My husband and I adopted our daughter, Grace, from China when she was twenty-two months old. We knew she had a small heart condition that had already been surgically corrected. This was a need we thought we could handle, and we traveled to China excited to meet our little girl. Upon meeting Grace, we realized that something was very wrong. She couldn’t hold her head up. She couldn’t walk or talk, and scars covered the backs of her legs. We had two options, leave her in China where she would be labeled as “unadoptable” and left to die, or let go of our dreams for the child we thought we were adopting and bring Grace home.
Our first year was difficult. We spent hours in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Grace was cast for AFOs (ankle braces), and I learned how to administer Diastat to stop prolonged seizures. I was more nurse than mother, and most days ended with me in tears. To survive I had to throw out my expectations for Grace and see the world through her eyes. She was extremely tactile so I filled our garden with Lamb’s Ear. She loved Broadway tunes and old Gospel songs so I learned the lyrics to “Goodnight My Someone” and “Amazing Grace”. She giggled when I brushed her cheek with Lamb’s Ear and sat in my lap for hours, her ear pressed against my chest, feeling the vibrations as I sang.
Slowly, I stopped trying to pull her into my world and joined her in hers. I began to realize that the only thing different about Grace was the way she looked on the outside. She wanted the same things I did. To be loved. To belong. To laugh.
While writing The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin, I thought about the ways we separate ourselves. Race, gender, physical ability, and all the other categories by which we define ourselves mask the fact that we are more alike than different. Through Grace, my book became a story about the ways in which way love enlarges our lives, enabling us to do things we never dreamed possible. It became the story of a woman learning to love a girl who isn’t her daughter, and a mother who realizes that sometimes love means letting go. It became the story of a child whose ability to heal broken bodies is the least miraculous thing about her.
At its heart, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is about the ways in which we are more alike than different. It’s about ordinary people stepping beyond their self-imposed limitations and changing the world around them. It is about the magic of ordinary lives, and the impact that one person can have, even if that person is a little “different”.
Grace, age 4
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