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Adoption Stories: Adopting a Special Needs Child

Adopting a special needs child.

Adoption is not something I thought I would ever do. I didn’t think about it much because it seemed like something only infertile couples did. To be honest, I felt a little sorry for adopted kids. It seemed like every media portrayal of adopted kids was negative, and I didn’t know any in real life.

When I went to graduate school in North Carolina, I stumbled upon a huge adoption advocacy community. I met several couples who dreamed of adopting or were already in the process. At church I heard sermons being preached about the importance of caring for orphans. I read books about adoption and learned about its beauty.

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My husband and I have often discussed the possibility of adding to our family through adoption. At this point, I don’t think it’s the path we will walk down, but I still love seeing families being completed by this special act.

Over the past few years I have really questioned myself on what my dream was as a mother. Did my happiness and expectations hinge on what accomplishments my son could do—or was it in delighting in who he was and how he was made?

I met Rebekah during our time in North Carolina. She and her husband started the adoption process and she kept a blog so we could all be updated on the details. I loved having this inside view on their journey. She kept it real and shared the joy and difficulties in adoption. One difficulty that they encountered after years of waiting to bring home their son from Ethiopia was dealing with his developmental delays. They went from doctor to doctor trying to get a diagnosis for their son. They finally received a diagnosis—Israel has cerebral palsy. Below, Rebekah shares a little bit about their journey:

Hi, I’m Rebekah, and my 3 ½-year-old son has cerebral palsy. It’s still a little weird to write that with such finality, but it is a truth that has taken years to be realized. We adopted our son Israel from Ethiopia when he was 7 months old. We expected him to have some developmental delays because he had been institutionalized for his first months, and we knew that minimal stimulation would affect him. The first few months when he was home, it was hard not to compare him to other kids when he wasn’t reaching “normal” milestones. Sometimes I was bitter at the moms who would post pictures or videos of their advanced children—doing normal activities that my son wasn’t doing.

At 14 months old, Israel began the journey of finding a diagnosis. We saw many specialists, he was poked and prodded and scanned. I cried, researched, asked questions and had my doubts. It was when he was almost 3 years old that we finally had the piece of paper that said “cerebral palsy” and the journey in those months was one that shaped me as a mom and person. Over the past few years I have really questioned myself on what my dream was as a mother. Did my happiness and expectations hinge on what accomplishments my son could do—or was it in delighting in who he was and how he was made? I’m happy to say that this journey—although filled with highs and lows—is one that I’m glad to be on. I’m in a unique club of special needs moms. I’ve got tougher skin and a firm attitude that says I’m ready to fight for my son. I didn’t know when I first met my son exactly how I was going to have to be his advocate and cheerleader, but that’s part of the beauty of our story. My son teaches me every day what it means to be resilient and how to persevere. He has taught me how to celebrate small victories and to fight for the underdog. My son has taught me that labels do not change love, and that diagnoses are not barriers. He’s going to have a good, full life, and I can’t wait to see how his story impacts those around him.

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I love hearing Israel’s story. I think a lot of people fear adoption because of all the unknowns. We have no control over this child’s beginning and many children endure traumatic events that can affect them for a lifetime. Adopting a child means taking on all those unknowns. In the same way, though, there are unknowns even when carrying a child in your own womb. At the end of the day, our children deserve all the love and fight we can give them. We are their greatest advocates and when we fight for them, they can thrive.

Image via Rebekah McGee

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