Archive for August, 2012

The story of Roland

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

I titled this blog post, “The Story of Roland,” but this isn’t really his story. There are parts of his story I will never know. Parts he’ll never be able to communicate to me. His story started in a hospital. He was born to parents who were married and waiting for their first child. He was wanted, probably planned. But the contractures on AMC kiddos are the worst at birth. I remember the first time I saw my daughter’s twist of limbs that would not move and I was pretty scared. But there was a social worker, several doctors and nurses, a geneticist and lovely prescription medication at the ready. I vaguely remember the social worker listing all the resources we would have available. I was grieving heavily at the time so don’t remember much, but we were left with many brochures for when we were ready. I doubt any of that happened for Roland’s parents. They named their son Yegor. They gave him their last name. Then they signed him over to the government and left him at the hospital. He was moved into the orphanage to be fed and warehoused.

He was never visited.

Until two weeks before we showed up. That’s where his adoption story begins.

A family came into the country. They were looking at babies to maybe adopt one. They didn’t want special needs, but were willing to look at children with something “fixable.” They visited Roland because he was still pretty little, but because of his special needs they just couldn’t commit to him. They decided to put off committing to him for two weeks. Their appointment at the Department of Adoptions was set for a Monday. We showed up for our Department of Adoptions appointment the same day, a mere couple of hours BEFORE they did. We committed right away. By the time they showed up the little guy was taken.

This ordeal gave our facilitation team grey hairs. They knew we were coming and that we knew about arthrogryposis and we were a better match for Yegor, but they could say nothing. If the other family had committed to him before we showed up then we would have had to turn around and go home! I knew about the other family as we waited for our appointment that Monday and stressed and worried about it until we were safely done with the process that day.

We met our little guy for the first time that Wednesday at 9:37am. For the video click here.

When they brought him out it took my brain a full ten seconds to recognize him. His strawberry mark was gone and there was a thin scar in its place. His head had a huge flat spot from being left in a crib which changed his features slightly. His hair had grown out, his eyes had settled on brown and he had grown. I actually saw his legs before I realized I was starring at my baby. Roland (or Yegor as that was still his name) was shy. He was scared. His little heart was racing. His little lip was sucked in. He couldn’t make eye contact. He’d already been handed to strangers a couple of weeks ago who never came back. He didn’t know what to think.

I started to sing the Disney song, “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…” which was fitting since I had been dreaming about him like crazy. Slowly slowly he came out of his shell. He started to ask for things. He pointed at a toy and said, “Do.” (We would later call this the “language of do.”) So I took the toy off the window ledge and we started to play with it. Click here for the video of Roland learning to relax around us and start to play.

By the end our little guy’s personality was coming out. This video here is more like he is today.

One nanny asked if we clearly saw his arms and legs. Then she carefully asked us if we still wanted to adopt him. Still? We were so busy in our own little world we had forgotten that we had papers to sign. Still? Oh right because his legs and feet are bent? Or his arms are straight as rods? Why in the world would that keep us from wanting him?!! We replied, ” Still? Yes! Absolutely!” And then we listened to make sure the interpreter put enough  emphasis  into the words.

We got the chance to speak to the doctor on staff about Roland too. She knew that Yegor was severe, but after meeting Laelia she got some hope. She asked us all sorts of questions like how many surgeries we think Roland would need and if he would walk. I answered that he would absolutely walk one day. She looked at Laelia and agreed with me. Then she asked us very hesitantly if we wanted to adopt him. (Remember the last family to visit him were just “looking” and not serious about him.) When I enthusiastically said, “Da! Da! ABSOLUTELY!” she got all emotional and grabbed my hand to warmly rub it and shake it. She started saying, “Good good. You are good. You are very good. Thank you. Thank you.”

Do I want my gorgeous, talented child? Still? Yes and please. Am I in silly backwards world?

As far as arthrogryposis goes, Roland has joint contractures in all four limbs, but he also has strong muscles. (I’ve been in email contact with Dr. Judith Hall about this and we’re trying to figure out if he has amyoplasia or not.)  His fingers and wrists are affected, but barely. His elbows and knees are the most severe. His feet are clubbed (bilateral). He has AMC in his jaw and it’s hard to open his mouth wide or keep 100% of any liquid in his mouth, but he’s getting better at it.

As far as other needs, he’s an orphan who has spent his whole life in an institution. So yeah. He was given a mental age of 9 months old. (He is 22 months old.) He is not attached to a caregiver. He gets scared of things outside the four walls he grew up in. But he’s a tough little guy and nothing keeps him down for long. Within two weeks of visiting him he was up to a 12 month old level and could maintain eye contact. Booyah.

We spent every day with him for about an hour in the mornings. We drove two hours a day in crazy Ukrainian traffic. I got car sick every. single. day. Laelia usually fell asleep so that helped. :)

Going crazy!!!

Konk.

Nausea remedy.

Everyday we saw more and more of our handsome little man come out. And he started to recognize us and put out his arms for me when he saw me. We loved on him a ton for the hour to an hour and a half we saw him in the mornings. Cue the montage!

Is that enough cuteness to crash your computers? Good. It wasn’t all playing with Roland though. We also had to notarize stuff and drive to appointments. But our Reece’s Rainbow team held our hands the whole time. They really are an amazing team of people who are good at this!

At one point in our trip I started to get upset at myself for knowing about this little boy for a year before we committed to him. I raised funds for him and shared his picture on Facebook and wrote blog posts (on this blog), but was unwilling to leave our life of comfort and follow God’s heart for the orphan. How stupid and short-sighted was I?! I cried over it. I cried over my son’s life. Then we picked up the pieces as a family and moved forward to right those wrongs.

We got word that we had a court date, but these things aren’t set in stone so we didn’t count on it until a final phone call from our facilitator. The next morning we got to see Roland for 30 minutes before we had to drive to court. It would be the last time we would see him until after the appeal time ran out. I promised him I’d be back for him. I promised him I’d love him and get him out of there. I promised I’d fight for him. Then they took him (always a sad end to every visit) and I left to go change into something proper for court.

Nothing screams “courthouse” like bubblegum pink.

We passed court!

They always ask why you want a “disabled child.” They don’t get it. We were ready. The judge and jury deliberated for only a couple minutes before they called us back in and rattled off that we were Roland’s parents. His name would be changed to Roland Quest Wesley and his birth certificate changed to reflect us as parents. We just stood there trying to listen to the interpreter and absorb what had happened and what would happen next. We walked out of the room and Laelia asked what happened. (She had been sitting semi quietly in the corner playing with the orphanage director’s purse.) I told her we had passed court. She started cheering, “Yay we get baby brother!!!!” while hugging us. :)

Then we packed all our things quickly since our ride was coming to pick us up and take us to the airport at 3:00 a.m.

Laelia did really well for the next 28 hours it took us to get home with three lay overs.

Then we settled in at home, empty-handed and waiting. It would be ten days before my friend Chelsea and I would head back for two weeks to finish this process.

To be continued…

Where to begin?

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

This is the first time I’ve had to sit down and try to bring words to the amazing life experiences we’ve had in the last weeks. For one thing Charley, Laelia and I flew to beautiful Ukraine. We lived in Kiev. Here are some of the many pictures out of my camera.

Kiev does not have wheelchair access whatsoever so we had to carry Laelia a lot. That was hard. For example the grocery store was two buildings to the right of our apartment. Easy distance, right? Wrong. To get there we had to carry Laelia down five flights of stairs, down another to the alley, then since there was no access down the sidewalk you have to go through an underground mall which requires a long set of stairs down then another long flight up to surface, then a flight of stairs up to the front of the above ground mall that holds the grocery store… which is at the bottom… with more stairs. I do believe it is impossible to live in a wheelchair in Kiev.

Despite the hardships of being in an unfamiliar place with water you can’t brush your teeth in, I will miss this country. It is beautiful. We drove an hour outside the city to visit the orphanage (more on that later) and I swear if I knew the language and was more comfortable yelling about nothing (I mean *cough* if I knew the culture better) then we would live here. This is Boyarka.

Even in Kiev there were places you could walk to that were just as beautiful. This is Kiev.

Laelia loved inner city Kiev. She loved Ukraine. She loved the crazy driving with no  discernible  traffic laws. She loved our apartment and didn’t seem to mind the cigarette smoke that was a constant nose  assailant. She loved washing laundry by hand since the washer confused mommy. She loved line drying clothes with mommy. She loved the squeaky noises our floors would make. She loved the noises and lights that went on all through the night in the heart of the city. Despite myself I have raised a city girl.

Laelia also learned to walk without crutches in Kiev. It helped that our apartment was small and she could easily walk from one “island” (the chair, the table, the bookshelf) to the next. Eventually she mastered the small rise in the floor that separated the bedroom from the kitchen. She fell several times, but refused her crutches. After two weeks of this she gained confidence. Then she was becoming more mobile all over the place, even walking longer distances in her crutches or pushing her own stroller.

We went to a museum to learn everything about Ukraine. We were determined to learn all we could and soak it up. Our trip to the museum left our daughter bored and singing loudly. No one seemed to mind… no one except her mother. :-/  Here she is hanging on her daddy while singing. Eugene ignored her and kept telling us all about what we were looking at.

I will post about our adoption–about the process, about our new little one, about sweet life at home–another time. My two monkeys only give me a few minutes of free time each day and I’ve spent it pining over our Ukraine pictures and trying to put our trip into words. It was an emotional time for sure, and I think a bit more enjoyed in hindsight, but missed nonetheless. These are a few of my favorite things.

You, Sir  Borscht, are dearly missed.

Communist bill boards everywhere. This one shows someone handcuffed holding American currency. I’m pretty sure that means the commies love us.

This is not an aquarium. It’s the grocery store.

The soaps!

Bacon flavored chips.

How we could tell how many days we’d been there. We caught about 10 flies a day. This country does not have screen doors!

Green donuts in one of the many underground shopping areas.

Honey markets with bees EVERYWHERE.

Getting excited to run into English signs.

Random downpours that would happen out of nowhere, flood the streets and then dry up immediately so you couldn’t tell it had even rained.

Everyone out bent over their corner of street with these brooms.

Sunflowers everywhere. Seriously this land is covered in them.

I was told I would miss Ukraine, and I really didn’t believe it. But I do. I was able to enjoy it for only about 1/4th of our time there due to all the adoption scrambling and worrying. Getting Roland out of the orphanage was an adventure we’ll never forget. That will have to be another blog post.

Videos

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Sorry I have been super busy and distracted with two kids at home and readjustments. I will update later, but thought I would post some videos in the meantime. Sorry this is all I have time for!

Click here to see the video of Roland leaving the orphanage for the VERY LAST TIME. Orphan no more!

Click here to see Laelia walking around the house WITHOUT HER CRUTCHES! (The noise Roland is making in the background is his “thinking” noise whenever he’s working something out in his head.)

Exciting times!