Three weeks ago today, my husband and I brought home our 16th child. It was as special to us as the day we brought home our 1st. The minute I looked in this little boy's eyes, I was taken. I said to the case worker, through tears in my eyes, that although we had only known about him for a week, it felt as if he had been in my heart forever.
Two weeks ago today, this little guy landed in the hospital. He only had a cold but his special needs in combination with this cold warranted a trip to the hospital as he struggled to breath. His struggles earned him an ambulance ride. A ride with very matter-of-fact paramedics, working hard to gather basic information. I was glad I had studied his syndrome. I was glad I knew the basics of his disorder and I was especially glad I had a week to get a small glimpse of his baseline. I was also glad I had the ability to call his birth mom and his interim care mama and not only gather information but also rally prayers for him. Adoption is an amazing thing, especially open adoption.
As we arrived at the hospital, a team of doctors and nurses rushed to stabilize him, asking me to leave the room. Are you kidding me? You think I'm leaving this beautiful child of mine that I have only begun to have the opportunity to love? Instead, I moved closer. I stroked his cheek and allowed him to see me. I let him feel me breathing and I gently shushed him. He stabilized and settled in remarkably well after I was near. Probably a coincidence but I soaked up the feeling that I made a difference to him.
When things quieted down, the doctors began their questions. I was asked about his syndrome. I was asked about his 'norm'. I was asked about his challenges and his medical complications. All very valid questions to which I was grateful that I knew the answers. Then I was asked a question which I was totally unprepared to answer. I was asked "Why did you get him?" After stumbling, which most people will say I rarely stumble over my words, I responded with a question, "Why was I the lucky person that was allowed to be his mama?" I often accuse my husband of asking a question in response to me so as to gain a few seconds to think. A stall. At this moment, I was glad this was a secret joke between us because I stole his methods and bought myself some time not necessarily to think, but more to take a deep breath. The Dr responded "No, I mean why did you want him?". Now I really needed to think up another question because if I didn't take a moment to stall, I was going to rip her head off.
I looked at our son and asked her if she had an hour. She rudely replied "No, give me the short version." Really? Really? You ask a question like that and then want a one line answer?? I calmly said that he was part of my life's 'plan' long before I even knew he existed and that I was so blessed to be his mama. She nodded and scurried away back to the emergency room chaos.
We were in PICU for a few days. PICU, as anyone who has been there knows, can be a lonely place. I was glad to share this time with him. Glad to be able to cuddle and love on him. Glad to whisper to him and tell him how very much I loved him. Glad to tell him I would always protect him. But it gets lonely. One night, about 3 am, a doctor entered the room surprised I was awake. "Really?" I thought. How does anyone sleep in PICU with eighteen machines beeping? I laughed off her surprise and asked if she was here to do an exam. "No" she replied "I was hoping you'd be here and we could finish the conversation we started in the ED." I then realized it was the same doctor I met quickly when we first arrived at the hospital. Sure, catch me after 55+ hours of no sleep and ask me about my greatest passion in life. "I'd love to", I replied.
"So... Tell me. Tell me why you wanted him", she asked with as much conviction as she had asked days earlier. I reiterated my basic one-liner, "He was meant to be with our family. My husband and I feel there is a 'plan' in this life for us and he was always part of our plan". She said "You told me that already. But how did you know he was meant to be with you?" I was grateful she had heard what I said in the ED but still a little confused as to what further clarification she needed. I went on to explain that I have learned to trust my heart over the years. My husband and I talk about a little one's situation. We talk about their challenges and the impact of bringing them into our family on our other children. We talk about our support systems and if we could not only meet but exceed a little one's needs. We pray. Ultimately, we follow our hearts and, as all parents do, we try to make the best decisions we can, given the information we have.
We continued to talk for a couple of hours. She struggled to understand why our family feels led to adopt children with special needs. She asked question after question that could have been offensive had I not realized she was coming from a place of truly wanting to understand. I tried to turn the conversation around so as to possibly help provide a better understanding. I asked her what led her to want to be a physician. I asked her if she had children. I asked her what her greatest passion was in life. I asked her what her greatest learning lesson was in life. She was fairly nonchalant in her answers until my final question. She explained that her brother was killed in a car accident and that this was a turning point in her life. She said the accident gave her direction. She said losing her brother made her realize what was important in life. She said feeling his absence made her appreciate the small things and stop to acknowledge all that she was blessed with. She said her life was forever changed the moment he was gone. I told her how very fortunate I was to learn those same lessons by bringing children into my life rather than losing someone and that I was so sorry for her loss. Both of us crying at his point, she said she now understood.
Our little guy is home now. He is feeling so much better and has slipped into the loving craziness of our family just as if he's been here for a hundred years. My world was changed the moment we brought him home just as it has been each time a new little one has joined our family.
My conversation with the doctor that night has played over and over again in my head since that night. "Why did we get him". That was her question. "Why did we get him". Poorly worded but well intended.
The conversation with the doctor made me realize that sometimes people just don't understand. They don't understand adoption. They don't understand special needs. And they really don't understand special needs adoption. But they often do understand love and blessings and the good fortune that experiences will bring us if we are open to life's journey. This conversation made me realize that I need to share our journey more openly and more often. Adoption is crazy. It comes with uncertainty and drags you through unfamiliar territory. It is a roller coaster of emotion and experience. But it is also wonderful and amazing and life changing. Our children have blessed us in ways we never knew existed. They teach us every day to celebrate life. The teach us to seek new knowledge and to advocate with this knowledge. They live their lives with intent and exemplify strength and courage. We have forever been changed by our children.
What feels like forever ago, our son lay on that hospital gurney, hooked up to all sorts of tubes, wires and monitors. I whispered to him that I loved him and as he stabilized, I soaked up the feeling that my touch and my words had made a difference to him.
The reality is that he is the one that has made a difference to me.
So... "Why did we get him?"
Be open to life's offerings... There are some incredible blessings in the journey.
Written by Brittany
Join us at our next PRE/POST adoption meeting June 5, 2015