"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do.
God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know,
and holds us responsible to act." Prov 24:12

Saturday, December 11, 2010

6 Months, What a Beautiful Journey



Today marks the 6 month anniversary of Sasha's Gotcha Day, the day we officially became his parents and the day he left the orphanage for good. What an amazing 6 months it has been. First, I can't even believe it has already been 6 months but at the same time, it truly feels like he has always been with us. I have to remind myself that I did not carry him in my womb and give birth to him. Someone was asking me questions recently about my pregnancies and I started going through each child and had to catch myself when I tried to recall my pregnancy with Sasha, LOL! What a wonderful feeling that is. I had dreamed of adopting for so long and always believed that I would feel exactly the same way about all my children but you never know until it happens. I just feel so fortunate that he has blended so seamlessly into our family.

Now, that is not to say there aren't any issues, I mean he is a 2 year old after all, but the issues we have aren't any more difficult than the issues we face with Heath and Brooks. So that has been a blessing as well. I thought I would take this opportunity and look back on the last 6 months and reflect on the things that have been positive as well as the things we have faced since the adoption that have been tough. Hopefully it well help other adoptive families out there, who knows, but I think it is important to reflect on our journey, to be honest about it, and to share.

Let's start with the difficulties and get them out of the way, LOL!
*Sasha has major issues with food. Mealtimes, especially dinner (his least favorite meal), can be difficult. Dinner is usually downright not enjoyable and that is sad. Dinner is the only time of the day that Jeremy usually gets to eat with us so it is frustrating that the only family meal we have is usually filled with Sasha throwing major fits. He gets mad about many things during meals. He gets mad if his food is not served fast enough for him. He gets mad if he does not like what is being served (how soon he forgets that just 6 months ago he got orphanage food day in and day out). He gets mad if his food is too chunky and not cut up small enough to his liking. He gets mad if you mistake his screaming for wanting a bite of food instead of a drink of milk or vice versa. I guess he thinks we should know the difference by now between his high pitched scream for milk and his high pitched scream for food. Silly parents! He gets mad if he thinks that he should be getting more food, even if it that means he would be eating so much that he would make himself vomit. And when I say he gets mad, oh my, this is an understatement. Sasha is usually very calm and easy going. There are not a lot of tears throughout the day. Usually the days are filled with smiles and happiness. But at mealtime, everything changes. He screams and he screams loud. And this special scream that he has reserved for meal times is the most high pitched scream and to be honest, it is painful to my ears, literally. I think I have probably sustained some physical damage to my ears from Brooks crying the first two years of his life and Sasha screaming so loud next to me at the table.


So, needless to say, mealtimes are hard and to be honest, hard on me emotionally. I know issues surrounding food are all too common for many orphans and it breaks my heart that my son gets so upset because of food. At first, we of course caved in to his every want and demand (something we never did for our other sons) because we knew that we needed to gain his trust and we wanted him to feel secure about mealtimes and to learn that meals can actually be enjoyable. After he had been home a few months we started cracking down more and more, little by little. But it is all still just such a struggle. I wonder when he will start to actually use his mouth full of teeth and be able to eat the food we eat without it being chopped up into small pieces? I wonder when he will learn to either talk or use signs to communicate his needs at mealtimes (because he does this so well at virtually all other times of the day but all bets are off at mealtimes)? I wonder when we will be able to have a nice family dinner again, on a regular basis? I wonder when he will embrace his independence a little more and want to start feeding himself, which he could do now if he would let himself. This, as you can tell, has been the most difficult part of our journey so far. Please pray for Sasha's progress in this area because it causes all of us so much stress.

*Sasha's lack of desire to do anything independent as been both surprising and difficult. He does not want to help himself to his milk in his straw sippy. He can, but the minute he realizes your hand is off the cup, he spits it out and screams or cries. He does not want to sit. Yes, he can sit and it was so exciting sharing his surprise but at this point, he does not want to sit. He used to yell at me when I made him practice sitting. That is lessening but he still is not happy about it and usually refuses to play or interact when he has to sit. He does not want to learn how to scoot around either(in a sitting position). He gets around by moving his body similar to an inchworm, which is fine but he also needs to learn how to move around in an upright position as well. But he does not want to learn this. He would rather be held and carried all the time.

Now, this does make sense and I understand it. Here is a child that was deprived of that love and affection from parents for the first 19 months of his life. During this time, he laid alone in his crib for most of the day. So we completely understand that he would need and crave the physical comfort and attention of a parent and we are happy to indulge him and make up for what he missed out on for so long. But, we have been surprised by just how much he fights ANY sort of independence. He wants none of it, at all, which makes it very difficult for him to make progress in a lot of areas. We know he will gain his independence little by little, and we know this is all natural. We most definitely want to give him the kind of attention he has never had before but, I wanted to be honest and share the aspects of this that are difficult and surprising for us.

*To be honest, I naively thought that he would be speaking more when we went to get him in Serbia and that he would be speaking pretty well by now. That is most definitely not the case. When we arrived in Serbia we were told that his language had regressed recently and they were not sure why. It seemed to us that this was mostly environmental because he simply was not getting spoken to that often at the orphanage and since they had put him in a room with other nonverbal children that I believe were a lot younger than him, he just really didn't have any one to communicate with as well. So all of this really set him back.

Shortly after we got home, we realized that he probably won't catch up verbally until he is around 3 years old... that is our hope. He is coming along and making great strides but we still have a long way to go. I would say he is about at 18 months with his verbal skills. He knows a few words, the basics, but doesn't use them unless prompted usually and mimics a lot of sounds throughout the day. So we are not worried, but rather just surprised at where he was and where he is language wise more than anything else. Like I said, I naively thought he would be much farther along with his language. I can't wait for the day when I hear his little voice talking to us throughout the day. It is always so exciting when the kids start talking and really expressing themselves verbally.

*His lack of acceptance to being cuddled has been difficult. We are a loving family that wants to shower affection on our children. We give lots of hugs, we give lots of kisses and we give lots of cuddles. Sasha hated this at the beginning. He has always wanted to be held but he did not want to be cuddled. He did not want to be kissed. He did not want to be hugged. This has been getting better and better and now he loves getting kisses and even moves his head in to both get kisses and give kisses. He will cuddle sometimes, on his terms, but it is still a work in progress. He still hates hugs. He does not want to be pulled in close for a hug. If you try, he will immediately try and push you away. He loves being held and loves gazing into your eyes but he HATES hugs. This can be kind of hard on his mama.

Now let's move on to the positives from the last 6 months!

*Sasha basically blended seamlessly into our family. The first week back was difficult but since that time, he has accepted us and everything has gone pretty well. We love him unconditionally, just as we love our other boys, and his brothers love him the same. Nothing about him being in our family seems out of the ordinary or wrong... but rather it all feels so right and so meant to be.

*The unconditional love and acceptance his brothers have given him has been amazing to see and as a mother, it is so heartwarming and has brought me to tears. Heath was old enough during the whole adoption process to understand what was going on but he never questioned anything or thought for one minute that it was odd that we flew halfway across the world to bring his brother home. I am crying just writing this. Heath has been amazing during this. He has just always been so accepting and loving of Sasha. He never questioned how Sasha joined our family. He has never felt that Sasha is anything but his brother in EVERY sense of the word. He has never really questioned his disability. In fact, Heath is one of Sasha's biggest advocates. Heath has always showered Sasha with so much love.

Brooks has always done this as well. The first time Brooks met Sasha, he crawled up on the couch, sat next to him and started rubbing Sasha's hair while sucking his thumb. This was huge because anyone who knows Brooks, knows that sucking his thumb with his right hand and rubbing his hair with his left hand is his signature position. For him to include Sasha in this during their first meeting was pretty beautiful to see. Brooks wasn't old enough through all of this to really comprehend what an adoption is or anything like that but he, like Heath, has always accepted Sasha as his brother and has showered him with love and protection. It has been so unbelievably beautiful and heartwarming to see. It is such a pure, natural kind of love that his brothers give to him.

*The love and acceptance Sasha has received around our community has been amazing as well. The playgroups we belong to have been so wonderfully accepting of Sasha and never question his disability or make him (or I) feel out of place. Our church has been so loving and kind to him as well. We attend a wonderful church, who was instrumental in helping us bring Sasha home and they have continued their love for him since we have been back. He is one of the favorites at church and everyone is always asking about him. He started going to their toddler class right after he turned two. I was very nervous about this. We had kept him out of the nursery and kept him with us during the sermons because of wanting to bond and just not being ready to leave him with other people. But, he was getting pretty bored with this routine and really did not want to be in the sanctuary anymore. So, when he turned two we decided to give it a try in the toddler room. I was really nervous though!

I knew my church was accepting of Sasha obviously but I didn't know if they would want him in their class... you know how it is sometimes. But all that worry was for nothing! Oh my goodness, they love him in there and are so excited that he is there. I love walking into the class and seeing him sitting at the table with the other kids during craft time. I love that they treat him like everyone else and include him in everything... this is what we long for him and it is so beautiful to see it actually taking place. My friend who was in there one Sunday said it is really cute because not only is Sasha wanted in there but the teenager helpers in there actually fight over who gets to play with him! They all want to play him. That as a parent, is wonderful to hear.

*He's sitting already and is using some language. So while these have been difficulties in there own right, as mentioned above, they have been wonderful blessings as well. Sasha works hard with his PT and we know how difficult it must be for him learning so much new stuff on a daily basis. We are just so very proud of him and the progress he has made and we celebrate that progress on a daily basis.

*His health! Oh my goodness, when we arrived at the orphanage, we thought he was so sick. He struggled while we were in Serbia and we were desperate to get him home and get him seen by the doctors over here. We thought he was going to have many issues, medically. Well Sasha surprised us once again and he is actually EXTREMELY healthy and has basically passed all of his medical exams with flying colors. In fact, he gets sick less than his brothers(we think he probably has an uber strong immune system at this point). So, it looks as if his health problems that were so prevalent in Serbia were mostly environmental in nature and once he came home to the loving home of his family, most of those issues disappeared! Amen to that!

*He is an amazing sleeper, thank goodness. Heath and Brooks have always been good sleepers and some of my friends, who shall remain nameless but you know who you are, were kind of hoping that Sasha would give us a taste of what they go through on a nightly basis. Well, as a blessing to us, he hasn't! He goes to bed around 7:30 every night and doesn't wake up until 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. We hardly hear anything from him throughout the night and we hardly ever have to get up during the middle of the night. He then takes a solid 3 hour nap during the day! Like I said, he is a GREAT sleeper!

*His smile. I can't have a post about the positives of the last 6 months and not mention the absolutely beautiful smile of our third child. Even before I met him I knew that he radiated a kind of joy that is very unique and special. We have felt that joy these last 6 months and we have been blessed with the most beautiful, captivating smiles on a daily basis since we brought him home. His smile is a true gift from God.

I mean, just look at that smile!


Sasha, you are a dream come true for us and we love you SO much! These last 6 months have been absolutely amazing and we feel so blessed that we were called to be your parents. You have changed our lives and the lives of so many already in your short time here on earth, we can only imagine what you are going to accomplish throughout your life. God has great plans for you Sasha and we will be here to love and support you along the way. Thank you Lord God for these last 6 months with Sasha. What an unbelievably amazing journey it has been so far and we look forward to the journey ahead. Happy 6 month anniversary of your Gotcha Day Sashi Bashi! We love you!

4 comments:

  1. Great post, Devon. You are a wonderful mom!

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  2. Oh, what a love he is!!! I fell in love with him in Serbia, and my feelings are no different now. I'm so glad he's with your family.

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  3. So right, so good. He is perfect and perfectly beautiful! Thank you for sharing your precious family.

    I was just thinking about Sasha and what lies in store for him. I can understand wanting to foster his sense of independence, but right now, foster trust and even dependence might be what he needs. I'm almost thinking that if you go in overboard in doing things for him, that he will get tired of it pretty quickly. Maybe that would help him desire independence? Just a thought.

    I think you are a wonderful mother who is doing a great job raising your little ones!

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  4. God bless your heart! Your story rang a MASSIVE bell for me regarding children to whom certain everyday necessary occurances, like sleep, food, or playtime, is unusually difficult. Our 5 year old adopted RAD/FASD daughter (aka "wondergirl"), was greatly encouraged to participate in regular life by the strategies we learned in attachment therapy. It began easily enough by incorporating 10-20 minutes of intentional playtime where she was "in charge" but not responsible for anything other than mostly appropriate play. The shocker was that the adults, me and therapist ( who ARE actually in charge and responsible) , were to observe and participate- keep the room safe and the atmosphere open, and wondergirl was expected to play without whining or becoming violent !!!
    (obviously a first...) Point is, as her need for recognition and strategic attention was filled (no excuses for "bad" behavior, but an attuning to her good behavior and messages she was sending without me realizing) her overall behavior re: meals, play and sleep slowly but surely became easier and easier! It seemed miraculous, but the "therapy" continues daily and is well worth the effort! The issues were not about play or sleep per se, but were regarding attachment to a safe adult (Thank God for adoptive parents!) and me being mostly (kind-of!) willing to reach out to attune myself to an angry, anti-social, violent child and find out what she was telling me with her behavior so that I, as the one who is REALLY in charge, could respond in love. I would love to expand on the stuff we learned if you are interested!

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