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Melissa’s Adoption Story

Welcome to November which happens to be Adoption Awareness month. I am planning to share a little about each of our children’s adoption stories this month and also how adoption has touched our lives along the way. I have a guest blogger later in the month to speak about adoption from a different perspective.  I want everyone to understand that each adoption is different and each story is personal to the people involved. My stories revolve around special needs adoption because that’s what I know from personal experiences. As always feel free to share my blogs. Blessings to all!

It’s been theorized for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I would add for every emotion there is an equal and opposite feeling. If we combine the equal and opposites of action and emotion we get—adoption. To say adoption has two sides is unfair, because there are at least three sides and more often it is multi-sided. By this I mean you have to consider all the people involved in the adoption triad (triad being birth family, adoptive family and child) and all the people involved in their lives. The list is endless as are the emotions and reactions. For all the joy on one side, there is pain and loss on the other(s). Someone’s gain, joy and delight are another’s loss, sorrow and pain. With respect to all adoptive families, birth families, and adoptees I am sharing our story, our experience and fully understand that everyone’s story is different.

Adoption has had a huge impact on our entire extended family, not only through the adoption of our children but in ways that have touched us from every angle. I have been influenced in many ways by those who forged this road before me and were there to lend an ear, a shoulder or words of advice when we stumbled along the adoption path. The process of becoming an adoptive family can be grueling. Anyone who has had to endure a home study will attest to this. Prospective adoptive families are put through a rigid process in order to finally be approved to adopt by an agency and ultimately a judge. They pry into your private life in ways never imagined, but when a child enters the family circle all that led up to that point can be easily put aside.

We had a small photo and a short description of a seven-year-old girl named Melissa. We travelled to a small town about four hours from our home to meet her for the first time. As we were led through the halls of the institution in which she lived, all the young residents were lined up in their wheelchairs along the halls. The first thing I noticed was how clean and new all their shoes appeared as I glanced from child to child wondering which one was Melissa. We turned the corner and there she sat outside her room. We were told she was blind, had a traumatic brain injury, was unable to speak or walk and she had severe intellectual impairments. We knew nothing about her personality or abilities. Meeting Melissa was life changing, but we had no idea just how much she would change our lives.

We were amazed how much a child who apparently cannot see, walk or communicate can actually offer the world. When Melissa smiles her entire face changes, her eyes light up, her face smiles! Her laugh is contagious and she readily shares hugs, trust and love. She’s rowdy and wild, happy and fun, loving and sensitive and downright stubborn and strong-willed. Melissa just fit into our family perfectly, because we tend to be a mixture of all those same qualities. She stole our hearts and we have never been the same, but that’s not to say there weren’t major adjustments for all of us. We lived in a home that was not wheelchair accessible and we owned a compact car that would have to be exchanged for a full size van with a lift. Melissa had not lived in a family for a long time and was used to having a strict ritual that is only offered in institutional life. She needed to know some structure, attention and love—and she needed her shoes to get dirty! Our two older children were used to an active lifestyle that would have to be somewhat adjusted until we figured out this new life. Everything we did from the moment we welcomed Melissa into our family forward would be an opportunity to love and learn—and we had much to learn! We didn’t realize we were stepping into a new world; one of criticism and taunting, judgment, misunderstanding and cruelty, and outright rudeness! We learned to accept and embrace those that understood, as we adjusted, readjusted and educated those that didn’t understand.

Our other kids had to be patient and flexible. They expected others to be as excited as they were about their new sister. Our oldest daughter was confused and shocked when she discovered some of the other kids didn’t embrace Melissa as she had hoped and expected. It was a hard lesson but she stood up for her sister and made sure there was always a place for her at school functions. I secretly wished she didn’t raise so much attention that we ended up front and center for every event. It made it difficult to slip out quietly when Melissa would get disruptive (like when the choir was singing and she started screaming with excitement because she loved the music). Yes, we thought it was funny but most people didn’t appreciate it.

We weren’t able to accept as many social invitations and many of our old friends faded away while others questioned our intentions. Many stuck by us though and before long we were living an active life again with just a few modifications. Melissa and her dad grew very close and he is probably her favorite person. The first day we met he got her out of her wheelchair, found a soft carpet to lay her on and got down on the floor with her and rolled around. She was so happy to be free of her wheelchair and to have someone at her level. They made each other laugh and formed an instant bond. He seemed to instinctively know her needs right away while it took the rest of us awhile to learn to communicate and understand.

Melissa has taught us strength, perseverance, unconditional love, warmth, acceptance, and understanding. She has also taught us how to fight for what is right, how important laughter is in life, and how much attitude has to do with outcome. She also figured out how to controls us, and is able to pull things off that others can’t, but mostly she has taught us about the value of every human being. Melissa rocks!

With love, Pam


2 Responses

  1. Our family has also adopted children with special needs, and you are so right about the journey it can turn out to be. Adding children with disabilities to your family affects every part of your life, and evokes emotions in the most ordinary of events that you would not have believed possible. The challenges are many, the changes profound, the glimpses into human nature most insightful! It can be a very hard lesson in who your friends are, an eye-opener about adult “peer pressure,” and a brutally honest way to find out what kind of stuff you’re made of! It is also a great way to form family memories of the most meaningful kind, and raise “typically developing” kids (can someone please find terms for all of our children that feel more like teddy bears than sharp stones???) that see the world more compassionately.
    I am so glad that you and Melissa found each other!

    • Thanks Out of Step…beautifully said. I appreciate your insight into the realities of special needs adoption. As I said, each story is so different than another. I love all the points you make; adult peer pressure, our typically developing children seeing the world more compassionately, but especially the part about our children feeling more like teddy bears than sharp stones! I’m glad Melissa is part of our lives as well! Much love ♥

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