When we set out to pursue special needs adoption, we did a lot of research. We wanted to be clear regarding what we felt we could offer to a child whose needs were outside the ordinary. We felt it wouldn’t be fair to a child if we were to welcome him or her into our family and then lacked the resources necessary to help our child reach his or her full potential. We needed to be realistic about things. However, what happened in the process of our research was that we got a list of a lot of negatives, and there didn’t seem to be a list of the positives beyond the joy that would be given to us by adding another child to our family. It’s not that the joy of parenting another child wasn’t enough on its own, but there’s just so much more to special needs parenting that’s overwhelmingly positive that doesn’t get mentioned. So I decided to make my own little list of why parenting a child with special needs is so, well, special.
1. It takes the pressure off when it comes to developmental milestones. We knew from the moment we found out about Elvie that she wouldn’t be able to roll over, crawl, or walk on the same time schedule as other babies. What I’ve found is that I tend to not worry about those things at all thanks to our different developmental schedule. We do work hard to make sure that she is able to do all that she is capable of doing, but it is in her own time, as she is ready and able. No one who knows Elvie’s health history is concerned about the fact that she does not do all the things other babies her age do, and they don’t have an alternate schedule for us to follow. This has been incredibly freeing, and I absolutely love that we get to be excited about what Elvie does as opposed to worrying because she hasn’t done a certain thing by a certain age.
2. When a developmental milestone is reached, it is more exciting than usual. I feel like I could throw a little party each time Elvie does something new. There is so much that we simply didn’t know if she would be able to do or not, so when she figured out how to crawl, how to pull up, and how to stand with just one hand supporting her, those things were all huge. I didn’t dare dream that she would do those things, but she does! It is amazing to watch her defy the odds and keep learning and growing.
3. There are more little (and big) victories of other kinds to celebrate. When Elvie made it home from Ethiopia, still fighting, it was a big deal. When she was well enough to leave the hospital after her first stay, it was huge. When she had her surgery and came through with no major complications, it was the best news I’d heard in my life. When she was finally allowed to go off of antibiotics for the first time since we brought her home with us, it was worthy of a little victory dance.
4. We’ve found out how well loved we are as a family. This, to me, is the biggest bonus. We have had so many people cheering Elvie on and cheering us on as a family, and this is what brings tears to my eyes. Because I never considered that parenting a child with special needs would deepen my friendships and bring me new ones, that even strangers would become friends as they stepped forward to help take care of us and Elvie. The support that we have received as we’ve navigated Elvie’s homecoming and her continuing healthcare is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It makes my heart glow, warm and bright.
So if you’re wondering if parenting a child with special needs can be hard work, the answer is yes. But if you’re also wondering if it’s more than worth it, if we would do it all again knowing what we know now, the answer is an overwhelming yes. Choosing to pursue Elvie’s adoption is the best decision we could have possibly made, and we say this over and over again. Having her in our lives, as part of our family, makes us feel incredibly lucky. We are so thankful for her and for the many experiences she brings us.