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Monday, February 6, 2012

The plan vs the unknowns

You know that saying...
You want to see God laugh?  Just tell him what your plans are!
I'm pretty sure it went down like that.

In July of last year Papa and I carefully looked over our agency's special need's list.  It's a paper that lists about 50 possible special needs.  Hepatitis C, missing limbs, cleft lip and pallet, dwarfism, deafness, heart problems...  Potential adoptive parents, like us, are directed to check yes, no or maybe next to each special need.  The agency then uses this list to "match" special needs children with potential adoptive families.  Papa and I prayed and talked many many times about it over a couple months.  And we didn't agree on many things.  Not many at all.  But there were some needs that we did we agree would be something we could tackle and might be a great fit for our family.

But in the end... we ticked only 1 box as yes.  It was our plan.
Only 1 box on the whole paper.
I felt guilty, but still knew it was the right decision for us.
Papa and I knew that by only accepting 1 possible special need, we'd likely have a long wait for a match in front of us.  We decided that we'd wait 6 months then re-access.
Can't you just see God giggling already.

On September 29th, our agency called us with Mimi's file thinking she might still be a match for us.  And no, it wasn't the special need we planned on.

In fact her special need wasn't listed on the form.
Well... so what special need does she have?  we asked.
Developmental delays.  Delays beyond her peers at the orphanage.
Why? was the obvious follow up question.
It doesn't say.  They don't know.  It just says that's she's quite behind.  

Oh God, really?  I mean really?  Now?  Jump out of the plane now?
And we did.

So here's the thing.  Mimi was in the standard non-special needs program.  At 15 months she had some testing done because we assume her delays were evident.  She was tested, and she tested quite low in some areas, and she scored average in others.  And again, we're talking delays significantly beyond the scope of her peer at the orphanage.  So she was transferred to the special need's program.

We've of course consulted with an international adoption doctor who is reviewing Mazie's medical information and progress, why she might be delayed.  We consult this doctor every time we get any information on her.
We've repetitively examined all the photos and videos, and so has the doctor.  We're all looking for clues to explain away the why's.  But there is nothing that indicates specifically why Mazie is so delayed.  The orphanage has been asked, and they say they don't know either.

Here's the big scary part... don't let those cute photos with chubby and adorable cheeks fool you.  There are likely very real reasons Mimi is delayed.  Things like autism, brain damage, and cerebral palsy just to name a few... scary words to see next to your child's name.  Things I'd rather not dwell on for too long.

Mimi's foster parents are working with her in hopes of "catching her up" to her fullest potential.  What that fullest potential is remains to be seen.
We'll know much much more when we finally meet her... maybe.  And even though much of that scares us, that's ok with us.  Until we can answer the why's, we'll let our faith will be enough.

International adoption, and especially special need's adoption is full of unknowns.  And honestly, maybe it is better that Mimi's "unknowns" so out in the open.  If we had been referred a child that fit into our plan, maybe that would have created a false sense of security.  Maybe we would have fallen into the trap of thinking we knew what type of child we were getting.  And the honest truth is that nobody knows what child they're going to get... ever.  We don't know much about Mimi's needs yet.  And there's a very real possibility that we won't know of any of her limitations for quite a while after getting her.   It is so important that adoptive parents go into adoption not only accepting the obvious challenges inherent with international adoption and post-institutionalized children, and special needs they are made aware of, but they additionally need to go into it accepting for the unknown.
We need to be ready for attachment issues, malnutrition, and learning disorders.  We need to be ready to deal with rage, hoarding, shut down, and sensory processing disorders.  We need to mentally prepare ourselves for limitations and the very real unknowns.  And we need to be ready for all of this long term.  None of us wants these things for our children, but for children that grow in institutions and in a life of abandonment and disruption, these effects are a real possibilities.  It's scary.  But it's true.  I don't want to say any of this to scare anyone.  Yes, adoption is ful of amazing unconditional love and rewards and blessings beyond the scope of what I even thought possible!  But it also has the very real possibility of tough challenges, and work, and pain for everyone involved.
And it's these very challenges that make the rewards so great!
In the midst of my fear about Mimi's unknowns, we're preparing for the worst, and praying for the best.  Maybe that's the best any of us can do.

Looking back up at the plane, falling through the air, and relying on God,


  1. It all boils down to faith, doesn't it? Since our child is only 6 months there could be all kinds of unknown health issues in addition to the usual issues that occur because of living in an orphanage and then being moved to a new country, family, etc. But I am not worried because I know we sought God on switching programs a lot where in some ways it would have felt like we had more control and was told constantly No (though to some who feel a need to tell me not switching shows we don't follow God). Anyway, since I know this is where God planted us, I know He will equip us with what she needs even if it ends up being more than is currently known.

    Sorry, I'm babbling, but this post struck a cord with me. Very well said, and I cannot wait for you to meet your Mazie.

  2. But those chubby and adorable cheeks are fooling me! :P

    I'll pray, I mean really pray for you, guys!

  3. Very well said. Thank you for your transparency. There needs to be more of that in the adoption community. You are the real deal. God will honor your obeidence to this call on your life. I will be praying for your family and for Maize.

  4. Well said. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. There needs to be more of that in the adoption community. You are the real deal. God will honor your obeidence to the call that he has placed on your life. I will be praying for your family. Thanks for sharing.

  5. It's impossible to know what things might be in any child. My biological child slides on and off the autism scale. My non-special needs adopted child had global delays and apraxia. We are waiting in the healthy infant program for Taiwan but its no guarantee, and we are okay with that.

    It is hard to say yes to one thing and no to another, even when you know it's best for you and for them. Whatever Mazies issues are you'll figure them out and cope with them just the same as you would any of your other children.

    Adoption isn't for the faint of heart. But it does show you what you're capable of.

    And that's what makes it so so wonderful.

  6. Her "sister" came through NSN and she is mildly delayed. Plus we are waiting to get a appointment with the hematology clinic at Sick Kids because her tests pointed to the possibility of an extremely rare disorder. If you've seen our blog you'll know her progress. I am praying that will be your story.
    You are totally right about no guarantees. I had a friend ask me if E was still our daughter eventhough she may have this SN. I wanted to shake her. The one with PTSD is still very much ours why would a rare disorder change it this time. It does bring scary possibilities but nothing in life is guaranteed.
    She has adorable rosy cheeks though.

  7. Great post Nancy. I cannot tell you how many times someone has said to me "but Madeline was only 10 months old when you got her, I'm surprised you have attachment issues". It does not matter, all children need love and attention from the moment he/she is born and it is detrimental if not, plain and simple. Some children deal better than others. I have come to believe we are all special needs and have to rely on our God the get us through.
    Praying for your sweet Mazie!!! Congrats on your TA!!! I AM THRILLED FOR YOU!!!!!!! whooo hooooo

  8. I too appreciate your honesty in sharing the details. It is helpful and needed. This is truly a leap of faith--one of the scariest. We were happily surprised that Shu does NOT have a heart defect, but it now appears he may have verbal apraxia. You just don't know, and so we trust the One who does.

  9. I am a pediatric Physical therapist and I have visited many orphanages in china. My expierence is that most kids do well when home. I also can't tell you how many children I have seen in foster care who were put there to catch up and I see them a year later and I can't tell what the problem was.

  10. Nancy, you are an amazing mother who is going into this being well educated on the possibilities. You are just what Mazie needs : )

  11. I also appreciate your transparency. You are about as authentic as they come Nancy. They is why I keep reading your blog. My hope and prayers are that Mazie is everything and more than you hope for and you have an easy transition. You have already proven that you can handle anything God throws your way. I see good things with this little one!

    Safe Travels!



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