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Saturday, April 25, 2015

The other side of the coin

  Alright, so a few years ago I started to really delve into the big wide world of adoption.  I made lots of Facebook friends and started following lots of adoption journeys, both before, during, and post "Gotcha!"  About 6 months in to our commitment to adopt a child with severe neglect and obvious physical needs I started reading all of these blog posts about families who had adopted once, twice, three times or more... These families brought home children from the US, children from foster care, children from orphanages, and some from mental institutions.  They homeschooled their children, some of them cloth diapered, and they would post pictures of a humble home that was essentially spotless. I would sit back at the end of the day, look around my 1500 square foot house that we were renting for our family of 5 and think about the all of the laundry that did NOT get done, do the second or third vinegar rinse of MY cloth diapers for the day, and just wonder HOW?! How on earth do these people do it...and with 3 times as many kids as I have!  
  Well, let me fast forward to today.  We are renting a larger house, but yes - still renting.  I actually, miracle of all miracles, only have one load of laundry left and it is just going through the spin cycle, and my house is clean! (Well, my NEW version of clean)  My daughter is only a week behind where I want her to be in Math, everyone is fed, diapered, bathed, massaged, and have had their second round of range of motion exercises for the day.  I am sitting here with my make up on, hair done, and... yes, still in my pajamas. (It's 3:25 on a Saturday afternoon :/)


I don't generally stop and take pictures of me shampooing pee out of the carpet, or one of my kids after they threw up all over. I didn't take a picture of the FIRST bath where someone pooped in the tub right after I finished washing their hair (we'll call that a practice round), and I certainly didn't announce on Facebook that I had a temper tantrum and grounded one of my kids. Why not? Because that's not the side I want YOU to see!  I want you to be on my side and think only good things of me and my kids and my family.  I want you to see rainbows and sunshine...not the clouds and the storms that come first.

Sooo...why am I doing exactly that right now?  BECAUSE YOU NEED TO KNOW! 6 months after your beautiful child comes home, everyone will be busy living THEIR lives, YOU will be living yours and there will be lots of rainy days...days without umbrellas, days without someone patting you on the back or gushing over your beautiful child who may never walk.  You will not have 500 facebook friends offering to sit on your couch for you while your child screams for the second hour in a row for reasons even he does not understand.  You will realize that you probably aren't going to be invited to the same things you used to be because it's just not as "easy" to have your family over to someone else's house.

I LOVE my life, I ADORE my family, I wouldn't change one minute.  They are my life, they are amazing, smart, creative, precious, maddening, frustrating, mess-making.  They are BEAUTIFUL.  This is the other side of all of those makeovers...yes! They have grown. Yes! They have made incredible improvements. Yes! I LOVE them and at the end of the day, I will not have a perfectly clean house, the laundry will never be ironed, the garage will smell of dirty diapers, and their may be dirty dishes in the sink.  I WILL get up the next day and do it all over again and thank God for giving me this life. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mom shopping - Nope, sorry, that doesn't mean mom's just get to go shopping.

 Have you ever been around a kid that you've never met or seen before and they just want to hug you or kiss you or sit on your lap or hold your hand?  People always gush over how sweet this kid is and love that affection. I know because I always did too.
  In kids coming from broken pasts this is NOT a "good" thing.  It's called "Mom shopping", they are looking for something to heal their broken hearts.  They are looking for a "mom."   What about when they are adopted and have a mom?  They quit shopping, right? WRONG!  Sometimes just the opposite is true.
  Let me paint you a very real picture.  Baby is born - Mom gives up baby - baby goes to an orphanage - orphanage worker 1 feeds baby and moves on - orphanage worker 2 changes baby and moves on - orphanage worker 3 feeds baby - orphanage worker 4 bathes baby - orphanage worker 5 changes baby....seeing where this is going yet?  By the time baby is 5 years old how many orphanage workers or foster moms/dads/siblings have had contact with him? Too many to even remember.  How many stuck around? ZERO, a really easy number to remember.  At some point one of them might have been especially kind and loving and made baby feel special, but what happened to that caretaker? They "left" - maybe not because they didn't care anymore, but for a million different reasons they are no longer there. 
  Now,  in walks adoptive mom and dad. YAY!! Baby is sooo happy - he finally has a family, right?! Again, nope. Baby doesn't know what a family is.  He doesn't know or understand or believe that moms and dads DONT LEAVE.  He doesn't know that they will love you always - no matter what.  To him, this is just another caretaker and he has built big STRONG brick walls.  These walls are special to him because he has worked very hard to lay them brick by brick.  They keep his little heart safe from everything that comes to try to hurt it.
You get the picture.   Did you know that touch is a basic NEED just like water and air? People NEED touch to survive.  Without it our brains develop differently.  So kids without even knowing it are working to get that NEED of touch met.  Kids who come from hurt get this need met by strangers because their hearts are not at risk by hugging a stranger.  Why?  Because they KNOW that stranger is going to walk away.  They expect it so it won't hurt them.  When they become adopted and MOM and DAD give them hugs and kisses it's SCARY!  Not at first, at first they are happy to get and give affection because they don't care if you leave - they are expecting it. As you become more and more of a permanent fixture in their lives this changes.   Suddenly they start to realize that "when" you leave them it WILL hurt.  Add another brick to their wall.
   This is seen when they have a really good week or month, or maybe just a day with mom or dad.  They feel loved - that's SCARY!! Add a brick
  This is seen when they fall and mom rushes to hug and comfort them. SCARY! Add a brick
  This is seen when mom sits down at the end of the day to just rock them and say "I love you".  Add a brick.
  They start to pull away and sometimes act out - becoming harsh or aggressive.  They don't want to hug you, they don't want you to be nice to them....THEY ARE PROTECTING THEIR LITTLE SHATTERED HEARTS!

  BUT what about that basic need for touch?  They still need it, but not from someone who can hurt them! So they see a stranger who smiles at them and they go get a hug - basic need met = don't need mom = heart is safe.
  Here is the good news!!! Elliott has been home about 16 months.  He loves everyone and everyone loves him.  Seriously, people stop in the middle of the mall to talk to him.  The staff at doctors offices know him and look forward to seeing him. He is an amazing and special kid.... who has a HUGE basic need for touch.  Seriously  LOVES touch.  So for 16 months I've been telling him "We only hug family."   Last Sunday he went up to a lady at church, who for some reason reminds him of his grandma in North Dakota.  He called her grandma excitedly and she wrapped her arm around him and kissed the top of his head. (Queue mental palm to forehead moment for mom) BUT Imagine how excited I was when, after 16 months of "Only hug family" comments, he ran from "grandma" TO MOM and yelled "ONLY HUG FAMILY!!"  YEP!! Those little shattered hearts CAN heal! I'm not naive enough to believe that that's the end of those "mom shopping" days, but it is a HUGE - GINORMOUS step in that direction!!
  Keep going moms!! Our little shoppers CAN and WILL get there.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Telling the truth in the face of adoption

  • Before I start I want to mention a little bit about our own personal story.  We felt 100% called to bring Elliott and Lance home at the same time.  God renewed that belief over and over throughout the process in so many ways.  It has been hard, but it has also been beautiful and we are so grateful for the children God has allowed us to parent.  We would not have done it any other way because this was right for our family.

 Bear with me here.  Some of you are probably NOT going to like what I'm about to write.  That's ok, I'm going to write it anyway.  Not because I don't CARE about your feelings or opinions - I DO! I care so much that I've chosen to write a post that may be offensive.
 I want to talk about the adoption community.  You know that community because you are probably a part of it. THANK YOU for being a part of it. THANK YOU for caring so much about the plight of the orphans. THANK YOU for your time, energy, pennies, dollars, and emotions. It's a painful cause to be passionate about, but YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!! Those pennies, sharing those little kids faces, telling their stories DOES make a difference. If you stop shouting for them who will?
  The part I'm worried about is when members of that community cover over things in order to convince someone to adopt "just one more."  I've heard so many stories of "one more", you know what I'm talking about?

  "It's only a few thousand dollars more to bring home ONE MORE and you will be saving a life - you just need to do it."
  •  Bringing home two children at the same time is cheaper than going back a year later for the second one.  -  Being able to take individual time to rock them to sleep and cuddle them is priceless.  Emotional therapy because you don't have time for them is expensive! 
  •   Let's try:
     Instead of "It's only a few thousand more to adopt a second child at the same time!" Maybe try "If God is telling you to adopt another child, no matter when He is calling you He will provide."  BECAUSE HE WILL!!!
  "What if one dies while you are bringing the first one home when you could have saved them both by bringing them home together?"
  • If God is telling you with absolute certainty that you are to bring both children home at the same time - DO IT! He will provide.  IT WILL BE HARD.  If it is because of your own desire to "save" them take a step back - it's NOT UP TO YOU!  

    Psalm 139:16New International Version (NIV)

    16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
        all the days ordained for me were written in your book
        before one of them came to be.

     Here's another little dose of reality - if you are bringing home children with significant needs you need to be on top of your game that first year especially.  If they are medically fragile, they will need lots of testing, lots of medical intervention and therapy and there will be surprises. Some good and some hard. You MAY need to spend weeks beside a hospital bed 5 hours away from the rest of your children and spouse - including the second child you brought home at the same time.  You need to think very seriously about whether or not your spouse is prepared to do a middle of the night ER run with all of your children while you are watching your other child get blood transfusions in the PICU and making decisions about picc lines.
  "You have the room to bring home another child - it's your duty." 
  •  You probably do have the physical space for another child, or two, or three, or more.  Do you have the time?  Children need individual love FROM THEIR PARENTS!! If you have 5 kids and each of them gets just a half hour of your individual time a day (reading them a book, painting nails, playing trains on the floor, cuddling before bed time) that's 2.5 hours a day - no big deal right?  AWESOME, now who's watching them the other 21.5 hours, who's making them meals, changing their diapers, giving them baths, taking them to and from doctors appointments and therapy, who's doing the grocery shopping and laundry? It is possible, but it's hard and we need to BE REALISTIC!
  •  Let's try:
      Instead of telling people that if they have the room it's their DUTY to adopt more kids.  Encourage them to seek out what God is calling them to and remember that God tells us "care for widows and orphans" He does not outline exactly what that looks like for every person.  It may look like bringing meals to widows on a regular basis, it may look like donating $10 a month toward an adoption, it may look like providing respite care for an adoptive family, it may look like adopting 5 kids, it may look like adopting one.
  "Look at Mrs. Jones! She has x amount of kids and SHE'S DOING IT!"
  • Yes Mrs. Jones has a lot of kids.  Yes, she posts some amazing pictures and stories. FACT - you are not Mrs. Jones and this is not a competition. Here's another thing we really need to take into account: Just because Mrs. Jones posts about rainbows doesn't mean she doesn't see storms.   When you have a bad day and rant and rave to your kids do you promptly go on facebook and tell everyone?  When you go through the whole day never finding time to get dressed or clean the bathroom do you post selfies of that? Ummm....I certainly don't! I doubt Mrs. Jones does either.

  STAY WITH ME HERE!The other concern is when the needs are down-played.

  "Oh that syndrome? It's NO BIG DEAL!
"Some therapy and modern medicine WILL TOTALLY FIX THAT!"
  •  This one is probably going to shock you...brace yourself.  MODERN MEDICINE DOES NOT FIX EVERYTHING!  It just doesn't, be prepared for that.  Some kids will come home not being able to walk and with western medicine and lots of therapy will be able to walk and talk and write and lead totally normal lives.  Some kids won't be able, sometimes you will see very little improvement - assume that if you are bringing home an involved child they will be involved forever and rejoice over any milestone.  It's not fair to say that you are ok with an involved 2 year old when the truth is you will not be ok with an involved 30 year old - because someday that 2 year old will be 30 years old. KNOW THAT! 
  "That attachment issue? IT WILL BE FINE! Just show them love." 
  •    Attachment issues are real and EVERY child who has suffered neglect or abandonment WILL have them.  They will take more than love.  It will take diligence and more patience than you ever thought you would need.  Sometimes YOU will not be able to help them overcome these hurts on your own.  Sometimes you will need to spend the money, take the time, and travel several hours to get them the help they need to heal.
  •  Let's try:
     Instead of "Love will heal whatever attachment issues they have."  Try "There are some great resources available for adoptive parents and parents looking into adoption if you are serious about adopting make the time to learn about it."
  "A non-mobile child? She'll probably be able to walk once she's home."
  •   Having a non-mobile child is a game changer.  Suddenly you will find that your back will hurt from picking them up and putting them down all day.  You will smash your fingers getting their heavy equipment out of the trunk of the car and it will take you an EXTRA hour to get in and out of whatever building you are visiting.  You will lug the wheelchair out, secure your child into it with all 5 safety measures, push it across the parking lot, maneuver it through the single door of the office building only to find that there is no elevator and your options are either go UPSTAIRS or DOWNSTAIRS.   You will, at some point, need a  handicap accessible van. 
  •  Let's try some things:Instead of "A non-mobile child is no big deal!" say something like "This is a beautiful child who will need a lot of care."

  The fact is that there are 153 million orphans world wide. YES! They ALL need families.  HOWEVER, we need to be honest with one another because these are children! They are real people with real souls and real issues.  They are not a hobby or a habit.  You do not collect them and set them on a nice showcase just to look at every now and then.
Can you tell I'm passionate about this?