Two weeks ago, my oldest daughter and I flew to China to meet a girl we'd never met to become the daughter we never knew we'd always missed.
We met Joy on March 12, and on March 13, she legally became ours forever.
As I fly home from China today with this spicy girl with the sparkly extra chromosome in my arms, I want to answer one big question.
(Admit it – you are or have wondered why we are adopting a child considered “imperfect” by the world!)
Abi and I were treated like celebrities for our first few days in China. Locals constantly asked to take pictures with us (Abi is probably all over Chinese and Japanese Facebook!).
When we got Joy, that all stopped.
We had taxis refuse to give us rides. People stopped and stared (seriously – with no shame at all!).
And it was all because of JOY.
In China, the number of babies born with Down syndrome is on a major decline. Unborn babies with Down syndrome are allowed to be aborted until the ninth month of pregnancy (with 21 percent of Down-related abortions occurring during or after the seventh month). In China, the name for Down syndrome translates literally to “naturally stupid-type.” Joy’s official document has her medical condition listed as “Mongolism.”
Because many in the society consider special needs and specifically Down syndrome a curse, the babies that are not aborted and thus actually born with Down syndrome are most often abandoned. Now, more than 30 percent of the orphans in China (which total between 600,000 and 1 million) have Down syndrome. In most cases, these children are not allowed to go to school. Many do not receive medical care. (Joy was not given any vaccinations. When I asked the orphanage why, the answer was simply, “She has Down syndrome.”) They do not receive therapy. Children in China with DS are cared for at a bare minimum standard. And until recently, it was legally not possible to adopt a child with Down syndrome within China. These treasures were seen as “unadoptable.”
Even Joy, though she had lived in her orphanage since age 4, had not yet had an adoption file prepared for her. It took hosting this child in the United States and finding a family who agreed to commit to her adoption before her home country ever saw the need to prepare her file.
Joy is AMAZING. This girl has so much potential. She can handle chopsticks like a pro. She can string beads on a thread. She has great self-care skills. She can repeat and remember words that she is taught. She can run and dance. And we have only known her for 12 days! Can you imagine what her life would have been like if she had been born in America, where regardless of her chromosome count, she would have had the medical care and therapy she deserved?! I have no doubt in my mind that she would currently be enrolled in a “regular” 3rd grade classroom with her peer group.
But she was born in China … so her story almost ended very differently.
We cannot wait for her to get home where we can provide her all that she needs to reach her full potential. Watch out, world. This girl is going to do big things!
When you see us with Joy in the United States tonight, do not think that she is the lucky one. Friends, WE are now part of the lucky few who get to see the world through new eyes.
The lucky few who get to love and be loved by someone who gives love so freely.
We are part of the lucky few who will now “recognize that most of the beautiful things in this life are often found in the differences” (Heather Avis).
This week, the week of World Down Syndrome Day (which celebrates the THREE copies of the 21st chromosome on 3/21), celebrate the differences in people. Look past the labels and see the people that they truly are and all of the wonderful ways that they contribute to making this world a better place.
Cherish the sparkle. ⭐️
In the meantime, we will be spreading JOY … from Guangzhou, China, all the way to this girl's new home town.
Editor's Note: Joy is now a DAUGHTER! But 600,000 "special needs" superheroes still await, 30 percent of them with the same sparkly extra chromosome as this girl we all fell in love with this year.
Has God stirred your heart? Has Joy's journey sparked interest in your own? Check out these sweet and deserving children, all with sparkly extra chromosomes, all still waiting in China for someone to LOVE.
Your life will never be richer or more full of JOY than with one of these firecrackers inside of it. <3
Start spreading JOY today.