We are excited about Zoe Amanda’s arrival, looking forward to traveling to Taiwan to bring her home this summer. We know it won’t be easy to add a third child to the family, much less one with a disability, but her adoption is the clear and – to us – logical next step for our family. Because we are so comfortable with our decision, it sometimes surprises me when other people aren’t.
It shouldn’t shock me. But when I’m asked questions that I consider irrelevant, I struggle to find the words to answer. Here are some examples:
You mean you chose a baby with brain damage? (Yes, we did. Because to us, she’s a baby. Who needs a family. And who has the world’s chubbiest cheeks. And who happens to have brain damage. And who had no more control over her brain damage as she could have had control over the chunk on her cheeks or the absence of her biological parents.)
You do know that your lives are going to be different, don’t you? (Yes. And they would be different if we had a third child biologically.)
Do you get a discount to the cost? You know, because she’s disabled?
(Before I go on, let me add that I do know that subsidies and grants are available for both domestic and international adoption of kids with special needs, and I certainly don’t have a problem with that. Those are given with the acknowledgment that raising a child with special needs isn’t cheap and for the purpose of offsetting related costs. That’s not the spirit in which that last question was asked.)
That final question has only been asked aloud once (thankfully!), and it made my eyes burn with angry tears. I hated the implication that our Zoe Amanda’s probable diagnosis of cerebral palsy means she should be in the adoption clearance bin. The only other time I felt so sucker-punched was when my principal called me into his office at the end of my first year of teaching to say, “Ms. Saunders, you’re such a good teacher that I’d like to move you to a class where the kids really deserve you.”
I taught special education resource writing.
He wanted to move me to general education writing.
His implication? The kids with disabilities are worth less.
Just as I made it clear to him then that I would quit before I agreed with him that my students were worth anything less than the kids down the hall, I carefully chose my words when answering about whether or not we get a disability discount on Zoe Amanda.
No. No, we do not. And we’re perfectly fine with that because if her adoption costs were discounted, it might imply that she was less valuable than the other kids. And she isn’t.
And then I usually pull out my phone and flash pictures of her sweet face. Because when they look at her, they just see a beautiful Taiwanese face with chunky cheeks, a cupid’s bow on her upper lip that looks just like mine, and black fuzzy hair that’s many shades darker than her towheaded siblings.
And then the questions stop. Because as they look at her picture, they see what we see:
They don’t see a disability; they just see a precious baby girl.
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