We’ve Been Waiting For You For a Long Time
On a warm November day in India, we waited outside in the open air and beaming sun with high emotions and mounting anticipation. A lady walked out of the nearby building with tears in her eyes and a little brown bundle in her arms. The hopes and prayers that had previously only existed in our hearts inched closer in the flesh with every step that the lady took. And then she was there, right in front of us, reaching out to me, and then curled up into a ball in my arms. “Hi… hi… hi…” were the only words that found their way out of my mouth. My husband leaned into us with tears in his eyes and I squeaked out the words, “We’ve been waiting for you for a long time.”
Adoption has been a dream of ours since the early days of our marriage. At that time, we didn’t have any idea where our child would come from, the timeframe in which the adoption would happen, or what type of needs our child would have. We only knew that God was leading us to be the forever family to the child of His choosing and we trusted that He would work out the details and equip us with whatever we would need.
On that November day, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. A child is so much more than a photocopied medical file and a form that gives one word explanations of their personality. Even photos and videos are just a small glimpse into the fearfully and wonderfully made being that, before the Adoption Day, you have yet to meet. From the information we had, we knew that an eye surgery had taken place months before and that our little girl wore an adorable pair of glasses. We were also told by doctors that reviewed her information, that based on her diagnosis, blindness seemed very likely. So we went to India with confused expectations of our daughter’s sight and big expectations of God’s provision.
A Broader Perspective
Once we were together, it was apparent that our precious baby was fully in tune and aware of her surroundings, but that she relied primarily on her senses of sound and touch to gain this awareness. Doctors in the States later confirmed that she was and will continue to be, completely blind. Although this fit into our spectrum of expectations, we didn’t hop on the plane to India having read lots of books or participated in any trainings on how to parent a blind child. We simply made an effort to build relationships with people who are blind and this was by far the best preparation we could have had.
Long before we started the adoption process, God opened up an opportunity for me to volunteer teach at a school for the blind in China. This was an exciting experience and a big factor that led us to be open to adopting a visually impaired child. My students taught me that blindness is not scary. They showed me how perfectly capable, independent, and talented they were. Through them, I learned the importance of communicating clearly and descriptively, how to teach with sounds and movement, and a little bit about Braille. They taught me that different isn’t bad, in fact, it is really good. When we have relationships with people who are different from us, we have the delight of experiencing the world from a broader perspective. Fast forward a few of years later, and now I have a couple of friends with significant visual impairments or complete blindness. My friends have demonstrated for me what it looks like for them raise families, work full-time jobs, and get around town. I do not have any inspirational or awe inspiring stories to share about them, because they live the most normal of lives. Their blindness does not define them, nor does it limit them.
It’s been a little over three months now since the day that our daughter was placed into our arms for the first time. By God’s grace, through lots of love and quality time together, we’ve seen our daughter grow to trust us and make huge progress developmentally. It was seriously too cute when she learned how to find her belly button and so relieving when she became able to tolerate chunks of solid food. For us as parents, every day is a new opportunity to provide her with experiences in which she can learn, grow, and make steps towards being independent. I love that kids learn best through play, because it makes these educational experiences fun for all of us! Because our daughter experiences the world primarily through her senses of touch and hearing, we incorporate as many different objects, textures, sounds, songs, and audio cues as we can throughout our day and while we play. We take her around to different furniture in the room, so that she can feel the difference between a table and a couch and we let her play with household objects likes spoons, so that she can figure out what they are. We play peek-a-boo with a fluffy blanket, hide and seek with a jingle bell ball, and have plenty of noisemaking toys that she loves figuring out how to activate. We have a song for teeth brushing, for what types of foods she is eating, for buckling our seatbelt, and for just about everything else. Although I have been credited by some to be the world’s worst singer, my daughter doesn’t seem to mind at all. After just a couple of days of singing our “brush your teeth” song, she started opening her mouth in anticipation of her teeth being brushed. Using high pitched voices to play, “Where’s the…, There it is!” is helping her to learn body parts and how to find the little braille bumps in her books. Our daughter has gained strength and confidence to move around, by us giving audio cues such as, “Come to mama!” or shaking a noisy toy and then rewarding her with a big bear hug and clapping when she reaches us. When we are not turning things into a song or game, we simply give verbal descriptions of where we are and what we’re doing. Sometimes we feel like we’re talking non-stop, but we’ve seen that this practice has quickly boosted our daughter’s English understanding.
Although we have a lot of fun together, and have seen our daughter make a lot of improvements, we are thankful that we not in this alone. Through the State, our daughter is entitled to receive early intervention services such as occupational, speech, and physical therapies, as well as a teacher for the visually impaired. These specialists have been a huge blessing to us as they come to our home twice a month, at no cost, to make sure that we have the tools and knowledge we need to provide our daughter with an environment in which she can thrive.
Now our dream is a reality. The little one we hoped and prayed for is splashing applesauce all over the kitchen, throwing typical toddler tantrums, and charming us with her adorable smile. What I have come to learn through our adoption experience is that God is faithful to provide everything that we need to follow where he leads us. As the Good Shepherd, He does not leave us alone or ill-equipped. While we waded through paperwork and made decisions concerning potential special needs, He provided funding and sound medical advice to set our expectations. While we waited for our daughter to come home, He provided a close community of prayer warriors and just the right amount of perseverance. As we heard the official prognosis from an eye specialist, He gave us peace over our daughter’s future and a determination to provide her with an environment in which she could thrive. Now, as we are in the throes of attachment and figuring out how to meet our daughter’s needs, He is providing the resources, the people, the energy, the patience, and everything else in between. His kind reminder in Isaiah 28:29 says that, “He gives wondrous advice; he gives great wisdom” and with this in mind, we know that it’s okay that we do not have all of the answers, because we know the One who does.
The bottom line is, we would much rather our little girl be blind in our family, with the love and nurture of imperfect parents, than in an institution. And the reality is, there are many more children in India that are waiting for their forever families to say the same thing.