Wednesday, April 3, 2013


When new adoptees, especially international ones, enter a home, they often experience a period of time where the logical processes of their brain do not work well. It's as if they are in overdrive from all of the changes and they just cannot process what should be easy to figure out normally. Ch has very pronounced period of this phenomenon. It reached a point when to keep my sanity, everytime Ch would do something especially brainless, I would start humming the Scarecrow song from The Wizard of Oz. Eventually, Ch's developed the nickname of Scarecrow. Once he passed the phase of no logical processing, the fact that he is the skinniest beanpole child I have EVER seen kept his nickname firm. Just today, in fact, a sister was folding clothes and took a good look at the pants which fit Ch and how tiny the waist is and declared, "He really IS a scarecrow." I have NO idea how Ch is so skinny. He's not short. He certainly doesn't eat less. In fact, he is my second biggest eater of all my children. Yet, he never gets bigger around the middle.

Ch is one of my heros. He was born in India and spent his first four years there. He spent so much time in a crib that the back of his head is completely flat. While his birthfather loved him fiercely, Ch had a medical condition that made it impossible for him to reach adulthood in India. In the west, Ch's condition has quite managable. It is expensive, but we have always carried excellent health insurance so that his coverage has never lapsed. Ch is one of those rare cases that international adoption is truly the best option for the child. This is what his birthfather knew when he broke his own heart to provide for Ch to have a future by placing him in the orphanage and making him available for adoption.

What I didn't understand when Ch came home was that the fact that his birthfather adored him, the fact that the orphanage staff held him as one of their favorite children, none of that would matter to Ch. Ch was locked in a crib. The staff was SO proud of themselves. They secured two of their infant cribs together and wrapped blankets around everything so it was completely padded. They had done such a good job keeping him safe that they insisted I take a picture of him in that crib before we took him home. Yet, he didn't know how to play, to walk, to be a child. He had been locked in a cage his entire life. All he knew was that everyone abandoned him and never let him be a child. Ch's perspective of his life was FAR different than everyone else's. Furthermore, when his new forever mother began sticking NEEDLES into him twice a week, he most definitely was NOT interested in being a part of this success story.

It's really no surprise that Ch developed attachment disorder. Honestly, if you look at his life from HIS eyes, he didn't trust anyone and he definitely didn't beliee anyone loved him. Prior to the medication we brought into his life, he suffered in tremendous pain on a regular basis. The orphanage never understood that it is not the blood you SEE that causes suffering and damage to a boy with Hemophilia, but the blood internal that you cannot see. The adoption agency was very clear with the orphanage that they would cover his medication and he was to be given it on a weekly basis. The orphanage could not see the point of the expense when their padded cage prevented him from pouring blood out of his body. That lack of understanding is also why they left him in his cage when he displayed lethargy and vomitting with no sign of an infection for fever for three days before he began to have siezures. They completely missed his brain bleed and nearly cost him his life, just as we had started his adoption process.

Ch was my teacher in mothering special needs children. It was the lessons in finding my voice and advocating for him that I would later carry into parenting Micah. I had much to learn about mothering a medical needs child. The first thing I had to learn was that NO doctor knows my child better than I do, and if they aren't listening to me about the needs of my child, then I need to fight harder or find another doctor. It took me 18 months to put my foot down and tell Ch's doctors I would NOT administer his medication. I could see that Ch was never going to bond with me as his mother so long as I was the source of his pain. However, Hemophilia treatment is SO focused on getting families self sufficient that his medical team could not allow themselves to hear a nurse saying she would not administer the medication. It was an absolute paradigm disconnect between us. I finally had to absolutely put my foot down and force the doctors to arrange for a home health nurse to do the treatments. It was ONLY after I did that when Ch was able to start resolving his attachment issues and start to bond to me.

Ch is a comedian. He loves to laugh. In fact, I would say that if he cannot laugh, Ch feels he is suffocating. Laughter was Ch's coping mechanism in his early life. It is what makes his soul sparkle now. When Ch smiles, his entire soul lights up and everyone around him responds. His humor was a weapon he wedged between us when he got here to protect himself from expecting me to hurt him and abandon him like everyone else. Today, it is the biggest characteristic that draws everyone to him.

Ch loves sci-fi. He loves Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Dr Who. He loves sports, but we had to hold him back for several years simply because if he lost in sports arenas he would get furious and start lashing out at everyone and everything. He no longer does that and is now the star of his soccer team. He is one of my only two adventerous children who will try anything at least once.

When we brought Ch home, we had a layover in Amsterdam. There was a playground inside the airport we took Ch to play during that time. In that playground was a tiny toddler slide, a mere two steps up and a slide down. Ch had NO idea how to use that slide. He was 4.5 years old and had never been allowed to play on even that most basic of play equipment. I believe this is why when Ch got home, he proceeded to swing from the chandaliers. He has never resolved that hyperactivity, though he now thinks and TRIES to not do the most dangerous stunts he used to do without thinking. He is diagnosed and does take medication for his attention issues. I remind him, sometimes daily, that if a little attention struggles is the only legacy of four years in a cage, then it's something we can handle together.

Until this year, Ch was homeschooled. His language development is signfiicant behind his peers, having never acheieved fluency in either of his first two languages and adapting to orphanage babble instead of meaningful communication prior to homecoming. I recall the first time Ch attempted to have a coherent conversation with me in English. He had been home for four months and I wept for joy to see his language development. However, as a middle schooler, Ch's English is still behind that of his peers. Until very recently, Ch had failed to advance in every method of spelling we had attempted with him. He had at a younger age struggled with math concepts as well, and I feared there were more pathological issues than merely being delayed by his past. It was my intention to homeschool him one final year, since he was SOO close to grade level performance last summer. However, when Micah died, I could only successfully continue to homeschool ONE special needs child, and I opted to keep the more complicated educational situation at home. I decided that Ch was close enough that the school should be able to take him in and bring him that final step to grade level.

I am SO grateful that the school psychologist was willing to listen and treat me as a peer before school even started. My estimation that the school could handle Ch's needs was not mistaken. They had accomodations in place before his first day of school, and had his IEP written at a lightening pace. Just as importantly, they did his full testing and determined that he does NOT have any pathological struggles. It really and truly is merely ESL, and as I predicted this is the year it is all clicking into place for Ch. Today, Ch makes As and Bs. He gets VERY frustrated by his Bs. He is far harsher on himself than anyone else ever would be. When told he would do standardized testing at school, he shut down and make himself sick. When he made an 85 on a report card, he hid his report card until we had to wrestle it from him. I've seen this last step of self esteem building in these boys before. I know continuing the path he is on, a school where he is adored, a soccer team where he is a star, and lots of encouragement from mom and dad and this should resolve on it's own.

Of all my children, Ch is the most extroverted of all of them. He has never met someone he cannot convert into a friend. The child who once resented everything about a mother is the biggest fan of his mom now. He makes friends everywhere. He rolls his eyes that the girls follow him in groups. He can keep pace socially in absolutely any setting and all anyone can ever say about this child is how adorable he is. This child's success in overcoming his past makes me so proud of his strength and courage. Now, if only I could convince him to not keep cutting his gorgeous hair and we wouldn't be at an impasse in our relationship.

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