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!"

Monday, August 12, 2013

13 Years

Thirteen years ago, in a hospital in Kragujevac, Serbia, a little boy was born.

His parents were devastated the day they were finally told the news of his diagnosis.

The words "Down syndrome" hung in the air, suffocating them.

Surely the doctors were wrong? They sought another opinion. They traveled to another city to get current information.

They took him home and loved him.

He was their boy, and they loved him just as they loved his older brother.

But raising a child with Down syndrome in Serbia was a complicated affair. Who would care for him when they went to work? Where would he get therapies like speech,  occupational and physical therapy? There weren't a lot of options. Really...13 years ago...there was only one option.

They made the most difficult decision they could possibly make. The social workers and doctors told them it was "for the best".

Then, one day, they were told about these same kids who are born in the U.S, who go to school, get jobs, live life like everyone else. They can be productive members of society.

Not knowing what lay ahead, taking a step in 100% faith covered in anguish, they signed the papers allowing their child, their son, their baby....their be taken to the other side of the world.

But who? Who would want a child like this?

WE DID! We CHOSE YOU dear Axel Djordje!!! We KNEW you were destined to be part of our family.

That very first day I met you, I had no idea what God was doing behind the scenes.

I was enamored with you, but I didn't know yet that I was your mother. There were some things that needed to change first. Like the fact Papa didn't know he was going to be a dad again!

Just a few months later I was back on your doorstep. This time I was there to bring you home. This was the first video your papa got to see of you.

You were such an amazing little boy. Ten years old!

We wish we hadn't been there for your first 10 years. We wish you could have stayed with your birth family. We wish they would get the joy of your hugs every morning. 

The day came when it was time to take make it official. 

When I signed those papers in a tiny office in Serbia, our lives changed forever.

You were so full of joy that day. You had no idea what lie ahead. 

Finally the day arrived when it was time to say goodbye to Serbia. Oh the journey we would travel together!

And finally...finally you got to meet your papa for the first time!
Just a few months later you were already a different child.

From that day on you've kept us on a ride like we had never dreamed. You brought with you some hidden surprises. 
 photo AxelMRI.jpg
 photo halopostop3.jpg

But nobody could hold you back! You had a lot to show us!

When the halo came off you FINALLY had the chance to enjoy this new world of yours!

We have so many things to be thankful for on this day. Thankful to God for leading us to this young man. Thankful he was kept safe during his time in Serbian institutions. Thankful for his birth parents who took that leap of faith, at the expense of their own hearts. We know that today, on the other side of the world, as we celebrate Axel being part of our life, there are three hearts who are aching. 

We love you Axel!


Kathie Brinkman said...


*Tasha* said...

AWWWW. This was so, so sweet. Loved the pics. I have a (randomish) question- were you ever worried that Axel would perceive the halo as your fault? Like "She brought me to the hospital and now I'm in all this pain/discomfort"? How did you alleviate that?

Leah S. said...

Tasha, that's a great question! This was a HUGE worry for me, especially since we put Axel into a neck brace when he'd been home only a few weeks! Then his surgery was done at 6 months home. Yes, surely he thought "you brought me to the other side of the world, ripped my world apart, and now you're torturing me!!!" I really worried about it A LOT! Thankfully, and with God's grace, the good in his new family outweighed those few horrible months. Taking care of him, and him having to be so dependent up us allowed him to bond with us better than he may have otherwise. Now, whenever I hear of another child having the same surgery, if I show him pictures he gets very animated, talking about the halo, but mostly "Halo off soon!" He seems to have mostly forgotten about it at this point. He is protective of his neck - thankfully since Asher loves to put him in a headlock - but otherwise he never talks about it.

*Tasha* said...

Thanks for the response! That makes sense...especially re: bonding. I'm so glad he doesn't seem to remember it much. The love definitely outweighs everything bad:) He emanates contentment. His response is interesting though- was that something you guys would tell him to make it a little better and so he knew it wasn't permanent- "halo off soon" or something he said to you two while he had the halo?

Twilson9608 said...

Happy 13th Birthday Axel!!!

Leah S. said...

Tasha - When Axel had his surgery and halo done he didn't have enough English language yet to say something like "halo off soon". But, we were working with him on the calendar (think preschool calendar time). As soon as we knew the date we started talking about it a couple weeks out. He could see it on the calendar and he could see the days going by and that it was getting closer. We would often say "Soon halo off!" Any time we've gone back to Philly for check ups put them on the calendar too, and assure him there is NO halo this time, only his doctor looking at his neck and taking pictures. Now he DOES have the language to say "Halo off soon" on his own. He can also elaborate a little bit, talking about the screws in his head and the scar on the bad of his neck.