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Adoption is hard. Especially the unexpected adoption issues.
I didn’t sign up for this.
The long days with specialist after specialist.
Planning our schedule around medicine doses.
When we adopted our youngest daughter, her primary need (other than a family) was CHD (Congenital Heart Disease). She already had open heart surgery, and was doing great. We did know to expect another surgery down the road, but our daily life should be pretty “normal.”
Enter the unexpected adoption issues.
When we first met our youngest daughter in China, we fell in love, but we knew she had more going on than stated in her file. Our pediatrician at the International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham recognized some characteristics, ordered a genetic test, and confirmed she has DiGeorge syndrome (aka 22q11.2 Deletion) caused by a missing section in one chromosome. This is in addition to a couple other medical issues, and the normal adoptive struggles.
I know we are so very blessed. She will be able to overcome each diagnosis. We are not spending weeks in the hospital or watching her live with pain or dealing with anything unbearable. She is attaching well and not showing the major emotional signs of trauma that so many adopted children face.
But it is unexpected. And the unexpected can sometime trip up our emotions.
So, how could we have been more prepared? Or if you are in the adoption process, how can you prepare?
1. Do your research.
Learn details about medical conditions.
Even if you are already very familiar with your child’s diagnoses, learn all you can about it. About 25% of children with Eve’s heart condition (tetralogy of fallot) also have DiGeorge’s syndrome, yet somehow we had never heard of it. Not even the cardiologist who reviewed her information while we waited or the cardiologist we saw after coming home ever mentioned it.
Most diagnosis come with a wide variety of symptoms that that vary with each person. Learn about as many of the possibilities as you can. Know what to be watching for during those first few weeks with your child. When the unexpected adoption issues arise, know where to turn for help.
Be aware, but do not worry. I know, this is one of those “easier said than done” suggestions, but worrying will not help you or your child. DiGeorge syndrome has over 80 possible symptoms. We are trying to face them as they surface.
Learn about emotional/behavioral issues adopted children commonly face.
We have been amazingly blessed in this area. Both of our girls are doing great and adjusting well, but before going to China we did read the experiences of many children whose past trauma caused rages, withdrawal, and a host of other emotional/behavioral issues. Join Facebook or Yahoo support groups. Connect with real parents facing real adoptive issues.
Research your child’s orphanage. Find out how children adopted from that particular institution typically react in country and transition once home. Again, with the exception of rural orphanages, you can find many support groups that are location specific.
Of course, every child is an individual with unique experiences, personality, and emotions. No one can accurately predict how a child will react to losing everything and not understand all they are gaining. Pray for the best, but try to prepare for, or at least be aware of, the worst. Read The Connected Child, The Primal Wound, or other books on adoption related dealing with trauma.
Repeatedly, parents in online adoption groups reminded us that the child you see in China is not the child you will have at home. Fight or flight mode often short circuits normal behavior as a child loses everything and everyone he or she has ever known.
Our oldest adopted daughter literally changed overnight. She went from stubbornly fussing about everyone and everything, especially her “baba” to calm, shy smiles and welcomed hugs. Many may not change so quickly, but in most cases, they will settle down once they feel safe and loved.
2. Expect unexpected adoption issues
Go into adopting expecting to experience the unexpected. It is harder to deal with struggles when you expected everything to be all roses. Put your game face on and be ready to tackle whatever comes for your child.
Read stories from other adoptive parents.
We read stories of rejection, destructive behaviors, rages, sensory issues, and many things that kids use to deal with trauma because it is all they know. We didn’t expect specifics, but were aware of common trauma-related behaviors. Our children were losing everything they had ever known. No matter how gentle we tried to make the transition, grief over their loss is only natural.
When one of our daughters rejected my husband in country, I had spent more time reading than my husband and was able to tell him it is very common. That that didn’t make it easy for him, but it was good to know it was not unusual.
No Hands But Ours shares China adoption stories related to specific special needs.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes.
Imagine suddenly being cared for by people who could not understand one word you said. Imagine leaving all of your friends, probably to never see or hear from them again. How would you react even as an adult? With a child’s limited understanding, how much more traumatic would it be!
Even from the beginning, our children’s struggles seem so minor compared to so many, but they are still struggles, and sometimes we struggle to deal with them with grace and love.
3. Commit to Love
Adoption does not come with guarantees. Missing diagnosis are common. Unknown trauma can leave lasting scars. Medical, behavioral, emotional, developmental, and mental challenges are more likely than not.
Decide before you sign those acceptance papers, before you get on an airplane, before you meet your child. Commit to love your child unconditionally.
Adoption disruptions in country are so heartbreaking for all involved, but exponentially for a child who has already lost so much. Expect and prepare for the unexpected.
When I signed on the line and put my red thumbprints those adoption papers, I had no idea what unexpected adoption issues we would face.
But parenting of any child, biological or adopted, comes with unknowns and risk. You risk your heart. And each one is worth the greatest risk.
Adoption is beautiful!
I did sign up for this.
The sweet days with hugs and giggles.
Watching new “firsts” almost every day.
I pledged my heart for her.
And whatever unknowns the future holds.
If I could go back to that day in China, knowing all I know now, I would not hesitate to sign up for this.
She is my daughter and NOTHING will change that now.
Are you considering adoption? Unexpected adoption issues are inevitable, but don’t let the unknowns hold you back. Remember, only God knows the future of any child. He will supply all of your needs (Philippians 4:19) and He will love that child through you.
Read our Adoption Story here.