Monday, November 02, 2009

Can your love overcome your fear?

Surprisingly enough, a Toys R Us catalog is the catalyst for this blog post. I was looking at the holiday circular over lunch today and it occurred to me as I thumbed through the pages, that the children modeling in it represented many different ethnic backgrounds as well as children that have challenges of one type of another. As I looked at the children, I felt happiness that Madison Avenue is becoming more aware that we want to view all different kinds of faces, not just ones that look like our own. It is a start, but I know we also have a long way to go. It has to translate on so many levels and pave inroads for so many different groups.

We all would like to believe that we do not have prejudice. Denying our prejudice is denying the truth. I am prejudiced and so are you. There is no way that we cannot be. It is ingrained into our psyches at the earliest of ages and it is ALWAYS based in fear of the unknown.

One of the biggest prejudices that I held for far too long was in the area of children that had special needs. "Those" children were for families that could "handle" their needs. I would marvel at what "those" people could deal with but "No, thank you," I was not interested in dealing with those types of needs myself. Quite honestly, if you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever think to adopt a child (my race or another one) I would have told you that you were nuts.

The story of how we decided to adopt from China is a long one and one that I will save for another day but quite honestly, it was never on my radar. Now, I cannot imagine how it could not have been.

When we first decided to adopt from China, there was no question that we would be asking the officials in China to let us adopt a child with no known issues, what is commonly known in the adoption community as a "non special needs adoption." We submitted our paperwork, took our place in line and decided that no matter how long the wait was, we were going to have that "perfect" little girl that we had been dreaming of. We, in no way felt that we could possible handle a child with needs greater than than what a supposed "normal and healthy" child would/could bring. As the wait lengthened from 6 to 10 months, which back then seemed like an eternity and today is a walk in the park, we saw some of our fellow adoptive families leave the NSN queue and find a "waiting child" on a special needs list and pursue those adoptions.

When we finally received our referral of our precious daughter Katie Starr, we rejoiced and set out for China with a clear idea in mind about what to expect. What we expected and what we got were two very different things. What we got was a perfect daughter with lots of imperfect baggage brought about by 3 disruptions in caregivers and a "gotcha" moment done in her sleep that really turned into what seemed to be an abduction from her foster family. I am not naive enough to think that she really thought that she was abducted but deep in the recesses of her brain, there were responses being set up to deal with the constant loss of any security that she had, over and over again. We were lucky with Katie, in that we believe that most of her other needs were met by the orphanage and then her foster family. You have never met a child as on target developmentally as Katie but when it came to whether she had a secure bone in her body...the answer was an unequivocal "NO." I am sure that if you were to ask our travel mates, they would tell you that we had one very sad child on our hands. She cried constantly and when not crying would just stare into space for very long periods of time. The easing up phase that all in China adoption know about usually happens in Guangzhou, but for us never materialized. When it was time to come home we took the same scared, sad and very sick child home. I knew very well after raising Justin what a secure attachment felt like and this was not it; not even close. I cried myself to sleep many nights at the thought that this daughter, that I loved with all of my being, would never allow herself to love and return that love back to us. It took us a lot of time (months into a year or more) to help her form the attachments that would allow her to succumb to our love and feel more secure. Even now, 3 1/2 years later, we are still working on feeling secure but thankfully she is attached...very much so.

Katie taught me not to ever take for granted that what you see on the surface is what is really underneath. She taught me that special needs are not something to be afraid of. She taught me and I believe that I speak for Marc, that documented special needs were not something to shy away from if you decided to bring a child into your heart and home. That sweet little girl and her courage gave us the courage to face our unknown fears and prejudices head on and to adopt a child with special needs. Enter Ethan, a little boy that stole our hearts and who's own heart had been very defective. We took the leap of faith that was now born of real life education and headed to China to bring him home. Once again, we were bound to get taught a lesson that would further expand our horizons. Our little boy, who's heart had been surgically healed by the hands of angels known as doctors, was very wounded at the hands of his caretakers. He was severely neglected and he presented with what is called "Institutional Autism" and failure to thrive. OK, what the heck did we sign up for was my shameful thought but thankfully, I was able to work through those thoughts and bring home this son who changed our lives so much as he fought to overcome his issues. Now we know very deeply in our hearts that there is really no issue that we cannot face. These children with special needs (both unknown and undocumented and known and fully disclosed, as well as all the variables that lie between those two ends of the spectrum) have been the greatest blessings of our lives. I look at children as just that, children. It no longer matters to me whether they have cleft lips/palates, missing fingers or limbs, heart defects, blood ailments or any so called disfigurement or ailment. All that matters to me now is that they are a child in need of love and a family. I am no longer in a position due to age or resources to be able to bring another child into our lives but one of my life's missions is to educate and therefore rid the world of prejudice. It is like a Cancer that will only spread if not stopped.

There is a really special person that was brought into my life through the miracle of adoption. Her name is Shelby and she runs a very well know foundation in the Chinese Adoption Community that assists people with the funds that they need for a special needs adoption or older child adoption. She is committed to these children and their families. The Elison Project is like so many other foundations and non profits today; in need of some assistance to continue their good works. It would be wonderful if you could donate any amount of money but even if you can't donate monetarily then please spread the word about them on your blog, facebook or even in conversation. We never know who may be listening when we speak. Shelby is an angel on earth. She has a large family born through biology and adoption. All of her adopted children have special needs. She talks the talk and then backs it up and walks the walk. I aspire to her goodness and continue to try to be a better person each day by her example and others that set equally good ones each day.

We are all different and we are all very much the same. I know that we can all find a way to broaden our horizons just a bit to allow ourselves to imagine the possibilities. I feel sad that I wasted so much time early on being fearful and therefore closing myself off to those possibilities, which were really opportunities to love. That is the really sick and insidious thing about prejudice, it takes away our ability to love.

Thank you for reading my post today and please spread the love.


Tammie said...

There is so much to learn when it comes to adoption - NSN & SN. Your post is a great start in educating people.

Love Letters To China said...

Well said my friend... well said. I too have felt many of the same feelings you write about. It is so wonderful that we have opened our hearts to these amazing children. They bring such joy to our lives and we are able to learn so much from them.

Invisible Hands said...

Beautiful post, my friend. I didn't know you until your adoption of Ethan, but I truly believe you brought him back from the edge with your love, energy and golden light.

Stay tuned.....I'm going to try my best to blog in honor of blogging month....LOL

Candy said...

Beautiful post, Lori. Well said. You have such a way with words.

You have three beautiful, sweet, loving children and they are very blessed to have you as their Mom.

Wanda said...

Great post - you given me something to think about.

Thank you

Teresa said...

Excellent post and every word true.

Mama Duck said...

So well said!!