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!"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A boy named Lazar

One year ago today, I sat down at a table in Belgrade, Serbia. Around the table were staff from the Serbian MLSP as well as the social center in Kragujevac, Serbia. Though it was only 3:00 a.m. at home in Minnesota, I knew that Dean wasn't sleeping. How could he when I was on the other side of the world getting ready to meet our new son!

We were here to discuss the social and medical history of a 7 year old little boy named Lazar. Like Angela and Axel he has Down syndrome. I listened to all of the information,  trying to remember all of the details to tell Dean later, all while wanting to just say, "Lets go already! Lets go meet him!"

Eventually the meeting ended and it was time. Time to go meet my son! When comparing an adoption to pregnancy, these were the very last pushes before I would meet the baby.

We got in a car and made the short drive to the orphanage.

We pulled up to the guard shack. "Dobar dan" I said as I presented my passport. The same woman working who had been here a year before. "Hvala" I said as she waved me away.

We walked through the doors, up the steps and all 5 of us stepped into the death trap elevator meant for two. 

The orphanage social worker met us on the 2nd floor. She quickly introduced herself as we were shuffled a few feet down the narrow hall. And there, before us, was a group of tiny little children eating lunch at a table in the hall. Oh, how I wish I had pictures of this, so you could see how tiny these children were. They were all between the ages of 7-11, but none were bigger than a typical 3 year old.  One little boy had his back to us, intent on his food and not noticing the crowd of people who had appeared behind him. The social worker touched his shoulder. "This is Lazar."

I knelt down beside him so he could see me. So very tiny. How could this boy be 7 years old? He was shoveling his food as fast as he could, his body language saying he was afraid I would take it from him. He made no eye contact with me, his eyes never leaving his plate.

I swallowed hard.

It was so hard not to cry. The emotion of the past weeks catching up to me in this final climactic moment.

I blinked away my tears. "Hallo Lazar." I tried to say.

He flashed his eyes at me, for just a fraction of a second, before looking back his food, pulling his plate a little closer.

I tried to take it all in at once.

I wiped a tear away quick. I didn't want to scare him.

I needn't have worried; he hardly noticed me.

Lazar finished his meal in a matter of seconds. The social worker took his hand and lead him, along with the rest of us, down the hall to the playroom. Lazar immediately sat down and started dangling the nearest object.

I walked in and picked him up for the first time. I quickly handed my camera to the nearest person to get a couple of pictures.

The social worker had been engaged in a conversation with someone in the hall. Suddenly she intervened and told me "No pictures until he is legally yours." She wanted me to delete these but I refused. Family at home deserves to be able to see these moments. I promised her I wouldn't do anything else with the pictures until he was mine.

He clung to me like a Rhesus monkey. At first I felt flattered. This would be GREAT for attachment!
(by the  next day I figured out he does this with whomever will let him, latching on to every.single.person who walked by. It is nothing but a survival skill for him; a way to get out of the group room.)

It was a short visit, 45 minutes at the most. Sometime during the visit the social worker asked me, "So what do you think? Is he what you expected? Are you accepting of his referral?"

I couldn't imagine saying no at this point. I know what all the papers say and his history, but I don't know anything about HIM. He is a little person who I am going to need time to know and understand. "I had no expectations." I said. "All I knew was he was a 7 year old boy with Down syndrome." What I wanted to say was, "A 7 year old boy with Down syndrome who has spent his entire life in an institution could mean anything. I knew better than to have expectations."

As we left the facility that day my mind was spinning. There was so much to take in! How I wished Dean was with me so we could process it all together. It would be a lie to say I wasn't worried. Lazar had a lot of orphanage behaviors, and was clearly lost in his own world. Did he have autism? Was he "just institutionalized" and some of those autistic-like qualities would eventually disappear? What about his eating? He was eating pure mush - applesauce consistency. Is he able to chew?  And that tongue! It was the largest tongue I'd ever seen! (the pictures above do NOT do it justice!) He spent every single moment sucking on it, and when he was eating he used it like his lower lip. I knew feeding therapy was in our future. When I held him it felt like he was just bones under a lot of clothing. How skinny was he really? The nurses said he was potty trained and yet I could feel he was in diapers. Could we be so lucky to get a child who is potty trained? He was a brand new walker, keeping his arms in high guard position. A toddler. We weren't prepared for a toddler. We were getting a SEVEN year old, but he is like a 6 month old who walks. Our house isn't childproof by any means.

I quickly went into my apartment and turned on Skype. It was now 6:00 a.m at home and Dean would be waiting for me. Waiting to see the first pictures of his new son.

"Well?" he said.

I uploaded the pictures and told Dean, " need to childproof the house honey. I mean, like for a very young toddler. Put everything up."

I knew our lives were about to change in big ways. I was excited to see what God had in store for us.

1 comment:

Difference2This1 said...

So glad that sweet boy is there to enjoy this day of thanks in their very own family! Happy Thanksgiving Leah and Family!!! Blessings, Jennifer