When our family decided to adopt two girls with CHD, we had time to consider what obstacles there might be and how we would adapt. Fifteen years later, we can say that most of our concerns were unfounded. Our girls have found a way to do everything they want to do, including horseback riding, gymnastics, and holding down part time jobs at a local ice cream parlor. They fit seamlessly into the active life we were already enjoying with our 3 biological kids with few exceptions.
Since we were homeschooling, the girls didn’t have the typical “school” experiences/challenges that they might have otherwise faced. They made friends easily and we found that most kids are very accepting of differences. Both girls pursued hobbies outside of school that broadened their circle of friends. One of our girls loves horses and the local 4H made it possible for her to pursue this passion. She’s been competing for 8 years and her coach has told us that she literally can’t figure out how our daughter is able to do what she does! One time a horse ran away with her and because she didn’t have 2 hands to pull back on the reins, she couldn’t stop it. Eventually, she let go and allowed herself to fall to the ground, uninjured. She got right back on; she’s fearless! Our youngest daughter joined a local gymnastic performing team that includes kids with various physical differences, which has grown her confidence.
As they’ve become teens, they have both learned to drive, hold jobs, date, and enjoy very full lives. They love to travel and have faced very few barriers. One of the few “hiccups” we encountered, was at a local amusement park in Southern California. Our daughter was with a group of friends, and was denied entrance onto a couple of rides because of her CHD. She was embarrassed at being singled out, but her friends helped her shrug it off. We realize now we should have looked up the specific rider requirements on each ride to avoid any misunderstanding, but at the time, it never even crossed our mind.
We’ve only made a few visits to Shriners Hospital for Children – Northern California as our girls did not require surgery. We did have one prosthetic device made to help with horseback riding, but it ended up being more cumbersome than helpful. However, we did make the connection that allowed the girls to be part of Camp Winning Hands for the past ten years! They’ve made lots of friends and best of all, gotten to meet kids with challenges just like them.
We’ve learned that “normal” is relative, and our girls have exceeded all of our expectations. There are days they wish they could just blend in and look like everyone else, but they do not allow their differences to define them. That’s a huge life lesson for all of us.