The Anderson family shares their story about adopting a little girl with special needs.
by David Anderson
In talking with friends and co-workers, I sometimes have to catch myself, as I have a tendency to ramble on about our family’s story. So when my wife mentioned that Holt International was asking for family’s of special needs adoptees to submit their stories, I jumped at the chance.
In raising our children and watching them grow, I often find myself living in the now, with little reflection and pondering about pre-adoption times. Having two biological sons and a newly added daughter, our house is constantly bustling with energy. There’s hardly a time when we aren’t engaged in what the kids are doing to some degree. Each day brings something new, and with a daily addition of tomorrow’s memories, it’s rare to just sit back and consider all that went into getting us here. But when my wife and I were asked to meet with a group of prospective adoptive parents through Holt, their questions brought back a flood of memories and feelings.
After my wife and I established that we were going to fully pursue adoption, we next weighed whether or not special needs adoption was something that our family was willing to consider. It wasn’t long before we felt that a special needs adoption indeed was something that we were willing to put on the table. Upon this conclusion, I vividly remember my mood changing a bit. The idea of taking on a child with special needs is fairly easy when it’s simply a notion. It was still abstract to me. But as the idea became more concrete, I couldn’t help but visualize what our lives would look like. Would we be taking on a host of medical bills that we can’t afford? Would the time and energy needed to care for this child result in a negative effect on the children that we currently have? And while there was no way of knowing the answers to these questions with complete certainty, I found peace in believing that as long as we kept love as the central thread in our family, everything would work out.
I have to admit, perusing the pages of special needs children looking for homes was not something I enjoyed. I was riddled with guilt in deciding which one could fit our family, because I knew that every one of the beautiful faces I saw on that page needed a good home.
We came across a little girl from Korea. While the full extent of her disabilities were unknown, we decided that we would begin the process of applying to be her new family. Yes, we were biased, but we thought we had the perfect family, and that no matter what other families might also apply for her, we would obviously be chosen. Well, we were not. We were crushed and discouraged. We felt so certain that we were perfect for her.
A short time later, we were contacted about a little girl from Thailand that we thought might be “the one.” Her pictures revealed the fact that she was born with a cleft palate and lip. Although we tried not to invest and attach ourselves so deeply this time, it was pointless. When you think you could be looking at your daughter, you dissect everything. What she’s wearing. What’s going on in the background of the pictures. Every word written about her that was given to us.
Much like the birth of our boys, I’ll never forget the day when my wife told me that this little angel named, Sirithorn, was going to be ours. There were hugs and plenty of tears, but also a knowing that families often go months or even years being matched, but unable to have their kids. As time passed, and the updated pictures came in every few months, I always opened them with mixed emotions. I wanted desperately to see them, but as I clicked through them each time, the frustration built, as I hated the idea of having to miss more “firsts” with my little girl. I didn’t want to see her grow up in pictures. I wanted to pause time for her until we could go pick her up.
Finally, that wonderful notice came in. The pick-up date was established and on the calendar, and like I imagine all adoptive parents do, I built up this magical moment in my mind when I would see her for the first time and she would just come running into my arms.
Upon arriving in Thailand, we were brought into the room with the other families to see our new kids for the first time. For time sake, we’ll just say that it took some time for her to warm up to me. In fact, I was finally able to hold her without tears two weeks later when we were finally stateside and I was no longer the stranger in her life.
Things look so differently now. She’s the light of our life. Her spunk, energy, and amazingly beautiful smile fill our hearts every day. It’s probably cliche to say this, but in such a short time, it’s like she’s always been a part of our family. It just feels so natural to be Siri’s dad.
Our family will forever be indebted to the saints at Holt International and the regional branch in Holt Sahathai. From the preparation that they gave us prior to adoption, to the care that she was given through her foster family, Holt will always occupy a little place in our hearts. For those families considering adoption, and even further, a special needs adoption, I can say this: Whether you end up adopting a healthy child or a child with special needs, there are more commonalities than you might think. No adoption is without challenges to face and overcome. All children, biological or not, will have times of difficulty. Fortunately, there’s only one prerequisite to making a special needs adoption a successful one. Love. With it, there’s nothing that you can’t overcome. No stipulation or condition that will detract from your family’s joy. No greater opportunity to share that same blessing with a child who wants nothing more.