Last week I got an email from our adoption agency. The people in charge of international adoptions in China are putting together a book of adoption stories. Somehow, they remembered when we adopted Grace and have asked me to write her story. In 2005, the year we adopted Grace, almost 8,000 Chinese children were adopted. I can't find exact numbers for the years since (although I believe that due to changes in laws, the number has dropped) but assuming about 5,000 Chinese children have been adopted each year since then, that means about 30,000 Chinese children have been adopted in the six years since we have adopted Grace. (Again, I'm guessing here, I don't have exact numbers.) Out of all of those kids, they remembered Grace.
This is both humbling and sad. It's humbling because Steve and I did not set out to do a Big Thing. We just wanted a family. We still do not see adopting Grace as a Big Thing. A Hard Thing, yes, but not a big deal.
But most of all it's sad. They remember Grace because there are so many children with severe needs and so few of them are adopted. As a result, the people who do take on kids like Grace stand out. In fact, when we were in China adopting Caleb, we met a family who had initially been presented with a child who had trouble walking. She would need a wheelchair and physical therapy. The woman had been outraged. "Can you imagine?" she said to me. "A wheelchair? Spending your whole life like that?" She was not talking about the little girl, she was talking about spending her own life caring for a child with such needs. They refused the little girl and then demanded another child. She sounded like she was talking about picking out a dog from the pound and not adopting a child. I couldn't take it any longer. I walked away while she was still talking.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot. I know of several families who have made this decision.
On one hand, I understand. I really do. Raising a child with severe needs is hard. It's exhausting. It's frustrating, and it's unbelievably sad. I understand her fear--because I do believe it was fear that motivated her decision. But it's also wonderful and life-changing. More than anything else, Grace has changed the way I see the world. Yes, there are times I wish I wasn't on this path. It's so, so hard. But I can't imagine my life without her. Yes, I wish every day she could speak to me. And sometimes (often) I don't feel strong enough to handle her needs. But surprisingly, I do. (Well, we do. Steve plays his part too!)
Since getting the email from our adoption agency, I've given Grace several extra hugs, because I can't imagine her among the children who have been left behind. Also, I think about the children who've been so close to finding a family only to lose that chance. I wish things were different because everyone deserves a family, and no one should be judged based on how the things their body can't do. So I will write Grace's story and hope it will help. Because, yes this path is hard. But I don't want an easy life. I want a life filled with hope and love and struggle and joy and heartache. I want to look back at the end of it all and say, "God, I'm tired, but it was so, so worth it."