For my husband and myself, adoption was the next natural step in our quest for parenthood following four unsuccessful IVF cycles. Many people, including myself, began the adoption process planning to adopt an infant or young toddler. But one thing I have learned over the years is that where we start out at in the adoption process is not always where we end up at.
Take our daughter form example, she was never shown to us by our adoption agency. She would not have been referred to us and had she been ,we would have declined to see her video or biographical information. She was too old. We wanted an infant. She also had a cleft lip and palate. We did not want to adopt a child with a known medical condition. We had never considered a special needs adoption--- especially one that would require multiple surgeries, speech therapy, regular medical consultations, etc.
The first time I saw our daughter on the agency photolisting, (It was allowed back then) I thought that she was a little boy. We were in the middle of adopting a child whose adoption had hit a snag. I half-heartily looked at the registry and the cutest little boy caught my attention.
He was really cute-cleft lip and all, but since we were in the middle of an adoption I did not have any particular sense of urgency about adopting this child. A week later I discovered---oops! This child was a girl, not a boy.
“Oh well,” I thought “that is the end of that.” But I continued to think of this child often. Eventually we lost the referral of the child we were trying to adopt. I knew even before this happened that we were supposed to adopt the little girl with the cleft lip.
While it was an easy decision for me because I knew, I still had to convince others. The first sentence of her medical evaluation, done by an international adoption specialist, was “Wow. What a terrible job they did on her lip.” Another well-meaning individual wanted to make sure that we were not choosing a special needs child by default because of everything that we had been through: unsuccessful IVF, losing a referral, etc.
In the usual overkill mode, I did extensive research on cleft palates, and lips and we made an informed decision. We also turned down two referrals of young infants to adopt our three and a half-year-old. While this was something we had never considered, what we got in return was the most amazing child.
And yes teeth are missing, she has a small scar above her mouth, her nose is slightly crooked and her upper lip still needs more cosmetic work. She sees a dentist, orthodontist, prosthodontist, plastic surgeon, ENT, developmental pediatrician and a host of others on her cleft team. While this sounds like a lot, Callie has grown from an energetic toddler to a beautiful young lady. She may not be perfect, but she was the perfect child for us.
Adapted from Adopting A Toddler, by Denise Hoppenhauer
Labels: Parenting, Special Needs Adoption