Thursday, November 04, 2010

Adoption and Down syndrome: the background

I am so excited to share with you some more about how we made the decision to move forward with the adoption of  our two little sweeties, each born with an extra chromosome.

First though, I do need to humbly say that this decision has already been made.  If you don't think we should be doing this, I respectfully ask that you please keep that to yourself.  These are our children we're talking about, and the papers have been signed.  The ship has sailed.  Thank you for your understanding.


I remember the night I first found Adeye's beautiful blog.  She wrote about what was happening in Ukraine as she worked to bring home two sweet little girls, and I was transfixed.  One thing led to another and I began browsing through the Reece's Rainbow website, wishing I was some sort of adoption superhero so I could adopt each and every one of those sweet babes. 

WARNING:  Don't go there unless you want your heart ripped out of your chest.  Really.  So.much.preciousness (I seriously want to cuddle all of those cute kiddos!) and yet so much sadness, because time is running out for these children.  Who are so desperately loved by God.  Created uniquely by him.  How His heart must ache.

So began our research of Trisomy 21.  We've read books and articles and talked to parents and watched videos.  Our eyes were opened to what is simultaneously one of the most vulnerable and amazing populations in the world.

In terms of making a decision for our family, our questions ultimately boiled down to this practicality: what would daily life look like parenting a child with Down syndrome?  We already have five young children, and I truly believe that each of us is equipped by God to do certain things at any given time, at the exclusion of others.  I also believe this changes over time--someday maybe God WILL call us to adopt older children, or ask us to become foster parents, or send us to China.  We will gladly follow.  But today, as far as I can tell, He is not calling us into those places.

It became apparent though that daily life with a child born with Down syndrome is just that...daily life.  There's a campagin called "More Alike Than Different" and I think that sums it up quite nicely.  Children with Down syndrome play and attend school and have fun and get angry just like the rest of us.  They meet their milestones, but oftentimes later.  They often need special services (speech or physical therapy for example) to help them meet those milestones.  They are mainstreamed in classrooms and graduate high school and attend college and get jobs.  And oftentimes get married.  We became convinced that the rhythms of daily life with a child with Down syndrome are really not much different than what we're already doing.

The future is something we also discussed.  Many adults with Down syndrome live independently, or semi-independently, although some remain at home.  Are we open to the possibility of an adult child living with us?  As we explored this question we came to two conclusions:

1.)  This question is, in this case, largely ridiculous.  :)  Because family is family.  We are parents to our children whether they are one or twenty-one.  I have no--literally NO--desire to completely abandon any and all parenting duties once a child turns 18.  This is seriously a part of the Western mindset that I don't get.  I'm reminded of John Piper's book Don't Waste Your Life, where he talks about how the goal should NOT be an easy retirement on the beach collecting  seashells (or something like that).  I have to say I agree.  I don't ever see myself checking out of life or out of my kids' lives.  I want to serve God with the "reckless abandon" Oswald Chambers talked about.  God called me to motherhood nearly seven years ago and I can either embrace it or merely endure it.  I look forward to enjoying my children when they're adults, being a grandparent, and creating an environment where they know they are always welcome in my home.  (I am an independent woman and I have very independent kids, so I don't have any desire to control the lives of my adult children.  But I DO desire to have good, strong, close relationships with them.)

2.)  I can't predict the future.  Neither can you.  Sure you can plan and hope and work towards goals.  But none of us knows what lies ahead.  Who's to say something won't happen where YOUR child needs to live at home for a time as an adult?  AND, who's to say my children with Down syndrome WILL live at home?  They may want to move out and get roommates, or live in a college dorm, or get married, or simply live by themselves.  To say "no" to a child  because there's the POSSIBILITY that they will remain at home years down the line seems ridiculous.  God made these children and He desires they have families.  I really believe that.  Who are we to tell the Lord that the cost is simply and potentially too high?  Not to mention, these are our CHILDREN we're talking about.  We love our children.  I don't look forward to any of them leaving.  An empty nest seems overrated to me (most days, anyway!) and like too low of a life-goal.  We live for today.  Tomorrow has enough troubles of its own.

Eventually we came to the seemingly-natural conclusion that Down syndrome was indeed something that we were open to.  Not because we're anything special, but because God is incredibly faithful.  He made these children.  They are precious in his sight.  We have the resources (which really just amount to a home equity line of credit, love, and trust in a God so much bigger than any of it) to do something, and, well, we're doing it.  Some days with more trust than others. 

Because like anything else, this is a journey of faith.  And I want to shout from the rooftops that you can do it too.  You can start the adoption process for the relatively-low cost of an application fee, and watch God work mightily.  Your life can be transformed and your world can be opened in new and amazing ways.  You can watch miracles happen and be humbled by the support and encouragement you receive from friends and from strangers.  Yes, strangers.  Your heart can break in a million and one pieces, and yet be strengthened at the same time as you ponder God's goodness and mercy in the life of a precious child who now calls you "mom".

I guess I just really want people to know.  That THERE ARE KIDS NEEDING HOMES RIGHT THIS MOMENT.  We can all do SOMEthing.  We HAVE to do something.  Our girlies happened to land at a transition home where they receive love and food and even some therapies.  And it's run by a quality agency that wants these girls to find a family.  But many of the little ones listed on Reece's Rainbow are not generally so fortunate. 

Won't you pray about the possibility of adoption?  If not, what about financially helping a family in the process of adopting?  How about hosting an online Usborne book show this month?  Where the proceeds go to a family adopting a child with Down syndrome?  I look forward to exploring ways that you can help in the coming weeks.  I want to speak up for these children.  And we can all play a part.

For now I'll simply say that I feel blessed beyond words that my part involves receiving two sweet new daughters.  How lucky am I?


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