A Utah couple said they never expected to adopt a baby with special needs, but now they can’t imagine their family without 3-year-old Maria, who was born without limbs.
"She’s helped us to see that kids like her are really no different than any other kid," said Adrianne Stewart, of West Jordan. "She’s doing all the same things as our other kids, just in a little bit different way."
She and her husband Jason adopted little Maria from an orphanage in the Philippines more than a year ago.
Maria was born with no arms or legs. She was placed at the Chosen Children Village, an orphanage for children with special needs, when she was just 6 months old
"She had one of the most beautiful smiles and at the time we weren’t really planning on adopting a special needs child but we just fell in love with her," Adrianne told InsideEdition.com. "We just knew we needed her to be part of our family."
She explained when she and her husband Jason decided to adopt for the second time — after an adopted son from the Philippines — they never considered adopting a child with a disability, but knew Maria would be the exception when they were sent her photo by the adoption agency.
"We didn't have any idea what it would be like to raise a child like her," the mother-of-four explained.
She said that as they were waiting for their adoption application to be processed, the family researched how to best adjust their home to her disability. When they finally had a chance to meet her nearly a year later, her cheerful outlook assured them they had made the right decision.
“She is so full of light and joy,” Adrianne explained. “Even meeting her for the first time, you think she’d be scared and nervous to meet strangers, I mean, she’d seen a picture of us. But she did so well and she was so happy and smiling for us and it was really amazing.”
However, she admitted that helping Maria settle in to the family at first was difficult. Maria had never interacted with older kids at the orphanage, and had a hard time with her new siblings.
As time went on, Maria adjusted to her siblings, and even took up their hobbies, despite not having any arms or legs.
“She loves to color. She has a custom mouthpiece that we can stick markers in for her to color and she’ll spend hours and hours coloring,” Adrianne explained.
Maria has also learned to love music, and can often be seen bobbing her head as her own way of dancing. She also enjoys playing with her stuffed animals, and often pretends to feed or take care of them.
But, Adrianne explained it’s the lessons they have learned from the 3-year-old that has made her role in the family all the more important.
"She taught us to appreciate the little things and not be sad or disappointed by the things we’re lacking," Adrianne said. "She’s taught us not to take things for granted."