Sunday, March 24, 2013

No Words

Incredible, amazing, awesome, marvelous, wonderful....all words diluted by overuse in our overly advertised society. Words that used to convey wonder at extreme grandeur, but now are reduced to bold lettering on shampoo bottles and weight loss pills.

Because of that dilution, they are inadequate to describe all that is in my heart about adoption. 

We have been home with Bogdan for five weeks. Honestly, for those first weeks, I felt numb. I'm not sure how much my illness/hospitalization contributed, but I felt a little like I was recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Being ill in country too, didn't leave me with warm, fuzzy feelings toward our trip. I came away feeling raw.

But now we're home. I am back at work. Shawn has resumed school with the kids. Everyone is settling in and we're starting to see glimpses of our new normal. And, with eight children, four under the age of six and three in diapers, there is little time to reflect.

When I do catch a minute, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of all that has transpired.

I look at this new little person that has joined our family and I am filled with wonder and awe. He is real and here and ours! A few months ago he was an orphan, a ward of the state. Even the clothes he wore were not his own.

First Cracker Barrel dinner with the family
Now, he's a son and a brother. 
Helping Tali with school work

I am filled with gratitude when I listen to him giggle as his sisters tickle him. I love to watch him carefully line up his hot wheel cars. It warms my heart to see him sleeping so peacefully.
Napping on Mom & Dad's bed
He belongs.

And that fact causes me to be overcome with emotion. How is it possible that he didn't belong before now? How is it possible that there are so many children like him waiting? How are they not being scooped up for the treasures that they are?

I know I am preaching to the choir on this blog, but how can so many refuse to see the need? More than that, how can they refuse to believe that the solution, while costly, can also be delightful?
My favorite expression!

I wish I had the words to express just how much I love this boy and how grateful I am that God asked us to make him ours. He is worth the stress, the frustration, the anxiety...the cost to bring him home. I see now how temporal all of that is in light of the eternal soul we are privileged to call our own.
Being tickled by Mama

He is worth it!

And so are the others still waiting.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Just Willing

"You must be so patient."

"Wow! You're amazing!"

"Your family is really extraordinary."

These are some of the reactions I have gotten from people now that we're home. 

I struggle with how to respond to these. The truth is, we are none of those things. We are not unusually patient. We are not amazing. We are not extraordinary. 

We are human. 

I deflect: "Oh, I don't know about that."

I get cheesy religious: "It's only by God's grace." 

I make jokes: "Not really. Our lives are pure chaos." Big grin.

While there is some truth to all of the above (especially the God's grace part), none of those seem like an adequate or wholly authentic response. 

When I've tried to explain in depth, I invariably sound more pious or more incompetent, depending on the moment, than I actually am. I am pretty sure those folks on the receiving end either want to nominate me for sainthood or place a call to CPS.

I realize that many people need us to be amazing, inhumanly patient, or extraordinary. They need us to be in another category of humanity. They need us to be different from them.

Because if we are, it lets them off the hook. 

They can just admire us from afar without actually having to consider that they could do this, too. 

It's really not that complicated. God placed a need smack dab in the middle of our vision and asked us to fill a tiny part of it. Grumbling, panicking, worrying, stressing the whole way, we complied. 

Not amazing. 

Just willing.

And He has been with us every step of the way.

The truth is, I do it, too...put people in a special category. There are families that are doing things that seem amazing to me and I find myself in awe of them.  

The Unroes adopted five children with Down syndrome from Bulgaria last the same time. That brings the total number of children at home to eighteen.  And, they are raising funds to bring home three more orphans with special needs. 

Amazing, right?

Or how about my friend, Susanna? She and her husband were busy raising their brood of ten, when God clearly directed them to add in Katie, a severely neglected orphan with Down syndrome from a terrible orphanage in Bulgaria. Katie weighed just 10 pounds at NINE-YEARS-OLD. 

She is thriving in her new family and, because of Susanna's advocacy, huge changes have been made in that orphanage resulting in a change of staff, better medical and dental care, increased nutrition, etc. 

Susanna is now thirty-three weeks pregnant with a little boy AND waiting to travel to the same orphanage to bring home another son with significant special needs who has been severely neglected. 

Extraordinary, indeed!

Except, neither of those families would agree. They would tell you that there is nothing extraordinary about loving your children, no matter what their needs or where they came from. 

They would tell you that, while it has not been easy, it is completely worth it. 

They would tell you that God has met them at every turn and  upholds them even on the most exhausting of days.

They are not super heroes. They are simply willing humans dependent on a super God. 

Parenting our large brood and adopting another hasn't made us amazing. In fact, it's made us weaker. It showcases our weakness and causes us to live more closely to the end of ourselves. I can tell you with all honesty that having a 2, 3, 4, and 5 year-old, three of whom are in diapers, is kicking my butt. It feels very much like chaos most days. 

It is making us more dependent on Him. It is making us realize how limited we are. It is making us call on His name more frequently.

It is not making us amazing. We are still just willing.

(I would be so blessed if you would click on the links and visit the blogs of the families I referenced. Read their stories and rejoice that God is working through them. THEN, contribute any amount to help them get their children home! Every little bit helps. I know that to be true! :)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The International Adoption Clinic

Yesterday was Bo's appointment with the International Adoption Clinic. We made the appointment before we traveled to get him. We learned that it would be an excellent place to get all the referrals to all the specialists he would need to see. 

We met with Dr. Keck, a developmental pediatrician. She was great! She asked a lot of questions, but listened so well to everything we said.

We now have a plan.

Bo will see plastic surgery for his syndactyly on his right hand (digits 3 & 4 are fused) which should be a simple procedure involving soft tissue only. I am all about function over form and am only considering digit separation because I am concerned it limits his dexterity. The truth is that I am very fond of his extra large digit and I will kind of miss it, I think. Plastic surgery will also check his palate as he has a bifold uvula which often indicates a malformed palate. His looks good, but we need to be sure. 

Very soon Bo will have a video feed study. We believe he is aspirating thin liquids and have been thickening them since we've been home. This will tell us for sure if we need to continue and at what consistency. It will also give us a peek at the structure of his mouth and throat.

He will see a cardiologist to make sure that the OHS performed on him at the age of six months was correct and complete. Dr. Keck heard a murmur, which could be nothing...or something.

ENT is next on the list. She was unable to see inside of his right ear because of his tiny canals. We are somewhat certain that his hearing isn't the best. ENT will order hearing tests, look at his adenoids, check his need for tubes, etc. 

If plastics and ENT fail to determine a structural reason for his breathing issues, a referral to pulmonology will be made. He will have a sleep study soon, as well, as he sleeps sitting up and awakens gasping multiple times a night. Clearly, he's not getting all the sleep he needs.

Urology is somewhere in there, too. Circumcision is something we are considering to prevent issues as he ages. 

If Bo does need surgeries, Dr. Keck has agreed to coordinate it so several may be done at the same time, so that he needs to go under anesthesia as little as possible. 

His blood tests will determine who else, if anyone, we need to schedule with, as well. While we have a complete vaccine record, we agreed to have titres done to make sure that he actually received those vaccines. Because we don't have a copy of a karyotype in his files, she ordered that, too. It seems our little man has pretty good muscle tone for a kid with T21. Anemia, HIV, hepatitis (A, B, & C), and thyroid function are all on the list.

He'll also need evaluations by physical, occupational, and speech therapies.

Whew! Thankfully, I am taking intermittent FMLA from work so I can be available for all of these appointments and any surgeries without worrying about losing my job. 

None of this took us by surprise. This is what we signed up for when we decided to adopt a child with special needs. In fact, he appears to be much healthier than we anticipated. We are so blessed to live in an area with an international adoption clinic, a Down syndrome clinic, and a children's hospital close by.

I want to say a quick thank you for all the kind words both here and on facebook in response to my last post about my struggles to bond with our little man. We are doing much better and I'm feeling a lot more confident that we will find our way, sooner rather than later. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Effort

I have been hiding. I've been battling kidney stones and infections, too, but I've also been hiding.

I so want to be posting idyllic things about how Bo and I are bonding, about how effortless it is to love him, about how it's like he's always been here.

But I'd be lying.

He is fitting in better than I expected. He loves his new siblings. And they really do adore him. I cannot tell you how much it moves me to watch his oldest sister come into the room, tickle him, and tell him how much she loves him. She has worked hard to bond with him when really, she didn't have to try. She has college plans in two years and will likely miss most of his childhood here. But, she did make the effort and now he loves her, too. My heart swells to see them interact. 

As far as bonding with me....well, we lost a lot of ground with my hospitalization and subsequent illness and surgery. I spent the last two weeks basically laying down. The other kids came to me with questions, snuggles, and to settle arguments. Obviously, Bo doesn't do that yet. And, honestly, I didn't feel good enough to make the effort that he needs from me. 

It was so effortless to love him while in Serbia. Now, when I play with him, it feels forced. I am making myself murmur endearing sweet things in his ear, pushing myself to seek him out when he's playing on the floor, trying to quell the slight panic I feel when he cries and I don't know what to do to comfort him. I try to squash the desire to hand him over to Shawn, who has bonded with him well.

Sometimes, he stares at me suspiciously with those big brown eyes and I imagine that he's thinking me a fraud. 

I made big promises about being his mama during those first weeks and I have not delivered. I'm faking my way to making it and I worry that he's onto me.

It helps to remember that love has always been more about doing than feeling. Even relationships that start with the feelings will end without the doings. True love always involves sacrifice. It's the kind of love that we are called to demonstrate, the kind that begins with obedience.

We will get there. I am devoted to this child of mine. I am making the effort now, and it may take awhile, but the feelings of love will wash over both of us one day. In the meantime, he is very cute and I can certainly live with that!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Battle

Dave Hingsburger is a disability advocate, educator, and blogger. I have long enjoyed his posts. Monday's post is no exception, and is a huge testament to his role as educator (you can read it here)...

But, it made me cry.

It's a great story and I am so glad that the man with Down syndrome has learned to stick up for himself and even encourage someone else to do the same, but it hit me HARD that he would even need to do so.

I think I've wrapped myself in a cocoon of cuteness. Eon and Bo are both young and quite adorable at this stage. We have not yet personally experienced the ignorance, negativity, and hate that follows disability. If we get stares, it's simply because folks are trying to decide how we ended up with two cute bundles of extra chromosomes. Or at least that's what I choose to believe.

I have wrapped myself in a cocoon of the informed, as well. My facebook feed is filled with the thoughts/musings/experiences of other parents on the same or similar journey. People who understand how hurtful the r-word is or how disheartening those standardized test scores can be. People who have learned, through a life they didn't ask for, to be accepting, understanding, and empathetic. 

So when I read Dave's post, and recognized that my boys will likely be aware of stares following them as they attempt to live their lives, I was caught off guard. 

Early in this journey, I was on guard all the time. I was waiting for the assault, unaware that it will not be my battle to wage. I had a chip on my shoulder and was almost offensive in my preparation to be offended.

But the battle is theirs. It's my job to advocate for them, to educate others, to make the world a little safer, a little more accepting in hopes that the battle will be a little less fierce. 

It is also my job to make them know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are okay; to fill them with confidence that allows them to understand, and to live, that those that have issues with them simply being "are mean"; and to give them the ability to stand up for themselves when warranted and to let it go, to forgive and move on when it's not.