Tuesday, September 20, 2016

We are Speechless

When I wrote my post on Loving a Child Who Cannot Speak I had just exited a really, truly traumatizing week of placing our daughter in a local Kindergarten class and when I need to vent and process I write. So, I wrote. 

And maybe it was because the new tv show Speechless landed on the same week. I don't know. But the post blew up. Ya'll I'm just a regular, every day person, introverted and content in my little life. So when I checked my post stats, which I rarely even do,  I ran down to my husband and said "I'm bad at math. Is this really saying over 400,000 views? Maybe Blogger messed up its stats."

And then I went...

"Wait. People read my story? People outside of my little adoption community? Crap. Now everyone knows my struggles. Did someone comment 'Blimey'? They're not from the U.S!
What have I done???"

It's all good. I ended up laughing and answering over one hundred comments and emails and feeling a whole lot more normal in my every day life, a lot less alone. All of you helped me feel like one of you. Thank you for reaching out to me. I found a community of moms who knows exactly what my pain feels like. You empowered me to use my voice.

So  I processed all week long. What should I do? Because I'm that girl who still dreams of this world changing. What if my voice can help change it?

How about a weekly post on living the "Speechless" life? Feel free to join me. Let's tell the world how this is. This is our life and being silent and hiding doesn't really change the world. Anyone want to spark a change with me? 

Let's do this!

Here we go:
I had so many lovely people offer advice for our family. I appreciate it and I am researching many things that were mentioned to me. The thing is, we are still learning about our sweet daughter. We have not had the honor of being her mom and dad since her birth. She has been with us a short period of her life. Much trauma, abuse and neglect have marked her life. Please don't believe we are not trying to help her find a voice, a way to communicate. We are coming from behind and working to catch up. In fact, when we were given the privilege of becoming her parents we did not have all the facts. We did not know she could not talk until the moment she literally collapsed in our arms and we were left trying to figure out what was going on. We had 24 hours to give her back or move forward. I wrote about those hours for the blog No Hands But Ours. It has taken us a while to realize that she in fact is nonverbal. 

To those of you who have walked this road I know you get this. It takes time for a parent to come to grips with reality. We hope for so long, we try so many things before the grief sets in and we release our dreams and fight for new dreams. It's a process and I choose to give myself grace for the time it took us to come around and see that our sweet girl is not talking. 

Now we are looking for ways to help her communicate. We tried sign language and while we haven't 100% given up on that we have realized she is telling us "no" to that method at this point in time. We are working with the school on finding a device that works for her. It's a layered complication because she has multiple impairments, not the least of which is being blind. Many devices require vision. Like in the show Speechless, many have the options of screens and choosing words. At this point, we don't have that. But we aren't quitting. We will find the one thing that she chooses for her communication. We won't stop until she can communicate her needs to us. So, I ask for your grace and understanding while we figure this out. 

In the show Maya is a great depiction of what all of us become as parents of kids with special needs. Sure, it's exaggerated for tv and entertainment. Ahem, but maybe not by much. Her crash course in human dignity may or may not have resembled something I just said the other day. "Isn't it basic humanity to know not to place a young child in an 'extended time out' for hours of her day? Or to use a room that is not ventilated like the General Education rooms or air conditioned for that time out?" 

Schools may have lawyers and loopholes. 
My daughter has me. 

Humans take note: 
Dignity and common sense can go a long way. 

Every day we wake up and we go to battle for our rights, for her rights. 

Do you realize how that sounds? Your rights are given to you each morning. Ours are not. To have the exact same rights that you are given we have to beg, we have to file lawsuits, we have to be labeled as the "crazy mom." 

And so it goes. Day in and day out. 
Our girl never quits and she teaches us to be brave and resilient. 
We don't quit. 

I'll be posting regularly about this life with a child who is nonverbal. So check back. I'd love to tell you that every "Thursday" will be the post, but well.....special needs are unpredictable. I'm working on that. 

Be brave today, Friends. 
How about we change the world together?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Loving A Child Who Cannot Speak

I have a daughter and she is nonverbal. It is one of the most difficult portions of my life. When the tears fall it becomes a guessing game. When we miss the mark of the needs the tears become screams. The frustration that mounts for everyone is intense. That screaming can last for what feels like an eternity. What ends it? Her resignation. She has no choice but to quit. Nobody is answering her need. Because we don't even know what it is.

Imagine all of your needs every single day and now imagine that you can never, not even once, tell one single person what you need. What a horrifying thing. Those dreams where you are being chased and you are scared and you try to scream for help but nothing comes out of your throat? That is her world. And we, as her parents, watch on in sheer pain and frustration. Just sign it!!! Just try to say something. Anything.

And she does. Every single day this brave soul yells out, makes sounds, tries. Not a single day goes by when she doesn't try. And her trying? It shatters me. I am her Mama after all and mamas makes things better. Don't we? Is there anything else that better describes what we do? We kiss bruises and skinned knees. We are the makers of magic and all wounds are healed by our touch.

But Me? I.can't.fix.this. 

I can't wipe away this pain for her. And the sheer terror I face every day at the thought that she can't tell me what is wrong, who hurt her, what makes her happy and that I will get it wrong is something that breaks away pieces of me every single day. 

Am I failing? No. I am not. 

Is she failing? No. Never.

It is what it is.

But you need to know how this hurts. There are people in your life who are going through this never ending grief. And they have learned how to blend in. They know how to disappear when they can't blend in and after a few times you stop noticing their absence. But they don't. They wear the guilt of escaping on their shoulders. The isolation adds to their pain. But they simply cannot take one more raised eyebrow from a stranger. Every day they are at the brink of breaking. So give them grace. 

Imagine sending your child to school or church and hoping and praying that nothing goes wrong. Imagine the stress of knowing that if something is wrong you, as the mom, will never know it. Wrongs could be committed at any moment and you won't know. The immense stress of wondering if you have chosen the right people to trust is never ending. If you are not with your child every waking minute, then that stress is with you. 

We parents of children who are nonverbal? We have every single one of us had this happen. Someone was cruel to our child. Someone was unfeeling. Someone committed a serious wrong to our child. And we caught it. Not because our child told us, but because we are these hovering parents because we must be. And knowing that we caught it strikes terror in our souls just at the moment we begin to relax. There is no relaxing. Not for us. Not now, not ever. 

And then you return home and snuggle your child and pull them close and tell them you love them. And you know you will never hear those words. And while they will snuggle you back you also know that time is precious and even in the middle of that loving moment the groaning may begin. Maybe you hugged too hard? Maybe they are uncomfortable? And it begins yet again.

You start guessing and you start getting it wrong. And at the end of the day everyone is hoping that tomorrow will be the day. Please let tomorrow be the day a grunt becomes a vowel. Let the groan become a word. Let the slapping become a sign. 

And it doesn't. Because this is permanent. It isn't going to go away. This is permanent. 
This frustration.
This fear.
This aching.
This grief.
It is a cycle. But it is permanent. 

And she never quits. This brave one? She owns me heart and soul.

So we try again. We get up and face the day. We encourage the yelling. Speak to us! Try again!! We smile with the laughter. We cringe with the grimace and hold out for that elusive hope. We learn that communication is more than words. And we learn to grant ourselves and those around us grace. And we learn how to fight better and smarter. We learn to change the laws, change the world. We learn to stand against discrimination.  And above all we know that love takes many forms. Love requires no words. It is an intangible, nonverbal force. 

And intangible, nonverbal?
That's our playground, ya'll. We own this.
We've got this. 

**I am humbled by the response and the shares this post has received. Thank you to everyone sharing this post. If you would like to reach out please contact me at keh1027@gmail.com**

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Girl Who Sits On My Shoulder

She needs you.
There is no light in her world.
She sits and waits and poses for the camera as someone takes one more picture to add to her file. They are all hoping someone will notice her and be moved to bring her into their family.

She needs to be a daughter, and not an orphan.
Her face needs to be kissed by a mother.
A daddy needs to protect her from all harm.
A momma needs to fall in love with a picture and a daddy needs to stand for her and be courageous enough to say yes.

She weighs on my heart all day long, every day.
As it turns out, I am human. I am just like you every day.
I am tired. I am worn out. I am scared that I get this parenting thing more wrong than the times I get it right.
Today my heart cannot rise to do this again. And I feel that weight. I carry it all day long.

And yet she is the girl who sits on my shoulder.
Day in and day out I pray for her.
I ask God to whisper her name into the heart of a mother and a father somewhere.
And she finds me in my dreams. .

Justice does not leave her an orphan.
Love does not pass by her picture.
The God who asks us to be the one who stops, who cares, who loves, is showing her to us today.

She is more than our fears.
She is more than her fears.
She is more than her disabilities.
She is Calina.
And Calina needs a yes today.

Please say yes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

He Danced With Me

We are coming up on our one year post placement meeting with our social worker. When she emailed me to make the appointment I was shocked. How has it already been nearly a year? It feels like last week. Truly.

Looking back on this year I don't even know how to put it to words. This is the year that God brought me to the very end of myself and asked me to keep walking. This is the year when everything I thought I had figured out about my life, my heart, my soul, fell to pieces. It was, quite frankly, my undoing. I was not strong enough to do this.

Last February I was handed one tiny, fragile eleven pound four year old. She called me "Mama," on the very first day, and then nearly collapsed for days to come. She couldn't walk, couldn't drink, couldn't crawl. And I thought God was asking too much. 

And then God handed me another four year old. I had loved her for years, watched her video a million times. I knew her, but then I didn't. She wasn't the same. We will never know if or when something happened to her. But she simply couldn't walk, talk, eat or drink. My heart was weeping as I was trying to hold it together while trying to bond with a daughter who could communicate nothing but growls back to me. 

I never thought of myself as weak. Until this year. I crumbled. Do not believe the lie that God will never give you too much. He does and He will. And it was too much. For the first time in my life I dealt with anxiety. I had to lift her up and tell a consulate worker that I knew this was likely all she would become. I listened to the words "wheelchair, degenerative disease, short lifespan, nonverbal." And it was too much. In the moment I looked strong, put together, holding my own. But I wasn't. I came home and days later found my emotions spilling out at all the wrong times. I have anxiety attacks that leave me shivering on the ground, teeth chattering, trying to catch a breath. 

And yet, one year later as I look back I would describe this year as the year that He danced with me. I broke in ways I never thought possible, but I felt His presence so deeply, so constantly, so abundantly that I never feared for tomorrow. I would say to him "Are you sure? I don't know that I can do this today. Help me, Jesus, because I am falling." This was the year that I was able to admit my limit, my own deep weakness and allow Him to guide me completely. The only way to describe it is to say that He took my hands and led me through a glorious, trembling dance of one year of tragic beauty.

I simply awoke in the mornings and knew deep within my soul that although the gates of hell were knocking on our doors, He was standing in my place. And I hid. I hid behind Him. To society, I am sure it seemed I was cowardly, but the truth is that I was hiding in Him. He was taking those moments and healing our family. He took tragedy after tragedy and whispered beauty back to me. He made me trust and truly believe that this was all going to be okay, regardless of the outcome. He shielded me. 

When everyone told us that what we should expect from our daughters was next to nothing, He whispered hope back to my heart. I hid and I believed in His impossibilities. I heard doctors say, "She will need a wheelchair. She will never walk." And I walked out and listened to Him, the One Who Redeems. As I tucked her into her carseat, I took her face into my hands and I said to her, "You can do this. I know you can. You will walk." 

And she did. She walked. We returned months later and she jumped in front of that same doctor. And smiles broke the faces that once offered me tissues.

Everyone said she couldn't talk. And I prayed for her to prove everyone wrong. I prayed for God to let me hear one word as His gift to me, just to let me hear, "Mama." And each night as I tucked her in I repeated one phrase to her, "You are beautiful. You are loved. You are safe. You can do this. I believe in you." And in a whisper even quieter, because it was such a ridiculous belief that I was afraid to even speak it, but yet, I believed it just enough to whisper right into her ear, "I believe you will talk. You can do this, Ellie."

And one day she took my face in her hands, kissed my lips, and said, "Mama."

I have watched miracle after miracle this year. I have seen and sat long in dark moments. One year ago I was terrified beyond my imagination. I took one moment at a time. I granted kisses when I felt fearful. I gave hugs when they didn't feel natural. I have fed so many spoonfuls of food that I couldn't possibly count them. I have lost my temper more than my fair share of times. Days were hard, but the year passed me by so quickly.

And I hardly remember anything but the beauty. Was it hard? Oh my stars, yes. Was it too hard? Yes, it was. But He came and led me into beauty. We have danced on ashes, my Friends. God on high, saw my need, and stepped down to take over when it was too much. And it was then that I saw His glory, His mercy, His love. In the middle of a world gone mad, He danced with me.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Ugly D Word, Disruption

I have worked this over and over and over and one more time over again in my head. Still, I feel there is no easy way to write about this subject. If ever there was a hot spot in the adoption world it will come when you hear the word, "disruption." Hello Trolls, I'm glad you found me today. I figured that word would bring you to me here.

I'm going to put my heart out here for you on this. Most of you know my story. If you are new, the short version is that almost three years ago we entered adoption with the adoption of our son, almost a year ago I headed to China to bring home our two daughters. Blind, they were blind and as far as I knew, a little delayed from institutionalization. Daughter one was placed in my arms and she surpassed my expectations while still being very fragile and very delayed and needy. Daughter two came one week later and my precious, longed for daughter who walked in videos and had language skills, slumped into my arms and growled. I chose not to disrupt. I had no idea how we would do this, all while desperately grieving the loss of the girl from the videos. I chose to verbally affirm that I wanted her, that I would never leave her. She was mine.

But I thought about it in that 24 hour harmonious period. I really did. I didn't think I could do this, not at all. In this last year I have discovered that the mind is a fragile thing. I never thought mine was weak until this year. I never thought of myself as fragile, and yet I found myself confessing those very words to my husband this year. It has been a struggle to get through some of the days. But one step at a time we have made it and I regret nothing. I adore my children, all of them. 

I strive to be gracious in my words and I know moms who have disrupted in country and moms who have adopted their children to new homes stateside. There are circumstances I have heard that you would never believe, but court documents prove their truth. When it comes to choosing to disrupt or not, to re-adopt or not I believe there are hard choices surrounding everyone. 

And I have been asked what my thoughts are. So, here goes nothing.

If you have disrupted, know this, I want to hug you, have coffee with you, pray with you. I know you are in pain, that this was not an easy choice, that your heart was broken, that you have your reasons that I know nothing of and I hope I can speak with kindness and grace. I am not writing this to you, although I am sure it may feel that way. 

I'm going to speak to those coming behind all of us. There is no point in throwing a stone at the past. It's gone, but tomorrow is still coming and planes are landing on the other side of the world with scared parents. The next adopters, this is for you. 

Disruption hurts a child while saving an adult. One can protect themselves, one cannot. One can make a choice and one has never known choices.  A child who has known nothing but loss, now knows one more. One more pain, one more rejection to add one more crack to their broken hearts. I can justify the decision for you in my mind. Yes, you save yourself and possibly other children in your home. But what about the one left alone? Who is saving that one? That is where I can no longer stamp approval on it. Maybe someone else will be a better match. But maybe not. Who is to say you aren't the last one coming for that child? Who is to say that your fragility is more important than theirs?

Maybe you are there right now. You have 24 hours. That's it. I know your fear. I can still feel it in my own skin when I remember my own 24 hours. My own heart can't remember how to beat correctly when I think back to that time. I know your fear. I know your questions. I know your aching pain, your loss of every dream. I know the future is just a minefield. Still I say to you, don't do this. Say yes, please just say yes. 

What if you move forward and have the hardest next year of your life? What if it never gets better? What if your entire family suffers? Here is what I need to say to you. You should have discussed this first. Are you willing to allow your current children to suffer for another child? Are you willing to lose your entire life? What if medical expenses leave you bankrupt? Discuss. Discuss. Discuss! Know your choice and make it well. There are no guarantees in adoption. You have no guarantee that your child's file will match said child. You have no guarantee that they can walk, talk, live a healthy life.

But neither do you have that guarantee when you give birth. I am towing a wiggling line here and I know it. But listen to my words. Adoptees are not second class children. Yet, they are treated as such with every disruption. They are not puppies in a shopping mall. Humanity should not get to treat them as such. We are talking about the oppressed, the hurting, the weak ones here.

Jesus, help us to be brave, because we aren't. 

When did autism/handicaps/mental delays become a reason that a child cannot have your home, your family? When you sign that LOA, or equal documents in other programs, you better have your heart ready for the "come what may." Treat them as your biological child from the very moment your pen stroke ends your signature. Say no right then, or never consider it again. Get on that plane, and come what may bring that baby home. You will survive this. You will. One day, one moment, one expense at a time you will make it work. 

I am not so foolish as to believe that even I would not make exceptions to this. As I stated, there are stories I have heard that I can hardly wrap my head around. My own exception is going to be that if your life or your children's lives will be at risk, don't do this. Yes, walk away. As much as my stomach rolls at the thoughts that brings to mind, I would say to you, "walk away." 

I have no crystal ball here. I can't tell you what your future will look like. But history tells me theirs. Perhaps there is no good choice. Perhaps it is a choice between two evils. Choose them anyways.

***Dear Trolls, I'm glad you read this. I have no desire to be any part of your hate. Any and all comments are moderated and calling any particular situation out simply won't make the cut. Comments filled with hate can stay right on your own screen, cause they certainly won't be on mine. Find a way to speak the truth strongly but kindly or expand your vocabulary.***

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

His Illogical Faithfulness

He is faithful and He always has been. 
When the third child comes into our bedroom at night,
He is faithful.
When my son's friend dies without ever knowing a mom or a dad
and my heart shatters,
He is faithful.
When I stroke the scars of a child who is my own and 
am wrecked with the irrational guilt that I should 
have been there,
He is faithful.

He is faithful when I let go of His hand.
When I doubt His goodness,
when I scream at Him for this desert,
when I beg for respite,
and when I throw a tantrum when respite never comes,
He is faithful.
When I can't stop the anxiety, the panic, 
He is faithful. 

When the screaming begins anew and I am surviving just one minute 
at a time, 
He is faithful.
When I ache over the aging out child whom nobody would claim, 
and am angry with all of His children, 
He is faithful.
When I find hidden food in the crevices of beds,
He is faithful.
When I live in the valley of trauma day in and day out, 
He is faithful.
When I reject His loving kindess, His ever-present mercy, 
He is faithful.

There is no reason to His faithfulness except this:
He is faithful because He is God.

God is faithful because it is not in His nature to be anything else.

When I am lacking, He is whole.
When I am filled with fear, He is peace.
He is faithful in response to my faithlessness.
He needs no reason, no logic.
He is simply faithful.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Superiority of Children with Special Needs.

I grew up in a world where special needs were all around me. My mom was a special education teacher and she brought kids into our home who had special and unique needs. It was perfectly normal to read books with pictures of children in wheelchairs or see hearing aids sitting on the counter at home.

With that in mind I walked into special needs parenting with rose colored glasses. I knew in the back of my head that moms have to stand up for their children and that not everyone is accepting of them, yet somehow it became a distant thought that I would be dealing with the ugliness of humanity as I drank in the beauty of my newest daughters. They are so lovely that it shadows the darkness that is out there.

But those rose colored glasses have been thrown in the mud and smeared so much so that I can no longer see through them. I'm taking up the battle of the special needs parent. Today, my post may seem like I'm starting a battle. So be it.

Adults have recoiled their hands when Ellie makes a loud sound. I have witnessed grown men pull back at the sight of the birthmark on Evie's face. I have stored these small grievances away and tried to simply believe the best of those uneducated, and lacking people. But then this happened and I refuse to sit and be silent.

Ellie sat at a table and felt with her hands for her surroundings. Those surroundings included children. A little girl recoiled with a sneer when Ellie reached out to touch her, to "see" who was next to her. It was that sneer that will remain with me for a long time to come.

It was the unveiling of the ugly underbelly of special needs parenting. I can understand that people need to be educated, that Sunday Schools will need assistance in learning, but parents, this is not okay. Children should not be sneering. Ever. For the LOVE, do better to raise the next generation.

Thank goodness Ellie could not see that sneer, but she sure as heck felt the recoil of that child's arm and spirit. She felt the loss of the possibility of friendship in that moment. And for the next hour she never once reached out to her surroundings again, she knew what was lost.

Surround your children with books of children who are different than your own. Buy toys of children who look different than your own. Do you really want them growing up and believing that they are superior because of how they look? Maybe you do. If that is the case I have nothing further to say to you.

Ellie is not a super hero who has special powers to fill in for her disabilities. Please don't blindfold your child in an attempt to make them feel like her. They won't. It will make them feel silly and giggle at their mistakes. It will cheapen our daily experiences. We don't need your sympathy. Really, truly, keep your sympathy. Run around my girls, go ahead, they will get knocked down. It's fine. That's just life as usual for us.

Here is your lesson for the day.

Superiority can never be gained by extra abilities. It cannot be had by extra training, heightened senses or making up for disabilities. It cannot be gained by having all of your limbs, or all of your senses, the color of your skin or how your family came together. Ellie and Evie are not superior because of super human smell or hearing. They are not superior because they can sense an object without seeing it. They are not superior because they have a harder life. Oh, please. Have you met them?

Here is what makes my daughters superior:

Ellie and Evie are superior because they know that differences are nothing to fear, differences make the world better and not weaker. They are learning that God does not define them by what they can or cannot do. He defines them by Himself. They are His and that is what they grow to learn each and every day. The little girl who wears a sneer has already bought the lie that her appearance makes her valuable. Ellie and Evie know that they have inherent value because of the God who created them with His perfect outstretched hand.

And that makes them superior to the child who sneers.