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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Damage Done

When I first got custody of Axel 2 1/2 years ago, if he was sitting "still" he was doing the orphan rock. He would do it to put himself to sleep too, but it was pretty easy to stop. What we haven't ever been able to stop, and we have long since quit trying, is the head banging in his sleep. Every 20 minutes, like clockwork, he bangs his head on the mattress for about 5 minutes. He's had a sleep study, it's nothing but institutional behavior. Then, in the early morning hours, he sits up and rocks again until you tell him it's time to get up. Most orphans I know never stop this type of self-soothing behavior, even when they've been home for years. I know a 13 year old who has been home 7 years and she cannot stand or sit still. She always rocks.

Asher has never rocked. Instead he destroys his blankets or sheets by twisting them. Some nights he sneaks out of bed to get something else to twist around his hands to comfort himself. It's another version of the dangling that he does.

And now there is B. In general he has more institutional behaviors than both Axel and Asher combined. He twiddles his lower lip, he makes noises that I didn't know a human could make, and he rocks. Whether awake or asleep it doesn't matter, if there is a moment to sit still he rocks, while holding his breath and letting it out in a "raspberry" while at the same time humming. He grinds his teeth constantly. (which could be due to pain because his mouth is full of rotten teeth) He dangles his block. He taps every person he walks past. (not in a friendly way!)

But of all B has brought with him, the saddest thing is the damage done from his life in the institution.  The first night B slept at the apartment with us took quite awhile to get him to sleep. I let him rock or do whatever he needed to calm himself. Finally he cleared all the blankets off his bed so the space was clear. He laid down on the bed and started a type of rocking I have never seen before. Since then we've discovered he does this for several HOURS out of every night. Last night he did it for three hours straight. I know he has sleep apnea because he snores terribly, but the rest is just how orphans learn to comfort themselves when nobody will come for them. This breaks my heart to watch.

Three hours. Without stopping. This. This is the damage done by spending 10 years in an institution.


  1. I wonder if rocking him, like in a rocking chair, like one does with babies and toddlers would make a difference? And is he awake all this time? Poor little man.

  2. No, he is not able to be held like that at this time. We can BARELY hug him, and it's only for a second. He is not used to that kind of touch. He is asleep when he's doing this. Sometimes when he sits on my lap he will start rocking, if I start patting his back quite hard (and with both hands alternating) he will stop rocking and has sat there for as long as an hour. But holding, cuddling, or rocking with him. He's not ready for that.

  3. Leah

    Just catching up on your blog!
    Reading it make me cry for all the kids that won't get the opportunities that B will get! Makes me cry for the existence that B has had to date!
    Makes me realize that journey that is ahead of you and Dean over the next few years!

    I guess you take it one day at a time....otherwise you'd be overwhelmed with it all!

    I am sending you love, love and more love! That's what will sustain you and in the end will be all that matters....but you already know that Leah!

    Thinking of you all and hoping home is on the horizon!

    Give B a high five from Robert in Dublin.

    Linda ( LinMac from Downsyn)!

  4. Oh, my heart just breaks for him!!

  5. I have enjoyed reading your blog. I thank you for sharing your story.

    Our adopted son has been home 8 1/2 years and he still rocks in his sleep. He used to suck both thumbs and finally quit that all on his own about 2 yrs. ago.

    Breaks my heart to know the damage. Much of which will never change. But thanking God B has someone to love him now.

    Praying for things to move quickly for you in the next week.


  6. Heartbreaking...I'm so sorry for all he's been through.

  7. Watching this video... it breaks my heart too. I too wonder if this type of behavior will ever fully go away. Bowen has gotten so much better with it but it is still there at times... the head rocking back and forth when he gets tired or overwhelmed. He still gets a semi bald spot on the back of his head from moving it from side to side to get himself to sleep. I'm so glad B never had to go back to orphanage and can now start healing with his forever family!

  8. Poor baby, hopefully with your love he'll get better.

  9. is a fantastic site about brain development and trauma including severe negect. This organization treated the children from 9-11 , David Keresh, and OKC bombing. They have some great ideas to help the brain heal from trauma and neglect.