This post is about how she came to foster a child with Down syndrome in China.
There were teenagers in the house that night. My teenage daughter’s classmates were over to watch a movie and eat pizza. It was the middle of August and school had just begun. It was a beautiful, end of summer evening and we were all in a pretty good mood.
The day before I had sent an e-mail to two doctors that I knew who did medical care in our city orphanage. I had met several families that were doing foster care for orphans that needed to be out of the orphanage. All of these children had special needs of some sort- most were severely underweight and underdeveloped. I had seen and held some of these children and admired what their foster parents were doing. I knew that these families needed breaks and so I e-mailed and offered to do some respite care.
I could not have imagined that a call would come the next day from a very tired foster mom. Nothing could have prepared me for the child that had just come out of the orphanage. Nine months old and about 7 pounds. Smaller than my own daughter at birth. He was so weak that he couldn’t suck a bottle- he was being fed every two hours around the clock by eye dropper. His skin was translucent and hanging off of him. His arms and legs were like sticks. His stomach was distended because of starvation. He had no hair. It was excruciating just to look at him.
So we took him home for the weekend. Then we kept him for two more weeks. Then we fell in love and signed a long term foster care agreement. We entered a whole new world of orphan care, Down syndrome, the Chinese medical system and the special needs foster care and adoption world.
The orphan situation in our country is complicated and the issue of orphans with special needs is even more complicated. Why he was so small, so near death is an unanswered question. All I knew was that the mom protective urge rose up in me and I knew that I wanted this child. Charlotte Gray says “Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race and creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate. “I knew that our foster son was wounded, abandoned, desolate. I knew that I had to comfort and to protect.
Our foster son has many challenges. Because of having Down syndrome, he has low muscle tone. It is likely that his low muscle tone made him unable to drink bottle quickly in the orphanage. Because of the large number of children in the orphanage, bottles are propped. Children must drink quickly. He clearly couldn’t.
He also has lung damage from inhaling formula. This lung damage leads to colds quickly becoming infections that lead to pneumonia. We have all ready done one stint in the hospital because of low oxygen due to pneumonia. We have to be hyper-vigilant of germs and sick people. We don’t go out as much as we did.
Our foster son cannot sit on his own, crawl or walk. There is no physical or occupational therapy available here. However, we’ve been blessed to have consultations with speech, occupational and physical therapists from the United States. We have amazing doctors. It is hard to know what issues stem from having Down syndrome and what come from being severely malnourished. However, he is on a good developmental track and should be able to sit crawl and walk on his own timetable.
We have had him now for a little over two months. He has gone from being hyper-vigilant and unable to sleep to having a good sleep routine. He is eating solids. He is starting to roll over. He talks to us and listens to us when we talk to him. He loves it when we sing to him. This week he laughed for the first time.
Our dream for him is that he would find a forever family. Our foster son is one of many who need a family. But until that family is found, we are committed to loving him and caring for him as a person of great value and worth. It is a joy and a gift to have him in our lives.
Follow their journey at Walking to China.
Thank you Walking to China for this beautiful post!