The Gift of Special Needs

The first 15 years of our married life, my husband was a pediatric physical therapist.

He began his career at a small clinic on the north side of Chicago working for kids with special needs. His ease with kids was one of the things that made him good at his job. It was also one of the things that first attracted me to him.

Long before we had kids of our own, I remember a moment in our small Chicago apartment. He was telling me about a child he was working with who had cerebral palsy. His passion for his job and his love for his client was evident as he relayed some of the day’s experiences. It was hard not to share his enthusiasm.

“You know,” he continued. “I sometimes wonder if we might have kids with cerebral palsy someday.”

Wait, what?

As noble as that sounded, the idea did not fit with my dream for our someday family and, I’m pretty sure I let him know it.

Fast forward 8 years and add four kids.

We began to feel the pull to expand our family through adoption. We had always thought that adoption would be a part of our story. We had friends who’d adopted. We’d had the opportunity to visit orphanages on mission trips. All these things had given us the desire. However, we were never sure about the when.

There were no fireworks or out-of-the-blue signs telling us to begin the process. Soon after the birth of our fourth child, we simply moved forward. We decided to pursue the adoption of a girl from China. I can’t give you a specific reason why we chose China, other than it felt right.

Once the decision was made, it didn’t take long before we found an agency we loved, began the fundraising process (with the help of Lifesong), filled out the mountain of paperwork, and found ourselves on a wait list for a healthy baby or pre-school aged girl.

A small change in plans

The wait was long for a healthy baby girl but was much shorter for a child with special needs. Clearly adopting a child with special needs is not a decision you make simply to shorten your wait time. But, God used this detail as one more step in opening my heart to the idea.

I had been exposed to so many amazing kids through my husband’s work. And, the fact that he knew so much about available resources, treatment, and therapy brought comfort. Ultimately, I felt God’s nudge that this was the way to go.

We began to pray more seriously about what kinds of special needs we felt equipped to handle. A month or so later, we filled out a medical checklist and submitted it to our agency. It was a scary step for me, but I felt God’s peace as we moved forward.

Suhn's Gotcha Day

A little over a year after we filled out that checklist, we arrived in China to adopt and bring home our daughter. Suhn was a beautiful 2.5-year-old girl who had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Two and a half years after that, we found ourselves in China again. This time we went to bring home our son. Zak was a 4.5-year-old boy, also diagnosed with cerebral palsy. (Zak’s adoption came as a surprise to us. It is a story I love to share, but will save for another post.)

The gift of special needs

My family does not look like I dreamed it would when we were first married. I can’t help but laugh at that conversation years ago that so strongly foreshadowed what it would become. It has not been an easy road. Adoption is not easy. Special needs adoption is definitely not easy. We currently have decisions approaching for our kids that feel overwhelming and daunting.

But, in the midst of the hard and uncomfortable, Suhn and Zak have blessed us beyond measure. Their determination in the face of obstacles is inspiring. The people who surround them to help them overcome those obstacles have enriched our lives in big and small ways. We have been gifted amazing kids! It is hard; in my humanness, I sometimes wish for easy. But, I am so thankful for the struggle and joy special needs adoption has brought to our family.

Megan is a mom to six. She is also an avid reader.


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