It’s hard – impossible, really - to talk about our son Isaac without mentioning ‘Down Syndrome’ and ‘adoption.’ Our journey into parenthood was not simple. The road was long and the trek was difficult. After struggling with infertility for a few years, my husband and I made the decision to grow our family through adoption. We both knew when we were first married that adoption would become a part of our world one day – we just didn’t think it would become our world as quickly as it did.
I should say that I spent seven years working in a school for special needs students. I loved most everything about my job – especially the kids. With a range of diagnoses and abilities, no kid was alike and each school day was different than the one before. At the end of the year, the kids performed in the talent show. The gym was filled with laughter and tears of joy – staff, friends, and family all celebrating the different and special abilities each student possessed. The relationships that blossomed with my students and their parents would later be one of the driving forces into the world of special needs adoption.
After completing an obscene amount of paperwork, we were finally on the waiting list for a generally healthy child in Ethiopia. One would think that after the countless hours spent working towards “waiting,” we would do just that. But God had other plans.
Our adoption agency has a list of “waiting children.” Meaning kids who are older, groups of siblings, and more likely, kids with special needs. One day a fuzzy pixilated photo of a one-year-old boy in South Africa popped up. He had this adorable grin on his face. And he had Down Syndrome. My husband and I talked about it and looked at the facts: he is not in Ethiopia and he has special needs. Four months went by and we couldn’t stop thinking about this boy. Finally, we told our agency that we were interested in more information about him. They sent us more information about him – including a list of health issues and medical concerns. The list would scare many people away – but God had grown a love for him in our hearts. We knew that this boy was meant to be our son and that together we were called to be a family.
After switching countries from Ethiopia to South Africa, we were made to wait another year and a half to meet Isaac and bring him home. We flew 8,000 miles to Johannesburg in June 2014. We spent six crazy adventure-filled weeks in South Africa with Isaac and finally flew home at the end of July.
It has been a wild ride these past two years with Isaac. We have been able to watch him grow and flourish into an amazing kid. Knowing that he would not have had the access to such amazing medical care and therapies in South Africa has made us all the more thankful for the little person he has become. Some people ask us why in the world we would adopt a kid with Down Syndrome and a handful of medical needs. We typically respond with, “Why not?” Isaac has brought us so much joy and his diagnosis of Down Syndrome doesn’t define him. It makes him the unique and crazy kid that he is, and without him, the world would be a little less bright and ours would be incomplete. Every child deserves love, understanding, compassion, and most importantly – a family.
About the Author: Erin was born in Maryland, grew up in Maryland, and still lives in Maryland. She is a mom to two boys through adoption – South African American, Isaac (5), and Kenyan American, Oscar (4 months). In her limited free time she enjoys reading, eating, and sipping wine.