Wesley has a new friend! Our newest family member, Odina, is a pup trained by Canine Companions for Independence in Orlando, FL. He is SO happy with her and she has already began taking her 'spot' up next to him wherever we go in the last 10 days!
Here's a video of our first week together :)
You know the questions that people WANT to ask, but they’re not sure how to ask them in a way that doesn’t come across as nosy, insulting, or otherwise inappropriate? Close friends can discuss it, and others that have walked in similar shoes have experienced similar and will share their own responses as well, but for you or I to just walk up to someone and ask what we REALLY want to know, well, it just wouldn’t be appropriate.
There is a difference between something that someone NEEDS to know and something they simply desire to. Curiosity. Many times we’ll be told not to answer questions of curiosity because it’s really not necessary. I think differently, and so do several influential historical people:
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
And so, even when there may be a bit of discomfort in the actual conversation that surrounds these questions, I feel like putting it out there is a way to help others to see what adoption and special needs parenting is really all about. There are questions that are intended to be nosy or rude. These aren’t those. These are the questions that are meant to understand, to inspire.
These are the responses to those hard questions from 13 moms of multiple children with special needs...
1. Did you fall in love at first sight, or does it take a while to have it feel like the child is really “yours?”
Amy: Sometimes, but "knowing" a child was mine and "feeling" it are different. Sometimes the bonding was quick, usually it took time to fully feel that true mom/child connection.
Jaclyn: I have fallen in love with many orphans and still love them, but the feeling when I saw my sons was so overwhelming it brought me to tears. The feeling was soooo strong that I could not deny that God was calling me to GO!
Meredith: I think the idea of love came quickly, but the ‘love’ I had for each child initially and the LOVE I had for them a year-18 months home was amazingly different. Initially I cared for and about them, but once that true bonding occurred between the two of us, it was a deep and indescribable love that you know with very few people in a lifetime.
Sara 1: When I first saw her photo, it was like love at first sight. I felt like I knew her, as if there was some sort of connection all ready. Seeing her for the first time in person I still felt that connection, pull and love towards her, but it was mixed with fear as she was more "feral" than we had expected.
Sara 2: Yes, as soon as she was placed in my arms I was in love with her. It was as if she was born to me.
Alysha: Yes...first sight of their picture where the idea of who they are is different then who they really are. Seeing them for the first time in real life was surreal and one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Both times my heart felt exactly like it did when I first saw my bio kids...it just knew they were mine. No matter how hard it might be at times, they are mine and my heart knows it.
J: Love at first sight with the first 3 who were all toddler age, not as much with our older two, still excitement but not the motherly, protective feeling right away.
2. How did your biological kids really react to having a new child in the house?
Amy: We started our family by adoption, then biological kids, then adoption, so.....
Jaclyn: There was definitely a honeymoon period. At first, the boys could do no wrong, but now they treat them about like they treat each other.
Meredith: It depends on the child. Our kids already in the home LOVED our first two adopted children. Both were much like infants. The third child that entered was with just as much enthusiasm as he was like an older infant/young toddler. The fourth and fifth came home together and one was readily accepted, but the other was walking, in to the other kids’ things, and quite honestly wasn’t very nice. Other kids in our home have said they didn’t like her at times, and I can’t blame them. I didn’t like her at times either. But love? Love is different, and there is definitely love between every set of sibling. Not a single child would wish they didn’t have a single sibling.
Sara 1: My then 4 yr old traveled with us and knew for many months that we were working towards bringing her sister home. She was very excited.
Sara 2: Very excited to have a baby in the house.
Lorraine: Our biological kids have welcomed each and every new sibling with open hearts and open arms. We've always included our children in the prayer process when God call us to adopt another child, and God has never led us to adopt a child without already turning our children's hearts toward that child. Once the new child is in our home/family, it's no different than when a new biological sibling is born. There's the usual transitions and adjustments all families have when a new member is added, but nothing God can't handle. Everyone learns together how to adjust to the new normal.
Shelley: My bio kids don't remember what it is like for a child to enter the family in the "traditional" way (ie: mommy pregnant/new baby being born). So, for them, children joining our family through adoption is the "normal" way. They were always accepting of the new kids.
3. You adopted out of birth order- did the kids already in your house feel displaced?
Amy: we adopted out of order, but added in the middle so it worked out fine. Might be different if the new child became the oldest.
Jaclyn: Our boys became #3 and #4 of 5. Amusingly, our youngest is the only one who feels "displaced" because even though the boys are 2 years older than her they are both smaller.
Sara 1: No she did not feel displaced, likely due to the fact that developmentally she was still much older though.
Meredith: We chose to let our oldest/firstborn always stay the oldest, but even that looked different than we anticipated. He is developmentally the oldest, and physically the biggest, but by age he is 16 months younger than one sister and 12 months younger than another. Since they were not encroaching on his “man of the house” status (under Daddy, of course), he never has minded their chronological age being older than him. Our other kids came in the middle, within 7-8 months of another bio child of ours, and she loves the close siblings. Again, she is older than both of them.
Lorraine: Our adoptions have been all over the place, and most definitely out of birth order. Our first adoption was of an 11-year-old girl. Our bio kids were ages 9, 11, and 13 when our 11-year-old daughter joined our family. So, we entered adoption out of birth order. Then we adopted a 4-year-old, then a 22-month-old, then a 17-year-old (who became our oldest child), then a 5-year-old and her 7-week-old half sister, then two 6-year-olds. So, our oldest biological child is no longer the oldest child in our family, and some people feel that's a huge deal. But, our oldest child agreed and was willing to give up his position as the oldest because he had a tender heart for adoption and a true understanding of redemption through adoption. He knew this because he first experienced it for himself through his adoption and redemption by our Savior, and he also experienced the adoption and redemption of several other family members being adopted into our family from hard situations. Our other two biological children were not the oldest to begin with, so they were not at all concerned about adopting someone older than themselves. One of our adopted daughters is four months older than our biological daughter, and they're best friends. Sure, it was challenging at first, but I think most of those challenges would have occurred regardless of the age difference. God has worked out each and every detail, and, for us, personally, our children (bio and adopted), their hearts are much more concerned about helping others than protecting their position in the family birth order.
Shelley: No. We did respect the fact that our youngest enjoyed being the "baby" of the family. We only added a child IN birth order (ie: as the youngest) after our youngest bio child indicated that she wanted to be a big sister.
4. Were you ever afraid the child wouldn’t bond with you?
Amy: Yes! Our 2nd international adoption our son wanted nothing to do with me (as in screaming like he was being murdered if my husband left the room)! It took a year, but he loves me and visa versa. He is now my biggest mama's boy!
Jaclyn: Definitely!! Adam bonded very quickly. It is taking Matthias much longer since he cannot hear and speak.
Meredith: I wondered for the first year after our first adoption, but as the love story slowly unfolded, I learned that working to gain our first adopted daughter’s love and trust was very different than the ‘easy love’ with the boy we adopted at the same time. Our third child had a ‘transferrable bond’ with a single caregiver since birth, and I never really was concerned with his bonding. Our 4th and 5th children, one bonded quickly and easily, and our daughter, now 3 years home, continues to struggle with bonding. We take it a day at a time and know that God is sovereign in this too!
Sara 1: Sometimes I would think about that as a possibility, but I had talked to a few people who had spent much time with her, so I didn't actually worry about it.
Sara 2: Yes, she had suffered many different care givers at the hospital over her first two months and displayed many classic signs of attachment disorders. She was in SO much distress all of the time, for a few weeks I wondered if she would ever relax into me and feel safe. Which she did after about a month and a half. She is FIRMLY bonded to us now.
Shelley: Not until it happened
Gillian: Yes, I was afraid that she wouldn't bond with me, and it has proven to be a challenge. But what has totally surprised me was my struggle with bonding with her. I assumed it would be her issue, but it turns out, it has been something both of us have had to work on together.
5. Do you expect your typical kids to care for your special needs children when you’re no longer able to?
Boston: No I don't expect it, though I believe they'd be willing. They are our children and we made this decision. All responsibility is ours.
Amy: No. However, THEY talk about caring for them when they are older.
Jaclyn: Definitely not, but I imagine they will want to.
Sara 1: No, I do not expect any of my typical children to take care of our disabled children when we are no longer here. I do however expect them to care about them, make sure that they are cared for, spend time with them etc, as they would of a typical sibling. I don't worry about this because they are very close and I can't see one abandoning the other.
Sara 2: No, I would not expect my other children to care for her if we were unable. Unfortunately it's not likely that it would ever be a consideration given her diagnosis and life expectancy.
Meredith: No, we don’t expect them to take care of our children with disabilities, however we do hope they will want to be involved in their lives and have an impact on the care that their siblings receive when we cannot provide that anymore.
Lorraine: We don't expect anything. We seek what God desires and trust in His sovereignty, believing He has a plan and it is good. Several of our children have expressed that they wouldn't have it any other way than to help care for their siblings who have special needs after we're no longer here to provide that care. The love runs DEEP. However, if our children live overseas or are in situation where they're unable to help care for their siblings who have special needs, or even if they choose not to for whatever reason, we have complete faith that God will provide that care through someone special. We don't feel like we have to figure this out before we say YES to adopting children when special needs. We trust God has a plan and it is good. He will provide the care each of our children needs, and, for us, it doesn't matter if the care is provided by a sibling or another person God places in the lives of our children who have special needs---we just trust He WILL provide. But it's heartwarming to see the depth of love God has woven into our children's hearts, connecting them as siblings who passionately love and protect one another. Our children all pitch in pretty much 24/7 on a daily basis, not because they have to, but because they want to.
Shelley: Absolutely not.
Alysha: I've enjoyed listening to my girls go back and forth over who will have who live with them when they get older. Not even talking about it in a sense of my husband and I being gone. Just wanting to have their bro's with them . It blesses my heart. They already make plans over taking their bro's to the movies, Disneyland and so on. I know they don't really get the gist of maybe one day really having to "care" for them, but I know in my heart that they don't see their bro's as burdens the way the outside world does.
Amy: When we adopted a child with a significantly traumatic history and severe attachment issues, I realized that we couldn't "fix" her and she might never truly heal from her wounds. We realized all we had control of was how we loved her and not if she responded to that love. That is hard! I realized that loving unconditionally is so hard in reality (no matter how much you understand "why").
Jaclyn: I always worry about the future of all my children. My biggest concern is whether or not Adam will be able to function in a "normal" manner later in life. He literally has only half a brain because they left his hydro untreated. Either way, we love and adore him!!
Sara 1: I didn't with this adoption, but it is always a thought in my head when considering other adoptions. Mostly because I have to make sure that my children at home are safe, not because I'm not willing to parent a troubled child.
Shelley: EVERY adopting family should realize that there is always the possibility that you can't "fix" the child. If you are going into adopting with the idea that you are "fixing" or "saving" a child, I'd recommend you rethink things.
Meredith: I’ve experienced, as a sibling to adopted children, that love doesn’t cure history. It’s not up to me to turn a child around, but to love them through it and to trust in God’s delight of His child. I hope and pray my children will all learn to love the Lord and find healing in Him, however I am not naive enough to believe that I have the capability to change a person’s heart from the inside out except through Him.
7. How do you make the decision to adopt a child when you have vulnerable children at home? Have you ever been concerned about the child being unkind to or resenting the children with special needs?
Jaclyn: All of my children including my bio kids have special needs. We made the decision as a family.
Meredith: We have only adopted children with significant special needs, so our concern with them resenting another’s needs was never really a thought. We do, however, have safe practices in our home because even though all of our adopted children have significant needs, they are not always safe left unattended with one another, either. We have gates as physical boundaries at night and use other similar practices in the daytime when needed.
Erin: I cannot recommend hosting enough. We had 3 little kids at home. Our daughter who is also adopted has CP, so she is vulnerable on many levels to "older kids" in the home. We hosted a sibling group of older boys a total of 3 times (individually and together). We went into it as a short term mission to a child for the summer, expecting it to NOT work long term. Instead found that they got along well with our other children, our other kids LOVED them, and they didn't have any alarming/concerning negative behaviors. We also just had a peace about them while they were here and after much prayer and careful consideration, we adopted them. I have also seen other families host with intent to adopt and come to the realization during hosting that it will NOT work with the other kids in their home because of behaviors that become evident or the desires of the host child. Our boys got to experience our home and our rules several times and they asked us to adopt them. I think that has made our transition with them much easier than if we had just showed up at their orphanage. If we had not hosted, we would NEVER have considered adopting "older kids."
8. What do you do about the feelings you have because you can’t bring them ALL home?
Jaclyn: I knew going into it that I could likely only "save" one or two. I continue to advocate and encourage others to do the same.
Sara 1: It's a horrible feeling. For us we knew that one little boy HAD to get into a family and we came home and advocated for him. If no one had gone for him, we would have returned. Beyond that I know that I can't take them all of I would just have my own version of an orphanage, so I do what I can to help anyone else who wants to adopt, and I try to share as much as I can about adoption with as many people as I can. I also try to support my daughter's old orphanage however I can.
Meredith: I try to advocate for those left behind as well as the general care of orphans, but it is a burden that doesn’t go away.
Allison: I try to motivate other people to bring home children.
9. How do you get the feeling that that child is the “right” one?
Jaclyn: God...... It is the only answer I have. I prayed. He answered!!
Sara 1: How do you ever know anyone is the one, your best friend, your partner? It's a feeling you get, one of peace that says that this is a right option for you. And it's up to you to move forward with that or not.
Allison: The feeling of connection to a child/sibling group just wont go away. I pray about it and if it wont go away I know God is trying to tell me something.
Brittany: For us, it has always been the feeling of immediate excitement versus the feeling of trepidation. For each of our adopted children, I had an immediate sense of peace in my heart and excitement in our responses/conversations about the situation. For every situation we ultimately turned down, we are now able to look back and the first thoughts we had about the situation were somewhat unsettling. We, of course, have had fears, thoughts, questions etc each and every time we are presented with a situation, but when we have been the right family for that child, there is a sense of peace that comforts and quiets the mumbles and allows us to leap (with faith) forward.
10. Do you ever truly love your adopted children like you do your bio children?
Jaclyn: Definitely! They are my kids. As my friend told me once..... does it matter if a package comes via UPS or Fed Ex?? God sent them to me as my children and I love them all.
Sara 1: Yes you can. But I think it's possible to love all of your children differently, biological and adopted.
Sara 2: Absolutely.
Lorraine: Yes. Having both biological and adopted children, I can honestly say there's no difference between the love. There's a special relationship with each child that looks different because each child IS different. I would bet that if people watched us interact with our children without noticing skin color, people wouldn't be able to tell which ones are biological and which ones are adopted because there's no difference in our love for them.
Gillian: Do you ever truly love your adopted children like you do your bio children? Bonding has been an issue for Evangeline and I but four years in I can say that I love her, and I don't see her differently than my other children. Do I still struggle? Yes? But it makes it a lot easier when there is love.
11. What was the biggest difference between kids from US foster care and kids from other countries as far as how they do in a family?
Boston: Surprisingly, there were WAY more institutional begavour's in our foster adoption situation. She was essentially in a nursing facility and they cared for her, but she spent a lot of time in a pack and play.
Sarah 1: I don't think it's kids from overseas orphanages vs. kids from North American foster care. Children are all different, and they take in a deal with their life experiences in their own ways. A child who has been living in a MI may be better adjusted if they were well feed, and allowed to play, and talked to, and liked by staff and other residents then a child who has been severely neglected and or abused by a birth family and then placed in an abusive foster home (or even just a foster home ill equipped to meet the child's specific needs).
Amanda: Kids from orphanages in my opinion adapt MUCH easier to family life. . . Kids from foster care have been taught what a family is over and over and over, but every time it was a wrong view and they were again moved. This means that you have to try to get them to change their view. Whereas kids in an orphanage don't even have a view of family yet. It is MUCH easier in my opinion (after 8 from orphanages and 12 from US foster care) to teach them what a family is the first time, than it is to try to change their view of family from something negative to something positive.
Meredith: Our son from foster care adapted easier to our family than any of our other kids, except maybe our first son, who was much like an infant. Our foster-adopt had a single loving adult in his life from 3 months to 3.5 years, then came to our home. One of our children from an orphanage was unused to being held or touched and so sensory deprived that she had a difficult time adapting to life outside of her crib and would scream to be put back in her crib. Another daughter was raised like a pack-animal and had no social boundaries, knowledge of appropriate interaction, manners, or knowledge of the many ‘ordinary’ things in life like waiting for food to cook or going to a grocery store. It felt like we were training an animal at first, and she had such a long time of all of that, that we are still trying to get through some of that. CONTINUED... http://cornishadoptionjourney.blogspot.com/2014/01/17-nosy-questions-about-special-needs_8399.html
Jaclyn: Not yet. I feel overwhelmed at times as every mother does, but I felt the same way when I had 2 bio kids very close together.
Sara 1: I have NEVER felt stuck or unhappy with who my family has become. I have however felt disappointed with myself as a parent when I'm unable to met my daughter's needs in the way that she needs. It's something that I work on daily.
J: Never felt stuck with the first 3, fit in nicely even with lots of medical needs. But do I feel "stuck" at times now....yes, I spend every day praying for the confusion and guilt to fade.
Gillian: Yes, I've experienced this emotion several times since my child came home. The trick is to pray and breath through those times. I can't take a bad day as a bad life. We live day by day. There is always tomorrow.
Alysha: I think I feel more of a compassion for him then love. I don't feel like I love him and have bonded to him the way I did our Isaac in the first 8 months of being home. It really has been a hard adjustment to him. His needs can be time consuming, overwhelming, and his whooing's annoying. He never learned to interact with others . This has made bonding with him tough. He usually doesn't give any type of affection back. He just doesn't know how. We weren't expecting his needs to be as great as they are. I have faith it'll get better and I will feel bonded to him in the same way I do my other kids..but I guess it's just going to take more time. I don't regret him being home and wouldn't change it, but I do wish it was easier.
13. How do you keep a reasonable expectation of life-after-adoption when all you have to go off of is a photograph and a short write up about a child ahead of time?
Jaclyn: This question always gets me...... I did not get to chose what special needs my bio kids had and honestly I did not get to choose what special needs my adopted kids have either. God knows I do not like surprises, but he also knows I worry way too much if I know in advance, so he surprised me with my child being deaf and my other son being blind..... I always say I didn't choose them God chose them the same way he chose my bio kids!!!
Sara 1: I think that problem is if you have expectations based on a photo and a brief summary. You need to have zero expectations, and then move up from there as you get to know your child. Things as simple as basic manners, if the child has never been taught or expected to use them, you will have to teach them and remind them.
Meredith: I’ve felt from the beginning that God protected us in our first adoption. We had this idealized view of what the two children would be like that we were planning to adopt, and though we met them both, we were unable to adopt one of them and we found someone else was coming to adopt the second. We ended up bringing home two totally different children in every sense. Our children we intended were somewhat independent, walking, and generally “healthy” children with special needs. The children we brought home in the end were both like infants, neither walking or supporting their own head even, and both had some medical complexities. After meeting the “photo children” we learned how much we had built an idea of personality from our own dreams. We did bring home one of those photo children years later, and God prepared our hearts for her many additional needs in that first meeting. After that, it was easier for us to NOT set up false expectations for future adoptions, which is really what is necessary!!
Amanda: I don't have expectations really I don't guess. I just expect that they are kids who have no idea what to expect. They don't know what is happening and are afraid. I have to be on constant supervision until we learn more about them and also be constantly aware that they need constant reassurance while giving them plenty of space. Everything is a balancing act in the beginning. You have to learn from the child what they need and how to parent them best. Every child is different. You have to know that the write up is most likely wrong. You go into it with the knowledge that this is a special little person that God has made and you love for who they are. . . you just have to learn exactly who that is.
Brittany: I've learned to have no expectations… :)
14. Do you wonder if your typical kids will resent that you adopted more children with special needs?
Boston: I think we view it as an opportunity for our children to realize concretely that the world doesn't revolve around them and that we take our faith seriously in that we are commanded to care for the orphan and the needy.
Jaclyn: All my kids have varying "special needs" (bio and adopted). I honestly do not think there is a such thing as "typical".
Sara 1: No I don't. This is the life that she has always known, and now she will continue to know it. These are her sisters, period. They are not her adopted sisters, they are not a charity that we are providing, they are our family.
Sara 2: We asked and the SW asked our other girls if they wanted to adopt the baby and keep her with us forever before we adopted. They had no idea that saying no was even an option before we asked them, but then they couldn't figure out why we would consider "getting rid of her". She was their sister from the first time they met her in the hospital.
J: Our younger bio accepts adoption as normal and assures me he will adopt in the future. My 16 year old resents it already. Not so much with the first 3 who are medically needy, he bonded with them but the last 2 he still asks us to disrupt due to intense behaviors and emotional needs.
Meredith: Our biological children may go through a season with something like this, but as things are right now, they ask about adopting again on a regular basis, and are very accepting of our children, friends’ children, and really even complete strangers’ kids with special needs.
15. If your child exhibits behavioral problems later on, would you regret the decision of having adopted them?
J: It would depend on if it negatively affected the rest of our children or damaged our family unit and how severely.
Amy: We have dealt with some very challenging behaviors and unexpected diagnosis. There were times I honestly questioned God why He allowed us to experience the painful stuff. In the midst of it, we truly knew adopting that child wasn't a mistake. Thisis one of the reasons it is vitally important for both a husband and wife to be in agreement about an adoption. Coercing a spouse to adopt and then running into issues could be disastrous, not just for the adoption, but the marriage! you aren't guaranteed an outcome with biological kids either. Would you regret giving birth to a child if they made poor choices?
Jaclyn: Of course NOT! Every child has the potential to have behavior problem. While adopted kids may be prone to it, it does not mean it will happen.
Sara: Never. Partly because I don't believe in regret, but mostly because she is MY daughter. We were meant to be in each other's lives, good and/or bad. We are here to get through this together. It is my job to help her through any and all of that. Figure out the cause, find healing and coping strategies so that she can LIVE her life as best as she can.
Meredith: There are no promises. Similar to the idea of whether a chlid’s past can be “undone”, you don’t know what will happen and have to trust God with it all.
16. Which kids are your real children and which did you adopt?
Jaclyn: All of my kids are my real kids. My girls came to me as infants while my boys had to wait 6 whole years for me to find them.
Sara 1: Which are biological and which are adopted? Because all are real. But honestly, if it's not asked in a rude way I have no problem kindly correcting them in their wording.
Meredith: My hope would be that people would learn to ask instead, “are you comfortable telling me about how each of your kids joined your family?” All our kids are our real kids. We do openly share about our children’s adoptions, however if our children had a different reaction to adoption, or if they had a different level of understanding of their past hurt, we might be more hesitant to approach this subject with a stranger.
17. How would you handle things if a child decided they wanted to find their biological parent? Would you feel jealous?
Boston: My daughter sees her birth mother by Skype because she lives in Ukraine. I think birth parent involvement is very unique to. Each family situation. With one adopted child, we consider her mother family. With the other we would never allow contact.
Jaclyn: This question varies per child. Adam was wanted by his family. They wanted to keep him, but laws in their Country and lack of finances forced their hand. I hope to find them one day, so they can see how good he is doing. Matthias has siblings (a twin) and I will encourage him to look for them. As far as his parent go, we do not know about his dad and his mom abandoned him. I will still support him if he decides to look, but I also plan to be open and honest about the circumstances as well.
Sara 1: No, I wouldn't feel jealous. We are searching for more info at this time, so that we will have it if she ever wants it. It is not worth your time to worry about jealous feelings towards your child's bio parents. If you are going to adopt you MUST accept the fact that your child has biological parent, who are NOT you. And no matter who they are or what they've done they will hold a part of your child's heart (even if your child doesn't recognize that).
Sara 2: We do see her biological parents, and I provide them with regular updates and photos. I was worried about what our relationship would be like, but we were able to easily settle into a comfortable rhythm (which I am VERY thankful for!!!).
J: I WANT to find some of my kids birth parents though I have no idea how. I would love to tell them your/my child is loved, cherished and happy! They are OK! A few are in jail and I would probably discourage them from making contact as adults but I would respect their decision if they felt they needed/wanted to.
HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?
Feel free to leave a comment, and as long as it is a honest and respectful question, it will be published and adoptive parents are welcome to pop in and answer it for you from their perspective. :)