Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Attachment & Hospitalization...not a mix.

I think I shared that when we were in Serbia, I developed what started out feeling like a kidney stone on my left side and turned into an infection.

It was very scary, as well as painful, because Serbian healthcare is a far cry from American healthcare. Thankfully, our translator is also a dentist and he was able to get me some antibiotics which seemed to help initially. Then I started to get worse. We had planned to take me to the hospital or clinic the next day, but I woke up fever-free and feeling loads better. Glory to God!

Fast forward to Sunday night. My sister and family had just left after meeting our newest family member and I started to have right flank pain. I have a significant history of kidney stones and I always make really big ones, like the size of a robin's egg. What's your super power?

I took a pain pill and tried to breathe the pain away. I lasted until midnight, woke up Shawn, and we headed to the ER.
They took some blood, started an IV, and gave me morphine. Did not touch it. Gave me more morphine. Still nothing. Gave me anti-nausea meds which didn't stop the vomiting, either. Gave me toradol which eased the pain, but didn't come close to knocking it out. Finally gave me something wonderful but I can't remember the name. Bliss!

The Doogie-Howser-looking-doctor was very excited after he read my medical history and found my last stone was 1.2 cm, so he gleefully sent me for a CT scan. I did not disappoint. This time, I have bilateral monster kidney stones, which is quite a rarity, I'm told. I was admitted and then waited all day yesterday to be worked in to have stents placed. By that time, I had a nasty infection so was kept last night and tonight for more IV antibiotics. 

So, from the perspective of Eon and KJ, I left home for three weeks and they thought I lived in the computer but was never really coming home. Then I came home and was just getting them used to me leaving for short periods only, when I sneaked off in the middle of the night and didn't come home.

From Bogdan's perspective, I was the woman who calls herself "Mama" who took him from everything he knew, spent just about every waking second with him, then sneaked off in the middle of the night and didn't come back.

Not exactly the re-entry and attachment plan I had in mind.

But, you know what? God is good. This did not take Him by surprise and He is with my little ones even now. He has a plan and I'm choosing to rest in that knowledge. (It's possible the pain meds are helping me rest a bit, too.)

Here I am, avoiding my responsibilities in such a lovely shade of green.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Settling In

Five days in and Bogdan seems to be adjusting very well to life with lots of chaos siblings. He already has some specific ways he relates to certain people. For example, when he sees seven-year-old Ben, he nods his head really fast and laughs when Ben mimics him. 
Ben, Ellie, and Bogdan at the park.

He bonded first with nine-year-old Tali. She got up at 6:00 a.m. to spend time with him his first morning here. That hour and a half of one-on-one with him has paid big dividends as he still prefers her over the other kids. She delights in mothering him and he delights in letting her.
Tali and her new buddy

Eon was thrilled when he woke up Saturday morning and we were home. He just laid on me for a really long time and I got lots of kisses. He could not have cared less that we brought an extra kid with us, at first. He basically ignored Bogdan most of the day, which was fine because Bo was busy being overwhelmed by all the other siblings. Later in the day, Eon came over and started jabbering to him and pretty soon, they were poking each other and laughing. Sunday morning, Eon saw that Bo was already up and yelled, "Hiiiiii, 'ogdan! Pay," while waving and signing, "play." 

Eon seemed so HUGE and sophisticated to me when we first saw him. He really grasps the subtleties of communication and relationships. He turned four when we were gone and he really seems like a four-year-old. He also seems to be having a word explosion. He is mimicking everything we say and suddenly saying a lot of two-three word combinations. 
Big brother

It is interesting seeing him so quickly adjust to the role of big brother. He has a little sister, but he was only 21 months-old when she was born and, let's face it, she was born bossy, so they are more like twins than an older brother/younger sister set. With Bogdan, he finally has someone he can boss around and he is relishing the power! Their relationship needs a lot of supervision.
They look the same size here, but Eon is about 15lbs heavier and 5" taller.

Little sister, two-year-old KJ, adores him and expects his undivided attention. Unfortunately, she has an itty-bitty little girl voice and Bo doesn't hear very well. She is not used to being ignored (although it's probably really good for her) and is none too pleased with his apathy toward her. For now, it's okay because she just wants to spend much of her days trying to crawl inside my skin. I think she missed me. I went to the store the other day and when I returned she seemed shocked and exclaimed, "Mama! You home?!?" Of course she was surprised...the last time I left home, I was gone for three weeks.
KJ feeling like all is better with the world now that we're home.

Shawn and I are loving the fact that Bogdan will stop playing and come over for a snuggle every once in awhile. He watches me with the other two little ones and seems to have figured out that he just needs to come close to get a tickle or a hug. It warms my heart that he already seems to know that I'm his mama.
Checking out the planes on the way home.

As for our adjustment to being home, we managed to stay awake until 10:00 last night! We may beat jet lag, yet.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Trip Home

When we looked around our apartment on Friday to make sure we'd packed everything, I told Shawn, "Well, there is nothing bittersweet about leaving!" We were so anxious to get home with our precious cargo.

The initial flight from Belgrade to Zurich went very well. Bogdan seemed to have none of the issues with his ears that I was anticipating. He wasn't a big fan of sitting in his seat, but didn't protest too much. 

In Zurich, we boarded a bus that took us to the terminal and then a train which took us to the other end of the airport. Let me just say, the Zurich Airport is cool! The train was awesome with video and sound effects and was my favorite part of the whole trip. We exited the train, went up a flight of stairs and went through security again. Then we hiked to our gate, were stopped at passport control while we gave tons of information and then repeated it all for each passport. The officer was Serbian and was very nice and thanked us for adopting a "child like him." 

As we exited passport control, we saw they were boarding our flight. So much for buying a water bottle. We attempted to board, but were stopped because Bogdan's name on his passport was in cyrillic and the name on his ticket was English. They made us step aside and I was momentarily alarmed. But, thankfully, common sense prevailed and we were allowed to board. 

Here's where I put a plug in for Swiss Air. Wow! The plane was new, so the seats were so much more comfortable. The entertainment was awesome. Each seat had a screen on the seat in front of it with a remote control. We were able to choose from a huge variety of movies, tv shows, music, or games along with which language we preferred. (On our Lufthansa flight on the way to Munich, we had only a few English channels and could only watch what was playing in real time.) The food was actually pretty good and they fed us a lot - no pretzels there. Our snacks included white chocolate ice cream, guyere cheese, and fresh croissants. They gave Bogdan a stuffed plane, a block toy, and a back pack to entertain him. But the real reason I recommend Swiss Air is because the coffee is good. 

Bogdan was unimpressed. He whined and cried for most of the flight (about eight of ten hours.) We were unable to distract him for more than a minute or two at a time. We had given him motrin in a bottle before the first flight, but flying really didn't seem to bother his ears, specifically. He did have about four really nasty diapers during the flight, which was unusual for him. Thankfully, he is a quiet crier and not a screamer, so I don't think he bothered the other passengers much. It wasn't until the end of the flight that Shawn realized he was probably having a reaction to the milk. The milk in Serbia tastes very different than the milk we are used to here in America. I think the Swiss milk was closer to what we have. At this point, he will only drink milk (and only from a bottle) and he had a lot of it during the flight.

He did not sleep the entire trip to Chicago. Once in Chicago, we waited in line to get through passport control. Bogdan did great! He just sat in his stroller, taking his socks and shoes off and throwing them until I finally just put them in my carry on. There were 35 lanes available and about 17 of them open. Just as we arrived at an open lane, the officer next to our lane told ours, "I'm going to the bathroom." I looked behind us and saw another 100 people standing in line. Really? Bathroom break now?!? Ugh.

Our officer opened our packet from the Embassy and put it in a pink folder and sent us to the next area. We handed off our pink folder and were told to take a seat. There was one man processing the folders. There were approximately fifteen families to be processed. Sigh. We amused ourselves by watching the customs officers search bags, hoping against hope they wouldn't search ours. We had nothing to hide, but another delay would've sent me over the edge.

Thankfully, our names were called and we were told, "You're all set." It wasn't until later we realized that meant Bogdan is now an American citizen. No fanfare there. Our bags were x-rayed, but not searched and we headed for United to re-check our bags. The clerk couldn't find us on our flight home. I was starting to get irritated when we miraculously appeared on her list. 

Bags checked and boarding passes in hand, we waited in line for security which seemed like utter chaos. Made it through, found the nearest family bathroom, trekked to our gate, and shared a McDonald's meal. At this point, we had been awake for twenty-three hours and Bogdan had been awake for twenty. He was still smiling and throwing socks if he could get his hands on them.

We finally boarded our flight to Indy. Before we even taxied to the runway, Bogdan slumped over on me and fell fast asleep. It was 8:30 pm EST. He didn't wake up until 6:00 am. He completely slept through de-boarding, buckling into the car, meeting the siblings, a diaper change, and being laid in the pack-n-play.

We were exhausted, as well. It was so good to see the friends that met us at the airport and, especially, our two oldest daughters who were there, as well! We arrived home to handmade signs welcoming us home, an amazingly clean house thanks to a few good friends, and some very wound up children. The two younger kids were already asleep. So, so happy to be HOME!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eyes Not Opened

I hate when I'm following someone's adoption via blog and they hit the grand finale...and then don't post a long and descriptive narrative about it. If you're like me, you may want to stop reading now.

We did have the adoption ceremony in Kragujevac on Monday, February 11. Bogdan Nikolai Lakes is now permanently and completely ours! It was a small and informal, but heartfelt ceremony and I enjoyed it even though I was quite ill. Then there was some paper chasing, use of a Turkish toilet, more paper chasing, a croissant with chocolate filling that was amazing even with a fever, more paper chasing, and lots of driving. Whew!

We made the trek with our court authorized interpreter, a woman in her early fifties, I would guess. Since we were squeezed like sardines in the back of a tiny European car, we made small talk and I discovered that she was beyond fascinated with the size of our family. Baffled, would be a better word, actually. She asked a lot of questions and finally blurted out, "How do you do all that work yourself?!? My husband helps me a little, but with three kids, I cannot keep up." Ah. I explained that neither of us does "all the work." Our kids are taught to work, too.

She launched into her tales of woe about her eldest son who won't even make his bed and his room is a mess, plus he's disrespectful to her when she tries to enforce rules. Sympathizing, I asked her how old he is.


Oh my. 

He doesn't have a job because, as an artist, it's difficult to find work so he lives with them and she gives him money for necessities. His girlfriend lives in another country, although they Skype daily, that relationship isn't really going anywhere, etc. She's clearly worried about him and she, even more clearly, loves him.

I tell you this, not to cast aspersions on her parenting or his immaturity, but because of the conversation on the way home.

She began to question me on the return trip about Down syndrome. "Didn't you have any prenatal testing? It was okay that you did not have a healthy baby? You were willing to just accept that? Doesn't he take up so much time? Are you bringing him this other one to entertain him?" Etc.

I gave her well-rehearsed answers that I've repeated over the years and she was trying to understand. As we moved into "functionality" and the future of the boys, I began to see what was really going on.

I had been telling her about just turned four-year-old Eon and she asked if his case was mild. I informed her that he has an extra chromosome in every cell of his body. You can't get more severe than that. But, I told her about how much he is part of the team at home. He clears his spot after meals, puts dirty clothes in the hamper, helps Daddy with the dishes, and picks up his toys.

She asked me if he will ever have children. I responded that most men with Ds are sterile, but many can marry or live alone with some supports. 

She just couldn't grasp the beauty in a life with Down syndrome and kept shaking her head sadly. 

I was becoming frustrated with her because what was obvious to me, was completely lost on her. 

Most people are afraid of Down syndrome because they are worried that: 
  • Their child will live with them forever - check - her son still lives with her.
  • They will have to provide for them into adulthood - check.
  • Their child won't have meaningful employment - check.
  • They will have to provide physical care for their adult child. - check.
  • Their child might miss out on the beauty of a marriage - check
Here is a woman who is living with a typically developed, intellectually intact adult child that is less "functional" than my 4-year-old son with Down syndrome, and she can't see it!

She is already living the life which most people fear when they think of Down syndrome, still clearly loves her son, yet, because my boys may need assistance as adults, she cannot understand how I adore them.

Because her eyes aren't opened. 

Mine didn't used to be, either. I accepted and valued people with disabilities. I even hoped to adopt a child with Ds, someday (check!). But, even after Eon was born, I realized that I was spending a lot of energy listing for people all the things he was going to be able to DO.

I, too, placed inherent value in functionality. Underneath all of my posturing, I held a belief, unknown even to myself, that people are valuable for what they can do.

It is a lie.

During the adoption ceremony, the lawyer commended us on seeing value in Bogdon's life. She commented on what a joyous child he is and how easy he is to love. I agreed with her. But what I wanted to say was, "Even if all he could do was sit in a corner and drool, he would still have value; he would still have purpose; he would still have worth!" 

(And yes, there are  thousands of orphans out there who, mostly because of severe neglect and malnourishment, can only lay in a crib and drool...and they have worth simply because they are here...fighters, all of them.)

I am certain that there are numerous things to which my eyes have not yet opened. God is not finished with me yet. It is only by His mercy and grace that I can see as much as I do. I pray that He will continue to remove the scales, both from my eyes...and hers.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Missing Home

We are playing the waiting game. The social centre originally scheduled the adoption ceremony for yesterday, assuming the final report would've been signed by the Minister within 24 hours. 

It wasn't.

No word yesterday, either. While we wait, I've thought of all kinds of things I miss about home. I wanted to write them here so when I am actually home, I'll be less likely to take them for granted.

  • The super seven. I almost think Skype, as wonderful as it is, might make the missing of our other kids worse. When I see sweet KJ's little lip stick out because she misses me, I can barely stand it.
  • My pillows. I am a little excessive with pillows. I have a memory foam one for under my head, one for between my knees, and one I hug to decrease shoulder pain. I miss them.
  • Reliable wireless. I miss accessing facebook on my phone, uploading pictures, etc. Our facilitator bought us a thumb drive that provides internet and loaned us a laptop as it doesn't work on ours, which is WONDERFUL and I am so grateful for it! Without it, we couldn't Skype the kids. But, the keyboard is different and I have to actually use trial and error when finding punctuation keys, and the instructions are in cyrillic for uploading pictures or logging into a site. It's the little things.
  • Understanding others and being understood when I leave home. Many people speak English, and...many people don't. They do seem to appreciate our very comical attempts at Serbian, though.
  • My curling iron. Yes, I am that vain.
  • Familiar foods. I'm so happy that I brought a jar of Jif peanut butter, though. That was genius. We have been fairly adventuresome with our willingness to try food from street vendors. So far we've had some really yummy gyros, a huge & unidentified meat burger, pizza, and an italian sandwich of some kind.
I asked Shawn what he misses and he said:

  • Family - kids.
  • Wings
  • Television without cyrillic subtitles.
He's a simple guy. 

There are some things I will miss when we leave:

  • A home that stays remarkably clean (so much easier with just 3 of us.)
  • The awesome bakery with the yummy muffins and great lattes that's right around the corner.
  • Down time. While we've had too much of it, a little is nice, and I don't remember having much of it at home.
  • Blackout blinds (rolldown shutters?) on the outside of all the windows. Bliss!
  • Quiet moments to complete a thought...or a blog post.
Prayers for a signature and for things to move along here so we can rejoin the rest of our family are so appreciated!

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's not weird.

Because this is our first adoption, I could only wonder what to expect. I didn't know how I would feel toward B when I met him. Some have told me that it's just like meeting your baby after childbirth. That was of little comfort to me as I've experienced post partum depression following the birth of two of mine.

With those two, the connection didn't happen right away and, in fact, took a long time to develop. Because of those experiences, I was very prepared to have the feeling that I was caring for someone else's child, for a very long time. I know that love can take time to emerge and that it is just as strong, just as lasting, just as rewarding when it gradually blossoms as when it explodes in a burst of color.

But a burst of color is what I received.

This child is mine. It doesn't matter what his blood says or that his face belies his Slavic heritage. It is of no consequence that the papers are not yet signed, the new birth certificate not issued. 

He is mine.

It is not awkward to change his diaper or feed him bites of food. It does not feel strange to hold him close and murmur words of sweetness in his ear. It is not weird to correct his behavior or delight in his adorable smile.

Instead, while I don't yet know him like I should, it feels perfectly natural to mother him. And that lack of strangeness is a gift that I do not take for granted. I know that there are some who have not immediately felt the same about the child to which they are committed and have chosen to parent.

It seems weird that it's not weird. 

In discussing our instant attachment to him with the social workers, they pointed out that, while it's a common phenomenom among adoptive parents, they have noticed it among the children, too. Children respond differently to the parents when they meet them, than they do to other adults. It certainly was the case with B. He warmed right up to us and was sitting in my lap within thirty minutes of our initial encounter.

We are blessed, and we revel in that blessing. We can't wait to get home and let his siblings bond with him, as well. Skype is no substitute for a face-to-face encounter.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 3

While we've never parented a new-to-us 3 y.o. before, we have parented seven newborns. Interestingly, this is not that much different in some ways...and in some ways, it's worlds apart.

It takes time and patience to get to know someone regardless of their age. Much like we would a newborn, we have to discover his preferred bedtime routine, what soothes him, and how he communicates his needs.

Unlike a newborn, he's been around long enough to know what he likes and to be frustrated that we clearly do not. Also, he's attached to people, people that are not here and that he desperately wants. It is heartwrenching to watch and yesterday was a very tough day for all of us.

He needs to grieve. I know that with my head, but my heart is breaking watching it unfold. He spent much of the day just weeping with, and without, tears. Nothing would distract him. Nothing was amusing or entertaining or helpful. He so wanted to be held and wanted to be put down...at the same time. He'd take my hands and wrap them around his waist and then, in almost the same motion, push them away.

We did what we could. We held him, sang to him, rubbed his back, prayed for him, and cried with him. 

After sleeping twelve hours straight, he awoke a much happier boy and he's been playing, exploring, and engaging with us most of the day. He is still more subdued than I believe he normally is but, for now, the crying has subsided. Shawn left the apartment to go to the nearby bakery and B brought me his shoes and mittens. So when he returned, we went for a walk and an afternoon meal. 

He sits up so well at the table and he's itching to start using utensils to feed himself, but for now, we're feeding him bite after bite, much of which he spits out. He definitely has some feeding therapy in his future. He is very mild mannered and behaves so well when we're out in public. 

He does have some self-stimming habits that we'll need to work on. He sits up and rocks with his hippo on his lap when he's tired or just wants a break. He plays with his pinkie on his right hand, folding and unfolding it repetitively, and he tastes everything, much like an infant.

I think some of the stimming will decrease as he learns how to play with toys and increases his dexterity. Right now, he only has a palmar grasp and his play is limited to throwing or banging toys. He has syndactyly and the middle and ring finger of his right hand are fused and I'm not sure how much that is limiting him.

But beyond all of that, I am so impressed with his tenacity, his spirit, his problem solving skills, and his adaptability. He is just a love and we are so blessed that he's ours!

Friday, February 1, 2013


Of all the emotions I experienced on our big gotcha day, anger was the one for which I was least prepared.

The gratitude, the joy, the sorrow, the relief...all took turns invading my heart at different moments throughout the day.

Anger, however, came under the cloak of darkness as my little boy grieved the loss of all he's known. It crept in as the quiet tears ran down his face. It overpowered me as he struggled to understand what was happening to him.

I was angry with his birth parents, that they would work for ten years to acheive a pregnancy only to abandon him once he'd arrived. I was angry with a society that would expect them to do just that and walk away from such an imperfect child, angry at a government that would make it so easy, and angry at the medical establishment that would feed the fears of grieving parents and make them feel irresponsible if they considered anything else.

I was so angry that this boy, my son, had to wait three years to find a family that wants him, not for anything that he may give but just because he deserves to be loved.

It became a fire inside of me and I was unprepared for the vehement manner in which it arose. No one ever mentioned this in all the stories that I've read. Or was I just not paying attention?

There have been people telling me that he was meant to be mine, that he was always supposed to be a part of this family. It is a wonderful sentiment and I agree...

But only to a point.

Of all the orphans, in all the world, this one is supposed to be ours. God placed this child in our hearts, long before we ever knew his name. He opened our eyes and led us directly to him. I have no doubt.

However, you will never convince me that he was supposed to be an orphan...that it was God's design that he be rejected, abandoned, unloved. As thrilled and honored and humbled as we are to be plan B, we are not plan A.

And it hurts my heart - and yes, angers me a little, still - that he needed a plan B.

Because this child is perfect.

He is engaging, mischevious, clever, affectionate, funny and we have barely begun to scratch the surface of who he is. We have already fallen in love and we can't wait to watch this love deepen and grow as we get to know our little guy.

God is writing his story with a new ending, because God is like that. He delights in bringing redemption. But I had to remember why redemption was needed. I needed to grieve for and with my boy. As he begins to adjust to his new normal, already, the anger is fading. It is being replaced by grace and compassion for those to which it was directed, and utter humility and gratitude that God chose us to be His pen.

I don't know why I write this. All I know is that there are thousands upon thousands of children whose plan A has gone tragically awry and all of them deserve a plan B.