband several years ago about Special Needs adoption and what "Needs" we were "comfortable" with our ability to meet in a child. He said to me, "Ame, EVERY orphan has a 'Special Need'...they need a family." Amen. Always and Forever.

With Love and Prayers, and All Best Wishes...

KO said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!

Our second adopted son came with a very broken and battered heart, but he too was 'healthy'. Your writing is wonderful.

runninggal said...

That was a wonderful and very sad post. I do think even young children can feel that big loss. My daughter went through a BIG greaving period. I really do think even for years after, she thought she was going to be left again. Every once in awhile, she will still show some little sign as before. She is 6!

I just think some kids feel it in different ways. Just take it slow and go at her pace. Don't force her to do more than she can.

lmk said...

I've been reading your blog...reached through Weasel's Journey...since just before you left for China. I do not know your entire story, or fully understand what you asked for. But, I do have a son who wrote a perfect IQ test...translation an IQ somewhere over 180. And I do have two daughters at Vanderbilt, and an eighth grader who is in high school calculus. And I spent a fair number of years as a peds nurse. My point being...I know a bit about very VERY bright suggestion is..hold onto your bloomers....your princess is a very bright child and it won't be until she reaches late elementar- junior high that you'll come to realize that being very bright is very much a special need. Trust me on this...I know a bit...quite a bit actually of what I takes a VERY VERY bright child to have achieved that level of emotional attatchment at such a young age.

Valerie said...

This is so to the point, I have always believed, the biggest obstacle isn't being of a different race, or losing their native culture, the biggest hurdle to clear is being adopted.

Why am I with you and not them? Can the answer ever be satisfying. I only know I will do all that is within my power to make my kids know how much they were desired from our perspective and support them in searching out answers for any questions they may have down the road.

We are all human beings and as such, we all have special needs.

Love Valerie

Soojung Jo said...

Well. That was a tear jerker. I've been on through the looking glass on this one. Reading posts like yours brings me back to my inner child. Keep loving her. Don't be hurt when someday you realize that your love can't fix everything. Just keep doing it. ps Keira is such a precious little dumpling!!

Anonymous said...

Oh how I wish I had read something like your blog posts before going to China to meet my daughter.(Nevermind that she has been home much longer than Kiera ;->).

I also had a daughter who had similar responses to the heart-wrenching change the adoption presented in her young life, and I was far less prepared for it than I wish I would have been.

I think it's very helpful for parents heading into the adoption process (especially in China where there is no way for the child to get acquainted with her new parents before leaving all she knows) to know that your "moment of meeting" and your first week or weeks together may not be the smiling hugfest we find in so many of our adoption storybooks. And to know that we as parents and our little ones will get through it, despite the moments in China where it seems impossible that we can.

Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it helps prepare some new parents heading into adoption and gives them strength, hope and comfort as they go through the first few days and weeks of the transition to becoming a forever family.

The Gang's Momma! said...

Yay! No Hands But Ours included you on their Whatever Wednesday list. You are in the big time now girl. First Tonggu Momma's links and now this :) I told 'em a while ago that you were good. :) :)

Dee said...

That was absolutely beautiful and rings so absolutely true. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

My oldest daughter had a lot of separation anxieties too. She bonded with us right away in China at 9 months old - that wasn't the issue. But she was terrified of me leaving her. So for the first year, I almost never left her side. She was a very early talker so she could tell me what was wrong. And it took till she was 3 1/2 before she quit saying, "Momma, will you stay with my forever?" when I would have to leave her someplace. It was very hard for me to know that she was so afraid of me not coming back. But over time we built that trust and now she is seven and she is very good with me having to leave....most of the time. Put her in a new situation that's very unfamiliar and then she'll clutch my hand again and I can see in her eyes that she's afraid for me to go away. So then I stay till she feels comfortable. So that's my advice to you....don't get babysitters unless you have to for the first year. Just be with her as much as you possibly can and build that trust. It is so worth it!

Michelle said...

Thank you. I LOVE this. You put in words what I have felt through my own daughter's eyes time and time again (adopted at 7 months from Taiwan). She's almost 15 months old now, and she still panics if she can't find me, and I FEEL the grief in her heart, and it breaks me. are a wonderful mommy. :)

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful letter! It is still really hard to handle. I think of that often with our daughter. She was 1 when we got her and the only one in our group of 4 that was emotionally attached to one of the aunties from the SWI. I hope that as time goes on your daughter feels safe, secure and feels the love that God meant for her. Hugs to her!

sweetpea37 said...

"A lifetime praying that God will restore her in His time, weeping with her as she grieves, and enduring with her as she endures." That is the most profound thing I've read today. I am convinced that if you do this, the restoration process can and will take place. I'm so thankful she is in a caring environment, but most of all I thank God that YOU recognize her need. Your post brought me to tears, since I suffer from a less intense but similar trauma.
Juliana Morley

a Tonggu Momma said...

I loved this post the first time I read it and I love it now. There is such truth here. Thank you for sharing y'alls story, but more importantly, your daughter will thank you for being right there with her, for her.

Lut C. said...

My knowledge of adoption is limited, which is why I found your post most interesting.

(Arrived here from the Crème de la Crème list)

erica said...

I came here from the Crème de la Crème list, and am so glad I did, even though I started crying about halfway through your post. You write so beautifully and with such love. I'm wishing you and your family all the best.

Sara said...

This is a heartbreaking, beautiful post. You have an amazing heart. I hope with you that your beautiful daughter's heart will find a way to heal.

Hope said...

Wow! Thank you so much for this beautiful, powerful, evocative post. This is something I have been mulling over a lot lately--what the child/baby's experience of adoption must be. Thank you so much for sharing such a candid description of your daughter's special need, and for the reminder not to dismiss emotional needs, just because they are less visible than the medical/physical needs.

Here from the Creme de la Creme