I vividly remember my hesitation when Adéye first approached me a decade ago about adopting. Sure, we had talked about it, but was she really serious? All of the typical questions filled my mind and my heart with fear:
What if we can’t afford it?
What if I can’t love this child as my own?
What if this child doesn’t bond with my biological children, or vice versa?
And because she’s talking about adopting a child with special needs, does this mean I’ll be stuck with caring for them when I’m old?
Then Adéye presented me with a check-off list from the adoption agency. It was a pretty exhaustive list of every special need imaginable. Before the agency would give us a referral (which is a child that they are able to promote and whom they believe would be a good match for us), we needed to express what we are NOT prepared to take on. For example, if the agency suggested a child to us that has no arms or legs, we needed to let them know to not bother.
OK, I thought. Let me start from the worst “handicaps,” as I called them, eliminate them, and work my way down to what would be “acceptable.”
BLINDNESS. Check. No way. I don’t want to have to do everything for this child! And what about when he or she is an adult? And I’m old? How am I going to do that?
DEVELOPMENTAL DELAY. Check. Because that, to me, means brain damage. And how in the world am I going to communicate with a child like that, much less, love someone like that?
CEREBRAL PALSY. Check. Ugh. Wheelchair! No, thank you. Diapers for life. No, thank you. Carrying dead weight. No, thank you. No, thank you. No, thank you. NO, THANK YOU!
Hmmm. I MIGHT be able to handle a child who’s missing a finger. But MAYBE if it’s an insignificant finger, like the little finger. And MAYBE if it’s not on their writing and throwing hand. Ugh. No. Never mind. MAYBE if it’s a toe. Yeah, that’s it. I can handle a missing toe. Besides, most people won’t see it most of the time because of shoes.
I know. I was so foolish. Little did I realize that not ten years later, I would be madly in love with a daughter who isn’t of my blood. Who is of gypsy blood, no less!
Who is blind.
Who is developmentally delayed.
Who has cerebral palsy.
Who has severe scoliosis, osteopenia, bilateral hip dysplasia.
Who needs her diaper changed, needs to be fed by mouth and by tube three times a day, needs to be bathed, dressed, have her hair coiffed, and have her teeth brushed.
Our powerful God has not only given Hasya a new life, He has given ME a new life. Today, I would be offended if someone handed me a check-off list to see if I’ll love an orphan as my own. I am soooo thankful that God didn’t have a check-off list for ME before He chose me. Because I have special needs—ones that can’t always be seen with the eye.
I know I am changed. The proof in the pudding is when I lie down next to Hasya. There is nothing better in life than lying down with my daughter, close enough for her to feel my breath and to hear my soft words of comfort.
It is then when my closeness gives her permission to explore her daddy. She is deliberate in her effort to stretch out her contracted, nearly withered hand to touch her daddy’s face and sweep her cool fingers back and forth until she can “see” it better. The repetitive garbled sounds she makes for comfort tell me that she’s happier now—now that Daddy is next to her.
Hasya will spontaneously let out a cute cackle of a laugh, which gives ME permission to drive her over the edge. My wiggly fingers surreptitiously make their way under her arms. A cackle becomes a gasp. A gasp becomes a giggle. A giggle becomes an out-and-out burst of laughter that warms the coldest of hearts.
With inaccurate aim, she slaps my chest repeatedly in excitement. She can’t reach out both arms to hug me. She can’t snuggle her body next to mine. She can’t even verbalize that she loves me. But she can slap me. Sure, she slaps the air a few times before her hands land on my chest. But she makes it. And the laughter doesn’t stop.
And even when the laughter does stop…The laughter in my soul continues…day by day by day…for Hasya…the one who changed me…my daughter.