(I chose this snapshot to illustrate this post, not because it's the best picture of her, but because in it I am touching her face while she is touching mine, as I snap the photo. Just one of those moments.)
I have not been writing a great deal lately, though I think I've been doing an OK job of keeping the photos coming. I haven't been writing, not because I don't have anything to say, but just because time moves so quickly when a child is this age. If you blink you're likely to miss some crucial moment that you'll never get back again. Every day, every hour, every minute brings some new step, some new revelation, something wonderful that needs to be soaked up. Right now, I'm writing after I've put her to bed...but often that time is reserved for other very necessary things that I don't have time to do during her waking hours. Or, you know, for sleep, which is also pretty essential, at least to our sanity as a family unit.
The thing is, I need to soak up every second of her these days. It's not just a duty, it's an addiction. She goes to my head. She sometimes makes me a little tipsy. I forget about all sorts of things that I would normally try or need to fit into my days, because it's such a pleasure just to be with her. It's goofy, but I could literally just sit about five inches from her nose and stare at her face for hours at a time and be perfectly happy.
...which leads me to another issue that I need to address: I have heard many an adoptive mom criticize (quite rightly) those blogs that only talk about the "rainbows and kittens" side of adoptive parenting, and fail to acknowledge the nitty-gritty, the tough parts, the depression, the problems. This is such a good point, and I specifically made a point of posting about my own PAD when we got home from China. As it happened (lucky for me) as panicky as it felt at the time, it was very brief. Very, very brief, in the scheme of things. And it has never come back.
Now, we have moved on to other, less esoteric problems...things like developmental delays, when to seek therapy, what the next surgery will be, when she will start acting out, when to worry about her speech....etc, etc, etc.
So, yes. I want to address the more difficult parts. But here's the thing...
There hardly seem to be any. We are walking on clouds. We're in love. Talk to us immediately after QQ's next surgery in March, when we're sleep-deprived and getting up to give her meds every few hours, and maybe we'll be a bit less sunny. But in all honesty, we are happy as clams around here, all three of us.
OK, if you talked to our parents, you might get a different story. They are the ones who hear alarming things about therapy and surgery, and get concerned. For us, this has been a cakewalk. And I was recently party to a scene that helped me to understand why...
We had to book our Cleft clinic, in which we were to meet with all the numerous surgeons and specialist that QQ will need throughout her early life, months ahead of time. The clinics are booked up very far out, and since her first surgery came only three months after we brought her home, we were not able to attend a clinic before diving into surgery. This being the case, I'd allowed myself that time before our cleft clinic to just "be" with her...not worry about her progress or her delays, just get to know her, enjoy the time, and let her adapt to her new family and environment. This seemed like a very sane way to proceed, and I'm glad I did it.
When we did get to the clinic, as it happened, we were the only adoptive parents in the group. All the other parents were birth parents whose children were born with cleft or jaw conditions. And it was strange, because we came into the meeting like were attending a party - delighted and happy to be taking this next step in QQ's process - while all the other parents seemed just a bit shell-shocked still. What we realized was how different our experience was from the experience that birth parents have in this country. Most people in the US have never seen a cleft firsthand, and think that it just doesn't happen here. In fact, it isn't all that uncommon. Nearly every time we take QQ out in public, we meet someone who has a relative who was born with a cleft. The fact is that it is still concealed here in the US when it happens, and that the surgery is so advanced that people are able to conceal it. So most people are unaware that children are born with clefts right here in the US, and not just in other countries.
The families we met had been blindsided by the birth of a child with a cleft condition. They were unprepared and uneducated. To them, it seemed like a shock, a misfortune, and a burden, sometimes even a shame. They spoke of their depression and their mental struggles, of "hiding out" for the first months of the child's life in preference to admitting to the world that they had given birth to a child with a condition.
As adoptive parents, we had the luxury of choosing the condition, and of educating ourselves very thoroughly ahead of time. Very little of it came as any sort of a surprise to us. So when we brought our daughter home, we felt incredibly fortunate. The eighteen-plus years of surgeries and therapy felt like a very small price to pay for the privilege of raising this wonderful child.
If this blog sounds overly lighthearted and happy, it's because that's our perspective. Yes, it has changed our lives. We have to make time for surgeries and speech therapy. We know that these things will go on for many, many years. And no, it's not easy dealing with the recovery period after a surgery. You lose sleep. You feel pain for your child's pain. You cry. You are exhausted. But as soon as that recovery is done, you forget about it, as does your child. Life goes back to "normal". You don't worry about "the next time", because, once again, it feels like such a meager price to pay for the joy that she imparts to you every minute of every day.
Is it difficult to raise a child with "special needs"? Well... I guess. Yes, there are extra financial burdens and extra time-budgeting required. But actually, I'd have to say "no".
I do not think of QQ as a "special needs" child. I just don't. I am thoroughly educated in what she will need. But I think every child needs something "extra". If it weren't the surgery, if it weren't the speech therapy, it would be something else (aggression? rebellion? depression? dyslexia? ADD? No child is perfect.)
So, if I seem a bit too happy, if our world seems too bright and shiny, it's not because I'm concealing the difficult issues. It's because she really does make us just that happy and shiny. Sure, we've got hurdles to surmount. But those hurdles pale in comparison to the vast, enormous, incredible joy that this child adds to our life every minute of every day of the year.