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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Face Palm

This journey with my children is full of mystery and twists and turns and I have been stretched and pulled and pushed mentally (and physically) in every direction and emotion imaginable! I am learning. One of the traits I believe helps anyone be a (somewhat) successful adoptive mom, is adaptability. I am becoming more and more adaptable. You are given no, little, or incorrect information about your Ukrainian adopted children. You can truly only believe what is evident! The child is a boy, the child has Down Syndrome. If it is not concrete. It is just gossip. 

I was told from the beginning that Dunham's parents were alcoholic criminals. I was told his mother was a drunk. I searched and found them the eve before Ukrainian Christmas on Facebook. After finding and speaking and stalking his birth parents for two weeks now...... I have found this to be completely untrue. They are professionals. His mother is artistic and very intelligent! She is thoughtful, healthy, kind, and beautiful! His parents are still married and have another son that is handsome, athletic and intelligent. The father is a businessman and the reality is they were normal, healthy, happy, social people. She does not drink and certainly did not during her pregnancy! This changes everything! 

Dunham does NOT have FAS.  
So... what does this mean for Dunham. What does this mean for me? I had accepted this diagnosis without question. I had glued it to my sons permanent record. I had taken that label and quite relieved to have found an "answer" slapped it on his tiny soul and marched confidently to tackle the next task. I finally had an answer. Permanent damage, nothing I can do. Phew! I am "off the hook". Okay I probably didn't go to that extreme but a part of me did. A part of me accepted that as the "answer" the "solution". It is time to adapt again! My oldest daughter made a comment that same week that really hit me. It was a very simple statement but... none the less it struck me. She said "Mom, Dunham just wants to be treated like the other boys. He is tired of being treated like a baby." I realized that because I was so untrusting of his impulsiveness and past behavior issues. I had stopped raising the bar. I had stopped expecting more, trying more, teaching more! I had decided this FAS diagnosis was preventing him from ever advancing and that is where we were. I was ok with that answer. I had decided I would get healthy and give myself "me" time. I would focus on being a happy healthy mom. This wasn't a bad thing. It was a great thing. but.... there was still work to be done. God had presented this knowledge to me at the perfect time. Dunham does not have FAS. 

For the past few weeks Dunham's best friend and biggest ally, big sissy, has been working with him several hours a day on his behaviors. I have been focusing a lot of attention on Dunham and raising the bar. He has met every challenge like a champ! Exceeding my expectations every single time. He is now fully potty trained during the day. Only wearing underwear and never having accidents. His yelling and throwing have improved about 50% in just a couple of weeks! His therapists have all commented on the change and how much he has improved so quickly! 

I tend to think, move, and process things quickly! If there are improvements to myself, my kids, my home, anything, that needs to be done! I tend to do it fast! If you have followed my family on Facebook you may have already noticed this trait ;) both my husband and I are this way. Once I made this realization in my mind, I asked myself... what else am I doing to hold back my children?! I hire all these professionals to work with them, I work day and night to provide them the tools they need.... am I holding them back!? Yes. The answer is yes. I don't tend to feel sorry for myself. I swallowed this huge humility pill fairly quickly and then set about "fixing" it! I handed Lettie a spoon and yogurt. She ate that yogurt like an expert! I began to raise the bar for all of my children across the board and they have not disappointed! Why? Why was I holding them back? Several reasons. One because they are my "babies" and I really love babies! ;) Two, because I did what was convenient for me. Feeding Lettie and Anna a yogurt is quick, less messy. I have six kids! I did what was fast. But I was a fool. Lettie made less of a mess than mommy! and she can do it herself if given the chance. Third, I enjoy caring for my children. I like doing things for them. Unfortunately I was doing TOO MUCH for them! and this was holding them back. 

So, I have a challenge for you. What have you been doing to hold your kids back? What diagnosis have you accepted as fact that could use more research? What have you accepted as resolved that may not be the best solution? 
It is hard to go back to those challenging dark places when you have finally found "light" but perhaps it deserves a second look? 

                               Yes Lettie, that is exactly how mommy feels. Face palm. ;)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"The Winner"

Over the past several days, Edgar's (Volodymyr's) father and I have had many conversations over Facebook. I write to him in Russian using an online app to translate. He does understand some English and can speak some English but not well. So we have managed. He wanted very much to share the story of Edgar's birth but did not want any confusion so I asked a friend to translate his story for us. She was the same individual that had facilitated Edgar's adoption. She joined us on messenger and piece by piece he shared his heartbreaking story. Two young lovers, the world against them, poverty and prejudice, in a corrupt country that values appearances over all else. 

This is his story....

Let us start with far past. I and my mom had an apartment we gave a room for rent to one man. Soon their relations became romantic and they got married. He became my step father. Later he invited his daughter to rest for two weeks (we live in a resort city you know). She is from Luhansk region. But at that moment she lives in Moscow. She came with her friend. I took them everywhere, beaches, disco dances... When they left I understood that I couldn’t live without her. So we started dating. Soon she left Moscow and moved to live with us. Parents didn’t know that. When they found out that she was coming to Odesa again they quarreled... Step father / father in law left my mom and he and his daughter rented a room at a different place. (She was already my girlfriend). I came to visit them every day. We spent good time together.

Soon she got pregnant. It was a very hard time in my life... I wanted that child. But when my mom found out about it she said - what do you need it for? Abort the baby. When my father in law found out about it he seemed to be happy at first... but when we had an eye to eye conversation he said - are you crazy? Abort the baby.

I sent them far away and told them I didn’t want to see them ever. In a while my wife (girlfriend at that time) said - we are very young, not financially stable... let’s abort the baby... My reaction was cruel... It was offensive that all my relatives turned their back to me... I told her - you’ll have that baby... after you give him birth you can go back and I will take care of the baby.

Time passed. I worked hard... 60% of income went on treatment... tests... medicines...for my pregnant girlfriend (now wife). She said to me once - I haven’t seen you for two weeks already. You leave at 7 am when I am still sleeping and return home at 1-4 at night

Approximately at 6 months pregnant she fell in love with the baby... she started looking for a crib... was making plans for him... how she would take care of him... started buying clothes for the baby... all her conversations were only  about him. Once I told her she was going crazy

So the waters broke and we went to the maternity hospital... I was sent home... I couldn’t sleep that night. Was very nervous... then a wardrobe fell behind my back... no reason... I got scared because it was a bad sign

They called and said - baby is born!!! We went to the hospital with parents... I was sent home for some reason (to bring something to eat for my wife - that was an excuse)

Parents came home before I was ready with food. I figured something was wrong... they weren’t happy... instead they were strange... I asked what happened... they wouldn’t tell me... father in law took a shot of vodka... 150 grams... and said - you know, your son is not healthy... I smiled - what do you mean not healthy? (I thought he was joking... maybe it was something that could be treated for money)... he said - not healthy... I smiled - that’s ok! We’ll treat it!

In reply I heard - it is not treatable. It is Down syndrome. Doctor suggested to sign a refusal.

Tears ran down my face, I didn’t believe it... crying I called my friend and asked him to come pick me up... he asked what happened? I (still crying) - take me away from here, I don’t want to know them and be with them... 10 minutes later he came over... I didn’t have money, I asked him to buy a bottle of vodka for me... I cried through the whole night at his house with him and his girlfriend... and drank the whole bottle

Oh yes... when my wife was 4 months pregnant our parents began to live together again. We moved from the rented apartment to my and my mom’s apartment

In the morning I gathered my thoughts together and decided that I needed to be strong... I called my wife. She was crying. I was calming her down and was telling her that everything would be fine... I asked her if they could substitute our child (I heard that it happened often in our country). She said that they didn’t even take him away from her and that he was with her all the time. It seemed to be over...

But that was just the beginning. Many tests, much money (good that parents helped at that time). Test at the genetic center to check if he would understand at least something... 100 percent that he wasn’t going to develop... they said this - your child is a vegetable

Ok... I resigned

And then fatal message - heart disease... doctor - your son will live 2, maximum 3 years

Again a bottle of vodka, again tears. For myself I figured that I wouldn’t be able to watch my wife suffering for those 2-3 years. Besides that will not be able to apprehend his death and at the same time be strong for my wife. I simply wouldn’t be able to watch her suffering

I decided to sign the refusal... I put all my courage together, I had to be stronger... I called my wife and said - we will have another child. We will give him smile, happiness... she cried... and said - I understand, I know, my brain says the same. Then she said... would you be able to sign the refusal? At the very moment I said - I wouldn’t. If you want take him home and hung up. But she did not bring him home. 

6 months later she told me how a lawyer came to her room... how he told her that she was a bad mother, that she shouldn’t sign the refusal. She sat and cried, nurse told the lawyer to leave, talked to him, told him that the girl was nice but the situation was hard... when he came back the lawyer said - write it!!!!  My wife wrote the refusal and nobody ever said a word to her

 I don’t understand a lot. Why did they tell us he was a vegetable? Why we were told that he would die in 2-3 years? The orphanage named him Volodymyr.  It is clear he was given this name Volodymyr - it means "the winner" for a good reason... it means he went through everything... survived everything doctors told us. He won. 

But, now I'm happy! Later after all of this when my wife told me that she is pregnant with the second child, I was not even happy, I did not try ... but when you wrote to me, I was happy and began to pay more attention to my daughter and my wife. 

I understand this! Since finding Edgars parents and Dunhams mother I have  been more attentive to them! More patient. Kind. Edgars father, Annaleigh's mother, Dunham's mother...... they are good people in a broken world. They have given me the opportunity to experience their children as my own. The weight of this responsibility makes it difficult to breath at times. but... It also gives me strength to be a better mother, wife, sister, friend. I have been entrusted to care for these children and I refuse to fail them, or their parents. 

*It is important to understand that in the U.S. parents are told these same lies while they are pregnant. The children will be burdens, they will have no brains or understanding. Abort them while they are still nothings. You will cause them unnecessary suffering and pain. All lies! That is the reason the abortion rate for children with Down Syndrome is over 90%. We murder these children in the womb. In Ukraine, the children are institutionalized. We cannot judge them as we stand with bloody hands. Complicit in the murder of our most innocent. We cannot gasp in horror at the thought of abandoning children to a life alone in an institution and stand idly by while thousands of our own citizens are murdered in the name of "Choice". Prenatal testing should be used only to protect children. To determine if there is anything needed upon birth to sustain life. NOT to selectively determine who is valuable enough to be born. Who are we to determine the value of ones life. This,... is only for God to determine. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

One Choice.... Grace.

Please don't envy my compassion or praise my patience or applaud me for not being angry.
Because I want to be angry.
I see what I have sacrificed to raise my children. Life is not easy because I am American or because I "chose" to adopt children with special needs. Dealing with the medical and therapy and behavior issues is not a "piece of cake" because I am a "special person" or a "saint". Im not and I don't want to be. I wish I did not have to care for other peoples children. I wish they had the strength, the tools, the whatever! to accept the gift and challenges of raising their own children. Because they are who their children needed, wanted! but, they didn't. Yes, my children are amazing! They are joyful and funny and loving and sweet. They are also loud, demanding, exhausting, and messy! They are difficult and stubborn and damaged. and I am their only hope. Their only shot at normal. They need me. They need a mom and a dad fighting for them. They need us to do what everyone else does not want to do or is afraid to do. And a million more orphans sit and wait.

Every day more parents walking away. Every day society turning a blind eye. Each giving their own "valid" excuse why they shouldn't, couldn't, won't. Criticizing the parents that abandon their child and then flipping the script to gossip about the adoptive family of 12 adopting again! Hating the parents, unwilling to parent the abandoned children, and critical of those that do. ..... so hell yes I want to be angry! I just don't know who to be angry at!?

Some direct it at the orphanages that care for the children in less than exceptional ways. "They drug the children!" they shout. but how would they care for so many!? How should they numb the pain of losing ones parents? How would one nanny manage 25 children without drugging the ones that stem all night or scream or cry. They cant possibly console them all. They cannot give them a safe home a mom and dad. Is it the nannys fault these parents are not parenting?

"Why would those parents abandon their children! How horrible!" we shout. But I have seen Ukraine. I have seen the horrible housing and poverty. The lack of resources and medical services. I have seen the glares and the bias. They do not have the luxury of living in the U.S.A with its abundant services and resources. and who are we to judge Ukrainians? We kill these special children in the womb! because WE have the latest technology.

So where? who? who do i hate? who do I be angry at? Certainly not the child!! Then God? Who then is responsible? .......... me. Me. ME! I am! I am responsible! You. YOU are responsible. If we have a home, an income, an extra bed and an extra plate. If we call Jesus our savior and carry his cross. Then WE are responsible. You and I. Yet, the silence is deafening. The indifference is suffocating. The excuses are endless.

Please don't separate yourself from me by saying "I could never do it, but I admire YOU!" or "It takes a special person". Please don't. It is these comments these innocently vomited objections that I cannot stand to hear. I AM you. Even if you don't want to admit it.I simply, ran out of excuses. I decided to stop being angry at everyone else and be angry at me for not doing something. I decided to be honest with myself.

I want to be angry....... but I choose grace. I refuse to be bitter or resentful. I have but one choice.... Grace. For the parents that abandon their child. For the orphanage nanny. For the children. For me. and even.......for you.

The reward, is when we clear our minds and hearts of the clutter of anger, hate, bitterness... we are left with the peace to enjoy life. To enjoy the "Gift" these children truly are. To appreciate them and celebrate them and bask in the glory of God and we are forever changed. We are strengthened and able to fight the battle another day. We become an example of Christ whether we realize it or not. Because by saving others, we truly save ourselves.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Abundant Love

 Gage was still running a fever today but we decided to bring him with to court. Our options were limited. On our way to the courthouse our facilitator told us that Annaleigh's parents wanted to meet us. We had about ten minutes to spare. We had never been able to meet any of our other children's parents! We were excited and eager to meet them, even if only for a few minutes.

We met up with them outside of Annaleigh's orphanage. I stepped out of our car just as my daughter's mother stepped out of hers. Her beautiful round belly proudly announcing she was carrying a child. Her eyes were the most beautiful seafoam blue I have ever seen. I will never forget them. She was beautiful! Her husband joined her outside their car. He was young and handsome and in many ways reminded me of my own husband when he was a few years younger and had less grey. Our facilitator joined us and the five of us stood. Silent. Our facilitator began speaking to them in Ukrainian as we curiously smiled and greeted one another. It was cold and Gage clung to my hand. I was speechless but my mind was racing. I wondered if Gage was too cold, if they liked us, if I should ask her questions, ..... She handed me a gift bag. I took it, smiled, and thanked her in Ukrainian. Our facilitator began telling her about us. Our other adopted children and our home in Florida.... I asked our facilitator to tell her we loved Annaleigh, and how smart and beautiful her daughter was and that I could see now that she had her daddy's dark eyes. She did and she began to cry. I wanted to reassure her and lift her burden, tell her thank you and let her know I would take care of Annaleigh and love her and I would give her a good life. Instead... I hugged her. I tried to tell her through that hug that I would love her daughter for  a lifetime, that I did not judge her, that I was sorry in this world we all had to endure these hardships. I told her through that hug that she was important to us and to her daughter and that we respected her and cared about her feelings and thoughts and traditions. She explained that she had named "Anna" after her grandmother. That they were born on the same day. We shared that we would keep that as part of Annaleigh's name and she was happy. Gage was confused about all the hugging so he tried to get in on it and give her a hug too. We all laughed! Our facilitator pointed out the time and the cold and we reluctantly had to say goodbye. We headed off to court and passed them on the narrow road as they pulled up to Building #2. Anna's building... Annaleigh's building. They were going to say their goodbyes. It was my turn to cry.

On our drive back, after court, I reflected on our meeting. I looked out the car window at the enormous decaying apartment buildings. Hundreds of people driving and walking. So many people in this world. Where we are, who we are, what happens to us..... so much of it is chance. Children with disabilities, children with Down Syndrome, are not accepted here in Ukraine. I remembered the disgust on the faces of Ukrainian woman that saw me in Kyiv with Edgar and Dunham a few years ago. I thought about life in Ukraine and how challenging it was. She was just a mom. She cannot change this entire country, the way they treat special needs, or public access to education, medical, or therapy. She cannot make others love her child or value her child. I thought about the baby growing in her tummy and how happy she must be for this new life. I smiled. I am happy for her. I am happy for me and for Annaleigh, for Papa Quinn and our entire family. To think I would have missed this if we had been too sad, too tired, too frightened to continue. To know why the name Anna had been so important to this journey. To see God's plan unfold, so perfect, so good.

Friday, February 10, 2017

It all went wonderfully wrong.

It has been quite some time since I blogged. Mostly I update our "Growing Up Quinn-tuplets" Page on Facebook. We are currently in Ukraine. Just days before we traveled we found out the little girl we were fighting to get to was being adopted by a Canadian family. We were crushed. So very close. But too late. Her name was Tatyanka but from the moment we committed to adopting her I began calling her "Anna". Reece's Rainbow had her listed as "Chelsea". But for whatever reason I felt our daughters name would be Anna? I had never been particularly fond of the name Anna. It simply was. When we lost "Anna" we questioned whether we should even continue. We were confused, heartbroken. We decided to go anyway and see what child the Lord might lead us to. We were contacted just two days before we flew about a baby girl with DS and a heart condition that needed to be adopted quickly. We said YES! We found out her birth name was "Anna". We thought surely this is a sign that she is our daughter! Our spirits lifted we set out for Grandma and Grandpa's to drop off four of the kiddos and grab our plane to Ukraine! The evening before we left we found out "Anna" #2 was no longer available. Not to be deterred we continued to the airport. Mommy, Daddy, and Gage on a journey to discover the newest Quinn.

After arriving in Ukraine we met with our team. They told us about a new committee that was just assembled at the official adoption office. This new committee would review all cases before giving families permission to go to court to adopt their child/children. This committee had JUST been established and we were the first family our team would be submitting. (just our luck) This new committee could deny us even though we were already approved and after meeting our child.
They also told us about a baby girl with DS. She was 1.5 years old. The next morning we went to our appointment with the adoption officials and accepted a referral to visit this baby girl. We were exhausted but feeling optimistic about meeting her the next day. As we walked out of the office we stopped and asked "what is the little girls name? her birth name?" The official responded "Anna. A N N A." Marty and I looked at each other and laughed! Ok Anna #3 here we come!

The next morning we traveled to meet "Anna #3". The director was excited to see us and happily offered Gage chocolates. She asked if she could have copies of the pictures we had brought to show her of the other children. Although we spoke different languages it was clear to her that we were here for the right reasons and we understood that she truly cared for the children as well. We walked back outside into the freezing temps and across the street to a group of small buildings. They were old and looked more like sheds. In the back was a small building for sick children. "Anna" had been sick with some sort of cold/cough. We spoke briefly with the nurse about "Anna's" medical background and then it was time to meet our girl.

When they brought "Anna" into the room we instantly fell in love. Gage declared "My Baby!" She glanced up from the nanny's shoulder to investigate the new visitors and quickly and shyly retreated back to the nanny's shoulder with a hint of a pout. To most people this would be unremarkable but to an experienced adoption mom this spoke volumes! It meant "Anna" had bonded with her caregiver. That she COULD bond. That she reacted appropriately to strangers. This is exactly how a child should respond! The nanny laughed and smiled and so did I. A minute later I asked Gage if he would like to sit with Daddy so I could hold the baby. Gage agreed. I thanked him for being a good boy and reached for "Anna". She reached back. :D  My first thought was how healthy she felt. She was solid and had good posture. Her big beautiful brown eyes and long lashes looked at me curiously. That was it. She was mine. I knew instantly. Marty and I exchanged a knowing glance. That first visit lasted about 20 minutes and we scurried off to begin processing the appropriate paperwork to submit to the adoption officials and committee.

We chose the name "Annaleigh Faith" for our daughter. It seemed appropriate. My middle name and my oldest daughters middle name's are "Leigh". By adding the "leigh" we were able to personalize her original name while also preserving it. "Anna #3" seemed a bit impersonal. ;) We are currently waiting. Today the committee is suppose to meet to determine Annaleigh's future. This new process has added two weeks to our trip. The children back home are fond of their Grandparents, Aunts and Cousins. We miss them terribly! We call them over the computer and they seem content. But it is never easy being separated. So... we hold our breaths. We distract ourselves as best we can and try not to think about the possibility of the committee saying "no". We can tackle the challenges and speed bumps that arise. We can tolerate the disappointments with a minimal amount of complaining and whining. But there is one favor I ask of the Lord, let them say "yes". Let them say YES!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Dear Anna,

Dear Anna,

Hello sweet girl. I know you have been waiting for me. I'm sorry I didn't come sooner. I know you have wondered where I was and why we haven't been together all this time. I will explain as you get older. For now will you accept me as I am? Will you trust that I love you and want whats best for you? Will you give me time to earn your trust and to explain one day when you are wiser?

Sweet, sweet Anna, will you forgive me when I am tired? Will you show your mama grace when she does not deserve it? You will. I know you will. It is written in your sweet sweet soul. Your smile, your eyes, everything about you is pure of heart. I see a little fire in that sweet smile. A fire that often stays buried but sometimes when you are just a little too tired, hungry, sick or frustrated.... Its ok sweet Anna, I too will show you grace.

Your papa and I love you so much! We have not forgotten your tight hugs and your big eyes. Papa did not forget you. He thought of you every day. He cried the day he recognized your beautiful face on Reece's Rainbow. We are coming sweet Anna, and we are bringing friends! Lots of friends! We are an Anna Army! yep your own army Anna! Every princess has an army. Yours just happens to be the BEST army!

We will have a good life together Anna. You will see.... Sometimes some of us get a rough start Anna. Life can be difficult sometimes. But we will be together Anna! We will face those hard times together now. Papa, Mama, and all your siblings. We will celebrate together and we will cry together. We will have good times and bad. But we will always, always, be together. Forever Anna. In Heaven and on earth. You are loved beyond measure.

Love,  Mama

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The greatest gift...

It is 2am. I woke up itching my fingers from my usual "washing dishes" induced eczema. My brain ceased the moment to send rushing ideas and thoughts my way as often it does when I am awake. I clung to this one thought... "what is the greatest gift I can give my children?"

I read an article yesterday that got me thinking. It was about a young elementary aged boy that had taken his life. His parents suspect bullying was the reason for his decision to end his life. The father made a plea for parents to take the extra time to talk with their children. Many people commented on bullying and how to prevent your child from being a bully or becoming a victim of one. All very good and true. But... was it enough? In a dark moment? Whether you are an adult or a child we have all gone through very dark days. We will lose loved ones and suffer tragedy and simply lose hope at some point. So what will carry us through those times? Will the love of a concerned parent be enough? What if there is no parent? What if the sadness is caused by the loss of ones parents. What if the source of sadness IS ones parents?? Will a book or program about bullying be enough? If a child or you or I... had no one? If we were alone in our suffering. What would be "enough" to carry us through? Certainly we want to give our children everything they need and much of what they want. We want them to be happy but more so we want them to be healthy physically and mentally. So on their darkest day, in their most desperate moments that are sure to come in this broken world. What will carry them through? Certainly it won't be xbox, money, a swing set or any other material thing. but... will the love of a parent or teacher? Will a program on bullying or a book about how to make friends? Would counseling or even medication be enough? I would imagine any surviving parent of a child or loved one that committed suicide, will tell you they loved the person. They likely suffer guilt on what they could have said or done to prevent it. But would their words truly have been enough? Some children and adults may have underlying mental health issues or chemical imbalances that only medication will resolve. But ALL of us will suffer some loss and devastation. How will we cope? How DO we cope?

The conclusion I kept coming back to was God. Any missionary will tell you the most faithful, prayerful, grateful people are the poorest, the sickest, the most desperate. Those that are suffering pray to God the most. He is there for us in our darkest hour. When the road seems to end abruptly and there is nothing left. He is good. He is faithful. He is worthy. He is love. So when you are stripped of ALL your worldly support. No friends, no family, no medication, no therapy...... where do you turn? If you were lying naked in a cell by yourself. Where would you turn? I know where I would turn. Desperate and out of solutions. I would turn to God. Always faithful, always with me. Forever and always.

So what is "the greatest gift I can give my children?" For me that answer is clear. Christ. If I am not here to comfort or guide them, I want them to turn to the Word not the world.  I want them to turn to the one true sovereign God. Faith is the one thing the world can never strip them of.