I am so thrilled to share two family stories with you today. I sat down with two mom friends who have also said yes to adopting a blind child. Every day we fight against the stigma and misconceptions surrounding the blind community and wanted to share our perspectives with you. Below you’ll find questions followed by insights from both Meredith and Jennifer. Hopefully this will help if your family is considering adopting a blind or visually impaired child.
Bonus: I am also happy to report that both of these precious children are now with their families! In fact, Meredith is in China preparing to meet Lili as I write this.
Interview with Meredith:
Isn’t it beautiful how adoptive families connect? How has observing other families given you courage to move forward in growing your family through adoption?
Meredith: Since we began the process of international adoption in 2010 we were open to many special needs including VI/blindness. After adding Thomas and Sam to our family in 2014 we went back and forth about what type of adoption we would do next, what special needs we were open to adding to our family. Once again we were not only convicted by the fact that all children, no matter their special need, needs a family, we also saw how families with more children then us were adding children with different needs to their family. We were so encouraged by seeing how families still went out and did life normally. Their children were doing typical every day things, welcomed by their families, schools and communities. It was humbling and joyful to have a seat on the sidelines watching these families grow and their children flourish.
I remember looking at Lola’s file and thinking… I don’t know anyone who is blind. I remember finding it almost impossible to find resources about adopting a blind child. Have you been successful in connecting with other families who have walked this path and what resources have you found most helpful?
Meredith: When we went to Ethiopia to meet our sons there was a 4 year old girl at their orphanage who was blind. She was blind but she was joyful; probably the happiest child there. Blindness didn’t hold her back in one bit at the orphanage; she played with the other children, made her way around the orphanage and lived a seemingly normal, albeit in an orphanage, life. I remember sitting there watching her open a gift from her family in the USA thinking how much she would flourish once she came home. You, Erica, as well were such an encouragement posting about not only Lola and her feats (coming to mind specifically is her riding a bike, swimming in a hotel and going to VBS). It was also incredible seeing how Lola’s siblings were so eager to help her yet willing to stand back and let her learn to do typical activities. We’ve recently connected with more families whose children are not only blind but also in the same foster home as Lili. We are able to hear from them not only about the care their child has been given but see how their child is adjusting to life at home, what resources have been most helpful for them and any tips they have to offer.
Our kids are truly amazing, yet there are so many stigmas and pre-conceived notions about what blind children are capable of. How has observing blind/visually impaired children in other families helped you move past that?
Meredith: I suppose besides the obvious fact that life will be different for Lili than a child with vision, we ourselves didn’t have many preconceived notions. I owe that to our son Gabriel. He was adopted at birth with some very unfavorable diagnoses. While it hasn’t always been possible to parent him typically we’ve done our best to parent him with the expectation that he will do great things; his great things may be different than other children’s achievements but they will still be extraordinary. With that thought in mind, saying yes to Lili’s blindness was intimidating but not to overwhelming. We know we have much to learn, but just like with Gabe we are entering that arena with as many tools as possible and ready to go to battle for our girl to have the life she deserves; one full of love and every opportunity to become exactly who the Lord has planned for her. We do get a number of questions from people asking about her disability, what she’ll do as an adult (she’s 4, whatever she wants!) and how we as a family will handle another special need. For that we give as honest answers as possible, but what it boils down to is she is a little girl who needs a family and we are a family who needs a daughter, a sister for our sons and a little more sparkle in our days.
If you could share one, awesome, detail from your adoption story thus far, what would it be?
Meredith: One awesome detail about our story is the inner connectedness of it all. My husband and I had started talking about adoption again and I had been slowly looking at waiting child websites while we simultaneously contacted domestic agencies. And then one day, Jenny sent me a text that said “or you can adopt Lily while we adopt Ted” with an accompanying photo. In that instant I knew I had seen my daughters face; I forwarded the photo to my husband and he too, knew. We had some logistics to figure out; we were waiting to hear about a transfer for my husbands job, the agency she was listed with wouldn’t approve us to adopt Lili and the ever dreaded financial piece of adoption was looming in front of us. But what Jenny didn’t know was that about 25 years ago I started dreaming about adopting a baby girl from China and naming her Lily. That dream had changed as I grew older and met my husband; we adopted Gabriel domestically in 2009 and then adopted Thomas and Samsel in 2014 after a four year wait. We always thought we’d eventually adopt from China but were assuming it would be boy what with all of the waiting photos we had been seeing.
Life has a beautiful way of working out, even when it seems hard. We hate the fact that Lili had to wait so long in an orphanage for her family to find her but that one text showed us the daughter we didn’t know we always wanted but is so desperately needed. Lili is not only a beautiful addition to our family but a long awaited, forgotten dream come true.
Jennifer and Meredith were so gracious and thorough in their interviews that I was able to split their stories into two separate posts. Join us in a few days to hear Jennifer and Ryan’s beautiful adoption story!
And if you’re feeling a bit of a tug in your heart, please check out Joshua’s advocacy post.