How It All Began

The decision to adopt was an easy one.   The process of adoption was much more difficult.  The bureaucracy, the agencies, the paperwork, the discussions, the classes, the prying into our personal lives, proved to be exhausting.  The final payoff though, was worth every agonizing moment. 

Our Social Worker quietly whispered to my husband and I that she would like to see us in her office after the group concluded.  “Could there be a problem,” I wondered?  “Did we get a negative reference?  Was there more paperwork?”  It was too early in the process for her to have a child identified for us. 

The class seemed to go on forever and the anticipation was growing stronger.  Finally 9:00 rolled around; we helped her straighten up the room and said good-bye to our fellow classmates.  We met in her office where she pulled out a note, which was tucked under other paperwork on her desk.  “There is this little girl I was wondering if you would be interested in meeting.  She is seven-and-a-half years old, and the victim of horrific abuse, which has left her to function as an infant.  She cannot walk or talk, has a seizure disorder, a shunt, and has had a portion of her brain removed which has left her with right hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.  She is not potty trained.  Did I mention she is also blind?”  She handed us Melissa’s picture.  I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but it didn’t take long. 

Meeting Melissa changed my life forever.  It was also the beginning of a life I never could have imagined.  I never realized there was a world out there that was so different from that which I was familiar.  It was the real world of the disabled, and it was challenging and rewarding all at the same time.

I am 52 years old, married, and the mother of five children.  Two of those children were born to us, and are older than Melissa.  The other three are adopted and have special needs.  I have learned more from them than I could have imagined.  I learned what it means not to judge others, and I learned what it means to constantly be judged.  I learned empathy and compassion, and to advocate from the bottom of my heart.  I was introduced to physical, occupational, speech, music, feeding, equine, aquatic, and vision therapy.  Acronyms such EIP, IEP, and ISP became part of our regular vocabulary.  There were bath lifts, car lifts, hoyer lifts, various other lifts, and LIFTING!  Overpriced equipment was necessary just to make life comfortable.  Doctor’s appointments, specialists, surgeries, and rehabilitation were part of this strange new world.  I learned to find resources, to find strength in other people, and to listen and support them in return.  I became familiar with the ADA (the American with Disabilities Act) and challenged it on a couple of occasions (you win some, you lose others).

I headed a support group for parents with disabled children, and attended groups for those with special needs children that were adopted.   I learned “the system” as it relates to schools, doctors, services, and making one’s way through the red tape of the bureaucracy.  I joined an advocacy group and became a parent advocate.  Many parents would call me for assistance or a shoulder on which to lean.  I became a strong advocate in the area of the adoption process, special education, the disability community and the ability to locate resources and referrals.  I enjoy helping other people learn to help themselves. 

I later went to school to become a massage therapist, which is what later guided me to study Social Work. I was profoundly moved one day in the massage clinic in the early stages of my internship.  “Touch seems to be as essential as sunlight. In the absence of touching and being touched, people of all ages can sicken and grow touch starved.”  (Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of The Senses).   I began to open up to the concept of touch and truly benefited from touching others and being touched.  It was through meeting various people, listening to their stories, and truly touching them on so many levels that I realized the ability one person has to change another’s focus. 

The most significant experience I had in the student clinic occurred my first day.  My last client of the day was an elderly woman who had Alzheimer’s.  None of the other therapists wanted to “touch” this woman.  I have to admit I was a little concerned but welcomed the challenge.  It was “girl’s day out” and her daughter and daughter-in-laws did not leave her at home but brought her with to experience a massage.  That massage meant as much to me as it did to her and her family.  Although I answered the same question repeatedly for an entire hour (probably about forty times) I enjoyed her company and knew that even though she would not remember the massage, her body would, and I knew her family was a very important part of her life.  I was touched by their thoughtfulness not to escape her for a couple of hours but rather to include her. 

My family has been the main focus of my life and I have not worked full-time in either Social Work or Massage, but I am grateful for the experiences I had during my schooling and my internships. I am hoping to share with you the life lessons I have learned from being a stay-at-home mom for 28 years to children with multiple needs.  This did not at all mean staying at home and doing nothing (I don’t think that title exists), but rather being very active in the community, schools and various agencies. Some of my greatest lessons have come in the last few years as I have been on a healing journey learning the importance of the mind, body, spirit connection as well as taking time for self care and nurturing. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this far and I look forward to introducing you to my daughters, Hannah and Melissa soon! I am hoping to cover many topics in the future, including adoption, special needs, aging parents raising children with special needs, and welcome your questions and comments.

Many Blessings, Pam

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6 Responses

  1. Many of your experiences have also been my own (though they’ve been garnered through slightly different avenues). In reading this, I’ve come to appreciate and identify with you even more than I’d done, previously. My admiration for you has increased as has my understnding on how very overwhelmed you must oftentimes become in living the Compassionate Life you’ve chosen to live. Much Love & Many Blessings, my dear friend. Love Is All ~ Warren

  2. Thank you Warren for your loving response…and for helping me learn how to approve comments since yours is the first. Blessings to you 🙂

  3. Pam,your doing an incredible job on all levels.If this helps just one person understand what our children and ourselves go through on a daily basis,it will be a blessing.

    • Cathy thank you so much! I hope you know that you were one of my greatest mentors and friends in the beginning of my journey with Melissa. You taught me most how to roll with the punches and stand up for what we believe to be right. You are an incredible, strong person who I admire very much! Much love to you. 🙂

      • you are the only person that I know,that knows , what I (we) go thru, Josh is doing fine,We are doing fine.I’m so glad to see Mellisa and Hannah doing so well,But you are, one of the best, mothers that there is!!

  4. Reblogged this on Trying2Express Blog and commented:

    Because it’s Adoption Awareness Month I was looking through my blogs to repost a previous one on adoption. I thought this was it, but instead realized I veer off topic rather frequently. So, it all began with Melissa’s adoption and somehow turned into a massage. This was in the early days of introducing myself and my family, so in some small way it makes sense. It did all begin with adoption—that life-changing, redefining moment–the story of who I was and who I am today…

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