Entire family

Adopting a child with special needs has many challenges including some that I never imagined. Having nephews, niece, and grandchildren with many different challenges and watching their parents love, sacrifice, struggle and protect them over the years I thought I had a good handle on what it could be.  I was also a nurse who worked with special needs children for years, but there is something different when that little one looks at you as mom.

I remember one of the moms telling me that to give birth to a child with special needs gets a lot of comments of sympathy and “oh how hard”, yet if someone adopts a child with special needs, they seem to be viewed more as a hero or rescuer.  It’s unfair, and totally not true.  Adoption was done out of love and certainly not as a hero.  It wasn’t as much of a choice as it was an inevitability.  He came into our lives unexpectedly and with unknown needs and his soul became imbedded in mine. He was “the boy who lived.”

He is only 6 yet, and I have yet to experience the ups and downs of a preteen and teen with limited abilities.  His conditions, Moebius Syndrome, club feet, F.P.I.E.S. (food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome) have a lot of unknowns about them for how he progresses in the future.  At a year old he could not hold up his head yet.  At 6, he’s one of the strongest little boys I know.  He’s learned to walk, but uses braces to keep his feet straighter.  He cannot move his facial muscles, cannot talk or smile and his eyes cannot move from side to side.  He’s so sensitive with sensory things it’s difficult to wash his face or dress him.  He doesn’t understand most things that a typical kindergarten kid would.  And the possibility of using a toilet seems like a future dream.  Yet with help from schools and professionals he is learning how to use communication boards and interact (slowly) with other kids.  There is a long way to go, yet he continues to do new things.

I often felt that because we “chose” to adopt Will, others look at us and think we can do it all ourselves.  We can’t.  We are not superheros. Like all other parents we can use a helping hand once in a while.  It is not easy, but Will is worth it.

We are not the usual age of adoptive parents, with 14 grandchildren, many who call Will their “baby uncle”.  We don’t know what the future holds, but maybe from raising children for so long, we know that nothing in the future is certain except God.  And all of this is in His hands.

-Jan Bonnema 
Founder of Children of the Promise (1999)