18 Months ago we started our adoption. I watched as families brought home children. I got jealous and frustrated when others who had started their adoptions after we did brought their kids home and got to watch them grow and change. I agonized over political changes as Bulgaria held elections that caused things to slow down and kept me from my children. I reminded myself over and over that this was all in God's perfect timing and wisdom, but BOY was it HARD!
I worried and stressed about Lance for months before I met him. Was he ok? Was he being taken care of? Was he cold? Was he sick? But the biggest question on my mind was the one I was almost afraid to ask: Was he still alive? I got a report on him a few months before I met him that informed me that at 3 years old he was 14 pounds and I cried for him. Part of me had expected this and was even relieved that he was not smaller, but another part of me panicked about what reality would look like when I met him. I finally got travel dates and the end of May I boarded a series of long flights that would finally take me to Bulgaria and to an orphanage to see my 3 year old son who I had never met. Immediately I was informed that there was a new director who had started a few days before and she had not arrived at work yet. I waited for hours pacing back and forth in the entry way wringing my hands and getting more and more anxious. I was finally just STEPS from my son and I couldn't see him!! When they brought him to the meeting room several hours after we had arrived I was stunned. He had gotten longer, his face had gotten skinnier, he had gotten teeth! He was the same baby, but OH so different. He was stiff and uncomfortable. I had a few hours a day with him for 5 days and he cried for most of our visits. He was difficult to hold and unhappy. I would put him down and he would SCREAM -that was not the solution. I would sit down while I held him and he would tense up and cry out - also not the solution. The only way I could remotely keep him comforted was by holding him facing out and pacing the floor of a small unclean room with a space heater blaring in 80 degree weather.
6 months later took me back to Bulgaria and back to that entrance. This time I didn't have to wait for hours and I didn't go down the dark elevator to the basement visiting room. This time they brought Lance to the main floor and let me get him dressed. This was a whirlwind. I remember they brought Lance (wrapped in pink) to me and handed him to me to dress him. He had actually made progress since I had seen him in May. He wasn't quite as tense and had even put on a pound. I watched the social worker hand sheets of paper to my translator along with an explanation of a list of medications Lance was on. This was it! This was not just a pipe dream any more. I was not just happily "rescuing" my little boy. This was reality! I WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS LIFE! The magnitude of that realization hit me at that moment like a ton of bricks. I could feel my stomach drop to the floor and all of the color fade from my face. Can I do this? My dear sweet travel companion assured me that all would be fine and that the meds were nothing to stress about. We bundled Lance up and headed out into the chilly November weather. Not the iconic moment I had been envisioning of a long video marking Lance's FIRST moment out of the orphanage doors, but a rushed moment as we had to get back to Sofia to pick up Elliott. I struggled to get Lance's stiff body into a carseat I was unfamiliar with and then climbed in next to him. The next hour and half was LONG to say the least. Here I was, his mother, solely responsible for him at that moment and knowing almost nothing about him. He cried and screamed the whole e.n.t.i.r.e way to Sofia. My head was filled with questions and concerns, trying to wrap my head around this new life while the driver and my travel buddy tried to help and offer suggestions. All I could think was "I should be able to comfort and help him...but I can't." I am insufficient!
I spent the first month bottle feeding 3 ounces at a time which would take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to get in. By the end of each feed I was covered in coughed out, spit out, sneezed out formula (which was a high calorie concoction of pediasure, pudding, and olive oil). Lance was tired and soon it would be time to eat again. The next month brought a new life, a new mama, and a new Lance. The therapist showed me that Lance's patterning of tensing up could EASILY be controlled by a few positioning tricks and the tight stressed little boy suddenly melted in my arms like butter. He still has spasms and those patterns will not be broken overnight but this little trick gave me unbelievable hope. I truly doubted if he would ever be able to fully relax those tight muscles. The other HUGE change that came about this month was the realization that he was aspirating almost everything he was taking in. It was a miracle that he was tolerating so much aspiration, but he had somehow learned to handle it. Still, we now knew how dangerous oral feeding was for him and combined with the fact that we were spending at least 6 hours a day of one on one concentrated feeding time and he had barely gained any weight we scheduled him for a gastronomy tube. Off he went for a combination of G-tube placement, botox injections to help loosen his muscles, and an MRI of his brain...about 7 hours later we made it to the room he would be in for the next few days while he recovered. These days were priceless! I had an opportunity to comfort and love Lance without stressing about getting food into him. He needed me for one thing at that point and that was just to love him. I learned so much about him during those few days. He LOVES to be held. When he is in pain and hurting, the best thing in the world to him is to snuggle into his mama and feel loved.
So here we are! Lance has been home for 4 months. As I sat down to type this I started to realize all that those 4 months have brought, they have gone so quickly that it really doesn't seem possible for so much to have changed since the day we brought him home. BUT IT HAS!!! Lance came home weighing just barely 15 pounds, he was tense and miserable, he didn't smile, and never made any happy sounds. In fact, I truly wondered if he was capable of making happy sounds like laughter. He is now over 22 pounds, is cuddly and relaxed most of the time, smiles whenever someone comes near him or talks to him and he laughs when he is played with. He is a different child completely from the one I met last May or brought home the beginning of December. I look at those pictures and wonder how it is even possible for him to be the same child? That child was somber, pain-ridden, and starving. This child is HAPPY, full of life, and quickly getting a double chin ;) (I should also mention that of all the meds he needed to be on when we left the orphanage -including a nebulizer for asthma- the ONLY one he is still taking is an iron supplement!)
|Ok I have to sneak this one in here. This was right after we brought Lance home. Notice how BIG my youngest son looks here.|
|This was taken today...they are pretty close to the same size!|