Thursday, December 16, 2010

Adoption and Down syndrome: what to say

I've been thinking so much lately about the two little girls we are bringing home from Ethiopia.  Still no court date, but I'm thinking about them just the same. 

As I'm sure you can imagine, there is a lot to think about.  :)

The background, for any new readers (welcome!), is that we are in the process of bringing home two little girls from Ethiopia.  One of them is 18 months old or so, and the other is fourish years old.  Both of these girls are considered "waiting children", because both were born with Down syndrome.

To be honest, as much thinking as I have done about them, I'm still never quite sure how to explain it to people.  By "it", I mean the adoption, what we are doing, the girls.  I always start by saying we're adopting two little girls from Ethiopia...but then I just plain don't know WHAT to say.  Do I tell people they have Down syndrome?  Is that weird?  Is it weird to leave it out?  Usually I end up explaining that these sweet girls have been waiting for a family, because they were born with Down syndrome.

It's just one of those things that I'm a little unsure about.  Now once the girls are home, and officially part of our family, I have a feeling that when I'm telling someone how many children I have, I WON'T randomly say that my two Ethiopian daughters have Down syndrome (unless it makes sense in the context).  Somehow though when we're talking about an adoption process, it seems like maybe I should. 

I suppose that part of why I feel compelled to do so is because I want people to know about the need for families to adopt waiting children, and children with Down syndrome in particular.  How many of us adoptive families have gone on to do something because we saw someone else doing it and thought, hey, maybe that IS totally do-able!  Sure, some people are trailblazers, but many of us have been inspired to do something by seeing someone else do it.  So, yes, I want to advocate for these sweet children.

And I think I also want people to know that Down syndrome is, well, it's okay.  No need to feel sympathy for us, or for our girls.  They're just kids.  Who soon enough will be tearing around our house, playing with the matchbox cars and dollhouse and Littlest Petshop.  Yes there will be therapies and medical issues that come up, but we'll take those as they come.  Just like with our other children.

It's also more or less impossible for me to completely separate who our girls are from the fact that they have Down syndrome.  And if I'm honest, I don't think I WANT to.  Their HUGE smiles, beautiful eyes...they are precious.  As-is.  How awful to even have to say that, but the reality is that not everyone thinks this way.  We do, however.  Yet at the same time, our girls are not DEFINED by Down syndrome.

So, I think I will continue with my standard explanation about the adoption: we are bringing home two children from Ethiopia.  If the conversation continues, I will explain that they were waiting for a family because they were born with an extra chromosome.  And in an ideal world, said person would ask for more information about adopting waiting children, and would go on to pursue their own medical/special needs adoption.

Just sayin'.  :)


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