11
Sep

Adoption: A Deaf Adoptive Parent, Kym’s Story

Adoption and the Medical Community

Hi, I’m Kym Symansky. I’m the mother of three children through international adoption. I want to share my experience with adoption, particularly with the medical community. When our children came home, I felt like they were my children, 500% mine, even though they did not come from my womb. They are children who came from my heart. Every time we went to see a new doctor, a specialist, the ER, hospital, or somewhere like that, we would have to fill out the forms with our names, address, birthdays, and so on. There would be two columns for family history, one for the mother’s medical history, another for the father’s medical history, to note things like diabetes, heart conditions, and cancer. This always seemed like a little bit of a depressing reminder that I was not biologically related to my children. I had to write down “NA” – does not apply – because I didn’t know their medical backgrounds or have any information about their birth families. We always felt sad about that.

Experience with Medical Forms

When our children grew up and became old enough to do so, we encouraged them to fill out the forms themselves. They would ask, “Do you have a family history of diabetes? Does Dad’s family have cancer?” I had to tell them that the forms were for biological medical history and those questions were not related to them. They’d look at me and be like, “oh, that’s right”. We just never think that we are not biologically related. We think of ourselves as family, period. Those medical history forms were just a constant reminder about our not being related through biology. 

Importance of Having a Good Relationship with Your Doctor

I can’t emphasize how important it is to have a good relationship with the family doctor. The family doctor I grew up with, Dr. Piron, was there for both my birth and my brother’s birth. He had taken care of my mother since she moved here from Kansas City when she was eight years old and took care of her when she gave birth as well. When I returned home after 15 years of being away for college, getting married, and living in other places, I was disappointed to find out that Dr. Piron had retired. His daughter, Dr. Kathy, had taken over the practice, so my husband and I went to see her. It was nice to keep the family connection.

Dangers of Labeling Deaf Children Too Quickly

Dr. Kathy knew that we were adopting because she had filled out forms verifying that we were in good health and capable of being parents. When we brought our first child to his first doctor’s appointment, she commented right away, “Oh, this child must have ADHD”. I couldn’t believe she had said that. Of course, my child was busy and excited, full of curiosity about this new environment and examining everything – this was totally to be expected. I told the doctor that everything was new to him – new home, new family, new food, new bed, new school, on top of many other things. So many things were new and exciting to him, of course he wanted to explore. 

Doctor’s Low Expectations

I can’t remember the doctor’s exact words about our second child, but it was probably something about ADHD again and it also made me feel resentful. With our third child, we already knew that surgery for some health issues would be needed after we brought the child home. We had signed papers and were ready for this. When we brought the child to the doctor, she commented that he was underweight and would never walk, might never be able to communicate, understand things or learn much. 

Attitude is Key

By this time, I was even more turned off by her attitude. I asked her why she had talked so negatively about all three of our children. I was so upset that I broke down in tears. I found that the doctor had had a failed adoption experience herself. It involved her wanting to adopt a baby, some controversy about payment to the birth mother, and ultimately ending with the adoption not happening. Later, she found out that two other families had also been scammed by the same birth mother, with her taking money from all three families. It ended with a court case and the doctor’s adoption efforts falling apart.

Changing Doctors

I shared my sympathies, then told her I preferred that she view my children in a positive light and act encouraging, in the same way she would with any other children. After I left the office, however, I continued to feel uncomfortable and bothered by the idea of seeing this doctor regularly through the upcoming years. We’d have to see her any time my children were sick, had a cold or cough, needed medicine or annual school physicals for sports, and other things. After considering everything and talking with my mother, I decided to cut ties with this doctor.  My parents and brother did continue to see her. 

Encounter with Former Doctor

I felt a bit upset and defensive about this, but I cut our ties and switched to our current family doctor. Everything has gone well since then. About 10 or 12 years after this happened, one of my children became sick with a high fever and we went to a walk-in clinic. By that time, Dr. Kathy had retired and was on call for different walk-in clinics. We waited for what felt like forever in the examination room, until a nurse finally came in and handed me a note. It said that Dr. Kathy felt awkward about meeting us because of the bad fallout we had in the past, and that if we preferred to see a different doctor, it would be about another 30 minute wait. I was surprised to read the note, but told the nurse to send in Dr. Kathy, as the past was in the past, and we needed medical assistance now. 

Dr. Kathy came in and it was a little awkward at first, but she went ahead and did her job, prescribing medicine for the fever and sore throat or whatever it was. At the end she commented that our child was very intelligent, communicated very well, and was so polite. I just sat there and smiled.

Video description: Kym is sitting in front of a curtain, signing her story.

Resources:

https://adoption.org/know-adopting-deaf-child

https://www.deafcounseling.com/recommended-films/

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