Crazy About Abby and Her Extra Chromosome!
On December 17, 2010 my husband Matt and I decided to take that first big step towards adoption. We had been talking and praying about it since August of 2004. Due to the increasingly long wait for a healthy baby from China, we opted to go the “special needs” route. We thought we would look for a toddler girl with a cleft lip/palate. What we found and fell in love with was a 12-year-old girl (Ashlyn) with a repaired cleft lip and palate who was close to aging out and never having the chance to be a part of a forever family.
Six months prior to traveling to China to adopt Ashlyn, I was on an advocacy site called “Reece’s Rainbow” browsing the adorable faces of orphans with Down Syndrome. I had been on this site dozens of times, but this particular day a little face just popped up and I heard the Lord say, “This one, too.” I knew in that instant she was our daughter. It was no coincidence that we had just completed our dossier and it was the perfect time to add a second adoption to it via a quick addendum to our homestudy.
Our time with Abby in China was amazing. We took a backpack full of lollipops, coloring books, crayons, and stickers the day we met her to entertain her while we got acquainted. After meeting her, we stood around her caregiver as she held onto Abby for us, and our translator communicated back and forth.
Our son pulled out his iPhone and handed it to Abby. She squirmed out of her caregiver’s arms and sat down on the floor, scrolling through his pictures like she knew exactly what she was doing.
We all sat down on the floor around her and watched her and looked for ways to get closer to her without upsetting her. After about a half an hour, she began to open up to us. She allowed our daughter to give her stickers and they took turns putting them on each other. After some time had passed, we realized that ours was the only group left in the building and things were considerably quieter. By this time Abby was laughing and running around and engaging with us. We walked out of that building hand in hand that afternoon and she has never looked back.
There was never any crying or grieving for Abby. She even slept great that first night together. Initially she had moments of fear as she began experiencing new things, and it did take her some time to really let her guard down and trust the men in our home, but she has thrived in her new life.
Our biggest surprise adopting her is that she is far more capable of doing things on her own than we thought she’d be. In spite of the the initial language barrier and her lack of words in general, she is able to communicate her needs and show expression. She is potty trained, feeds herself without making a mess, and can pretty much dress herself and put her socks and shoes on. She is loving, affectionate, and smart and she understands right from wrong. She is a creature of habit and mimics everything she sees. She eats great, sleeps great, loves to play, and LOVES TO EAT. Everyone loves her.
The hardest part of parenting Abby is really just the non-verbal issue. There are moments that we wonder what in the world is going on in that smart little head of hers. We are confident that she will talk when she’s ready. She does say a few words and mumbles things to us from time to time, so I know that she is capable. It seems to be a language/processing issue. Hopefully once she has figured out her new language, she will find her words. Abby goes to school for special needs kids, and she’s doing really well there. She has adoring teachers and she seems to get along great with her classmates. All in all, adopting a child with Down Syndrome has been pure joy. It is obviously a lifelong comittment, so one should be prepared for that and also have the support of extended family.
So, you may be wondering what in the world led us to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. I am sure that’s what many of our friends were thinking too. I heard a recent statistic that a small percentage of American women carrying babies with Down syndrome actually follow through with the pregnancy. This was staggering and so very sad to me. I have to tell you that the decision to adopt Abby (now five years old) was a no-brainer for us. I had the privilege of growing up with my Dad’s cousin Rex who also had Down Syndrome. He impacted my life in a huge way. Every time we’d make that trip to visit him, Rex would have a different “profession.” One year he was a NASCAR racer, one year he was a doctor, and the last I can remember he was a pastor. And we, his little cousins were his patients, pupils, and biggest fans. My great aunt was told that Rex wouldn’t live to be a teenager, yet he lived a long and happy life and died at the old age of 54. He was a blessing to those who knew him.
It was only natural that when Matt and I decided to go the special needs route that we talked about Down syndrome. I realize that that decision isn’t as easy for people who have never had the great joy of knowing a person with Down Syndrome. If you do know someone with Down Syndrome, you know exactly what I’m talking about. They just have a little something extra special about them. That extra chromosome is a beautiful thing. So beautiful that my eight-year-old son tells me at least once a week that he’s so happy that Abby has Down Syndrome and Ashlyn (our now 14-year-old adopted daughter) tells me all the time how she loves Down Syndrome and wishes that she herself had Down Syndrome.
We are all crazy about our Abby and her extra chromosome!
Rebecca McKee is the mother of six beautiful children including two daughters, Ashlyn and Abby, adopted from China. She can be reached at [email protected]