Ten fingers and ten toes. That is what you hear from someone who is expecting and close to delivery. As long as she is healthy and has all ten fingers and ten toes…” I remember my Mom telling me how that was hard for her to hear after my brother was born, mostly because she didn’t want him to hear it one day and be saddened by it. My brother has hands and feet very similar to Lizzie’s. I grew up knowing what her struggles and triumphs might be. I watched my brother’s strength and determination everyday and he became my hero. Lizzie’s hands are actually what told my heart that she was our daughter. The minute I saw that picture of her hands, I just knew that she was our destiny and we were hers. It was as if I was looking at someone that I already knew and had been loving forever. I knew instantly and instinctively what her struggles and triumphs might be and I could not wait to witness her greatness, as I have done with my brother. So why, in a moment of panic, did I forget all that I had grown up knowing. Forget all that I had learned from watching my brother figure out his own way and NEVER letting his hands and feet stop him from doing whatever he was determined to do. It overwhelmed me one day when Em and I were enjoying a Mommie and daughter bonding moment!! She spotted my fingernail polish and asked me to paint her fingernails and toenails. Em was so thrilled with her “Mommie like” nails and was showing them off to anyone and everyone. Afterward, I started thinking about Lizzie and what I would do when she wanted me to paint her toenails and her fingernails. She doesn’t have many of either and I panicked. What would I do? How would I handle it? Maybe I should ban ALL polish from the house? Surely Em wouldn’t miss not EVER having her nails painted again?? As I was officially freaking out, my very wise husband (did I just actually put that in print?) looked at me and calmly said, “Honey, you will just paint her fingernails and toenails,” and that was that. Thank goodness I knew to wait for my husband, who balances me so perfectly. He didn’t grow up knowing all this and yet was wise enough to know our Lizzie and know that she would LOVE to have the fingernails and toenails that she does have, painted a pretty pink color and would proudly show them off to whoever would stop long enough to look! To me, they are perfect and beautiful hands and feet and I just can’t stop kissing them most days. We have started to get more and more questions about her precious hands and feet and are responding that there is nothing wrong with them. She was simply born that way. Sweet Em actually asked that question for the first time today, as we were once again painting our nails together in a Mommie and daughter and daughter bonding moment! Hence this post! For now, Lizzie seems oblivious to the comments and questions but I know that the time will come when she will understand a bit more and recognize the fact that her hands and feet are indeed different and will, hopefully, understand that different is ok. I also know that she is tough (like her uncle) and wise (like her Daddy) and will be able to answer the questions herself and ignore the comments (if she so chooses) or be able to tell the very unfortunate person making the comment exactly what she thinks AND that she has 3 REALLY big brothers AND a really overprotective sister who have always “got her back”!! Hehe!! I know that I will probably continue to have slightly (notice I used the word slightly, honey) panicked moments in the future and more than likely some heartbreaking ones, but I find comfort in the fact that my wonderful hubby will continue “have my back!” One of the things my children are teaching me is to never, ever underestimate their strength of character and determination. Some days I think about the fact that Lizzie will have to figure out how to open jars with big lids or learn to swing from the monkey bars with her arms or count to ten without the use of her fingers or wear flipflops (because I know she will) or, eventually, how she will wear her wedding ring. All things that I know my Lizzie will figure out in her own way and I know that I just need to get out of her way and allow her to do it – to struggle until she gets it!! To be able to stand aside and cheer her on but to allow her to struggle is the hardest and best thing I can do for her. I understand completely now my mother’s courageousness at letting my brother struggle and what he gained from that. He seldom saw her sadness, but I did and it touched me in a way that I did not understand until I saw that picture on that waiting child list. I knew at that moment that this was what had been in my heart from the moment I was old enough to love. Lizzie’s journey has not been an easy one but it has been a journey that has grown our family and our hearts. In the months before she came home, we talked a lot about her hands and feet. We researched and discussed treatment and surgeries. We met with doctors and talked about what she might be facing in the future. The funny thing is, her hands and feet are (right now) such a non-issue. Her clubfoot treatment was longer than we anticipated but Lizzie proved to us how strong and determined she is and made what would have bedridden most adults, look easy. She breezed through her hand surgeries and left little doubt of her remarkable resilience – especially when waking up from the anesthesia, she wacked the anesthesiologist so hard she broke her cast!! That’s our Lizzie May!! What has been more difficult for us right now and more of an issue has been her recovery from spending the first 2 years of her life in an orphanage. Getting her through that has been a slow and ongoing process. It has also, however, been such a privilege to witness and something that I have no doubt, our family was destined to do and was handpicked for. I think this journey has grown our hearts to include our sweet Lizzie but it has also grown our hearts for each other and that is something that I will forever be thankful for. Some people say that Lizzie is such a lucky little girl but I know how lucky we are and how much Lizzie has blessed our lives. So now, because of my children and my amazing husband, I look forward to the future with a larger heart and a greater capacity for love and I can’t wait to see what is next for us. I hope that anyone thinking about growing their family will think about adoption (and in particular special needs adoption) and know that it will certainly change a child’s life for the better but it will also change yours in so many unexpected and beautiful ways. A tribute to my brother and my daughter!!!
Lizzie and her favorite pink polish, waiting patiently for it to dry!! Isn't she gorgeous?????