By Jennifer Markham
Almost two years ago my husband and I began our journey to adopt a special needs child from China. Our first step was to complete something known as the “medical checklist.” This form consists of all the possible struggles and medical problems your child might have and you must select all the conditions you feel you are open to or able to handle. Truthfully, this form sucks. No mother wants her child to have any health issues or complications and really who ever feels prepared for medical problems when they hit? So as we prayed and prayed about the daughter God desired for us, we felt lead to mark: deafness, limb difference, cleft lip/palate, and minor heart conditions. And we began our official wait for our daughter.
It was amazing how marking these items on a form changed my perspective and eventually began the work of preparing my heart. I would notice kiddos with differences at the park. Ride bikes with my kids and think, “will my daughter be able to do this with ease?” I cried through the credits of a “Dolphin Tale” when the sweet kids with limb difference met Winter, the dolphin, for the first time. And the list goes on and on of small moments where God began to bring me deeper into the needs of my child beyond her need for a family.
My heart began to break and I began to grieve for a child I have never seen or met. I began to grieve her abandonment based on her need in a culture where it’s not acceptable to be different, grieve how people in our own country view kids with special needs, and grieve for what she may or may not be able to do because of her condition. I cried out to God and asked Him to help me know how to answer hard questions and how to parent a little one I feel so inadequate to parent. As God always does, he drew near to me one Sunday morning and gave me the peace and understanding I needed for that moment. The strength of purpose I needed to keep pressing on into the hard places where he was calling me to press. The teaching came from Psalm 139:13-16,
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb,
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in the secret,
Intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,
The days that were formed for me, when yet there was none of them.”
There it was; the answers to so many of my questions. My child was valuable. That was why God called me to special needs adoption. Not long after this sermon, I had another “ah-ha” moment when I was chatting with my husband. I was asking him if he thought that people in heaven will have limb difference, deafness, or cerebral palsy. However, before he could even answer, it hit me that I was using the world’s standard of health and perfection for what is meant to be based on God’s standard. Who was I to think that having ten fingers or toes made someone complete…?! Ouch. I needed a new perspective and God was good and gave me one. I needed to see that God does not make mistakes, He is intentional and He is good in ALL of his work. I just may not always understand. It reminds me of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, when Mr. Beaver tells the kids that Aslan (God) is not a tame lion but he is good.
At the end of May, we got “the call!” In adoption world, that means we were matched with our daughter and received a phone call to tell us we were matched. When she said our daughter had limb difference, Bilateral cleft hands and feet (missing 3 fingers and 3 toes) to be exact, I felt total peace. It was kind of like when everyone I knew told me I was pregnant with a boy and I just knew I was having a girl and it was a girl. I felt like God had put my daughter’s condition on my heart and that is exactly who he gave me.
My little girl is two years old. She can feed herself and walk really well. And now I grieve for the time in her life that I have lost; all the “firsts” that I never got to see or to share with her. But I know that just as my relationship with God is filled with so many ups and downs so is adoption and so is parenting in general. My daughter lost her birth parents because of her condition, but I get to be her mother because of the same condition. Beauty from ashes.
In my heart I have become my daughters advocate (though I have not yet held her in my arms). I have discovered other moms with kiddos like my daughter, beautifully and wonderfully made missing a few digits. I have discovered dolls that have limb differences, and have read a ton of blogs regarding helping her grow strong and healthy. All of this is so important, but I have also discovered a new part of myself. One who is no longer afraid of differences, which sees beauty in the differences, and a good God who knows what He is doing.
She is fearfully and wonderfully made, I KNOW that FULL well.