Family Story {Adopting a Child with Burns}

This story was posted a while ago on the Asia Waiting Child Blog. The lovely family who wrote it gave us permission to re-post it here. Thank you for sharing this inspiring story with us!

Brian and I are a couple that met in our mid 30’s, married a bit later and started the parenting journey with our biological son Mac just as we were dancing around the rim of our 40’s. And yes, our 40’s have proven to be a strong cup of coffee that we dove into headfirst, having no idea what the temperature was when we committed to the first big gulp.

Mac had just turned 1 and sleep was still an unfamiliar luxury in our house so the smart phone came in handy for nightly insomnia.  One night as I was thinking about our family’s future, feeling that little tug that has always been in my heart to adopt, I started snooping around on, a website that is kind of an umbrella that catches pretty much all things adoption, the waiting kids, the country programs, the special needs info…all there in one place.  I was messing around with the photo-listing criteria and before you do the “search” you are supposed to pick what special needs your family could best handle…being a burn survivor myself and having had the past experience of working with kids that were burn survivors, I wondered if there were any burn survivors kids that need a family.  I unchecked every box except “Burns” and hit the SEARCH button.
In exactly 2 seconds I had a set of black eyes staring back at me and a very strong voice in my heart that said…"There is your answer, she is your WHY.”

Let me back up a bit and explain. You see, I am one of those people that have to be able to find a purpose in the twists and turns of life.  If something great happens, I want to translate it into a future purpose.  If something bad happens in my life, I can usually keep a pretty good attitude about it if I can manage to find a positive direction or up-side as a result. I know this strategy doesn’t always work and some tragedies never reveal a purpose or up-side. Good or bad, it is the way my brain processes life and I was a person that had an unresolved “tragedy” and my sense of being was frustrated by it.

When I was a 34 year old single woman, I found myself looking in the mirror and seeing a person whose neck, torso and arms literally looked like red, brown, black and bloody, half-cooked, half-raw ground beef…I wasn’t able to find much purpose or up-side in that state of being. I had cadaver skin stabled to my back and covering half my face and neck. My torso and lower arms were one giant open wound and it was hard for me to look at without getting woozy.

When I comically joked with my doctor at a bandage change appointment that I was really lucky since the accident could have taken my eyesight, he let out a big laugh…”Lucky! You are the unluckiest person I know!  You were on a beach with over 10,000 people and you were the only one that got blown up! You are actually quite unlucky!”

Well, life moved forward, the frustration in my being stayed the same.  Impatient me just wanted to know WHY – Why did I get burned – there must be a reason. I NEED there to be a reason!  After my recovery I spent a few years working with a camp here in Georgia for children that were burn survivors.  I fell in love with these little soldiers, they were so brave and resilient! They taught me how to move past a random accident and get on with life and most importantly – do it with a smile on my face! Those little angels turned me around and got me back in stride and I will treasure them forever for that gift.  I was able to move forward and see the good in my world at every turn but I still had restlessness inside of me about the “WHY”.  I know God must find me exhausting at times and surely wants to just shake me and scream “GIRL JUST LET IT GO and MOVE ON!”

I frequently had conversations with God, asking the same questions over and over…Why did I get burned? What do YOU want me to do with this? Did you really just want me to stop wearing a bikini?  Oh wait a minute – is this punishment for getting a breast lift a few years back!?! Well ya know what God, that is a bit frivolous and vindictive on your part! In all seriousness God, please let there be a better reason for me sitting here in my car and scratching my insanely itchy scars until blood runs through my shirt, wondering if I will ever be able to date again, ever get married, or ever have a family.

And as you know, I did get married and start a family and we had a life that gave me a thousand things to be thankful for every single day.  I didn’t have my WHY yet and sometimes I thought it was just one of those things that happen for no reason and I would have to stop picking at it – let it heal and move on.

I think God knew that I needed to struggle and fight and get frustrated trying to find the “WHY” so when he put it in front of me I would be so relieved that all common sense and logic would fly out the window and I would just take it and run full steam ahead!

Well, that is exactly what happened.  I saw those black eyes full of resolve staring right through to my soul.  She was the answer, she was the WHY. Her eyes were not begging (though her heart might have been), they were strong, they were certain; it was as if she was staring back at us saying – ok – so what are you waiting for?  I need a family that can love me the way I need to be loved…are you in or are you out – I need a simple yes or no.

Holy WOW – my husband was going to die of a heart attack at age 41 – I was 100% sure of it! But I had no choice – I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was asking our family to step forward for this little girl.  I knew that if we said “NO”, that God would find someone else to love her, but he was asking us first – there was a reason.  He put her front and center because he knew that our life experience would be what she needed to conquer life in spite of her burns.

I emailed the adoption agency – just an innocent inquiry and BAM! – her whole file was there the next morning with instructions for moving ahead with the adoption…HA!! – the adoption that was 100% non-existent in the mind of my husband.

I knew from my own recent experience that it would be hard for a child to overcome significant physical differences in our society saturated with perfect looking Disney princesses perched on every corner. Then doubt started flooding in like a tidal wave. We were 40-something new parents –a little late to this game!  Were we even capable of this type of parenting?  This isn’t patty-cake parenting we are talking about here. How would we help her navigate those really hard times that were guaranteed to come her way as she tried to grow up in a world surrounded by all things superficial. Maybe we would be horrible at meeting her needs and she would be better off with someone else – someone else that had parented a child with physical differences.  Heck – someone that had parented a child period!  We were total rookies!

Then I read her whole file, she was amazing, she was perfect, she had personality and charm and was loved by all! And then I got to THAT line…one line in her file that made this a “no turning back” situation.

The file was very detailed about her great progress in the orphanage school. She was the child that hit all her developmental milestones without a worry. She never got sick, she memorized poems and songs, she was very loved by all of her caretakers, they nicknamed “Little Sweetie”…then it said…(and this is really going to piss you off)…

"She is a smart girl although she is not pretty"

PARDON ME!!!  Did you really just say that about a child…you put it in writing on a permanent medical record!!! Who does that!?!? I would love to meet the ass that wrote something like that.  How unnecessary! How is that statement relevant to who this child is???

That was it, I was done – I gathered the information and gave it to my husband, this train needed to leave the station and soon!

After his head stopped spinning from trying to find out where exactly this freight train came from, he took the file I had printed out and read it and deliberated for about a week. Then finally one night he walked out of the bedroom and slapped the folder down on the table and said, “I think this is insane but I know it is what we are supposed to do – so just do it.”

We started the paper chase and met many great new friends in the adoption world that helped us navigate the steps. We sent about 6 care packages over to Luci during that year-long wait and we usually received pictures back of her surviving well in the only world she had ever known – the life of an orphan. A life where you share clothes, share food, share care-takers, share attention, share beds – nothing belongs to you, and you belong to no one.   A child would have to really fight to develop their own personal identity when every aspect of their life is a generalized group endeavor from eating to sleeping to basic acknowledgement from an adult.

Well fight she must have because when my mother and I arrived to meet Luci for the first time it was obvious, she was her own person.  That little 4 yearr old dressed in pink from head to toe stood there and sang us a song, did a dance, flashed her dimples…she was no shrinking violet!  There was of course some crying when this little brave one realized that her orphanage caretakers of 4 years were actually speaking the truth when they told her that I was her mommy and she was going to the USA.  She tried to put on a brave face but I think she realized that this day wasn’t a song and dance, it wasn’t a performance to get someone to smile at her – it was for real and it scared her.
After some consoling she decided that the funny sounding ladies that gave her candy and a much loved pink cupcake purse were at least tolerable and we all walked out of that room and went on with our lives.

She got a crash course in what it means to be a daughter in a real family that loves her and I got a crash course in being a 40 year old mom to a very creative and smart daughter. This was a new gig for both of us.

Luci has been a part of our family for a little over two years now and you may wonder why my recollections of our history include very little about her burns.  That is her “Special Need” after all  – that is her LABEL that her country chose to use to identify her with.  Burned Orphan.
Well let me tell you something – she isn’t “burned”…burned things are black and charred, ashen and brittle, they break at the least little tap.  Burned things are dark and weak.

THAT IS NOT WHO LUCI IS!  Not even close.  She is the opposite of all things burned.  She is bright and vibrant, she is filled with joy!  She is colorful and funny and strong.  When her life got hard she didn’t crumble, turn to dust and blow away in the wind…she found her resolve and put on a brave face and moved forward – scars and all.

No her special need is not her burn scars that cover her head and face.

Her special need is that she is a funny, artistic, drama queen – like most 6 year olds –  that had the misfortune of being stuck with a mamma that is unsympathetic to drama, lacks creativity and is a very bad artist.  Her special need is a dad that is incapable of saying “no” when he sees her dimples and a little brother that wants to play with her non-stop and always puts a big dent in her sticker collection. Her special need is that she is always quick to share candy with her brother and he hasn’t quite grasped the concept fully.

I will always be partial to kids that are burn survivors because they seem to have a strength and resilience that I don’t see in most adults.  They are the skills that we all really need in order to do this life well.  Traits that they were forced to develop at a very young age as a result of a tragedy that was no fault of their own.

Unfortunately without a family that loves them and gives them the support and strength they need, these little warriors will never reach their potential and that is the real tragedy.

A horrible accident early in Luci’s life resulted in her being an orphan and ultimately becoming a part of our family.  I wish I could make her burns go away, I wish she could have grown up in her birth family shared with them her joy, her love, her sparkling eyes and sweet dimples.  That is the way her life was supposed to be.  Then you grow up and realize that things don’t happen the way they are “supposed” to happen.

Adoption is a life lesson in moving forward – scars and all.

Our family can’t give Luci back the family and life she lost as a result of that horrible accident.  We can decide to move forward with her and try every day to give her the love and patience she needs to move forward herself. To help her have the strength and confidence in who she is and not see her scars as the attributes that define her.

Our whole family is so thankful that we were able to see clearly and truly see LUCI in that photo listing picture and say YES to when she needed us to step in and be there! Every day she goes about the business of being a happy little girl with no idea how much she is teaching everyone around her valuable lessons in strength, confidence, and patience. We needed her in our family as much as she needed us.

I think need to drop my burn doctor a little note telling him how very wrong he was about me being the unluckiest person he knew.

I am the luckiest girl in the world! I am Luci’s mom!

If this story has touched your heart please read about Anthony here and ask yourself what you can do for him. Could he be your son? Can you help to advocate for him? Can you pray for him? We can all do something. What part will you play in Anthony's story?