adoption · Down syndrome · special needs parenting

The Next Step in Pro-Life

This weekend marks the 45th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion nationally. I am not even going to attempt to discuss the law, rather, I’d like to examine the next step.

What happens after birth?

What happens when children are born with disabilities, and in an instant a parent becomes a caregiver?

What happens when a parent gets addicted to opioids or dies of an overdose?

What happens when parents hurt their children because of human frailty, or neglect, or substance abuse?

What happens when children have enormous medical challenges?

What about services and support for people living with mental illness?

And so much more.

Wouldn’t robust support of families caring for children with exceptional needs be pro-life? Would women be less likely to terminate a pregnancy with a child who has a prenatal diagnosis of disability if they knew that access to everything their child would need to thrive would be available and affordable?

Wouldn’t it be pro-life to fund research and resolution for opioid addition? And while we’re at it, there are record numbers of children in foster care at present, in large part related to opioid addition, being a foster parent is, in my humble opinion, the most stunningly beautiful example of pro-life imaginable.

Do you get what I’m saying here?

There are dozens of ways to embody a full-circle, lifelong pro-life stance without even bringing abortion into the conversation.

But it’s hard.

It’s easy to talk about changing a single law, and to carefully hand select politicians who have a certain box checked on their platform. But if that’s your stance, can you answer what should happen after the children are born?

Adoption.

But wait, is it right to separate a child from their ancestry for life? Biology is enormously important, and while infant adoption is sometimes necessary, far too often it’s a lifelong solution to a short term problem when better solutions for both the child and parents are available.

I don’t claim to have answers, in fact, it’s the questions that overwhelm me.

But as a person who has spent my adult life focused on the children who are already born, the ones with disabilities, the ones whose parents are addicted, the ones who have been orphaned, the ones with mental illness, the ones with so little support. I have come to believe that if everyone who made sure that they voted for the pro-life candidate took a step or two to care for the children once they’re born that it would transform everything. We have the ability and the obligation to fill in those vast gaps for the children who are already born.

adoption · Uncategorized

5 Things I Think You Should Know About Adoption

Oh man, it’s Adoption Awareness Month. I had no plans of writing about adoption, but then I realized that there are things that I do wish more people understood about it, so I invite you to sit down with me, maybe grab a cup of tea, and consider this:

  1. I have a legal certificate that says that I gave birth to my adopted child. Now mind you, he was born in a different state, I had no knowledge of any of it until over a week later, yet our government sees fit to create false documentation that lists my husband and I as parents…saying that I gave birth in a hospital I have never set foot in, in another state with a doctor I have never seen. I was alarmed when I first saw this, and still am today.
  2. An adopted person’s original birth certificate, the one that lists the mother who did give birth and the biological father, is permanently sealed in 44/50 states in the United States. That means that an adopted person will never be able to access the truth about their birth in those states.
  3. I am often called a saint for adopting a child with special needs. Please understand that I simply wanted another child. In fact I coveted another child. Because of the makeup of our family, we decided that adopting a child with Down syndrome would be a good fit, but the bottom line is that I was desperate to have one more child, and adoption was the method we decided upon. The reasons were convoluted, but fulfilling the desire of my heart was in no way saintly. In fact I was pushy, determined and tunnel visioned in my desire to adopt a child. Coveting will do that to a person.
  4. Speaking of that, I don’t for a second believe that God chose me to be Ben’s mom. For that to be true, God would have planned for another woman to conceive, carry and deliver a baby and for them to be torn apart for life in order for me to be that baby’s mom. I have no desire to believe in a God who would authorize a lifelong separation between parents and their child in order to hand pick a certain mom for a child. If this confuses you, this is a brief article that explains a theory that people remember losing their biological mother in a very real way for life after adoption. Why on earth would God do that? It probably sounds like a quaint notion until you dig in and think about it, which is exactly what I’m suggesting you do.
  5. Don’t assume you know anything about an adoptee’s biological parents. Stereotypes do everyone a disservice, including you.

This post is simply to get you thinking. Twelve years ago I had many preconceived notions about adoption, many of them have been challenged and examined over and over in that time. If something in this post makes you uncomfortable, please know that is has made me uncomfortable too, and that’s why I think it needs said.

adoption · autism · cancer · Down syndrome · special needs parenting

Welcome to Holland? Or Welcome To The Amazon…

 

There’s a popular poem about the experience of parenting a child with a disability called “Welcome to Holland“.  It was an apt description of how I felt when we found out and processed the fact that Alex has Down syndrome.  However, I find it lacking for the more significant disability Ben has, so here is my own analogy:

When you walk through the woods near your home, you’re exploring. It’s fun, interesting, and exciting. While doing such things I have come across snakes (the Eastern Hognose variety), raccoons, unknown dogs (one who attacked my dog and me) and occasionally people I don’t know. Doing that exposes me to more variety and slightly elevates my danger from that of staying at home.  It’s a good, wholesome, fun, enjoyable, and completely normal thing to do.

That’s what having a typical child has been like for me.

When I visited Arizona I went for a run on a public property near the home of my in laws. There were cacti all over the place, and I made mental notes that snakes that I might encounter would be of a venomous type, and that even such things as ants, which in Michigan are fairly benign, could cause me real grief.  It was a bit more nerve wracking, a bit more exciting, and overall a great experience.  I recognized that I was outside of my comfort zone, but it was within a reasonable proximity of normal, and it was more of a mindset change than anything else.

That has been my experience parenting a child with Down syndrome. We took normal and kicked it up a notch.

The territory we unknowingly entered with Ben is more akin to an equatorial jungle. The vegetation is so dense that making headway is arduous, slow, daunting and barely manageable. The variety of the flora and fauna is stunning.  And terrifying.  It’s crucial to remain focused and attentive every second, even sleep is a luxury during which a certain vigilance must be maintained.  Specialized equipment is necessary to survive. Dangers lurk on every branch, flying, crawling, swimming.  A brief break from watchfulness could land you in a life or death situation.  It’s incredible it’s not for the faint of heart; only small populations live there, and tourists are few and far between.

This is life parenting a child with complex medical, developmental and mental health needs. It’s life on the edge.

We’re a highly specialized bunch, it’s adapt or die here, and adapt we do.  We develop skills and equipment to manage our extreme environment, always looking for the next breakthrough. We’re capable and savvy, though a bit more fierce than most civilized populations.

In the welcome to Holland poem, the comparison is Italy to Holland, but if you were planning a trip to Italy, imagine how woefully unprepared you would be in the jungle.  Even for us, planning another trip to Arizona, would be completely lacking in equipment and skills for the actual journey we’re on.

That’s where this analogy differs from the Holland analogy.  This isn’t a trip that we’re fairly well prepared for, this is being dropped into a place where we don’t have the knowledge, skillset or equipment to survive, we have to ad lib the whole thing; our only skillset is improvisation and the will to survive.

The most implausible part of it all is that we actually succeed at it; by sheer determination, fueled by passion and love.