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!"

Sunday, May 05, 2013


This is going to be a very "real" post. The hard things that we saw and thought during Abel's adoption process.

Somehow before we left I knew this trip was going to be different. I had been adamant that Dean come along on this trip when really he just wanted to stay home. Money was going to be tight but I didn't care. I didn't want to be alone this time. I also knew that if Dean didn't go through this whole process, instead just meeting Abel for the first time at the airport, that his ability to bond with this child was going to be difficult.

Back in December we received this picture of "B" - Bogdan.

We saw an awesome smile. We saw amazing eye contact. We saw lots of teeth. We saw a glowing spirit. We also saw "trouble". What we didn't know was this particular smile is his "Watch out!" smile! LOL

The day finally came, April 12th, when we met our son for the first time. When we first saw him he was sitting in a chair in the staff break room. He was dressed up nice in jeans and a denim shirt. I tried not to cry when I saw him sitting there as I tugged on the sleeve of Dean's shirt. "There he is honey!" Poor Dean, he was still trying to take in the environment, but I was on familiar territory.

We got a couple of quick hugs from him, then were ushered into a motor room. Unfortunately this was a room with equipment designed for infants and toddlers, and Abel was a big boy. Strong and burly, an absolute ball of energy. Oh the energy! We were astounded at his ability to communicate with us, gesturing and miming his orders to us. In the first 5 minutes he bit me in the knee. He hit us. He kicked us. He laughed in our faces. He exhausted us. He never stopped moving, evidenced by the fact we couldn't get a picture with him still.

The best word to describe him was "wild". He was extremely agitated. What we didn't know is he was missing his security item. They didn't let him have his block during this time, and we now know he was spending most of that visit asking for his trusty block. He was a whirlwind. He was naughty. He was what I expected and yet somehow worse. Keep in mind right outside the door, watching the entire visit,  were several social workers and psychologists. They would be writing a report of their impressions from this visit and sending it back to the ministry (like the state level) to let them know how it went. No pressure. No pressure at all.

Dean and I left that visit saying yes. Yes we would accept this child and continue with the process. We went home to our apartment and slept for several hours. The next day we returned for our second visit. This time we came armed with food and drink, planning to take him outside. We watched him interact with the caregivers, making demands upon them, and them giving him nearly everything he wanted. When it was time to go outside he pointed back to his room. That's when his caregiver handed us the block.

Our wild little boy. So hungry. So thirsty. I'll never understand the hunger. These facilities have money for food, but the nutritional value of what the children are fed is nearly nonexistent. The stealing of food  from one another, with nobody to defend the weaker ones. The "speed feeding", where the food is shoved into the mouths of children faster than they can swallow, causing them to sputter and choke because they don't even have time to breath, while most of the food falls back to the bowl being held under their chins. Abel was so thirsty that he tried to lap water from the puddles on the ground, including the puddle of bubble solution when he knocked it out of my hand. He tested everything to see if it was edible, including spots of bird poop on the ground.

Out on the playground the toys flew. Big, giant ride-on toys that he picked up and threw at us as if they were mere feathers. He bit. He hit. He scratched. He kicked. I wanted to start off on the right foot, making it clear to him from the very first moment that we wouldn't put up with this behavior. All while being watched from the sidelines; our ability to manage him judged, reports being written.

Dean and I were both afraid. Was this child too much for us? How could we get him home to the US? How could we even bring this feral child into an airport, much less spend hours upon hours in a plane?

On the third day Dean and I finally talked about our fears. We put it all on the table, and prayed, asking God to help us. The answer was immediate. The only way for us to do this was to get him out of the institutional environment as soon as possible.

The day we were allowed to take him to our apartment for the weekend we were very nervous. It's hard to take a child like this to someone else's home. We knew he had serious issues with food and worried that watching food be prepared would be too much for him. The very last thing were were told was, "He sleeps very well." That felt ominous to me. The institution sent us with a few diapers - which were way too small - so Dean and our friend ran to the store for bigger ones. They got the biggest size there, which barely fit around his waist.

At the apartment he wanted to touch e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. So many things were instantly put up high. He obsessed about drinking. We weren't in the door 10 minutes when he got hold of the crayons and colored on a table. That first night trying to get him to sleep was a miserable fail. We were told he was used to going to bed at 8:00. I think he finally fell asleep around 11:30 and he was awake at 4:30. After 10 years in the institution, how would he ever learn to sleep somewhere else?

This seems like it was all about OUR stress. I can only begin to imagine the fear this little boy felt. He'd been in the institution since he was born, and this was his very first night in a very strange environment with people he couldn't understand, foods he'd never tasted, a strange bed....alone. There wasn't another child an arms length away. It was dark. It smelled different. It sounded different. Anyone who thinks that adoption is all rainbows is naive. It is TRAUMA. While we were very excited about taking Abel out of the institution, there was nothing "good" about that day. It was scary, for all of us.

The next morning I was going to make a run to the mall for something similar to pull-ups. Dean was going to stay home with Abel but at the last minute he asked to come along. He wasn't ready to be home alone with him just yet, and really, neither was I. I also didn't think Abel was ready to be in the mall but we NEEDED those diapers. Dean and I each took a hand and I told our driver this would be the fastest trip to the mall he'd ever made. And that it was! In 15 minutes we were in 4 stores and had purchased diapers, socks, shoes and groceries.

We spent the next week taking many walks, learning to stay with Mom and Papa and, in preparation for airports, that holding a hand is not up for discussion. He learned to sit at the table and watch while food was prepared. He learned to eat at a normal rate of speed. He learned that when he goes to sleep at night we would still be there in the morning. At the one week mark we made a trip to the mall again andAbel was already much improved.

And here we are. Two weeks later on the other side of the world. Abel is a completely different child. I would have never guessed he would come so far so fast!!!! I think I could take him nearly anywhere at this point, as long as there are no large crowds. He is quick to take my hand when he's feeling nervous. He has bonded most with Asher and wants to be wherever Asher is.

If I want to introduce something new that I think might cause him to be afraid, I just let him watch Asher do it first.

He loves to have his teeth brushed now (I just had to have Asher go first.)

He goes to bed without crying, he is wearing underwear during the day, and although there are a lot of accidents, today was only the third day and already we see improvement. He has very little anxiety about food anymore, and can sit and watch us prepare a meal without all the worried noises.

He may not know the order of each day, but he knows the routine for each event. He knows where he sits at the table, he knows that after breakfast we get dressed, he knows the routine for brushing teeth, he get get himself on/off the toilet managing his clothing on his own. He knows where he sits in the car and he knows when the other kids go to school that they will come home later in the day. (he frequently checks for the bus out the front window. LOL) He is letting go of his block a bit. Today we went for a hike and he left his block in the car without worrying or asking about it even once.

We are so glad we decided to add Abel to our family. He fits in so perfectly here! When God told us "adopt!", he didn't say it would be easy, he only said that it would be right.


Sher said...

Beautiful family <3

Jaimie said...

Oh my goodness, I didn't realize that axel is as tall as Angela! What a great picture of a lovely little tribe :)

Imogen said...

Isn't it amazing what love and a family can do. I said it before, but will say it again - Abel is one lucky boy!

Gorgeous photos! Thank you again for sharing xx

I Just Love You said...

just absolutely amazing. you are wonderful parents!

Anonymous said...

You make me smile :) These kiddos are so blessed to have you and Dean!

Stephanie said...

Wow! So fantastic that things are coming along and Abel is gelling with the entire family. I love the picture of you with Asher and Abel on your lap--so cute! Great job, Leah and Dean!

Scarehaircare said...

Love this! I can't get over how Axel now looks so grown up. Amazing! I'm interested to see the changes in Asher and Abel 6 months and 1 year from now.

Melissa said...

So glad he can learn from Asher. Kids learn so much from their siblings. Glad he's doing better!

Tabor Linden Schmidt said...

So sorry I missed this post! Yes, IA is always stressful for the children! Even our youngest two, who were also the youngest we've ever adopted, have had major adjustments to overcome. Would I change anything? Actually, no. Because any change means this wouldn't be our family we have now. Even our RAD prone daughter, she's better, but she'll never be "normal". But no matter what, I'd never give her up and I love every part of her. I just wish we could help her more, but she's safe now and will be safe.