Join Angela, Axel, Abel and Asher as they welcome their new sibling home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Congratulations?


I remember back 26 years ago when I told people I was expecting my first baby. Even though I was only 19, I was married, and people said "Congratulations". Most of them anyway.

When we had baby number two, people said "Congratulations" and shared in our excitement.

When I announced my pregnancy with Angela, and then a few months later that we were having a girl (there were 4 boys by that time) everyone was so very excited!!!

Adopting is very much like a pregnancy. The whole process of pulling together the documents is all part of it. The emotions are all the same. we worry, we fret, we go through a nesting phase (several of them, actually). For those who have never done it, there is a reason people refer to it as a "paper pregnancy"! And knowing our child has a diagnosis is like having a prenatal diagnosis with our pregnancy. There are a lot of unknown, particularly with his behavior. We're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best!

Fast forward many years to our first adoption of Axel. Those in the adoption community were very excited for us. They understood where we were at.

But, that's where the congratulations stopped. Instead we got lots of questions, "Are you sure you want to do this? Why would you want to do this? Don't you realize how much work another child with Down syndrome will be? (umm we probably understand more than the person asking since we've been living the life for 14 years by that point!) But you're not going to be able to have any FUN! When will you ever get out on your motorcycles again?" In the end people were excited to meet him and we know he is adored by all. That is important!

When we announced our adoption of Asher, the response was similar. Granted, we didn't give anyone a lot of time to digest the information. Although Dean and I had submitted our dossier (packet of adoption paperwork) to the Serbian government months before, by the time we were matched with Asher and getting on a plane was a matter of days. Still, everyone knew we were waiting to be matched but still there was nothing. No congratulations. Yes, everyone adored him once he was here.  I guess that is most the important part.

Here we are again. We have spent the last couple of weeks sharing our news with those close to us. Those in the adoption community or who we spend a lot of time with get it. They're excited for us. From everyone else we've gotten lots of frowns and fake smiles and "Oh...ummm....wow...ok." kind of responses. Only twice. Only twice have we heard "congratulations" outside of the adoption community.  Instead we're asked, "Why? Why would you want to do this AGAIN? But you don't have any time to yourselves. Will you ever get to ride again?" It's as if we never would have thought of any of these things on our own. As if we haven't discussed these things time and time again between the two of us.  The same people who give this reaction are the same ones who wonder why they're not among the first to know.

We're "pregnant". With our third child TOGETHER. Our LAST baby. This isn't an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. We're SO EXCITED for our upcoming arrival. I just wish everyone would be excited with us. We have three very special kids here in our house. We cherish them. We know and understand what the boys'  lives would be like today if they weren't with us. We understand the circumstances our new son is living in and we can't wait to get him out. We can't wait to meet our new son!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I've been awake since 4:30 this morning, hoping I would find an email in my box today. Oh how thrilled I was to see that email address!

Today for Christmas we received the best gift! A picture of our  new son! I wish I could share it with you. Instead I will just have to tell you our observations. LOL

First, unlike Asher who although he is just a few months younger still looks very much like a baby, our new son LOOKS like his age.

He has the same big front teeth that Axel has, which is interesting because they are so atypical of kids with DS. Angela and Asher both have the more common, very tiny teeth.

He has the most awesome smile!

His tongue is IN his mouth and not being sucked on! Oh they joy!!!! Because I'm telling you, dealing with the tongue sucking is a pain in the neck!

He looks like a very happy boy (based on a single picture with a single smile. LOL)

And, we have chosen a name, but you will have to wait until we meet him to learn what that is. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How do you choose a child?

Choosing a child to adopt is so hard! No matter what child you choose, you know that others are being left behind. Some will get lucky and have a family come for them....eventually...but the vast majority will never experience that love. Never. Ever. They will be forever alone.

Can you imagine that? Now imagine this fate for a child who has severe medical, physical, or cognitive differences. The "least of these". Nobody is banging down doors competing for these children. There are no waiting lists full of families who want to adopt them.

The just wait. Most of them don't know what they're waiting for because they've never even heard the words "mother" or "father". They don't know what life could be like.

For our family, the decisions went like this:

First, we had to decide if we wanted to adopt internationally again or adopt a child from here in the US.  I have several friends who are currently struggling through domestic adoptions and they make international adoptions look like a piece of cake! Many people ask, "Why not adopt one of "ours?" (meaning a child from here in the US.) My first question is, "I have absolutely considered it. Have YOU?" This question often comes from people who've never even bothered to help out an adoptive family, much less choose to adopt themselves. Anyway, we looked into kids on the US waiting child lists, looking for kids who might fit into our family. While there were a couple, the process to get them was daunting. We're familiar with adopting from Serbia. We understand the process, the costs and the time frame are predictable.

Next we had to decide on age. A child needed to be close to either Angela's age group or close to the boys, but not developmentally younger than Asher. I say it that way because I could could be 5 and developmentally beyond where Asher is now, and we really want him to remain the baby of the family.

What type of special needs? Now this was tough for us! We were open to pretty consider pretty much any child. We didn't know yet what child was meant to be in our family so we were worried about making our criteria too narrow. Angela, Axel and Asher all have Down syndrome. If our next child didn't have DS would he or she felt left out of the chromosomal party we have going on here? If there is one thing we know, it is Down syndrome. We can see a child with DS who is coming from institutional care and...most of the time...know if what we're seeing is "just DS" or is related to post institutional issues. Anyway, we considered several children with a variety of special needs. This was SO HARD! There are so many "what if?" and potential hidden diagnosis with any internationally adopted child. Not only did I start reading information websites, but also started contacting families who are parenting children with needs similar to those we were considering. It seemed overwhelming sometimes, and we've done this a couple times before!

Boy or girl? Well, there has to be boys and girls available to even make a choice in the first place. Back in September and October there were no children who met our criteria at all, and suddenly in November there were! Finally a couple weeks ago we were able to narrow it down to just two children; one boy and one girl.

 Oh, these decisions are so difficult! We always have taken this decision very seriously, but I have to be honest with you about my emotions about this adoption. This is our last one. We are done. When this adoption is complete so will our family be. (and no, it's not possible for us to change our mind about that.) For some reason this seems like a bigger decision that Axel and Asher's adoptions were. Maybe part of that comes from the process being so different for each of  our kids. In Axel's case, we were planning to adopt another child who turned out  not to be a legal orphan. Our hearts were broken but we decided to adopt whoever was next most in danger. At the time it was Axel. With Asher, there were only a few kids who met our criteria, and when we narrowed it down to two we realized one of them would require us to make a change to our USCIS paperwork because of when her birthday fell. Also, she wasn't walking yet and I just didn't feel I could carry a non-walking 6 year old around. (and having met the child previously I knew she wasn't a tiny petite thing!) By description Asher seemed the better fit for our family. But this time? This time we agonized (well, probably me more than Dean!)  Dean and I discussed each child and all of the different scenarios, the potential for undiagnosed syndromes or medical problems, our ability to learn ourselves and provide the best possible care for each child, as well as  how each child would fit in with our other three here at home.

The one thing we do not take into consideration is how the children look. We are going by profiles only and not faces. I do like the process this way. There is no tendency to fall in love with a picture and in our heads create a personality to go with that picture, only to find it doesn't really fit.

By description we know that both chronologically and developmentally Little B will fit right in between Axel and Asher. Now, I do learn pretty quickly! Asher was considerably developmentally much younger than what we were expecting. Don't get me wrong, the description I had was accurate, there just wasn't enough of it for us to get a clear picture of where Asher was in his development. We could have asked more questions but decided that it was just as easy to get on a plane and meet him instead of fill the ministry's email box with my daily questions! LOL So, by description, B fits right in between our boys. Is it possible we will get there and find he's actually behind where Asher is? Yes, this is totally possible but I trust the information I was given and at this point have no reason to think it's inaccurate.

So, that is how WE made our choice this time. Several of you reading are adoptive parents. How did you decide which child or children to add to your family?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On re-naming

 I think I mentioned previously that it starts with a "B". Yesterday we found out our new little guy's name.

A couple people have left comments about names in general and inevitably the subject of why we re-name comes up. I have had comments in the past stating "Their birth name is the only thing they have left that is "theirs", and "Re-naming adds to the trauma of adoption."

We take into consideration several things when we choose to rename our kids. The first thing is where our kids come from. Let me tell you something: There is nothing positive associated with the birth names of  our kids. In many cases, particularly in institutional care, their name was used only when they were being disciplined or abused. In particular, Asher's name was only used when he was being ordered around. There was no affection ever associated with his name. Their birth names have already been associated with trauma. Their new names have only positives associated with them. New start, new life, new name. Both boys knew their new names within a couple of days. In the dog training world there is a game we play to teach dogs their names. I play the same game with my kids when they get their new names. Work's great!

Then there is how the name sounds or looks in print. Axel's birth name is Djordje. It's a beautiful name, however American's butcher it to pieces when they see it, and understandably so. My kids aren't able to speak enough (or at all in the case of Asher) to correct someone who cannot say their name. Asher's birth name, "Lazar" is pronounced similar to "Lah Zer", Because we haven't done a legal name change yet, whenever we're dealing with insurance companies or anyone else that comes across his legal  name, they pronounce it "Laser", as in a beam of light.

Next is our kids ability to pronounce it. We have three kids with significant speech impairments. They need to be able to pronounce their own names. Granted at this point we don't know if Asher will ever talk or even attempt to say his name, but from an articulation perspective, "Asher" is much easier to say than "Lazar". ( Which is why Axel is able to say it. LOL I don't think he'd ever be able to say "Lazar" and there is no way he'd ever be able to pronounce his own birth name.)  Based on all that, we know enough about our new little guy now that he will likely be getting a new name. If I had known this before, Angela would have a very different name because hers is quite difficult for her to say. All my kids have name signs. It's also a safety issue. We have one who cannot write legibly enough for her name to be read and she won't tolerate an ID bracelet (or jewelry of any kid, for that matter.)  and Asher may never write, so they need to be able to SAY or somehow spell their name.

As for "A" names, the jury is out. We weren't going to have another A name the last time, but God pretty much decided for us. (there's a story about how that verse was brought to my attention.) As expected we constantly stumble over the kids' names, but ...well...I have three dogs with very different names and I stumble over them too, so I don't think the problem is with the names. LOL

So..that's where we stand on the re-naming issue. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some Joy for Today

I was going to post this last week. However, with the tragedy that our nation faced on Friday, with parents loosing their hearts within the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary School, I just couldn't bring myself to share.

But today...today we need joy. We need a smile. As the country says goodbye to it's most innocent members, we want to announce the expected "birth" of our newest family member.

In a room, on the other side of the world, sits a boy who is completely unaware that his life is about to change.

He is not a little boy. No, he has waited many years for a family to call his own. He is a child nobody else wants, a child passed over again and again because he is "different", and he's not cute and little anymore. He has watched Mamas and Tata's come to his home and leave with his friends, never to be seen again. His hope is almost gone.

But this mom...this mom is coming back, and this time the Tata is coming too!  This time it is HIS turn. A Mama and Tata for him! Brothers and a sister. A bed that has not been slept in by hundreds of others, clothes that are his and not shared with multitudes, shoes for his feet and nobody else's. A place for him at the family table as well as in the family van.

Please join us on our journey to bring "B" home. He'll be here before we know it!