Why are you adopting?
We have gotten that question several times in the last 3 or 4 months. We have heard it from our social worker conducting our home study, we have heard it from friends, coworkers, strangers...why are you adopting when it is obvious you can have your own biological children?
Well, I didnt know it was a rule that you couldnt adopt because you can procreate your own children. I could grow my fruits and veggies too.
I guess it was a shock for a lot of people that are close to us, friends and family and such, because we had never talked with them about adoption. And I guess to those family and friends it seemed much like we had lost our mind and we were jumping into the deep end of the pool that had been cemented over last winter.
Our decision to adopt came about 2 to 2.5 years ago. So, if you do the math, you will see that was shortly after the birth of our first born, Kai. We had Kai and were christened into the world of Down syndrome. It was a scary place at first, full of unknowns and what ifs and it felt like a journey we were on all on our own. I mean its not like our Big Splash into Parenthood was all bells and whistles, balloons and confetti...dont get me wrong, it was a wonderful day, a day we celebrated, but it was full of trepidation. Will he breath OK? Will he eat? Will he go to level 2 or level 3? How bad is his heart? How long will he have to stay in the hospital? I was terrified to have him, only because I knew he was safe and sound inside of me and I had no idea what the future held for my son when he entered this world.
Well, didnt he surprise us all? Came out screaming with his strawberry blonde hair glowing against his angry red skin...he was absolutely beautiful. Absolutely healthy. Absolutely everything we could have wished for. Things went fairly typical or normal for what you would expect with a newborn. We did have that slight hiccup of his 9 hour open heart surgery at 10 weeks old, but all in all, a total of 12 days pre and post op, wasnt too shabby for our little man.
Then the milestones starting coming. Slow but sure. And we were so so so proud of each and every one of them. Our journey into the world of Down syndrome wasnt so bad and scary after all, it was actually pretty awesome. Along the way, I had begun to hear of a website called Reece's Rainbow. Reece's Rainbow is a place where you go and you can find pages and pages of babies and toddlers and even bigger kids that are for adoption, from over in Eastern Europe and China. Reece's Rainbow had started with only children that had Down syndrome but has since spread its rainbow to encompass all sorts of children: children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, HIV+ children, CP, and every other conceivable anomaly you might think of.
So, I heard of this site. I ventured to it. Only once. What I saw broke my heart. So many babies. So many children. I talked to Cam later that night about all I had seen. We talked for a long while. We decided that one day we would adopt a child from Reece's Rainbow, one who had Down syndrome. But until we were ready to do so, I would not be going back to website.
Of course we planned and figured it would be much much further down the road than NOW...but like much of life, you dont always get what you plan for. The night I received and opened the email from my nettie BFF, Christie, was the night that was meant for us to begin the adoption process. Just like we didnt choose for Kai to have Down syndrome or Lilah to have a Diva disposition, we didnt choose Peter. Peter chose us. He has been waiting for us for 4 long years. Waiting patiently and without complaint. As soon as I laid eyes on his beautiful face, I knew he was our son.
So now you know they why and the when, but maybe you are questioning the How? As in HOW we are going about this adoption process. Maybe you have seen the fundraisers and the posts asking for donations. And you are asking yourselves, if you cannot afford to adopt this boy, then why do you expect strangers to foot the bill? Look, before I got enmeshed into the world of adoption, specifically International Adoptions, I would see the endless posts and not even really know what people were posting about and why they wanted money. Let me break it down. Every child on Reece's Rainbow has an Adoption Grant. Their grant starts at ZERO. People, many people, I have come to learn, fundraise for these children. And these are not people that are even looking to adopt these children, they are just trying to help out families. Most of the children they are fundraising for do not even have families yet. But by filling a child's grant, it makes the reality of their adoption more feasible for a family. They tell you that you dont have to be rich to adopt, and you dont...after you get passed the initial $24,000 out of pocket.
You will be pretty hard pressed to find many, if any, families in these economic times that have 24K sitting around just waiting for an adoption. And families or people that do have that kind of money, I dont think are lining the cyber hallways of Reece's to adopt 'disabled' children from across the world. Maybe that is me making a stereotype...gasp...that I should stoop to do that, but there it is.
Yes, we could save up the funds and then pursue our adoption. We very well could do that. But, between the ages of 4-5, these children in these faraway lands, are sent to adult mental institutions...so you see, we dont really have that kind of time. I guess had we approached this adoption like we intended, sometime down the road, maybe with the money in hand, and then scoured Reece's Rainbow for our child then we wouldnt have to fundraise. We also wouldnt have Peter. Peter would be long gone by then, and not to some other family's home. Peter would have been one of the lost. Our time to adopt is now. We are fortunate that we had one of those fabulous women/mommies fundraise for Peter just as we found him. That wonderful woman raised $15,347 for Peter in 10 days. She simply has the Midas touch and I would be foolish to think I could raise money like her, but Im doing my best.
And in our fundraising effort, we are also achieving something else...something that is one of my all time favorite things to do. We are spreading awareness for Down syndrome. Maybe not in my typical fashion of helping new mommies and daddies, or the Buddy Walk or the countless other things we do to raise awareness...but we are spreading a special type of awareness. Awareness of something I didnt even know existed. I had no idea that hundreds upon hundreds of these children were tossed aside every single year in these faraway lands because their society deems them unacceptable. Just tossed into these overrun orphanages, or baby houses, some better than others, but all kept very secretive, so you really have no idea what the conditions are where your child is, and may never know.
And from that I get the questions, why are you adopting from over there? Why arent you adopting from here? Well folks, Id love to, but the truth of the matter is there is a 3 year waiting list here in the US to adopt a child with DS. And in my eyes, a child is a child, whether they were born here or halfway across the world. An unwanted child should have no eye of prejudice turned towards him from where he came, he certainly did not choose his parents or to be born in a country where he will be locked away for the rest of his life like he was some criminal. Who cares where my son comes from?
And what they do over there with those children is really terrible. And as Americans we will judge. We would never do that. Nope, not us. For the most part when a family is blessed with one of these surprise bundles of joy, they put on their big girl panties and trudge forward, and then they slowly realize the joy and pure luck of having a child with Down syndrome.
Nope. We dont toss them away here. No, instead we have tests. Lots and lots of tests. Not everyone has them, mind you, hence the surprise bundles of joy mentioned above. I had them. I cant even tell you why I had them. Just because I assumed thats what you did when you were pregnant. I had those tests. Those tests told me that my baby had a 1:5 chance of having Down syndrome and 1:68 chance of having Trisomy 18. But those are just odds and chances. So, we took it one step further, we needed to know. So 9 days later we knew. We knew we were having a boy. And we knew that boy would have Down syndrome. So our plans for our child took a 180 and right then and there started the specialist appointments and research on the internet and finding support groups. How many babies do you know that have a cardiologist before they are born??
But, we are a minority. In fact, I have a number for what we are. We are 1 in 10. I know, lots of numbers. Think of how we felt. 1 in this and 1 in that. I was so sick of numbers by the time he got here. But I think that 1 in 10 is very important. Sounds like a low number, doesnt it? It is a sadly low number. 10%.
Out of every 10 prenatal diagnoses, meaning the parents knew their unborn child had Down syndrome, 9 of them terminate their pregnancies and ONE will keep that baby. 90% terminate. 10% continue with the knowledge that their child will have Down syndrome. So no, we do not throw our children away in orphanages here in the US.
What does that make me? A martyr? No. It makes me a person who goes and does differently what most of society would do...and if you have known me for any length of time, you know thats just what I do. I just see and do things differently, or a better way to explain it, I do things as I see fit, as I deem right and often times that isnt what the rest of the world is doing.
So, before we get all high and mighty and disgusted with what people are doing half a world away, lets not forget what is happening in our own backyards. I advocate for ALL children with Down syndrome, no matter how they got here or where they are. They all deserve a loving home. They all deserve a light upon them, whether they are in the here and now, or merely what couldve been. And just think of that 3 year waiting list here in America of people waiting to adopt a child with Down syndrome and those 90% that are terminated. Seems kind of obvious doesnt it?
Im not here to tout pro choice or pro life, Im just stating the facts as they are. People dont like to hear the facts, especially if they arent pretty, and thats ok. In my lifetime, if I only change one person's mind, save one child, then I have done my job. I have accomplished what I have set out to do. It all has a snowballing effect and it only takes one snowball.