What might adopting a special needs child do to you, emotionally and relationally?
It might make you want to lash out in anger (however unjustifiable) at a five year old girl on the playground after she repeatedly comes over to the stroller to stare at your daughter’s head - half-shaved head from recent surgery -rotting teeth that can’t be fixed just yet, and withered legs. She declines to reciprocate the multiple “hellos” and waves that your daughter is offering her. You tell this girl that your child’s name is Bella, and she’d love to say hello, then watch the girl shake her head, give one more disapproving look, and walk away. After your tender-hearted Bella looks at you and, while pointing at the girl, says “Mama, no hello” and begins to cry, you might use every ounce of grace you can muster to just shut up and not turn into bitch mom right there by the slides.
You might also be moved to tears by another child, a nine year old with a level of love and compassion in her heart that many adults never achieve. This nine year old, who also happens to be adopted, wrote such kind words in Bella’s birthday card that it has become a treasure to be saved for Bella to read herself one day.
It might compel those you know to avoid eye contact (or any contact) with you when you go to a birthday party with your kids or walk into church. It might also compel those you know (or barely know) to seek you out when you go to a birthday party with your kids or walk into church. Sometimes you might walk out feeling uncomfortable, isolated, or hurt. Other times you might walk out with a full heart, one that has been flooded with feelings of relief and thankfulness.
It might cause you and your spouse to argue over ridiculous things – like whether his way or your way is the BEST way, or even worse, the ONLY way to position your completely dependent child on the toilet. I mean, let’s face it, as long as the pee goes in the bowl it should be considered mission-accomplished. Later you might look at your spouse and say “Did we really argue over that – again?” I am not saying this has actually happened at our house, just that it MIGHT have :).
You and your spouse might get frustrated with each other because there are inevitably things you won't see eye-to-eye about. But when you see your husband teaching your adopted child how to play the ukulele or hear her say "I want Daddy" it might also cause you to thank God that he is the one you are doing this with.
It might make you keenly aware of how fragile the human body is, and how amazing the human spirit is, and how quickly things can change – every. single. day. And you might come to realize what a good thing this daily reminder is. It is not a curse or a burden, it is a BLESSING. Because you begin to understand that so many things you worry about are frivolous and insignificant. When you begin to realize this, you start to loosen your grip on those things and turn more of your attention to the things (ie. people) that do matter. You might go out and enjoy watching your kids play in the backyard today because you know that you could be at the hospital with a child who has broken a hip or needs neurosurgery tomorrow.
It might help you forge relationships with women you have never met in person. But you know your hearts are forever intertwined through special needs adoption. Some of them are doing what you are doing, some are doing things that are so much harder. All of them inspire and encourage you.
Some of these things might happen. It has all happened to me, and we’re just a few months into this journey. I would not change it – not the sorrow and definitely not the joy (and the joy far outweighs the sorrow!).