Tuesday, October 23, 2012

13 years home! Differences in adoption now and then

This post is a little late w/ all we have going on.  I know many on here are new to the adoption world and are trying to figure out what it's like years down the road.  Well, with us, we have the past, present and future.  We're old time adopters and new ones (7 months or so ago) as well.  We've seen the before and after.  We've seen the PI effects.  We've dealt w/ the new parent unknowns.  There really were no blogs back then.  We had to rely more on local gatherings.  Things are different and yet the same when adopting now.  We've adopted first back in 1999 and now most recently at the end of 2011.  Wow, what a time span!  We've learned a lot over the years.  We're not experts by any stretch of the imagination.  However, we can share a bunch of what not to do.  LOL.  We have lived through years and years of FASD and RAD.  We have "healed" two RADishes that we were told to give up on.  Yes, still have what we in the RAD world call cycles but nothing compared to what it used to be.  We have learned to not care what others think about our parenting.  We have learned to take things w/ a grain of salt.  We have learned medicals are not worth the paper they're written on.  We have learned what it really means to have a PI child.  We have learned so many things that we are going to be writing a book soon.  Not that anyone would read it but hey, worth a shot.

With each adoption, I feel we've gotten better at it if that is possible.  By at it, I mean adopting a child that has been institutionalized.  Our first experience back in June of 1999 was hard.  We were new parents all around.  No one told us the TRUTH.  All we ever heard were the happy endings or the happy go lucky kid at a picnic.  No one told us our son would act like a squirrel on speed trapped in a cage.  No one told us all this.  We were followed by news crews in Russia during our adoption in Orenburg region.  Village of Abdulina.  It was a very, very remote village and no Americans until us had ever been there.  Nothing like pressure of meeting your kids in front of a news crew.  Irina and Max were 6 and 4 at the time.  Max had just turned 4yo.  Max wore size 18 months and weighed 20 lbs.  Not bad for a 4yo Russian PI kiddo.  Yes, kids are that small.  So many get freaked out about the size but we truly don't worry about it b/c we know they can over come it.  Even more severe as Alyona was.  Skin and bones.  I don't say that lightly either.  Irina was 6.5yo, wore size 2T and weighed roughly 23 or 24  lbs.  Again, wasn't worried.  Kids from institutions are much smaller than American kids.  Expect it.  Expect them to be malnoursihed and be very happy if they are not.  For Alyona in Russia, I could take my middle finger and thumb and form an 'O.'  I would go from her ankle all the way up her thigh.  She was 7yo with a heart defect.  ASD.   Failure to thrive, etc.  But, I figured she lasted this long in this condition (and yes, that may sound harsh but it's true) that surely she would be fine once home.  And it took time but she did fine.  Alyona is still very thin but is healthy.  And that's just fine w/ us.

I still firmly believe to come home and let the kids adjust first unless there is some very very important medical issue.  It personally drives me crazy when people think the first few months home should be like Disney World.  NO!  NO!  NO!  Think calm.  Really, your kids should know where the silverware drawer is first before they know where the Walmart is.  I keep my kids home the first month.  As in not really going anywhere.  I don't do medical appointments till after that month as well unless there is a real dire concern.  Trust me, these kids have lived in far worse conditions for an extended period of time, waiting a month to see a doc will not kill them.  Plus, their trust will be quite a bit better by then.  Some situations do warrant them seeing a doc right away. Alyona had a heart condition & thin as a rail.  They weren't even sure that she would make the flight home.  Got home very, very late on Saturday evening.  Had an appointment w/ cardiology first thing on Monday morning at UNC.  They were prepared to admit her if they found anything that required surgery right away.  They did not.

Anyhow, getting side tracked.  Point I'm making is the first month home is critical to adjusting these kids.  Let's see, first 2 kids home, took us around 6 months to adjust to us and life in America.  Next two home, roughly 3 months to get it right.  Next one home, about 2 weeks.  Next two home, just a week.  This last go around, happened while we were over in Bulgaria though Logan was our trouble maker.  His was more angry about leaving than anything and b/c of our experience, we knew that.  Kids must grieve their loss when adopted. I do not care who they are or how old.  They have lost everything.  And yes, no matter how bad the place, it is indeed a loss.  You may think your home is perfect but to them, it's strange.  Everything is new for them.  New rules, new culture, new smells, new foods, new language, new bonds to form, new clothes, new everything.  It's scary stuff.  They have lost everything known to them.  Their culture, their identity, their family (YES, no matter how bad the orphanage, it WAS family to them), their entire life.  Gone. They lost it.  They must, must grieve to move on.  Now, some have kids that grieve rather quickly.  And they come in all forms these grievers.  trust me.  I've experienced the angry grievers.  Mad at the world.  The sad grievers.  Distance, tired.  Lethargic.  The crying grievers.  One of mine finally sat in Warren's lap one night after being home a few months.  Sat there and literally sobbed for over 2 hours straight.  It was the saddest thing to watch.  After that took place though, a new child emerged!  Let the kids grieve for however long or however they want.  it is necessary.  That part has never changed over the years.

Enjoy all the the new firsts.  First movie, first word in English, first time to the park, etc.  The little things matter.  My 3 newest are excited about Halloween.  They haven't experienced that yet. There are so many firsts and the older kids are so much fun to watch them experience it.  But there are scary firsts too.  Okay, Summer was born and lived in Pleven for the first 3 years.  She was then transferred to Kardzhali where she spent some time before we got her at age 4yo.  (almost 5yo).  We were told her first car ride was when we took her out of the orphanage.  I could tell she had never been in a restaurant b/c she was terrified when we took her that first night we had them.  Even once home though, it is difficult to realize where they came from.  I will never ever forget the time Summer got stuck in the soccer game in the rain.  She was absolutely terrified of that wet stuff falling from the sky.  It was a new experience for her.  Almost as bad as the 'torture' bath she had to get that first night w/ us.  Geez.  I even made the NGO call the orphanage and ask how she had been bathed before.  Remember, it's not like this was our first time.  We knew there was something deeper emotionally going on with Summer.  This lasts too when they get home.  You just have to go w/ their pace and just make sure the kids know that you will always be there for them.  Now, Summer is all about water and we have to force her out of the tub and out of the pool.  So, some firsts will be thrilling and fun and some will be sad and scary to them. 

Well, this is a mouthful.  Full post.  I'll try to write some more later.  Just trying to talk about some things about adoption that tend to happen.  I started this a few months ago and never finished.  Typical of me.  Another thing that changes, once you get kids, your time is sucked away! 

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