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.

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