“She loves people and will smile and give kisses to almost everyone, sometimes even people she doesn’t know,” said Adrianne Stewart about Maria, her three-year-old daughter born without arms or legs.
About two years ago, Adrianne and her husband Jason were looking at a list of children who were up for adoption. A photo of a little girl with a glowing face and a shy smile captured their hearts. In October 2015, the US-based couple flew to the Philippines to see the cheerful six-month-old Maria, who was then living in an orphanage in Cavite.
“It took a lot of courage and faith, but we decided that we were going to adopt her,” the couple said in a video celebrating the one-year-anniversary of bringing Maria home. Their journey has been nothing short of amazing.
Maria may have special needs, but she is very much like your “typical” three-year-old. The Stewart family has learned to adapt to doing things a little different after they first brought Maria home.
“We really don’t even see her as having a disability anymore. She is just our daughter and even though she may have to learn to do things a little different than everyone else, she is still doing the same things as all the other kids,” Adrianne told Coconuts Manila.
Maria loves music and will cheerfully dance along, especially to 80’s beats. The little girl has also loves to color and uses a custom designed mouthpiece that holds her markers.
Just like any other toddler, Maria loves stuffed animals and will often pretend to feed them before she will eat.
Adrianne and Jason have 2 biological daughters who are 13 and 11, and a 6-year-old son who was also adopted from the Philippines. They have all been hands-on in caring for Maria.
“Her brother loves to play with her and I help him come up with ideas on how to better include her in whatever he is playing with. Her sisters are wonderful with her and love teaching her how to do things,” the proud mother explained.
They all take turns helping Maria eat snacks and dinner, since she is still learning how to feed herself.
Adrianne has been focusing on teaching Maria daily living skills like how to dress up, how to brush her own teeth, and how to go up and down the stairs.
“She loves to do things on her own and gets a huge smile on her face and is so excited when she finally is able to do something completely on her own. It is so inspiring to see and brings me a lot of joy also,” Adrianne sad.
Maria is going to preschool a couple days a week, and once a month she goes to Shriner’s Hospital where she receives speech therapy and occupational therapy.
Because of the whole experience, the Stewart family has learned to be more patient and caring. Next year, the family will adopt a 9-year-old girl with special needs also from the Philippines.
“There are so many orphans all over the world and all of them deserve love and a family. It doesn’t matter if they have special needs or are healthy or if they are older children or younger children. They all need a family,” Adrianne said.
“Being able to love is really what matters most when considering adoption,” she added.
Photos: Courtesy of the Stewart family