Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Coming Full Circle

Five months ago, I came to Belgrade, Serbia, and heard the details of the little boy I would be adopting. During that meeting, the social worker told me the birth family was interested in contact, to which I agreed. My whole family is full of adoption, and we believe it's important for a child to know their history. But, after that meeting when we got in the car to drive to the foster home in Kragujevac, the facilitator turned to me and said, "You will not have contact with the birth family. I do not advice it. It would be very bad for you."

Most of you know my opinion of the facilitator (which is another post that will be coming soon.) and so I took her words with a grain of salt.

We arrived in Krag. met Axel, took custody of him, then on December 9th had the adoption ceremony. After the ceremony the head psychologist from the social center told me that Axel looked a lot like his birth father. She opened his file and pulled out a photo copy of both his mother and father's identification cards. She was right, he did look a lot like his birth father! I handed it back to her, and she said, "No no, this is for you!"

About 2 months ago I tried looking for Axel's birth parents on google, but the name is a very common one. I finally gave up speculating about all the people I was finding!

Fast forward 4 1/2 months, to April 29th, when my friend Kathie picked me up to take me to the airport. Our plans for the week in Serbia had suddendly changed. Really, they fallen right to pieces! But as I walked to the car, it occurred to me to run back and grab that photo copy of the ID cards. Perhaps my friends in Serbia could find them?

Once in Belgrade, I asked my friend Zoran if he thought he could look up the birth parents. On Monday he was able to do just that! The birth mother cried on the phone. OH she was so happy! She said her heart died 7 1/2 years ago (I'll explain that later) and she has felt dead ever since. She told Zoran that the day before the adoption ceremony, the father went to the social worker, made a copy of their ID cards and begged her to please give me a copy of their information so that if I ever wanted, I could contact them. They wanted to know their little Djordje was having a good life and they had not made a mistake.

Over the course of this week, the birth mother had many phone conversations with Zoran. He told the mother how much we loved Axel Djordje, how he loves his new sister, and she loves him. That he goes to school, and many other wonderful things. She asked, "What do I call him? Axel, or Djordje?" Zoran assured her that she can call him whatever she wants. I had explained to Zoran that "Djordje" is the boy who lived in Serbia, and "Axel" is the boy who lives in the U.S. Axel is NOTHING like the little boy who left here, he is a very different person. SHE knows "Djordje", and that is how she remembers him, and she should feel comfortable calling him that. We know "Axel", but we have kept his Serbian name because it is a part of him. His history. Something they gave him.

And so today was the big day. We made the drive to Kragujevac....

We arrived at the meeting place, got out of the car, and hugged each other like only two mothers who share the same child can hug. She kissed my cheeks. She hugged some more. Kissed me some more. She thanked me for coming for Djordje. How they longed to know he was ok. That for the first time in 10 years she feels whole again. She is smiling again.

The father hugged me just as tight, as I felt his tears on my cheeks. He held me and held me. He told me things in Serbia in my ear that I know meant that he loved is boy.

Axel has a biological brother who is turning 14 in a couple of weeks. He, too, was crying. He loved his brother, and misses him very much.

Here is our first family picture together.

Some of this story is saved for Axel, when he is old enough to understand. Let me tell you, his birth family loved him enough to let him go to a better life. There is nothing for him here in Serbia. NOTHING. They did have him at home for a time, and they tried so hard, but really the doctors know nothing about Down syndrome and they knew it would be difficult to provide what he needed. 

This mother and I will forever be bonded by Axel. Our hearts are for this child. She will be able to watch him grow into a man, and know that he has everything he needs. That is all she ever wanted for him...more than she was able to give him.


Somehow I don't have a picture of me along with Axel's birth father. Let me tell you, were it not for this man, I would never have found them. For 7 1/2 years this man visited Axel every month. He never stopped loving him. He spoke to me from his heart, with tears in his eyes, things that can only come from a father who loves his son.

Axel has an older brother, and OH they look so much alike! He is already learning to speak English and doing quite well! He doesn't even have an accent when he is speaking english! He used to go with the birth father to visit Djordje, and he misses his brother very much. He is a wonderful young man! He is doing well in school, and loves computers. He is a very smart teenager.

If my entire trip to Serbia had been a failure, and I got nothing accomplished, this day would have made it all worthwhile. It was truly one of the most joyous days. I was able to tell Axel's birth family thank you for giving this gift.  That he is loved and cared for. That he has everything he needs. That he goes to bed at night with a kiss on the cheek, knowing he is safe. At night I give him three kisses: 1 from me, Dean and Angela. Now he will go to bed with 6 kisses...because he has a mother, a father and brother on the other side of the world who love him too.

16 comments:

Tamara said...

Okay - I don't cry very often, but that one did it for me. How awesome to know them and for them to know who they've entrusted with him. It has to give them so much peace. And then how sad that they could not have done for him themselves as it is clear they wanted to do. It's heartbreaking and heartwarming all in one breath.

Milena said...

How very very beautiful! I have updated your blog like 50 times today :-) and I was thrilled to read your story. How touching that you were able to get in contact with them, and that they have loved him all the time, even visiting him! How wonderful, both for them and for you to be able to stay in touch! Axel is a very loved boy!

(I shall admit that I thought today would have something to do with Ianna, so my prayers may have been a bit inaccurate....but you had the best day anyway! Of course God knew all along)

Deanna said...

OMGoodness....TEARS!!!!! WOW! What a beautiful full-circle story! Thank you for sharing.

Sher said...

Amazing!!!

Brandie said...

I'm sitting here crying. I'm so happy for you and Axel's birth family!

G-Zell said...

This really touched me.... I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it...

God bless his biological parents and God bless you.

Mel said...

Leah, I have NO words!!! This is the most awesome gift!! I am so happy for you!! What a treasure to have met them, and assure them that Axel is loved.

Loretta said...

I found your blog a couple of weeks ago and have been reading it late at night. You are truely an angel on earth. If I were younger I would love to adopt one of these beautiful children. Thankfully, I can donate money and help someone else do it! Bless you.

blcmec1 said...

How incredible is this?? I am sitting here in tears. I am trying to put myself in his birth mom's shoes and it is so unreal. I am sad for them because they really love him and they tried. What heartache these people go through. Thanking the Lord tonight that we have come as far as we have in the U.S. Praying things start to change over there. Thanks for putting a real face on these people who we sometimes imagine as heartless people who just throw away their kids.

Becky said...

Simply amazing Leah! How amazing to hear that his family longed for him and loved him so. What a blessing it is to find them and to them being able to watch him grow now!

Hevel said...

So so so wonderful! Just reading your post gave me chills! The good kinds!

Becca said...

Crying into my lunch here...

Wow, this is so amazing!!! I'm so glad you were able to find and meet them. Just...amazing.

racheal_stewart said...

What a beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing with all of us. Axel is one lucky guy to have so many people love him.

Charissa said...

Well that was totally unexpected. Good for you for being persistent! What a wonderful gift to all of you!! I'm proud of you!

Jackie said...

Just awesome Leah!

Tijana said...

I read and can not stop crying! how big is your heart? amazing! you were right when you said that he had nothing in Serbia! It's true. but it is also true that the Axel or Djordje has a family in Serbia who loves him!
A
xel is my brother. His mom is my aunt and I know how she was when she could not help led because it is in Serbia is much hard work for such people.
I love you and I am very happy