Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Special Care for Special Needs

Brand new, overwhelmed mom to a scrawny, sweet baby boy, I received a card from a family member. 

On the front was a drawing of Jesus carrying a lamb and inside, this:

"He will feed His flock like a shepherd;  He will gather the lambs in His arms, He will carry them close to His heart and will gently lead those that have their young."  Isaiah 40:11.

Those familiar, treasured words became my theme, my mantra.  “He will gently lead those that have their young...gently lead...gently...lead...”

Oh how I needed God’s gentle leading to make it through those first bewildering days, weeks and months with my newborn.   And when my second baby boy burst onto the scene, it was a constant reminder of God’s love for me and my babies. 

6 years down the road of mothering...

It was August in the Midwest.  Hot and humid. I was pounding the pavement with my third in the stroller; a precious, perfect-for-us little girl.  My husband and I had just adopted this 13-month-old treasure from China. 

Three months after bringing her home she had lip repair surgery for her cleft lip.  The recovery was awful; much more traumatic than the surgeon had led us to believe.  For the first week after surgery she couldn’t sleep well anywhere except in the stroller. 

So I walked her. 

And walked her. 

And walked and walked and walked her.

Pushing my bloodied, swollen, stitched-up baby through the neighborhood, I was miserable and exhausted and hashing things out with God.

Had we made the right decision? 
Would her beautiful face be forever mangled and lopsided? 
Would any of us ever sleep through the night again?

And as I walked I listened to sermons.

And right there...rounding the corner by the Williams house...up the hill from the park...sweet baby girl had finally fallen into a sweaty, fitful sleep...

All of a sudden the preacher in my earbuds was preaching to ME! 

“The Bible says, in Isaiah 40, verse 11, that God gives SPECIAL CARE for SPECIAL NEEDS.”

The stroller crashed into a curb and almost tipped!   

The fact that the preacher used the adoption lingo of “special needs” was no accident, no mere coincidence.  God had that word for ME! 

Encouragement flooded my heart.  Special care for special needs! 

18 months later...

My husband and I were enduring one of the most hopeless nights of our lives, in a cramped, dark hotel room in Guangzhou, China. 

It was the evening of “Gotcha” Day.

We had just received another little treasure girl.  She was six years old. 

Her paperwork said that her special need was a limb difference in her arm.  Within moments of getting her it was clear that the paperwork had been incomplete.

Her limb difference was the least of her special needs. 

As the first few hours with her turned into the first few days, we were shell-shocked, overwhelmed, confused, angry, and sad. 

She was nothing like what we had expected or planned for or hoped for or prayed for. 

We felt absolutely devastated and alone. 

And right there...crumpled at the corner of fear and anger...tumbling down the hill of despair...during those sleepless, tear-filled nights...

All of a sudden God preached to me.

“I give special care for special needs.”

“I carry this child close to my heart and I gently lead you with your young.”

And now...

It’s been almost two years since those dark days in China. 

Adopting an older, special needs daughter has changed my life.

The biggest changes aren’t in the make-up of my family or the various doctors appointments, therapies, IEP meetings and accommodations that we’ve had to make for our newest child. 

The biggest change is that God has given our daughter special care for her special needs through giving her a family.  And he’s given ME special care for my spiritual, physical and emotional special needs every day through giving me Jesus.

The card I received those many years ago during my first shaky steps as a new mother...

My husband’s grandma sent it to me.

We named our newest daughter after her. 

Their name means “God will increase”. 

And for her middle name, we chose “Grace”.

God knew when we named her how much we would need the reminder...

Every time we call her name...

God will give special care for her special needs,

and to all of us

an increase of His grace.

Julie Melilli lives in Wheaton, IL, with her husband and four children. 
Most days she loves being a “stay at home” mom.  On the occasional
day that things seem like more than she can bear, she has an amazing
support group of friends who get her through by reminding
her of her newest life mantra “Just give me Jesus!”.  She enjoys
cooking, decorating, reading, doing projects and long dinners out.  She and
her husband are currently in the process of adopting again.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Uneasiness and Fear Are All {perfectly normal} Parts of the Journey...

In my late 20's a fertility specialist told us my window to have children was going to close early.  Adoption never occurred to me at that time and we went through years of fertility treatments.  We were blessed with two little boys but also experienced 4 miscarriages, the last being a surprise pregnancy.  My doctor told us he felt it was time for us to be done trying have children.

…but I didn't feel done.  I grieved deeply for the children I had lost and the children I would never have.  

Then early one October morning I saw there was a new little boy at preschool and asked my son to invite him to play.  He did and was met with wide eyes but no response.  I hadn't noticed there was also a new Mom in the room and she knelt down next to my son and explained that her son didn't speak much English yet…  I didn't know it at the time, but God had dropped the answer to my prayers right in front of me!  

I spent a lot of time asking her about adoption and which agency they used and all the questions people who don't know anything about adoption ask an adoptive parent.  She suggested we go to an informational meeting their agency was hosting and we went thinking domestic adoption would be our route.  When we got in the car after the meeting all I could think about was how there are so many families lined up for a domestic newborn but around 2,000 "special needs" kids sitting on a list in China waiting to be chosen.  Just like that everything changed.  Armed with information about the Waiting Child program I felt overwhelmingly like my daughter was in China…but I haven't mentioned my fear of flying or leaving my children yet…  It took 3 months for me to get up the courage to mail in our formal application and first payment, but fearfully trusting, I did.

Several months later we were ready to be matched but only open to a minor needs girl under 12 months.  Amazingly, just a month after our paperwork was completed our agency called about an 8 month old girl with missing a hand.  Of all the special needs we said we were open to, limb differences was the one we were the least comfortable with.  It was the one I had found the hardest to research, and if I'm being brutally honest, I'm sure at the time part of it was cosmetic and a fear of something I knew nothing about.  Wow, a whole hand missing.  How would this child function in day to day activities?  (Clearly I'd had NO exposure at this point to anyone with a limb difference).

The research began.  I joined Yahoo groups galore about limb differences and parenting kids with limb differences.  I found blogs and pictures and articles.  I requested that people who have children missing a hand or arm email me their experience and the response from these families was overwhelming.  We even received an email from a 7 year old girl missing part of her arm and she brought us to tears telling us about herself.  

I'm a little embarrassed now to admit to everyone  our initial thoughts and fears over a missing hand, however, I'm hoping my embarrassment will give some comfort to this blog's readers who are feeling uneasy about the idea of a waiting child adoption. Please know that it's perfectly okay to be nervous and unsure about the special needs you are considering.  Do your research and connect with others who are already parenting a child with the special needs in question.  There is so much information out there and an entire adoption network of people who are happy to share their experiences.  We found both the adoption and limb difference communities to be welcoming of our questions and very supportive.

Once we were educated we became less concerned with our daughter's limb difference and just thrilled that she was overall a healthy little girl.  We submitted a Letter Of Intent for her almost immediately after her file was locked for us and felt an amazing sense of peace about her.  

We will be celebrating our daughter's second Gotcha Day this February and are so blessed to have her in our family.  

I wouldn't hesitate to adopt another limb different child and now find myself open to so much more than I ever would've imagined when we were just starting out the process.  These are innocent children and they deserve our consideration even if it's a little scary at first. We owe it to them to educate ourselves fully before deciding if their needs may be too great.  

If you are just in the research phase and learning about special needs adoption please branch out beyond just reading about a diagnosis or talking with medical professionals.  Connect with people who have gone before you and adopted children with the special needs you are considering, even those that may sound scary.  Although every child is unique you may find that these wonderful parents can give you a new perspective and possibly connect you with other adoptive parents they've met on their own journey.  There are many Yahoo groups, Facebook pages, blogs and waiting child adoption advocates like myself who are more than happy to offer encouragement and support for families who are just beginning to explore a waiting child adoption.  

Rebecca is a stay at home mom and waiting child adoption advocate with two awesome bio boys and a sweet little girl adopted through the Waiting Child program in China!
You can visit her blog at  http://coleman-bunkbeds.blogspot.com
and you can watch their adoption video at https://vimeo.com/41914755

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Haven's Story

My name is Shelly Shepherd.  We have 7 children. 6 biological children and 1 adopted daughter from Vietnam.  Our children's ages range from 10-30.  We also have 7 grandchildren.  I consider our children the greatest of all of our blessings!

Our adoption journey....where do I begin?  It actually started one day in church when I heard a testimony from an adoptive mom.  My heart cried out saying I would LOVE to do that one day...but I couldn't. At that moment the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, "WHY NOT?" Those two little words change my life forever.  I found my husband had many reasons to explain to me 'WHY NOT'. None of which I felt were valid reasons to not give an orphan a home.  As you can imagine one of the biggest reasons was the fact we had 6 children, but I knew in my heart our family was not complete.  I went to bed with the ache of this child in my heart and I woke up with the longing of this child in our family.  I didn't know who this child was but I knew they were out there.  We embarked on a two year journey of discussion, argument and eventually counseling.  I asked God to take it from me but the burden would not lift. Two years later my husband went to a mens' retreat and came home and said, "OK, I'm not saying I'm as excited as you are but if you truly feel like this is the journey God has for us I will not get in the way."

A month later my friend (Pam Cope) had been contacted about a baby in Vietnam that had the possibility of being brought to the US on a medical visa.  I would love to say I was one of those amazing people that was called to a special needs adoption but I wouldn't be so noble.  This child was a double amputee.  I was not equipped and honestly didn't feel at all that this was my child.  My 9 year old at the time, Chloe', said to me, "why can't this be our baby???" My very spiritual answer was, "No Chloe', I can't do a handicapped child.  We are extremely busy.  We need a child with feet!"

Phuong Thuy Do was born in Vietnam to parents who were not married to each other.  She was the product of an affair.  In Vietnam women do not have the right to divorce their husbands.  They felt hopeless. They decided the only way they could be together was to commit a family suicide.  They strapped bombs on themselves and held their 14 month old baby. It killed both of them but somehow miraculously the baby survived but at the hospital they had to amputate both of her lower limbs in order to save her life.

There are so many, many miracles in this child's story but I will skip most of them for the sake of time.  In November of 2005 we decided to go on the adventure of a life time and go with the Copes to rescue this baby. On the second day of our trip we were waiting in a doctors office.  Everyone was talking and I was playing with Phuong.  She was wearing my sunglasses and I tipped her back making her laugh.  At that very moment....I knew....she was my child.  It was like she had been birthed inside of me right then and there.  Nothing else mattered.  It didn't matter that she didn't have feet.  Nothing mattered but this child that God had promised me was in my arms.

And so our journey began.  I knew nothing about an amputee child.  I knew nothing about prosthetics.  I knew nothing about medical and physical needs. But I knew how to be a mom.  We brought our child home and we began to learn.  I followed my gut.  We had legs that didn't fit.  We had legs that were as heavy as she was.  We had legs that we carried under our arm on one side and Haven on the other arm the first 3 years we had her. But overall there really haven't been too many truly hard days...but there have been some.
There was the first day I grieved for my baby that was handicapped after a Children's Mercy appointment.  There was the day she told me that all she wanted for her birthday were toes that wiggle.  There was the day she fell at her first elementary track meet and was DEVASTATED and embarrassed.  There have been hard days and I'm sure there will be hard days in the future but the fact is that as a mother of seven I know there a hard days in each child lives.  There are things we wish our children never had to experience in this world.  I haven't had one of my children who have been immune to heartbreak,  rejection, failure and disappointment.  The best I can do as a mother is help them be equipped to handle it by turning to God and being thankful for the many blessings they have.  That is not any different for a child with a handicap.  I want Haven to accept what she cannot change and be thankful for all that she has. 
We constantly play a game we call, "The advantages of having prosthetic legs!!" There are more than you might think!!!  She has learned to count her blessings.  I'll never forget our first endeavor games for physically challenged athletes.  She watched a young man with severe cerebral palsy with the use of only one arm race around the track.  It was painfully slow and labored.  She looked over at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I have a lot to be thankful for!"

We have now had Haven in our lives for 8 years.  I could spend hours telling you Haven stories.  There truly are countless blessings this child has brought into our lives.  God uses her greatly every day. It is a story of redemption.  He has redeemed her handicap and turned it into opportunity and blessing.  Haven travels, competes, speaks and make friends everywhere she goes. The fact that God chose us to be her family I take as a huge responsibility. We have learned so much.  We have literally met hundreds of amazing people with physical limitations, handicaps, disabilities, differently-abled, limb deficient, OH MY the one thing I haven't learned is what everyone wants to be called!!  For us we don't take it all too seriously.  Funny things happen to all of us. 

I am so passionate about adoption.  It has changed our life.  It is the very picture of the heart of God.  There is JOY IN THE JOURNEY. There is also heartache & disappointment.  Our experience has been amazing but I also have walked the journey with other women who have not had the blessed experience we have had.  Just like anything in life there are no guarantees. There are such different levels of special needs in children even children who aren't labeled as special needs.  For our lives now, its... NO FEET?   NO BIG DEAL!   But for others that might be something they couldn't handle.  I believe with all my heart its so important as women on this journey to hear the voice of God and be willing to do what we are each called to do.  It is so important to know that its ok to say I'm not equipped to do that.  Don't compare your journey to others journey. Don't compare the call you have as less than or greater than the call on someone else's life. God is asking you to be obedient to the call on YOUR life.  But it's also important to hear that whisper of the Holy Spirit...WHY NOT? If God calls you He will grace and equip you no matter how hard it is.  We are all capable of so much more!! 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Not Our Plan But His: Our Three Blessings

When my husband and I felt God’s calling to adopt a child, we immediately dreamed of having a child that would come with a few small problems, but with the tons of TLC that we could shower upon them, they would grow up to be a  pretty normal/average child.   Was I being unrealistic?  Don’t most people dream that way?  I mean, surely you have heard and read many beautiful stories where orphaned children came from “hard places” and were rescued by loving families who had adopted them and turned their lives from rags to riches? I have!   
However, God had a different dream for us…...it wasn’t a bad dream ……just a different kind of dream; one that’s surprisingly becoming an amazing dream.  A dream that’s helping me to see His children from a different perspective…..through His eyes!
Our dream began by God choosing us to adopt, love, and care for three beautiful children, all with different “special needs”.  Special Needs meaning, any child who might need extra help because of a medical, physical, emotional/behavioral, or learning problem. These kids have special needs because they might need medicine, therapy, or extra help in school — stuff other kids don't typically need.  And you might be able to spot a few kids with special needs, but you probably don't notice all of them.  Many times a kid could have a problem that isn't noticeable at all, unless you know the person well.  That’s the way my children’s special needs are; not really noticeable to others, but they are there, they are real, and they are not always easy.
In all honesty, when God chose us to adopt our children knowing they had special needs, I was first faced with mixed emotions.  Really, God??  I’m older, and I don’t think I have the time or ability to help these children.  I often doubted that I was up to the task and worried about each of their futures.  Respectfully speaking, when children come with special needs, the changes in your life and expectations create chaos.  Thankfully, I’ve gradually learned to trust and believe God more, and to take one day at a time, waiting on His direction and answers.  I’m really trying to Trust Him to create a stable and secure environment for our children. 
We first to adopted two boys. They were half brothers, whom I will call Brave heart and Cuddle-Bug.  Brave heart was an adorable 22 month old, with a happy demeanor and good sleeping habit.  He took two to three hour naps twice a day and slept 12 solid hours at night. Amazing, huh? However, he could hardly speak and of the five words that he tried to say, they were unrecognizable.  His brother Cuddle-Bug was 9 mo of age, and was just as happy as Brave heart and slept well too, unless you tried to hold him.  You might be asking yourself, why would holding him change all that? Well, he struggled with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) from all the physical and emotional neglect.  He would not let us hold or hug him without freaking out. Giving him a bottle, reading him a book, or giving him a breathing treatment was very difficult. There were many fits of struggling, crying and screaming. It caused me to feel rejected and helpless, once again, questioning my ability to care for these boys.  But God kept saying “Yes you can, because I am with you.”
After a couple of years, Brave heart had more special needs surface. As a matter of fact, in the last three years he has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), and Speech and Language Disorders.  However, his IQ test, which has been given to him twice, at age 3 and again at 8, revealed that his IQ was too high to qualify him for special services.  With these Special Needs, I often cried out to God for help…..What now...how do I help him??
Cuddle-Bug, through patience, love, and encouragement, became very close to us, allowing us to hold him all the time...which is why I call him Cuddle-Bug. He loves to snuggle next to us on the couch and can curl his body up into a tiny ball and fit nicely in our arms.  Cuddle-Bug is highly intelligent according to the many test given to him, however, he did inherit from his biological mother severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). So bad in fact, that several times at the doctor’s office, his doctor would get in his face and say, “I want you sitting down right here and not moving again!” And then the doctor would look at me and quietly whisper, “I don’t know how you do it….God bless your soul!” At four years of age, Cuddle-Bug was put on medicine, which has helped him tremendously, and has been our (and his teacher’s) saving grace.
With our hands full, we knew we were done adopting. Or so we thought.  Like I said earlier, God had a different idea.  Shortly after we had settled in to a routine, He brought into our lives, our precious Sweetpea. She came to us at age 8 and with different needs.  We were Sweetpea’s second adopted family.  Her diagnosis’ were too hard on her first adoptive family, and their decision to give her up magnified some of her problems. Our Sweetpea wouldn’t talk to hardly anyone and if she did, she wouldn’t give them eye contact: she would instead look at the floor and speak only with a whisper. She had accidents in her pants, she couldn’t sleep many nights, wandering around the house-while everyone else slept (we now have video monitors in all the kids rooms). She horded everything (especially food), her grades were failing, she threw fits like a two year old when life didn’t go the way she wanted, and she looked sad all the time. We worked hard on this baby….we cuddled her a lot, and when she did wrong I always had to say to her, “I’m disappointed in what you did, but I still love you and you are NOT going anywhere!” I fixed her up every day so she would feel good about herself, and one of the greatest therapies we did with her was role playing.  Role playing helped her see how she looked to others, plus it showed her how to act appropriately, and it encouraged her to change her behavior.  We also invested in her life at school, church, and put her in extra-curricular activities to build her self esteem. 
She has made a 180 degree turn and truly attached herself to us (especially me). Sweetpea’s grades improved to mostly A’s and a few B’s in school, and she now looks people in the eyes when spoken to and even answers them. Although I’m so proud of her accomplishments, I know we still have a long way to go.  I realize the way she came to be ours sounds extremely rough, but obviously God wanted us to be her parents, and because of our obedience, she has done a lot better than expected.  Sweetpea’s diagnosis consist of Attention Deficit Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Fast forward to now….here we are raising three children (now ages 11, 9, and 8) with different special needs. I always want to fix their problems, but I also know their conditions require more than my typical parental first aide.  It’s more than a band-aide to cover their boo-boos, or a kiss and a reassuring hug to make it all better.  Our children need me to be their advocate.  The person they can continually count on to speak on their behalf because they lack the ability to speak for themselves.  My duties are out of the ordinary, longer, more complex and filled with unexpected challenges. So, you might be wondering, how do you do that? And how can I become an advocate for my child?
First, start each day asking God for His guidance and direction. Seek basic understanding of your child’s condition by either the internet, other people with similar cases, and literature.  You have to equip yourself to become the calm, confident, and informed voice your child with special needs requires. There is so much out there that it can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s a great idea to seek God first, because He will (just as He has continually done for me) drop websites, books, and people right into your lap, showing you exactly what you need.
Second, a very important tool that I always use for each of my children is a notebook/binder. I keep track of behaviors, doctors appointments, personality quirks, likes and dislikes, a list of evident symptoms, a list of professionals seen, and copies of their findings or diagnosis, copies of all test and their results, and copies of all educational papers-Test, Reviews, IEP’s (Individual Education Plan).
Third, it’s important that you communicate well with professionals. As you advocate for them, maintain the right, positive and friendly attitude. Pay attention to how you look and what you say so that you sound like you’ve done your homework, showing them that you are serious about your child’s care so you can help them. I’ve found that the more I’ve treated the professional as a person and with respect, the better care my child gets.
A resource that helped me significantly when I was doubting, frustrated, or just feeling hopeless, was “Different Dream Parenting”.  In Jolene Philo’s book, she mentions that there are Traps that God wants us to Avoid, when raising special needs children. By doing so, we will pass a healthy mind-set on to our kids.  These traps to avoid are:
1. Defining a child by a disease or condition.  If you put the condition or disease first or mention it exclusively (for example, saying 'I have a son. He has autism' instead of saying 'I have an autistic son'), you’re allowing it to define your child. That’s not healthy.
2. Defining yourself exclusively as a caregiver. Allowing that role to define you is unhealthy.
3. Over protecting a child.  You have to gradually release your child while you’re still available to give advice and help problem solve.
4. Dwelling on what might have been.  Having a tunnel vision won’t allow you to enjoy the wonderful person you child is now.

Jolene also mentions Healthy mind-sets you need to Have or Develop:
       1. Take care of yourself.  Try to carve out time to get away and relax.
       A good blog on self-care and stress management tips is at
2. Teach your child how to cope.  The rest of the world won’t change for you. So you have to cope with the world.
3. Keep in mind What’s Best for my Child.  When making decisions, base them on what’s best for your child. Only you can make the right decision, because you know your child better than anyone.
4. Collect Appreciative People.  Surround yourself and your children with people who appreciate who they are and who share similar interest. That acceptance creates a support group for your entire family.

Again, this amazing book is called “Different Dream Parenting”- A practical guide to raising a child with special needs, by Jolene Philo.
I highly recommend this book because she is so wise and knowledgeable in offering spiritual as well as practical help to anyone involved with children having special needs.  This book brings you advice from professionals, provides information about national organizations and resources, and gives tips on searching for state and local resources.  She has parents of kids with special needs mentioned throughout the book.  Different Dream Parenting contains six sections: Diagnosis, Hospital Life, Juggling Two Worlds, Long-Term Care Conditions, Losing a Child, and Raising a Survivor. Each section is divided into four chapters. Three chapters address practical issues. The last chapter in each section addresses spiritual concerns.  Each chapter ends with multiple resources.  Plus in the back of the book are Appendix that are amazing. Appendix A: Prayer Guides (30 Prayers of Dependence, 30 Prayers for Hospital Stay, 30 Ways to Pray for your Family, 30 Prayers for Educators and Therapists, 30 Prayers for Grieving Families, 30 Scriptures to Pray for your Children, and 30 Ways to Pray for Your Child’s Character) Appendix B: God Speaks through His Word  Appendix C: A Chart  Appendix D: In-Home Nursing Care and Interview Questions.
Finally,  raising children with special needs isn’t easy. As a matter of fact it’s very difficult at times, but the blessings still far outweigh the hardships. And personally, we ARE “Finding Joy in our Journey".  I want to leave you with this: Encourage your children to bravely be who they are.  A famous quote from Dr. Seuss goes like this, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter, don’t mind.” 

150 Million Orphans minus three,

General Resources:                                   Special Needs Blogs:
www.eparent.com                                  www.lauriewallin.com
www.parentingspecialneeds.org                   www.lovethatmax.com

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Adopting a Child with Special Needs

I never thought I would be writing a blog like this. To be honest, the thought of caring for a special needs child scared me. A lot. I remember specifically talking with my husband about this as we were taking classes to become foster parents. I was not comfortable taking the placement of a child that had special needs. I know now that Jesus was up there smiling as I had all of these thoughts.
As a foster parent, there’s nothing quite like getting a call for placement. I can remember where I was for each of the calls for my kids, and Will’s was no different. For his call in March of 2012, I was sitting in a movie theater with about 200 grade school kids watching “The Lorax.” I got a call, saw it was my husband, and silenced it. He knew I was in a movie and I knew he would text after I didn’t answer. Well, he called again. Again I silenced the call, and thought it was a little strange he was calling again. I then got a text from him saying “urgent.” I stepped outside the theater and called him back. He proceeded to tell me of a 2 ½ month old baby boy that needed placement. I immediately wanted to say yes, as we had told our licensing worker we were ready to take a new placement. I won’t forget what my husband said next. “He’s in the hospital and ready to be released. He’s a shaken baby.” A thousand thoughts were going through my mind. There is no way I would be able to take care of a shaken baby. I didn’t know the first thing about taking care of a child with special needs. I asked how long the placement would be, along with a few other questions. I asked him if he thought we could do it. He wasn’t sure either. He called the caseworker and I waited for a call back from him. When he called back, he told me the placement would be very temporary and there were already several family members that wanted placement of the baby. So we made a decision that would change our lives, and we told her we would pick him up by 2:00 that day. 
We drove to Springfield and went up to the 7th floor to the PICU at Cox South. When we walked in, we saw this tiny baby with an abnormally large head. I just kept thinking, “What have we gotten into? We have no idea what we’re doing!” The nurses told us of how the doctors didn’t think he would make it initially, and that he had had a seizure that lasted 48 hours after being admittedAs the nurse handed us 8 different prescriptions, I was officially terrifiedThey told us what to watch for with seizures, and we proceeded to take this extremely fragile baby home.
Obviously, the placement was not temporary.  As time went on, we became more and more attached to this little guy. He had been through so much and continued to amaze us everyday. We have had several specialists and therapists that help with Will. In August of 2012, we went to a neurosurgeon appointment. We were asking questions about Will’s outlook and his possible future. That doctor looked at us and said he didn’t expect Will to meet any more milestones than what he had met already.  We were shocked, and again filled with fear. Will was only sitting up at that point, and that was only with help. I had the thought of, “How am I going to care for a child that can only sit up?” 
We prayed for Will everyday and had several other people praying for him too. We went to a neurologist appointment in October 2012. We were there to have a brain scan read to us. He told us at that appointment that every part of Will’s brain was damaged from being shaken. He said that Will has cerebral palsy and he didn’t expect him to walk. He also said he would never talk. We had pretty much heard this before, but to have more than one doctor tell us was devastating. We continued to not give up hope and kept praying for Will.

On the weekend of February 2, 2013, Jesus showed us the power of prayer. During that weekend, Will started crawling and pulling up on the mantle. It was such an amazing sight, and I can still watch that video and be brought to tears. In April, Will did what no doctor thought he would do: he walked. Now not only does he walk, he runs! We literally have a miracle that walks, runs, and jumps through our house everyday.
I could have never imagined how blessed I would be to have a child with special needs. Will brings us so much joy everyday. He is such a happy guy and loves to smile and laugh. There are rough days with Will, and it’s still scary to think about what his future holds. All I know is that God has provided so far, and I know that He will continue to do so.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Special Needs: Love and Family

  I remember so vividly the days of paper-chasing. Amongst the many piles, one paper stood out… the “special needs” paper requesting that we make a selection of those special needs that were acceptable to us.  My husband and I agonized over that paper. We spent many hours, over several days, tearfully discussing and praying over what we could handle, taking into consideration that we already had three very rambunctious boys. After all, we had always left that in God’s hands. Who were we to make those decisions? How could we ever make them?
 In November 2005, our paper-chase was complete, and our dossier was logged in. After prayerfully considering those special needs, we had made the decision to go the “traditional” route for a “healthy” little girl. We thought it would be the best decision for our family. We felt like we would not be equipped to handle any extra care that might be required for a special needs child. However, what we thought and what we felt were of little importance when God was calling. As the wait for adopting “healthy” children began to increase, we began to feel God tugging at our hearts and moving us in a different direction. January 2006 would bring news of a waiting 16mth old little girl through our agency’s waiting child newsletter. Our hearts were captured from the moment we read the words in that email, and we knew that this was our little girl, our Mia. We were blessed beyond measure to be accepted as this treasure’s forever family.   Yes, God had indeed turned us in the direction of special needs!
God would lead us to adopt 4 special needs children over the next 5 years. Each of our children is distinctly unique and amazingly wonderful! Two of our children were born with varying degrees of cleft lip/palate. Although, CL/CP is not an “easy” special need, it is a very manageable one. Managing this special need requires a devotion of time and energy. It is an ongoing process that requires many years of attention, including speech therapy, surgical procedures and working with a team of doctors for the continued care of the child. We are so thankful for all the resources available to us and to a very talented and devoted CP/CL team.

One of our children, adopted as an older child, came to us with many special needs. Some were diagnosed at the time of adoption, and some have been discovered over time. The needs that we knew about included Hepatitis B, Microtia /Atresia and hearing loss in one ear. Despite the fact that Hepatitis B sounds intimidating, it is a very workable disease within the modern parameters of western medicine. Dealing with this special need requires trips to a hepatologist and keeping the health of the child in focus.  Dealing with Microtia, Atresia and hearing loss are only slightly more of a complication. Since our child was born with a malformed ear, with little to no hearing in that ear, she had learned to listen and hear with only one ear. After consulting with a specialist, the decision was made to surgically form and give her a non-working ear. This constructive surgery required 4 different surgeries spanning over one year. The benefit of this type of surgery was two-fold for our daughter. In addition to giving her self-esteem a boost, a constructed ear would give an avenue for future hearing if necessary. We have since dealt with many other special needs for this child including myoclonic epileptic seizures, facial asymmetry/ palsy, and Reactive Attachment Disorder. Each of these special needs requires medical attention. In addition, RAD requires lots of work and determination.

Our youngest came to us with the diagnosis of malnutrition and developmental delays. The papers we received were a bit vague about a true diagnosis, and this child has been thriving within the loving arms of our family. Depending on the severity of this special need, it requires medical attention, additional nutrition and lots of special care and love.

Yet, none of these special needs (or any others for that matter) prevents children from needing the love of a forever family, nor should it. Really, the only special need these children have is the need for a family! As we go about our everyday lives we often forget that our children have special needs. Sometimes this repression is because we are so busy with the sheer number of our children but in large part because we choose to forget. We have always looked upon their needs as gifts from God…the things that make them who they are to be. In fact, these special needs are so much a part of whom they are that we forget that there are any differences.

Many times I look at my children and think how very blessed I am. I think of all the joy that my children bring to me, and I think “Look what we would have missed if we had not followed God’s direction to these beautiful, loving, joyful children!” We look at each of our children and see the beauty and love of God in each one.
I often pause, thinking about the special treasures that all of my children are to my husband and I, and I am overwhelmed with God’s mercy, grace and love for each of us. I praise him for continuing to love me, and for continuing to grow my love for my children. My husband and I cannot imagine life without each one of our children, whether by birth or through the beauty of adoption.  Special needs adoption is most assuredly a demanding and challenging quest, but Oh my!  The joy is unequivocally in the journey! 


My name is Kim Smith.  I am a wife, mother and a self-proclaimed Jesus freak. My husband Brad and I have been happily married for almost twenty years. We are the parents of 7 children... three boys by birth, two girls and two boys through the beauty of adoption. We are enjoying the 10th year of our homeschooling adventure. It is through the love of Jesus that I am so blessed…blessed beyond my wildest dreams!
You can follow my blog at http://www.fivechilipeppers.blogspot.com, and our adoption story and travel journals can be found at http://www.blessingfromchina.com .