On Parenting Special Needs and Living the Good Life

While Elvie was in the hospital, I stayed with her most of the time, and I got the chance to talk to a lot of people about her story. The hospital where she had her surgery is a teaching hospital, so there were always extra people around. This made me incredibly happy, because I love to tell her story. I love to tell it first and foremost because her resilience inspires me, and I want others to know just how special she is. But I also tell it because I want people to understand that there is nothing special or amazing about Jarod and me for choosing to pursue special needs adoption. I want, more than anything, for people to understand that special needs adoption doesn’t take a special kind of person. I want what is possible for Elvie due to adoption to be possible for other kids that wait for families, for more people to understand that they might be a good family for a special child to grow up in, and that their lives will be richer for the choice they make.


What I tell people about our decision to pursue special needs adoption is that it is born out of our belief that every child deserves to grow up in a loving family. Because we have the resources to care for some more intense needs, we decided that it only made sense to be open to those needs. I do think it’s important to honestly consider what needs you can accommodate in respect to insurance coverage, budget, local resources, and parental work flexibility. In Elvie’s case, what made us a good fit for her was that we have insurance that covers the bulk of her care costs, our income can cover additional costs (such as co-pays and specialty formula), we live in a city where the kind of care she needs is readily available, and my work schedule is very flexible, so I am available for all her appointments and to be with her during hospital stays.

That said, what really matters is that she’s our baby. I know that sounds so simple, but that’s really what has made this work. She is our baby, and we love her, and just like any family would do for their child, we pursue whatever care is necessary to do what is best for her. When we talk about parameters for special needs, it all sounds so clinical and impersonal and pragmatic. But when we have become parents to our children, all that falls away. We want to do the best we can for them because we love them. We want to take on their care because they are our family. It really is that simple. We love our kids, and we just do what parents do.

When people talk to us about our decision to adopt Elvie, when they start to get complimentary about what they measure as our great and noble deed, I try to stop them. I say the same thing every time, because it is so true to me. We really are nothing special. Do you see this baby? Do you see how absolutely perfect and precious she is? Of course we wanted to adopt her. This extra work we are doing? It is nothing compared to who she is, and what she gives to us and the people who know her.

I believe that. I truly do. If you talk to other moms of kids whose needs are outside the ordinary, you’ll find that many of them will tell you the same thing. About how their lives have been changed for the better by their children being in them. About how they cannot imagine loving a child more than they love their child, who is perfect and precious and everything they never knew to dream of.

When Elvie was in the hospital, I took the Instagram photo you see above. Under it I put the caption, “Sometimes the good life doesn’t look the way you think it will.” I cannot imagine a better life than the one I share with my daughters, both of whom have needs that challenge what I thought parenthood would be like. I never in my wildest dreams would have pictured the good life being a night in a hospital, with my baby hooked up to all sorts of wires and tubes. But it is indeed the good life. It’s the best life. I highly recommend it; it is full of beauty and joy.

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