Archive for the 'baby' Category

The hard times and the good

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Peek-a-boo!

Today was the day I was going to write about my son’s one month home. He’s been with us one month. I have so many pictures of this trouble-maker, you have no idea. And videos. And accomplishments. And joy. And love. And a high number of just his finger. (Stop pointing at the camera, my love, and keep doing the cute thing you were doing. I give up. Cameras are too cool and must be pointed at.)

But life is happening and it’s too much to find the time to write. I will share–believe me these picture demand to be shared–but not until next week. I hope next week. After we’re back home from medical travels. (Oh I’m not looking forward to having Mr.  Trauma  back on a plane. God help us.)

You see today is hard. Today my husband is sick. Today we missed the school bus. Today Roland has an appointment to get casts and we’re going to the appointment but refusing the casts… again… because our son is not ready. Tomorrow we fly to Philadelphia and Delaware for medical treatment for both kids. We arrive so late that we can’t get into the three Ronald McDonald Houses and must get a hotel. Today I called the rental car company and found out our reservation wasn’t put in. Today I feel defeated, busy and stressed.

But where my focus really is, even if it shouldn’t be, is that today is the last day of work for me. I had to leave my career. It was work-from-home, but my position required coming into the office for some much-needed meetings, and I just can’t. I don’t know when I could as my little one learns he is safe and that we won’t leave him. My family demands so much right now. I was pulling all-nighters to get my work done. Leaving my job to care for my family has made me feel like the biggest quitter ever. Six years I put into my company. Six years. I won’t even have more free time if I do this, just a couple more hours sleep a night… when Roland lets me. Oh and I’m good at what I do. I get a sense of self from what I do. A sense of pride. And we rely on my income. I don’t know what we’re going to do, although I know we have a few months to figure it out. Today is hard. Not just because I have a ton of work to do for my company before I leave everything in other’s hands, but because this was my life. The life I liked.

“If this life I lose I will follow you.”

This life is a blip. A blip. One tiny speck on our timeline of eternity. In that perspective it’s easy to lose this life to gain so much more. Is my son worth it? Damn right he is. Damn right.

(Yep cussing on the blog. First clue that I’m overly emotional.)

And I haven’t packed for Philly yet. In fact (shocker) I haven’t unpacked from Ukraine yet. Heh.

So instead of writing about all the joys of the first month, I’m going to leave you with some of the beauty in the pain.

I’ve talked a lot about the first three days of non-stop, mindless screaming from our new little son. (It helps that I’ve spoken with another family who adopted out of his orphanage and some of my  suspicions  were supported.) That was hard. But by day four, I don’t know, I was filled with love for this screamer. It could have been the wonderful prescription medication I was on, but something was different that day. We had just settled into the uncomfortable knowledge that this could be our life now. It could be our life for months or years. And we needed to function despite that. It’s scary when after three days you have no light at the end of the tunnel. Three days is long when your child is screaming at top volume, but it’s longer when you don’t know if it’s just three days or a lifetime.

Want to see a glimpse of day four? Turn your volume down and click here. By day four I loved this little boy. By day four his screams were not high-pitched anymore, and he seemed to be asking for comfort instead of reacting to an unseen terror. I held him on the couch after not showering or brushing my hair or teeth for three days. I held him and whispered love to him. I was able to smile–a small miracle. My husband took a video. We wanted to capture daily life.

Then, and I cry as I remember this, then this happened: This. For the first time ever he came back to us. Back out of the world he was in. I can’t describe how for three days his eyes were just blank, unfocused. Then he started to make eye contact. Then he didn’t thrash when I touched his face. He came back. He came back.

And he made kissy faces. “More kisses mom. Yep right there on my forehead. Perfect.”

When I wrote the blog post about (not) living happily ever after, I was being very honest. I thought maybe people would not want to adopt after reading how we were adjusting. Then THREE people emailed me after that and said that they read the post and were definitely going to adopt. One started the process. Another picked an agency. A third is definitely, seriously considering it a few years down the road. Wow. Wow. Really guys? After I post about screaming? Welcome my fellow crazies! Haha!

They get it; it’s about people.

Now do me a favor and click here. Read  this story and then you can tell me that we’re all crazy. (We won’t argue.) Go ahead. I read that link and cried my eyes out. It speaks truth to me. It lets me know I’m not a freak show for wanting to go back and get another one, or support others getting theirs even though I know it’s so hard. Just read it. (Despite the amazing support we’ve received, we still have the same crowd mentioned in the story.) Do me a favor and just read it. I didn’t write it, but we sure lived it.

See you in a week, friends. Hold onto this promise from me, incredible joyful stories are coming. Just give us one more week or so of hard. Pray for us.

And they all lived happily ever after… kinda.

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Click to enlarge image.

I started a tradition of drawing really bad cartoons over at my other blog. The above creation was inspired when someone actually said this to me. SOMEONE ACTUALLY SAID THIS TO ME! (Boohoohoo.) For real. Seriously. But  I did not cold cock them. Oh no, I just gently corrected them. And that one  herculean  act of self restraint pretty much means I can yell at the next one hundred people karma free. Pretty sure that’s how that works. Don’t correct me.

(Disclaimer: This is my story as Roland’s mommy. His daddy and sister have their own stories. I may get their permission to share their stories with you, but for now this is my story.)

(Um… other disclaimer: Imma ’bout to get preachy.)

When your child first comes home is a time known as the honeymoon phase. It’s been described as a time where they are so new and well behaved. Then something triggers culture shock or they finally feel safe enough to show you their grief and life gets harder for a time. My girl crush, Jen Hatmaker, describes it really well here.

But for very little guys who don’t yet get self preservation skills, they are brutally honest almost immediately.

When Roland arrived on American soil he was glossy-eyed and shell shocked. I had this wonderful moment with him where after 28 hours of travel and dehydration he let me make a warm bottle of breast milk (donated) and he downed the whole thing and fell asleep in my arms. Precious.

Then he woke up.

And proceeded to scream.

For three days.

Straight.

I spent most of the first three days curled up on the living room floor with my child who screamed and thrashed. (Full body thrashing convulsions.) I held him while he screamed at top volume for over an hour at a time. As he screamed his whole body jerked violently. He screamed until he threw up. I looked at my husband and we both said without a word, “What have we done?”

During those three days there would be periods of “not screaming.” Not to be mistaken as periods of peace or happiness, just… not screaming. We would walk on egg shells until something triggered him. Food triggered him 100% of the time. He had MAJOR food issues. He had sleep issues. He had abandonment issues. He stimmed. He had sensory issues. Changing his diaper was traumatic. Changing his clothes was traumatic. Holding him in my lap facing away from me was traumatic. Bonding was out the window. We were hunkered down in survival mode.

We were in the trenches.

When people congratulated us on our adoption we felt so hollow inside, like we couldn’t accept their well-wishes on account of feeling so broken like we had ruined this. Obviously things got better. Three weeks later I’m full of cutesy Rolly stories and I go around showing off my son proudly. But for three hard days, and about a week more of “not easy” we were in the trenches.  And it was hard on everyone.

Keep in mind that during this time one of our friends had a  tragic  accident where their adopted daughter drowned and now is suffering brain damage, and another family traveling the same summer as us got word nine days before departing to meet their son that he had died waiting for them. Those stories made me cling to my son, despite the hard times.

Things we heard in the trenches:

“I really hope this was God’s will for you.”

“You asked for this.”

“I’m not sure how much we are suppose to take on other people’s problems. I mean how hard is your life going to be now because of this.”

“Adopted kids grow up weird.”

Okay that last one was said by Pat Robertson who is not a real person, but the other three things were said by real people, aka people in my life. Shockingly, these were professed Bible-believers from three different faiths.

I’ve already written a blog post on why the Bible-believing crowd should support orphans which you can read here. In it I site over a dozen Bible passages (not an exhaustive list) commanding followers to support orphans (and foreigners and widows). One I don’t quote much, because it’s always quoted is James 1:27 which says that you’re not really the good religious person you think you are if you’re not helping orphans and widows. God’s will for someone’s life is not some magical feeling individuals get while they’re meditating where they hear a whisper telling them to buy a car or have a baby. God’s will is outlined in Scripture: Love God. Trust Jesus. Give. Seek justice. Do good. Think good. Care for orphans. Help your neighbor. Etc.

Not God’s will? It’s clear as day!

As far as claiming that the Bible calls people to lives of comfort and never to anything hard (or too hard to handle), well that’s a lie. I’m convinced God does not want you to be comfortable. Peaceful, hopeful, content, sure, but not comfortable. And usually it’s something too hard to handle alone. Let’s just look at some Bible-y peoples and their easy lives, shall we? Jesus was  crucified. God is constantly grieved. All of Jesus’  apostles  died in cruel ways, save the one that got exiled which is no picnic. Most of the prophets were killed, all of them went through cruel things. Their lives were the least comfortable. Job was God’s favorite. Joseph too. Moses. John the Baptist. I don’t want their stories. Do you? The Levites were never given property of their own, despite how valuable that was in that day and age, because God was their portion. Every character in the Bible went through hardship for God, because of God. The Bible says to followers, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) That’s your Bible, people. One that points towards eternal rewards and not toward earthly comforts.

My experience in the trenches may be limited compared to others.  We think Roland was coming off of something, maybe a drug to make him sleep through the night. He screamed like a mindless crack baby. And whatever it was in his system he had to come off it cold turkey. Our friends who adopted from a different orphanage in the same country were given the names of the medications their son was on and they were able to get the prescriptions in country and have their child come off it gradually. Not us. Roland’s little system just crashed. Remember the breast milk and the child in my arms when we first got home? I held that memory through the next miserable 72 hours.

He needed his Mama. Even during the worst of it if I moved away from him a few inches he would roll towards me while thrashing around. He felt safest to scream while right up against my leg. (Yay.) Walking the halls with him helped. I whispered love to him when I didn’t feel it, when I was a shell of a person. My ears were always ringing. He was so angry.

Three days. And then Roland was back. Well hello there Mama!

My sweet, goofy boy.

We still had a long way to go, a lot to grieve, but we had support. We had meals from close friends. We had emails and Facebook messages. We had other adopting families tell me that it’s okay to feel the “what the bleepity-bleep have we done” feelings and to love your child when that biological pull is not there. Roland still had the occasional melt down, especially over food or if he thought we might be walking away from him, but things were better. Everyone was breathing. Laughter came back. When he threw a screaming fit, Laelia and I would just shrug at each other and have an entire conversation through it while I rubbed his back. We were adjusting and eventually I could bring him out of his fits quickly. I was starting to get to know Roland and learn about his trauma and his triggers.

After those three days, that biological pull was there. As if I’d birthed him. Amazing.

Now my son is not just a screamer, although his nickname is Mr. Screamers, but so was Laelia’s when she was little. Just imagine the jolt to his system! He had never been out of that orphanage. Never. been. out. I made him suffer through his very first car ride (which scared him), his first rain (the umbrella scared him), his first walk through the city (which scared him), his first  chew-able  food (which he choked on), his second chew-able food (which he threw up) his first three plane rides (trauma), a new place to live, new smells, new foods, new expectations, new sights, traffic noises outside and a whole host of culture stress and shock.

(But I gave him kitties and he loves kitties. So there you go.)

But it got easier. It got better. After only a week if someone said, “Where’s Mama?” he would turn around and put his arms up for me with a huge grin on his face. I was told to hold and carry him everywhere and I have. I’ve held him while peeing. Don’t judge. ;) I’ve gone days without showering or brushing my teeth like having a newborn. It took a week for him to have a meal without a melt down. Cheerios were a form a torture at one point, and now they are his favorite food. We still are feeding him baby food out of ziplock bags with the corner cut off to squeeze in his mouth, but he ate veggie  lasagna like a champ! I could dry him off after a bath without towel trauma. He started cuddling during nap times. He let me change his shirt without crying. His pants. His diaper. Dear Lord his diaper.

Oh, and I got a tooth brush in my son’s mouth for the first time in his life. Where’s my medal?

After two weeks we could do diaper changes while laughing and playing. He drank his first cup of water without it coming out his mouth or choking on it. Meal time no longer was traumatic and he no longer freaked out if I had to get up to get something during the meal. He also no longer ate until he hurt. He was trusting us to care for him. He was trusting food would still be there. He was gaining weight.

Haven’t seen  stimming  since the first week.

Roland is 23 months old, but had a mental age of 9 months at the time of meeting him. After two weeks of us visiting him in the orphanage daily he was up to a 12 month mental age. Now after a few weeks at home he’s up to 18 months on a good day. That’s what love can do. He can say his sister’s name. He can say kitty and then point to a kitty. But when I try to get him to say Mama, he just gets excited and throws himself into me as if to say, “You’re right here.” :) He said, “Ma ma ma ma?” after a nap the other day and my heart simply exploded with love.

After daily stretching (which he lovessssss, not) his elbows gained 15 degrees of ROM on the right and almost 10 degrees of ROM on the left. For those of you without experience with arthrogryposis and range of motion, that’s a good thing. It means his elbows can bend a slight bit more. It means changing his clothes is easier and soon he can start feeding himself long soft bread sticks. He’s already shown an interest in self-feeding.

But besides the very real triumphs and glorious stories of my son overcoming, well, everything, the real reward is in our changed perspective. I got to experience first-hand the redemptive work of God that he did for me. The Bible says that God adopted us. We are heirs of God and co-heirs (with equal portion) of Christ. The Bible is full of adoption language! Check it out: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)  What a life-changer this is. I thrash and scream at God because I don’t understand him or his ways, and I certainly don’t understand his care of me. But God loves me. Forever.

***Roland, it’s mommy’s job to love you. You’ve already given me more than I could ever give you. I would take you again in a heart beat. You are mine.***

Please consider adoption. And if you do not qualify legally to adopt, go here, pick a  category, find a baby and do something, anything for that child. Or go here and support an adopting family. That counts as caring for the orphan. Orphans are God’s very heart.

The story of Roland continued

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  John 14:18

Being at home was surreal. We were legally a family of four, but could not claim our son from the orphanage until after the appeal time ran out. Not that we didn’t have plenty of distractions. I was unpacking and repacking, Charley was getting documents notarized, Linda (Charley’s sister) was moving in, Niki (our roommate) was getting ready to move out and Laelia was settling back in after a lot of travel. We were also trying to get return tickets set up, which after some back and forth turned out to be one-way tickets. I told Chelsea we didn’t know when we would get to come home. I’m super comforting like that. ;)

When Chelsea and I got to the ticket counter we were told that Ukraine may not let us enter with one-way tickets. It was pretty funny. I also think the guy thought Chelsea and I were adopting as a couple. Let’s just say you get a lot of strange questions when you travel with an empty car seat stroller (that Germany liked to lose).

Traveling without children is glorious. I highly recommend it.

When we landed I recognized Niko and all the sudden realized how comforting and familiar Kiev was. There’s the lemon and chocolate ice cream and there’s the random people in my personal space and there’s where I get  grivnas for my dollars and there’s the unbearable heat (which happened to be a record-breaker for Kiev). Home again home again. :) We were asked if we wanted to wait around for an hour for another family. It turned out to be Chris and Julie who we started this whole process with! Super exciting to see them again! In fact we also got to meet several adopted families who we’d been Facebook friends with but had yet to hang out with. It was a lot of fun!

AMC mommies

Then we settled into our apartment. Chelsea and I scored a better apartment than what my family and I shared a couple weeks earlier. We hauled some water up there and battled the multiple locks to get in. (Three locked doors until you get in the apartment, five locked doors until you get into the bedroom with the  meager  AC unit where we were huddled.) So we were plenty safe. I was so glad to have a friend for this part of the trip.

I’ve got to say that for the first week it was like a vacation. We did a lot of tourist-y things that I couldn’t drag my daughter to while we were here the first time. Plus I could now find my way around. Chelsea wouldn’t sit still so we had a lot of adventures. :) We mastered the metro. We saw all the sights. We visited anyone who was in Kiev for any reason who we kindof knew from Reece’s Rainbow. One night we got on a bus late at night going “somewhere” (we can’t read the signs) and got off after about six stops and found our way back. Just for fun. This was a grand adventure.

While I was gone for the two weeks, Laelia had learned two new tricks (Linda was taking over PT at home). She learned to walk down a step with her crutches (video here) and open doors (video here). She could not wait for me to get home and show off her skills. I was able to Facetime with her one morning and she was so darn cute and showed me how she also learned to lock and unlock the doors. (Ut oh! Haha!) She said she missed me and it about broke my heart. I love my little girl.

The first full day in Ukraine was a big paper chase. We were in a car for over six hours just so I could sign three pieces of paper. It was killer. But I finally got my son’s birth certificate! It now listed his new name and me as his mommy! That was super exciting.

At least they assure me that’s what it said. I can’t read a word of his birth certificate. Our last stop that day was to change his tax code. I guess it’s like our version of a SS number. They need to officially delete (or change, I wasn’t clear) the tax code to show that Yegor no longer existed now that his birth certificate has been changed to Roland. This needed to be done *before* we could apply for his passport. After waiting for hours it was clear something went wrong. Our driver was late to pick up the next family from the airport and we needed to leave. We just prayed it would work out.

It didn’t.

We couldn’t get Roland and take him to get his passport photo without this code change. We couldn’t get this code change. If we couldn’t get the process started on his passport then we couldn’t leave. And without reason to visit (like to get official stuff done on his passport) it was hard to get a driver from the team to take us to the orphanage since there were so many families in need of the team this summer. I posted the following plea for prayer on Facebook Thursday night: “We hit a snag in the paperwork processing part of this adoption. I’ll just say something went wrong and it kept us from getting Roland’s passport photo today or seeing him. It’s been five days and I have yet to hold him, and it may be four days before we can move forward in this process if they don’t fix it tomorrow before the weekend. We’re now behind and may be looking at more days here.”

The next day we waited around for hours for Niko to call us. Finally we got word that we could move forward and at least get the passport photo taken, although the problems had not been completely resolved. We jumped in  the car and drove to his orphanage. I was so excited to see my baby again!

First we had to drive down the road to get a picture taken for our embassy appointment. Upon entering the car for the very first time Roland burst into pathetic, fearful tears. It broke my heart. I started singing to him and he only  whimpered  occasionally after that. Cars are scary. (Ukrainian traffic is more scary.) Once out of the car he hammed it up for the first pictures. He is so darn cute! Then we had to make the long drive to Kiev to get his passport pictures taken. I sang and rocked and comforted. He did okay, considering this was all so new, with only this occasional whimper. It was his nap time, but he couldn’t sleep through something like this, even with the rocking motions. His eyes were wide the whole time.

I sang every song I could think of to him. From Christmas songs to Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I started singing How Great Thou Art, but when it came to the line of, “And when I think, that God, his son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,” I started totally choking up and tearing up. That was a no go. Wow, now that I have a son… well that means a lot more to me.

Finally we arrived for passport application and pictures and then got in the car to go all the way back. Poor little guy handled it like a champ. I think he was relieved to be dropped back off at the orphanage though.

Then the second of our delays happened. The person in charge of processing our passport had some sort of death in her family and was unable to be reached. So now we were waiting on a passport that was not coming, couldn’t reach the lady doing it (God forbid someone else takes over in this case), and without a passport in hand we could not finish our embassy appointments. We ended up going to the first embassy appointment without the passport. They said we had to bring it to our second and final appointment the next day. We hoped and prayed and waited but it never came. Also there was no word on if it was coming.

We had to cancel our second embassy appointment.

I spent $40 to visit the orphanage for seven minutes that day. It was suppose to be 30 minutes, but between delays and the nannies “getting him ready” our time was only seven minutes. I had just enough time to promise him I would come back for him. (It was either leave then or try to find our way back with a $100 taxi who didn’t speak English.)

The day we were *suppose* to book our tickets home  had come and gone. We were stuck. Chelsea had to work on Monday. I had an important medical appointment in San Diego for Roland on Tuesday with an adoption specialist. It was stressful. And part of the stress was that I didn’t have my little boy who was now legally mine.

So I made the decision to take Roland from the orphanage without having his passport. They recommend taking your child out of the orphanage closer to when you travel home so as not to confuse them with new living arrangements that don’t last. But the thought of leaving him in the orphanage one more day just hurt my heart. So I told the team I was taking him. When we arrived at the orphanage I was asked if I had an outfit for him. I didn’t. I had plenty at the apartment, but was under the impression that they sent them home with one. (They do.) They said, “Then maybe you wait and get him tomorrow.” Nah uh. I just offered to pay for the clothes on his back. It was  unnecessary  as they gave them to me. (Girl socks, pants four sizes too big and a shirt and sweater.) I also requested the blanket on his bed. They handed me a very stinky sheet. (It made my eyes water.)

I had asked to see how he ate his lunch. They put me in a white coat and led me up to the feeding room. Every child sat in a little chair and ate with a giant oversized spoon. Every child except Roland who was on the floor. They told me they fed him tea and stew. They warned that Roland has a tiny mouth and to put the spoon back in his mouth with little tiny bites on it. He didn’t know how to chew and just swallowed the food whole. Roland was “done” before the other children and he sat there watching them eat. Then I took him upstairs to finish signing him out of there. I felt strange in my white nanny coat.

This is the director of the orphanage and our driver, Niko. Both of these people are wonderful, and our family owes them a great deal.

We walked out of the orphanage forever. Here’s the video I posted in a previous teaser post.

He would never go back there. Never be left alone. We took him back to our apartment in Kiev. By this point the unbearable heat was gone and it was raining and cold. We walked around in the rain trying to find diapers since our local pharmacy (because they only sell diapers there) didn’t have any. (The umbrella scared him.) Roland was in the city with it’s noises and he was completely overwhelmed. He  buried  his head in my chest and threw up down my shirt. But finally we found some diapers.

And finally, like magic, the passport came through! We drove out to get it and held it like it was made of gold.

We quickly had Yulia set up a new embassy appointment for Thursday and booked flights home for Friday.

Unfortunately our friends Julie and Chris didn’t end up getting their passport in time and had to cancel their flights home. We visited them and their new son, Ryan, in their apartment before we left. Isn’t Ryan adorable?! They are the same size, but Ryan is several years older.

In Kiev Roland explored the apartment. He loved to turn on the microwave. (Who puts a microwave at toddler level?!) He loved to open and shut the hall door. When I tried to feed him lunch I realized that Roland has a lot of feeding issues. For one thing he doesn’t know how to chew. And I wasn’t about to stick a large spoon down his throat. The first stupid thing I did was feed him a grape that he choked on. Ugh. You’d think I’d never had a kid before. Then we tried little bites of pasta. We settled on baby food in jars and he happily ate that. Little guy couldn’t even bite off a tiny piece of graham cracker. Both Chelsea and I were pointing at our teeth and making exaggerated chewing motions. He sucked everything like a bottle (like chewy granola bars) or swallowed it whole (he gummed and swallowed an entire banana).

Roland got his first real bath. He loved the splashy fun. It was hard to scrub him as he was just a blur of motion. I learned he hates to have his little hands scrubbed so we had to pretend to play games with them. He was so happy. And he finally smelled wonderful. It was easy to curl up with him that night and smell his shampooed little head.

When it was time for bed I put his sheet (eww) on him for a familiar smell and curled up beside him. He didn’t move from that spot and slept almost through the night. This would be the last time this would ever happen. I’ll explain more on that later. It was so nice to sing him to sleep and hold his hand until he drifted off. His arms don’t bend so he sleeps with them out like this.

It had just been one day, one huge day, and his life was forever changed. He was loved. He would never be left again.

Our ride to the airport showed up at 3:00am the next morning. Roland said goodbye (he can wave bye-bye) to the team, and to Erika (Bernadette and Mason‘s mommy) who enjoyed loving on him. Travel was hard, not as hard as it could have been, but hard nonetheless. Roland still has belt burns on his skin where they made him put on a seat belt for the first flight and he twisted and freaked out. The next two plane rides I did not make him wear it. He freaked out and would slide to the floor, then would fall asleep, then would be fine, and then freak out again and slide to the floor. He threw up. He couldn’t keep liquids down. He choked on a tiny piece of bread. He pooped a ton and had to get changed on the plane which he hated. He screamed a lot. I’m sure the other passengers loved us. :) I got through half of the Avengers movie and that was the only break I really got. Even when he was calm I was still worried about him.

We arrived home completely worn out. Just by accident we ran into some church friends in the airport parking lot on their way back from a trip to visit family. I got to show off my new baby. It was fun and I was starting to regret not having a big reception when we arrived. (After 28 hours of travel, one big cheering crowd can’t really add too much more to the trauma, right?) Roland got to see his daddy for the first time in almost a  month. Even though I was starting to get sick to my stomach (probably from a bug I picked up), I was so relieved to be home. We were home.

And life was about to get interesting. And hard.

To be continued…

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…

Family of Four

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Blog changes! It’s now not all about Laelia anymore, but about her brother too!

It’s official! We are now (legally) a family of four! Introducing Laelia’s new little brother and our new son, Roland!

We now have a Lalibug and a Rollypoly. ;)

Laelia is thrilled with her little brother when he’s not trying to grab her face with his “grabby hands” (her words). He also has arthrogryposis and, we’re guessing here, but we think it’s the exact same amyoplasia type as Laelia. Both of them look so much alike it’s going to be hard convincing people that amyoplasia is not genetic! :)

Laelia will be five on October 3rd and Roland will be two on October 14th.

There’s so much to say, but I’ve been pretty quiet in the blogging world to protect the privacy of this process. Just know that I’ll be catching you all up on our foreign summer travels, adoption and everything Laelia very soon. (She can now walk short distances on flat surfaces without her walking sticks! And she learned to climb up on the couch! She learned to do both those things while in a foreign country!)

We love our kids so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laelia and Roland’s new room!

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Grandma and Grandpa stayed with us this last week to help get things all nice and pretty for Laelia’s baby brother who is coming this summer. We talked about where to put him and decided to put him in Laelia’s room since he’s coming from an orphanage where he’s used to (and comforted by) sleeping with other kids. Once he’s ready we’ll move him to his own room. In the meantime Laelia has been super excited about having her baby brother in her room.

If you saw the last blog post you saw the state of Laelia’s room. We’ll call that the before picture. What you can’t see in that picture is that  buried  under all the stuff is a cute little girlie room with pink items everywhere. Laelia’s favorite color is red, which conveniently doubles as a “boy color.” So over the course of two days I got out a small can of red paint (a very unforgiving color when spilled) and went nuts. Slowly we went from pink to red. (Hoping to switch the maroon curtains with something either true red or neon green down the road.) And here are the results!

The crib is off to the far right. I painted all the dresser drawer knobs red. :)

Switched out the pink  baskets with red ones. I also painted the mirror edge and the top of the plastic bin. Red red red!

Roland’s crib. My first attempt at painting letters from stencils.

My dad installed a ceiling fan because this place gets REALLY hot. I made it red. :)

Here’s a video of her red room:

And here’s Laelia enjoying her new room! Awwww!

Laelia loves her new red room!

Laelia has a secret!

Monday, December 19th, 2011

And to figure out who she’s talking about go here.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laelia’s first surgery in Philly

Friday, July 30th, 2010

For those of you who don’t know, my daughter is scheduled to have bilateral proximal femoral reorientation osteotomies on November 11th, a little over a month after her third birthday. That is a huge, major, body-altering surgery on both femurs just below the hip. Aka hip surgery. Aka terrifying.

I’m having a hard time getting a hold of the nurse coordinator, except for the occasional email with promises of future phone calls that never happen. I’ve been waiting three weeks for a phone call. Now she’s telling me Monday. I know they’re busy so I try to be patient.

During this phone call I get to ask all my questions, but I’m at a loss of what to ask. Just try Googling that long-winded surgery name to understand my frustration! I need to know everything, and I need it super dumbed down for me! :)

But as soon as I do get to ask my questions, and subsequently get my answers, then begins the arduous tasks of faxing over paperwork, meeting with her local doctor to keep him in the loop, figuring out flights and planning extended time off work. There’s a California program that may cover some of my leave without pay for the second week in Philly that I have yet to research. Then I have to set up accommodations for the 9+ days we’re there and start saving towards it. I think Ronald McDonald House is going to be our home away from home. I just wish I could schedule staying at the one closest to the hospital ahead of time!

In the meantime, my baby is going to turn three-years old on October 3rd. This is very emotional for me. She’s getting to the age where she’s going to start remembering some of these surgeries. I’ve never before in my life worried so much about one little person! What will she think? How will she feel? Will the medical stuff ever end? How can we make her life normal? Will this surgery allow her to stand without her knees being fixed too?

It does help that the surgery ended up being in November. Originally we were going to try to have it in September, but that’s just around the corner! I need more time than that. The only bad thing with November is that it’s too close to Christmas. I believe (although I have to make sure this is still the case) that we have to stay in Philly about two weeks for the surgery, then fly home, then fly BACK to Philly six weeks later. That puts us in the Christmas flying season. And I still have no idea how we’re flying both trips, all three of us.

I’m doing this wonderful study of Ruth with some girlfriends. I have a workbook to answer questions as I read the history of Ruth. In the workbook it asked what legacy I’d like to leave. Even thinking of the future (legacy or none) stresses me out. I couldn’t even answer the question! But I don’t think anyone asked that of Ruth; it would have stressed her out too. And the answer at one point probably would have been, “Die in poverty as a widowed migrant worker.” I think it’s better to focus on the second/minute/hour that you’re in. Work a hard day’s work and stay focused on it. I can only do this journey if it happens day by day. Because I could look at my list of everything I have to accomplish before November and pass out! So one day at a time. One moment at a time. One weekend at a time. And God is ever present.

Vegas and back again: A Mommy’s tale

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

I  was in Las Vegas at Deaf Nation this whole week. It was a long time to be away from Laelia–the longest time I’ve ever been away from her in fact. She learned the days of the week, kindof, as we went over and over what days I’d be gone and what would happen each day I was gone. And I promised I’d be back. And I warned that I would want lots of hugs and kisses and cuddles and would be very needy when I got back. She would solemnly respond, “Okay Mama.” When I finally got back home and woke her up from her nap, she was so adorable! She kept smiling really big even though she was half asleep!  She was the sweetest thing ever!  But at one point of many hugs and kisses and cuddles, she started to ask for a break! :) Now she’s been a little clingy. She demands that Mama put her to bed and Mama hold her and Mama brush her teeth and Mama feed her, etc etc etc. But I’m happy to do it! And Daddy is more than happy for the break! :)

I brought back a Super Deafy doll for her, and they have been inseparable ever  since. She even makes me put her hands in I Love You handshapes, even though the arthrogryposis doesn’t allow it. Every joint in all her fingers are stiff with contractures so it’s hard, but she still makes me do it. Breaks my heart that this child can’t lift her arms or move her fingers very much. Sometimes I think it might be better for her not to fall in love with a Deaf action hero. But just look at her face! How can I take him away?

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Click on the picture for the video.

Sidenote: Laelia calls every doll or baby  or random object “Penny.” In the words of my husband to Penny’s Mother, “So Laelia has started making voices for every inanimate object in the house, and she has decided they are all named Penny. This leads to some surreal conversation openers like (in high-pitched voice) ‘Hi! I Penny the butt paste!’ =]”  

She explained to a lady at the grocery store today that Super Deafy doesn’t hear himself and wears a bib on his back. The concept of deafness and capes are beyond her no matter how many Deaf people she’s met… um, in capes no less. :) We’ve been watching the Super Deafy  videos online,  and Laelia demands we see them over and over. I’ve had to interpret them for her, and she really gets into them! She doesn’t get that Super Deafy is being funny, but instead cheers him on. So cute! I did the same thing as a kid with the old Batman TV shows. ZAPPO WHAM BLAM! It was serious business for me. :)

Needless to say, Laelia has had a busy week with Daddy while I was out partying… I mean working. :)  Thankfully  they had Megan and Chelsea and Lauren and everyone at school to help. Plus Jill and Sylvia at OT and PT. Plus, you know,  a box. :)    

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Our weekend

Monday, July 12th, 2010

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Grandma, there’s no way your getting this out of my mouth.

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Cheese!

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Where’s Linda?

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Hehe!

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You people look hot. Not me! :)

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Look Daddy! A doggie!

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Quick hugs before bed!

Had a great time at Heath and Heather’s wedding! It was beautiful. Her dress was gorgeous! And Laelia loved to see all her family members! (And a few people not related to her who she thinks are family members. :)) And of course I zoinked all the pictures of Laelia from the wedding pictures and put them up above. :) Now we’re back from Idaho. Back to our routine. Well except for tomorrow Charley and Laelia are going to Disneyland to get some use out of these passes we bought.  Lucky bums.  I’ll be at work. :)

Got back from my doctor’s office today. Everyone was so amazed at how well behaved Laelia was (yay for naps!), and how smart she was. She had an invisible piglet on a leash that was running around everywhere! She kept asking the nurses if they wanted to pet the pig or hear it oink. So stinkin cute! I had to give piggy an invisible leash and chain at one point when it kept getting away. :) Laelia also asked to sit on the table and see the doctor. I had to explain that it was Mama’s doctor. This was a new concept–the fact that adults saw the doctor too. She didn’t believe me! She just kept waiting for the doctor to examine her. Ha! :)

It turns out I have costochondritis.  Pretty much it’s inflammation of the junctions where my ribs join with the cartilage that holds them to my sternum. I probably injured it while working out or even sleeping.  It explains the chest pain, it’s legitimate, it’s nothing major, has nothing to do with my heart or lungs, and does not require medication! Best of all it’s not stress-related! Yay! Good thing too, since we have more stress and surgeries and travel to look forward to. That pain in my chest was freaking me out, but now I know it will go away eventually. Whew.

I didn’t hear from Philly today about our surgery appointment. I emailed them, but the nurse who coordinates the surgeries was on vacation until today. She said she’d call me this week in an email. So we’ll know soon. Then I get to start the fun adventures of looking for flights, getting the time off work and arranging housing for the nine days we’ll be recovering in Philly. Ooh there was the pain in my chest again. Are they sure it’s not stress-related? :)

Also we decided to sign Laelia’s IEP (individual education plan). Our OT will measure her every joint, and then we’ll watch them like a hawk to see if we lose any range of motion during her time at school. If we lose even a little, we’ll fight this and have to hire legal help to change her IEP. But right now we’re in plan B. We’re looking for a volunteer to go to Laelia’s school for 15 minutes a day (would require getting a TB test first) to do her stretches. This would eliminate the need for it to be in her IEP. Her stretches take very little training. If anyone knows anyone interested let me know! Perfect for a lunch break!  (Nursing students, PT students and Child Development students *can* get extra credit for class, but have to check with their teachers first.)

Someone is demanding I read her books. Gotta go!