Diagnosis: Not Afraid

My third child, a son, has a diagnosis looming in his future.

We carried him out of a Russian orphanage nine months ago. He just turned two and is delayed. We have been immersed in the strange underworld of therapy. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, developmental therapy, speech therapy – It’s a creative world where everyone has ideas, many disagree, no one has answers. Lots of trial. Lots of error. It’s a grand experiment. Everyone keeps telling me early intervention is key. So, we work. My little man works hard. Most days I don’t want to be his therapist; I want to be Mama.

Therapists tiptoe around me, afraid to use words like “diagnosis” and “neurological.” I ask for candor. I gently remind them we signed up for this. This son is the biological sibling to my first son (adopted six years ago). We adopted him knowing the birth-mother’s history. Yes, it’s ugly. It’s as ugly as it gets. Those diseases you fear? She’s got them. Those behaviors on the no-no list for pregnant mothers? She’s done them all. No, it doesn’t scare me. I’m on my third kid. I’ve been six months pregnant in the middle of Siberia. I’ve seen Nelson in concert. It’s gonna take a lot more than this to scare me.

These boys are survivors. They are marked with purpose. I just need to stay out of God’s way.

Remember the foreboding ick of knowing the handsome fellow was going to break up with you – and so you didn’t return his call right away? You walked slooooooowly to the end? Never happened to you? Well, bless you. That’s how it feels to see the diagnosis coming.

I’m no Pollyanna; I am a realist. I like facts. I like research. But I’m not so crazy about labeling my boy. He has his whole life for labels. And for just a moment I have a smidgeon of control over a small part of his life. I can make the call to begin the neurological search for answers…or we can go to the playground. I keep going to the playground. For now.

Labels are everywhere, no? It’s tidier to put people under a heading. I mean, we can’t just have people out there with delays, problems, messes, and weaknesses and NOT give them a name. Or four.

I don’t want someone telling me what my boy can’t do. I’m stubborn that way. I feel the feisty coming on just thinking about some long-lettered medical term. My son is Canaan. That’s his name. That’s his label. The Promised Land. The milk and honey. The hope. The chosen. The longing. The struggle to get home.

God didn’t make a mistake with Canaan. He didn’t make a mistake with you. Every freckle is as He designed. He looks on you with pleasure. I relish Canaan’s every attempt to walk, no matter how wobbly. I delight in his sweet little mouth trying to mimic my sounds. And God feels the same for you.

So I live with a veil between my son and me. I talk to him constantly. He understands. He smiles. He hugs. He signs. He plays. He laughs. He cries. He is the most content child I’ve ever seen. But, I am selfish. I want to talk with him. I want to know he understands how much I love him. I want to hear him say he loves me. Yes, I’m hopelessly selfish.

Eventually, the veil will have a name. A long, scary intimidating name. But, you know, it won’t change much. We will still dwell in the therapy underworld. We will still go to the playground. I will still praise my God. I will still be in love with Canaan.

My Testimony
Humans and Kings
Making Special Time
Can You Take the Heat?
  • Bobo

    This stubborn determined tender mother love mirrors God’s love for us in a special way. It has a way of making the ugliness of the world powerless to destroy the Spirit God has given to each of us that leads us to search for Him in the darkest times and claim the victorious life.”Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or peril or sword?—-In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Rom. 8

    Luv Bobo

  • Jackie F.

    You are a warrior…

  • http://sixseeds.tv Jean

    This is beautiful Andrea. You and your family are truly an inspiration. Keep up the great faith. Keep staying out of God’s way. Keep playing at the playground. I will continue to pray for all of you and your amazing journey.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    I’m very grateful, Jean. Please keep sending advice. And prayers.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    You are too much, Jackie. I’m just hanging on for dear life!

  • Andrea Ferrell

    Alright. That’s my second brush with Romans 8 this week. I should pay attention. Luv to The Bobo!

  • Teresa A Cherry

    You are an inspiration to me and many others. I know some of your story through Lynnda, and she is proud of you and loves that 3rd little angel you have blessed her life with. Canaan does not need a label, he has one, a child of God. The other one he carries is the one whose mother loves him just as God would have her to. Canaan is so lucky to have you in his life, as God has blessed Canaan He has also blessed you. I love seeing the faith you have, as well as the love you demonstrate with your child. God does not make mistakes, always remember that no matter what else happens in life God is still God, and God is good ALL the time. May you continue to be blessed in your life with Canaan, as well as his big sister and his big brother. You are a GREAT Mama, you want for your son the same things God wants for us a chance to be all that we can be. You will be in my prayers.

  • Betsy Fisher


    We attend Woodmont with you, and I have walked that road everyday for the last 23 years. Our son has one of those scary diagnosis, that brought me to my knees. But God reminds me daily that He will work through my Forrest in ways I never imagined. This past Sunday I sat in a recital hall and wept as I listened to my son give his senior piano recital at Lipscomb University. You are seeing a snap shot of Canaan, not the final picture. You will experience the glory of God in ways you can not even dream-up. God knew what he was doing when He put this precious child in your family, and He will walk with you every step.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    Thanks so much for your kind words, Teresa. Sending blessings to you.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    Betsy, thanks for reading and for encouraging. What’s going on with the universe that I don’t know you?!?! Hope to meet you soon.

  • Lynne

    I have tears in my eyes from reading your blog tonight. As a psychologist who has done lots of neurodevelopmental assessment I have often provided those labels and big scary diagnoses.

    Your post articulates what I used to tell and encourage parents to think about: This is your kid, you know him (or her) best, and it is you and your family’s relationship with him that has and will continue to change and improve his life.

    Thank you, both for your posting and your kids and family, and for being mama and facing the veil every day.

  • Ernst Toerien

    Andrea, I want to first thank you from the bottom of my heart that you took this boy into your family knowing all the problems he has or might have. I work with orphan children in Russia, mostly from 7 and older, and I have seen these labels put on these children. You saved that boy from hell, trust me. His life in his home country would have been full of abuse and ridicule. I have seen what they do to these children over there; cried with them and in trying to save them through the system have gone through a heck. One local Russian Christian family were supposed to adopt to teenage boys, but then another Christian told them about problems they might face, so they stopped this whole process. It nearly destroyed them and me.
    God is your strenght. I admire you and I am 100% sure that all will work out fantastic, even though you might still shed a lot of tears. Here I can quote Rom 8 as well. Both of you are treasures in our Father’s eyes.

  • http://fromtheheart-anna.blogspot.com Anna

    tears. This is good. I nodded my head in agreement with many beautiful words, words that described this journey. Our journey is called Grace.

  • Califmom

    That is one of the best posts I have ever read from an international adoptive mom. As one myself, I have been down your road, but not to your extent. Our son did not speak for 6 weeks when he came home, but that’s normal, I guess. Once he started talking, we asked if he would ever shut up (he hasn’t)!

    So glad you have gone into this with eyes and heart wide open. You are an inspiration pragmatically and spiritually. And the way you describe this depth of love for Canaan–so true! I have trouble expressing my love for my son. It was instantaneous and has grown every day. In our house, we say, “I don’t love you. I ADORE you!”

    I think the diagnoses help clarify what’s going on with these kids, but they don’t change who they are or how we love them. They just help us and the professionals help them.

  • http://www.amazingcatechists.com Lisa Mladinich

    Absolutely beautiful. It’s so powerful, not only to read such an insightful posting, so rooted in love and faith, but to read the responses by your wonderful readers. I wish we were all neighbors and could share a cup of tea.

    In the joy of the risen Christ,

    Lisa in New York

  • Annette

    Never believe the diagnosis is the child or let it limit the child. God bless you.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    Thank you so much. If I had more moolah and energy, I would bring more orphans home. So, for my sons, what was a very bad beginning…well, it’s a story of redemption. It’s how God operates.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    Excellent, Annette. Thank you.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    I know, Lisa! The advice and encouragement in the response is way better than my post. I agree about tea time. Sending blessings.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    Yes — the last couple of sentences. Yes. If it helps me help Canaan, then there is some good in naming it. Thank you.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    Thanks, Anna.

  • Andrea Ferrell

    Lynne, it’s gotta be tough to give the diagnosis. Thank you for these thoughts.

  • http://www.BecauseHeLives.com Rev. Diana Louise Lee Radabaugh

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. He has healed me many times of many things I am whole for His Glory. Please contact a dear friend of mine that is a DR an Author and a Rev. Phillip Goldfedder. He loves to pray for people. 803-640-3507 or E-mail 7777777jc@bellsouth.net

  • http://www.destinationsdreamsanddogs.com Alexandra

    We have four older children from Russia and your words could not be more true or insightful. Many parents either hide their heads in the sand and play a fantasy game, or else are caught up with the daily therapies so much that they can never enjoy the child, the gift of God. I think you’ve hit it right on target! I choose to enjoy today, do all I can do today, and stop projecting a gloomy future. As others have said, the future is very, very bright for these kids who had already gone through so much pain in their short lives. Always believe for the best.