Again, sorry to those of you who actually follow this blog but don’t know me on Facebook! I tend to update in our group there more frequently, so if you are interested, feel free to request to join the FB group “the right to hold you.”
As a quick update on the remainder of our trip, I think I last posted when we were waiting for a court decision. That Monday afternoon, we found out the judge granted our adoption, as well as our request for urgent execution. My friend Jessica arrived late Monday night and we headed out early Tuesday for Kaunas, our Boo’s birth city, as well as the city his baby house was in. We went first to the city registry with our adoption decree to apply for a new birth certificate. In Lithuania, after an adoption they create an entirely new birth certificate with the adoptive parents listed. It seemed crazy to me at first, but now I think it’s pretty cool. Then we went to the orphanage to visit and say our goodbyes to everyone for a bit. Once the birth certificate was ready, we went to pick it up and grab lunch, then headed back to spring my main man.
We left the orphanage and headed back to the capital city of Vilnius, where we spent the next week completing what is often referred to as the “paper chase.” We had to get a passport for Boo, as well as apply for and receive a U.S. Visa. Usually we would also have had to visit the Embassy doctor, but luckily we had taken care of that earlier in our trip. So we spent a week exploring Vilnius, celebrating Lithuania’s (second) Independence Day, and getting to know our new little man.
We were finally issued our Visa on Tuesday, March 17 and scrambled to change our tickets to come home Wednesday. Late Tuesday afternoon I got an email letting me know our airline carrier (Lufthansa) was going on strike and my flight was cancelled. Ha! So I scrambled some more and was able to switch airlines (albeit add an extra leg), and ensure Boo man and I were going to make it home Wednesday. I was done being away from my family, and just ready to snuggle my littles and get our new life started. We arrived home to Florida around 7:30 pm on Wednesday night. Boo and I had woken up around 3:30 am Wednesday morning, and this landing put us around 2:30 am the following day. We were both beyond exhausted, but so happy to finally be home.
So, now we have officially been home just over a week. I can hardly believe it has already been a week. We were super lucky that Chris was off last Thursday and Friday, so we had four full days to adjust as a family. This week is actually Spring Break for the kids’ preschool, which is a huge blessing, because it means I don’t have to rush anywhere in the morning or worry about logistics of school pick-up. It’s been a sweet time of just figuring out our new dynamic and learning how to be a mama of THREE.
Overall, I’d say Boo is doing fantastic. At least, considering that his entire world has been turned upside down and nothing he knew to be true has remained. He doesn’t understand the language we are speaking, realistically he has no idea who we even are, and no one he has relied on for the first 2.5 years of his life is showing up anymore. He has rolled with everything, and adjusted remarkably well to all the changes. Even his sleep patterns were relatively undisturbed, and in the apartment he still took a 2-hour naps and slept a good 10-12 hours each night.
He and Bug have actually transitioned to sharing a room better than I expected. There are two downfalls – Bug hasn’t fallen asleep for his nap for the last four days, so he is fairly noisy as he passes the time until his clock turns yellow. Luckily, Boo has been sleeping through this time, and possibly sleeping for too long. It’s been a 2-3 hour nap each day, and we often have to wake him. That leads to our second problem – Boo has been waking up and talking to himself (loudly!) around 4-5 am every morning. We are just giving both issues time, and hoping (praying) it’s just the transition and everything will soon shake out.
Boo doesn’t cry out when he wakes up, which is really sad, but also made it a little tricky to figure out his sleep patterns at first. In the apartment he would just start rocking, and if I was in the room with him it would wake me up. If it was nap time, I would just try to listen for the crib moving. Once, I fell asleep in the other room (I was emotionally drained while in country so it affected me physically) during nap and a baby a floor above me cried out. I instinctively jumped out of bed and ran to his door, then stopped to listen. Dead silence. Oh yeah, I thought, my baby doesn’t cry. It as a sad moment, but I would say this has probably actually been helpful in the transition to room sharing for Bug.
So, what are the hardest parts of being home? Well, honestly it is just hard to watch Boo do his thing. He has many behaviors that are typical for children who have lived their entire life in an institution, but understanding their roots and not being heartbroken by them are two different things. He does a lot of “stimming,” which is what it is called when a child self-stimulates or self-soothes in a particular way. Essentially, long-term neglect of a child’s basic emotional needs forces them to learn ways to “take care” of themselves, and they often do this by stimming. These can manifest in many different ways, but for Boo it’s mostly head-banging, rocking (with varying degrees of aggressiveness), and noisemaking.
His only goal right now is our home is self-preservation, and nothing but time will heal the wounds in his psyche. It’s a hard thing to watch, and even harder to not try to force myself on him, desperately hoping we will miraculously have a quick fix. It’s a lesson in patience, and humility, and really learning that none of this has even been about me. Just loving him doesn’t automatically change him, and we have to learn how to meet him where he is at and create an environment that feels safe.
Physically, the biggest obstacle is his eating. I didn’t anticipate this for some reason, and I’m not sure if that is why it seems like a bigger challenge for me. Boo doesn’t actually drink anything. In the orphanage, they would give him fluid by tilting his head up with a towel underneath and pouring it in until he swallowed. He would obviously start swallowing because he would otherwise choke. (They wouldn’t have let him choke, obviously, but he had no way to know this). This has left him terrified of drinking from any type of cup or spout. In order to get him fluid, we have been spoon feeding him water. He also will only eat if spoon-fed. He tucks his hands deep into his chair during meals and just waits for you to bring the spoon to him. When Daddy K makes him work a little by only putting the spoon right on his lips and not IN his mouth, he begrudgingly takes a bite and then glares at him. Ha! He definitely has some spunk. We’ve had to work on adjusting the thickness of his food, because he also has terrible reflux. We are noticing that if we keep his food on the mushier side, he’s a lot less likely to spit up. On the plus side, he isn’t really picky about what food we give him, as long as the texture is how he likes it. So we have been doing oats with fruit, a grain (rice, cous cous, orzo) with either fruit or veggies, and then a mashed veggie (cauliflower and sweet potato so far) with some protein. It’s been an experiment, and I’m excited to start figuring out how to pack some good fats/superfoods into our regime. He is a little peanut, and definintely could use some meat on his bones. They were feeding him huge portions (I’m trying to figure out how to scale those down), but I think the food just wasn’t nutrient-dense enough to really help him thrive.
Children from institutions often have a lot of emotional issues related to eating, and he is no different. If we step away during his feeding (usually to get something for one of his siblings), he gets really upset and will actually cry/scream. In one week, he has already learned where he will eat, and the only time he will willingly crawl is if he wants to be feed. He will crawl over to his highchair and then just sit and wait.
We have already seen a lot of changes in such a short time, and I think the hard part of that is expecting too much from him. I wish I had taken more videos when we first met him, because he seems like a different child to me. He previously would zone out the entire time we were with him, but now I’d say more than 50% of the time he is focusing on what’s going on around him. He has also started to engage in some toddler naughtiness, which is HUGE, since it shows signs that he understands play. I put him on the potty the other day (he was using the potty at the orphanage, although still in diapers, and has kept it up for us), and I stepped out to grab something. I heard him fling himself off and then start laughing – I walked in to catch him crawling out of the bathroom. 🙂 The last few nights at bedtime he has started standing up as soon as I put him in his crib and then giggling about it. When I leave to grab something (Bug has a never-ending request for things when it’s about to be lights out) he is standing in the corner of his crib right by the door when I come back, a huge grin on his face. These might not seem like big things, but they are a huge change. I can’t accurately describe the shell of a little boy we first met.
Okay, so what’s next for us? Well, we had Boo’s first doctor appointment yesterday. He is being referred to a whole slew of specialists. I am really excited to see what the ophthalmologist has to say, because Daddy K and I (and my friend Jessica as well), all noticed that he really seems to have a hard time actually focusing on anything. We also have to follow-up on his hearing (they sent me home with his hearing aids, but we haven’t been using them), as well as a good work-up for his heart defect. We should also start physical therapy soon, although I don’t want to push it.
Our main goal is working on bonding. And learning that what we think bonding should look like might not actually be what it NEEDS to look like. It’s a hard balance between finding ways to engage him, and not over-stimulating or stressing him out. If we let him, he’d be happy to zone out all day (as long as we kept his belly full!). And yet, he clearly is beginning to blossom with some attention. Pray for wisdom in finding that sweet spot, and that we don’t let our hidden expectations or our pride negatively affect how we relate and respond to him. Not surprisingly, having him home has revealed the depths of our selfishness, and our innate desire for our own comfort and our own version of redemption. Pray that we allow the Author of all redemption to tell His story, and accept our role in that story with open hands. Our children are all surprising us every day, and it’s humbling to think about our role in their lives. We want to do this (parenting) well, and often our worst enemy is ourselves. They are patient, and forgiving, and full of joy. Boo is a beautiful little boy, and we are grateful to be on this journey with him.