Expecting the Unexpected

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“Expect the unexpected and prepare, prepare, prepare!” This was advice I had read time and time again. Advice that I had listened to as we prepared to meet our daughter for the first time. I read all the suggested books, took the online trainings, and surrounded myself with the adoption community. I felt more than prepared to expect the unexpected.

Except…I wasn’t.

We met our daughter in China on a cold day in January. She was young (1-year-old at referral), and the adoption doctor that had reviewed her file told us it was the healthiest file she had reviewed from China in a very long time. We were prepared for her club foot needs listed in her file along with a small cyst that would likely go away on its own. We already had appointments with an excellent orthopedic doctor for when we returned home to help our daughter.

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The trouble was that our daughter did not have the typical club foot. The cause of her club foot was a tumor that had slowly been growing and pressing on her spine causing a neurogenic type of foot turn. A tumor that was unknown to us until we met her. At 17 months, she couldn’t crawl, she couldn’t stand, and she was barely able to sit up on her own. The tumor was slowly paralyzing her.

I don’t remember reading about these kinds of things in books? I don’t remember hearing stories about children that had completely different health needs when their families met them? (side note: I did know that these things happened, but I must have blocked those stories out. Thinking it wouldn’t happen to us so it was nothing to worry about)

We were in China with our beautiful daughter, and we were so incredibly scared. Would we be able to handle her needs if she couldn’t ever walk? What would this mean for our other children? Why did we not know these things before we met her? Question after question consumed our every thought.

Then it happened. I don’t know how or why or when, but at some point my husband and I felt complete and total peace about how ready we were to fight for our little girl. We were ready to get her home and get her to the best doctors and surgeons in the country. We realized that this little girl was meant to be our daughter, and nothing was going to stop us. Fear can take over quickly, but fear was not going to get in our way.

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“Expect the unexpected and prepare, prepare, prepare!” I still agree with these words. Looking back, I wish I would’ve opened myself up more to what “unexpected” might look like for us. Many children adopted from China have more severe needs compared to their files. Many children adopted from China have developmental delays that might not be accurately noted.

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These children all need and deserve the love of a forever family. They all need families fighting in their corner to get them the best doctors and surgeons in the country. They all need families that refuse to let fear stand in their way. I wish I had the right words to help every family going through unexpected news with their child. It’s a scary journey for families to go through…

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“The important thing is to take that first step. Bravely overcoming one small fear gives you the courage to take on the next.” Daisku Ikeda