My journey with Lucy begins a little differently than the others. You see, I was never pregnant with Lucy. She’s our story of special needs adoption. I never expected to have a “typical” baby only to be surprised later on. I knew from the moment I learned of Lucy that she had Down syndrome. There was no surprise –well, about the Down syndrome.
One Friday in June, I was busy making lunch for my 6 (yes SIX) children, one boy and five girls. When the phone rang, I answered it like I would any other time, not knowing that this one phone call would change everything. There was a baby girl to be born in August. She was white, had Down syndrome, and was cleared of heart issues. Would I want to be considered as an adoption placement for this baby – oh, I must decide before Monday (termination date was set). I quickly answered yes to the woman on the phone and then hung up. I called my husband to tell him the news: we were having another baby – in just a few weeks! Imagine his surprise. I told him everything we knew about our potential daughter: female, white, DS, no heart condition. The phone went silent. Then there was a response, “So, are they sure the baby is a girl?”
Fast forward a few weeks to August. We get another phone call: our daughter had been born. It was late in the evening and birth mom sounded so tired. We agreed to come visit the next day around lunch to give her the extra rest that I could hear that she needed. The next day, we met our Lucy for the first time. What an odd moment. So much emotion in that room: happiness and joy of the new life, sadness and fear of the loss that was coming, confusion, exhaustion, and so much love towards a tiny 6 pound baby. Just two days later, we would stand in that very same room with about 15 other people and sign our names so many times. Just two days later, through our special needs adoption, that baby’s entire future would change. It was such a surreal and amazing moment.
I am now over six years into this journey of special needs adoption. We have had many hurdles: airway issues, failure to thrive, hearing loss, and Hashimotos. There are days when this journey is hard: those are the days when you realize what you’re made out of. While I can remember a few of the challenges, when I think of all of the amazing moments with Lucy, they far outweigh the challenges. I think of how hard it was for her to gain weight. She worked so hard to suck that she lost weight while eating. So, we needed a solution. I began mixing the formula thicker than the directions and used a cheap bottle I could squeeze. She didn’t work as hard to suck and learned how to swallow. Lucy began gaining weight.
It was the first time of many that I had to get creative with her. I think of rolling up towels and putting them behind her back in the high chair just so she would begin reaching – and she did. She began picking up Cheerios on her own. I think of Lucy’s love of Justin Timberlake and watching the video 100 times after her last surgery because it was the only thing that made her happy. I think about building parallel bars out of PVC to help Lucy learn to stand and eventually walk. Having a baby that presents unique challenges means you get creative. You get strong. You not only learn to survive, you learn to THRIVE with your new normal.
My entire family has only benefited from Lucy. Because of her special needs adoption, my children have learned a new level of compassion for others that simply cannot be taught without exposure. Our extended family has learned that Down syndrome is really not so scary and not so tough – especially when it comes in the form of an adorable little girl with strawberry blonde pigtails.
Many people will call us heroes or saints, but that simply isn’t the case. We aren’t heroes. We didn’t swoop in and save her from distress. The truth is, Lucy was born to wonderful people who simply weren’t in a position to meet her lifelong needs. We aren’t saints. I guarantee you, we lose our patience. We get frustrated. We sometimes raise our voices at Lucy or the other children. We apologize and try to do better.
The journey of adoption, especially special needs adoption, is highly rewarding. We love working with Lucy and watching her make progress. We love watching our other children interact with Lucy and cheer her on. I especially love watching our toddler with Lucy. She sees nothing more than a fantastic big sister and playmate. She doesn’t see the Down syndrome at all! The joys of loving and caring for Lucy have far outweighed the challenges. In fact, we loved taking the journey of special needs adoption so much, that we chose to take the journey a second time, but that’s a story for a different day.