What I want you to know about adopting a child with deaf-blindness

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Elizabeth.

What I want you to know is that we are not saints because we adopted an older child with special needs. No, it was not part of our plan to adopt a child with medical exceptionalities. No, we certainly did not have life goals of becoming experts in the fields of Deafblindness, GERD, Global Delays, Language Development or any of the other specializations that we now carry wherever we go. I want you to know that we did not adopt because we were unable to conceive and carry biological children to term, but because when our son was profiled and the child protection agencies were desperately seeking a forever family for him, we could say “Yes” and we did. I want you to know that when people tell me that we were saints to adopt this child, my heart breaks into a million pieces and I am overwhelmed with gratitude that he is Deaf and cannot hear that I’m a saint for taking care of him. I want you to know that I love this child that is identified as such a burden that only a “saint” would care for him. I want you to know that nothing in the world has ever been as precious to me as this little blond haired child that holds my hand and forgives me every single time I’m short tempered with him or don't understand what he is trying to tell me. I want you to know that my life without this child would be empty and the “saint” you see only exists because my child guided the frightened mom that started the journey with him. I want you to know that what we have suffered and experienced has broken us in ways that very few understand and I cannot explain to you the sorrow that is knowing that you can never fix what was broken before you even knew your child existed. I want you to know that parenting a child with exceptionalities is not the hard part, it’s the being a special-needs parent that is difficult because that’s the role that society imposes upon me and defines me by and which in no way includes my son. I want you to know that I don’t pity or regret what my life has become. I want you to know that I always chose my son. I've ended friendships and changed jobs for my son and I will do so every time I sense a threat to my son. I want you to know that this "broken" child is the greatest gift my husband ever gave me and there is very little as beautiful as watching a strong man guide his blind son, watching and protecting for his every possible mistep. I want you to know that while many parents live in fear that their children will not meet developmental milestones and goals, as parents of exceptional children, we are freed from those fears. We know our kids have to take a different road and that developmental milestones are reached in unique ways, but that means that we get a unique chance to escape the need to do what everyone else is doing. We just get to enjoy the successes and because our kids often have to work harder to make the typical milestones, we get to stop and really celebrate them, rather than simply checking off developmental goals as proof that our kid’s not delayed and moving on to worrying about the next ones. I want you to know that I am happy. I want you to know that I wouldn’t change my son, not because I wouldn’t give anything and everything to take away his pain and suffering, but because he is compassionate, generous, courageous, loving and inspirational. I want you to know that I love him and am so proud of him. I want you to know that the only “saint” in our family is the little boy that tolerates with such grace all the indignities and challenges that he never had any say about.

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