The Boxes You Can’t Check

My husband and I went into marriage knowing that we would adopt our first child. When we were ready to start growing our family, we contacted an agency and we were sent a giant stack of paperwork. We were able to handpick everything we wanted our child to be like, right down to the gender.

It took us a really long time to fill out that paperwork and to go through every question of exactly what we wanted our child to be like. We were pretty young and didn’t have a whole lot of money, so when we got to the section on medical history, we agreed that we wanted a baby from two healthy parents who didn’t have mental illnesses, medical issues, or special needs. We told ourselves that we couldn’t financially handle the multiple doctor appointments a child with these things would have, checked all the boxes that would give us the “perfect” child,  and turned in our paperwork. Ten months later we were holding our healthy baby boy, from two healthy birth parents.

However, we were drastically under-prepared for the trauma of adoption.

We struggled to bond with our son; he was a very difficult baby and had some aggressive behaviors pretty early on. As a baby, he was sick often and lots of money was spent on co-pays at the pediatrician’s office. He started private behavioral therapy at 18 months, and has been going weekly ever since. At age 4, he was screened for autism, which came back negative, but he was diagnosed with severe anxiety and selective mutism, an anxiety disorder which causes the inability to speak in a situation where the child is uncomfortable, even though they are perfectly capable of talking (constantly) at home. 

There have been times where I felt like this is more than I signed up for. I checked all the “right” boxes! But I quickly learned that biological children and adopted children have one big thing in common: you CAN’T pick what your child is going to be like. While my daily life includes a few more therapists and doctors than I originally thought it would, as I write this post, I think of all the behaviors our son has that we never would have been able to pick out on adoption form. 

He is one of the funniest kids I know. He loves a good potty joke and has the best laugh. He loves routine, and that resonates so well with my schedule-loving, Type A self. He has unconditional love for his siblings. When we had our twins, I thought he would really struggle to accept them and connect with him, but the opposite has been true. I have honestly never seen anything like the love he has for them, and as a mom, that has been a really fun thing to watch.

In addition to all these things I love about him, one of the things that I could have never checked on a form are the changes he made in me. He made me grow up, be more understanding of others, be more compassionate, responsible, loving, flexible, and fun. 

Our kids teach us as much as we teach them. Sometimes we lose sight of what we need while trying to get what we think we want. While our son may not seem like the perfect easy child on paper, he has been the perfect child for us and exactly who our family needed. 

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2 Responses to The Boxes You Can’t Check

  1. Avatar
    Courtney Schmidt November 14, 2019 at 6:59 am #

    Adoption has so many variables and you almost have to have no expectations both going into it and then also living it day to day. It is hard and I am glad you shared your story! 👏

  2. Avatar
    Jan November 16, 2019 at 8:17 am #

    I recommend a beautifully written memoir about adoption I’m currently reading. “ All you can ever know” by Nicole Chung.

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