People make funny comments to me all the time these days. Between four kids, usually by myself, and one of them looking a tiny bit different, we usually draw attention.
I laugh most of them off. Few, if any leave me simmering on the comment for days.
But recently, I had one.
I was at the pool with my crew and three other kids I was watching. Those kids were also adopted from China and had more visible special needs than my daughters. Our pool wasn’t too packed and when one friend left I moved over to chat and say hi to a new acquaintance. After pleasantries I confirmed that yes, they were ALL with me, to which she responded “oh, because China special needs is your world now”. To which I responded, “I guess, but really a friend just needed help”.
Now let me say, I know this lady did not mean anything offensive at all. She is sweet as can be, but maybe hasn’t seen quite as much of the world as I have. So I WAS NOT mad or hurt by her. More befuddled.
Because on one hand, NO China special needs are not my world. I have three biological kids (and OF COURSE an adopted one) who take up most of my world with their wants and needs and practice and schedules and laundry and always hungry tummies. My world is renovation and playing admin in volunteer roles and sometimes for my husband, and for my house. My world is schedules and football, and swimming, and tryouts. Errands and groceries and cleaning and LAUNDRY, and maybe hopefully unpacking the last of the boxes. Tantrums, and arguments, and tickles and giggles. And desperately trying to love well in the in between. That’s like 97.3% of my life.
But then there’s this other part that has SEEN the insides of orphanages. That will never forget the room filled with SO MANY babies, some still crying, and some gone silent because they learned their cries don’t do anything. There’s the stories I’ve heard about the types of torture used on children that will forever solidify the existence of evil in the world in my mind. There’s the families I know that have risked everything on hope and love all to have their arms empty a few months later. Every morning there’s another family to pray for and cheer on in the hurdles they are facing in adoption. And there’s this beautiful amazing girl that has my heart that walks around my home like she owns it (because she basically does) who is a constant reminder both of hope and grace and love, but also of SO MANY OTHERS.
I am part of the adoption world, but sometimes I don’t feel like I quite fit in. My daughter has a complex heart defect, but she had two surgeries in China (we were open to non-repaired CHD as severe as they get), and while we weren’t quite sure how solid the intel was, and we knew that surgery might have to happen soon after we got home, it didn’t. Nor is it happening in the near future. And when it’s time, it will be big and scary (because it is), but she will be expected to come through it, and live an almost completely normal life after. When it comes to special need mamas, I’m basically rookie level.
Not to mention, I’ve only adopted one. Most of the “real” adoptive moms have headed back a second, third or even more times. They can speak with expert insight, because they are the experts in the field.
I don’t plan on heading back to China for another kid. While in some ways that would have been easy to do, I know for us, and for our kids, for right now, it’s not the best thing. We feel that very clearly. We also feel very clearly to stay informed, and alert. To advocate and support. To help fundraise and contribute to auctions and give what we can to families in need. We want to help fund surgeries, and buy a piece of the puzzle. We’ll do just about everything but buy the danged t-shirt. (we don’t wear t-shirts, and I’d rather give you the $10 profit and save your work). We will contact our governors and senators and sound the rally cry with other adoptive and foster families.
China special needs is not my world. But my world has very much been affected by China special needs.
I live in the in-between. A foot in both worlds. And often that’s hard, because it means you don’t really fit in either. And I don’t. By and large I am ok with that, but every once in awhile (like at the pool) it stings a bit. But as I processed that comment over the next few days, I realized I’m exactly where I need to be. Especially in light of China’s recent changes to adoption laws.
I’m glad my world isn’t all China special needs. I am regularly around very normal people who need to hear what an orphanage looks like, who need to see how normal special needs can be, to see our amazing family and know interracial adoption doesn’t have to look “weird”. Because my world isn’t consumed by the adoption world, I have more space to be an advocate and voice for orphans and special needs in the regular world, my regular world where I spend the 97.3% of my life. And more than ever, we need new families to step up and share their love with a child who doesn’t have anyone to love them. Countries are making it harder to adopt internationally (particularly for larger families), and foster care numbers are higher than ever.
I will gladly take my spot living in the in-between, and hopefully help a few more join me.