Who wants to scrub a floor?

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Last weekend we went out to a restaurant that had music, a guitarist playing all the great Neil Diamond songs and other tunes from the 70s. Hubby and I, along with my friend, Paula, and her husband, happily sat around a table for six, and soon another couple joined us. We had never met them, but we enjoyed an afternoon of camaraderie as we joyously bopped in time to the music and sang the familiar lyrics. After a few hours, (and a few drinks,) Libby looked at me and said, “I feel like I have done nothing with my life, not like you.” It became apparent that Paula had told them all about us and our family. Mortified that anyone would compare themselves to me unfavorably, I immediately started to explain. It is always challenging for me to rationalize my life’s philosophy because it came so naturally.  Often, people who have no experience with individuals with disabilities find it hard to believe that “they” are just like “us” deep down inside.  Everyone wants the same thing, love, happiness, and success. My brother’s delight in riding the escalators up and down at the mall, his happiness when eating a sundae from Newport Creamery, and his deep love for my mother was what made his life a success. Yes, he had his limitations, (deaf/blind/developmentally delayed and, once he reached his twenties, schizophrenic,) but he led a meaningful life.  Knowing what I know about disabilities, it made perfect sense for us to adopt children with disabilities.  They were just children, with the same hopes and dreams as any other child. 

Because my mother and I had such a great relationship, I desperately wanted to have a girl of my own.  I had a very difficult labor when our oldest child was born.  (I had fallen down a flight of stairs and bent my tail bone in.) The resulting healthy, bouncing baby boy, weighing almost 10 pounds, was an amazing reason to celebrate.  However, in the back of my mind I ached to have a daughter.  No sense going through another labor when there might be a baby out there who needs a home! Hubby was thrilled with Francis’ birth, but certainly not ready to talk about adoption. That is, until we found out that Francis had a serious, hereditary vision impairment.  Hubby was on board then, and I wanted to adopt for the selfish reason that it would guarantee a girl, so we adopted from Guatemala, one of the few countries that would allow the parents to chose the sex of their child.

When Dinora was about four, we talked about adopting again. Her adoption was very expensive and cost prohibitive to do again. At the time, I had been talking with a mother of another young boy who was blind, and she had started to do foster care.  She took in her first baby as a newborn, and eventually was able to adopt this child.  Easy!  Piece of cake! What a great idea! Hubby and I applied to be foster parents and were soon rotating newborns in and out of our extra bedroom.  Because the infants born to a mom addicted to heroin or cocaine were the most likely to become available for adoption, that was our specialty.  I learned to love them unconditionally, even as their throws of withdrawal would wrack their little bodies and I would lay on the floor next to the crib to rub their little backs and provide quiet reassurance.  We fostered 17 infants before Steven became available for adoption.  Easy!  Piece of Cake!  

I loved having children and was way too busy to think about keeping a spotlessly clean house.  As they aged, my free time because more available.  Selfishly not wanting to have the time or the inclination to clean, it became time again to seek another child, which we did twice more.  There was nothing noble on my part at all.  It was my choice to adopt because I loved nurturing and playing with children, and I abhorred housework. 

Choosing to adopt was not a magnanimous decision.  It may be difficult for people to understand how caring for so many children with disabilities was a selfish act, but who wouldn’t rather sing nursery rhymes to a baby than scrub a dirty floor?

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