A lot has happened since I blogged last February. Please forgive my absence.
I am coming to realize that spring time is a hard time of year for me. Sure it is beautiful, and the weather is amazing, but in March of 2008 I miscarried my baby (who I feel was a boy), and last May (2015) I lost another child. No one died, but I am grieving a tremendous loss nonetheless.
Spring in Ukraine is absolutely breathtaking–chestnut trees, canola fields, fragrant lilac trees, and poppies…….
May 2, 2015 we packed up our family and started the journey to Ukraine so we could meet, have court for, and bring home “Pearson”. Finally, after months of working so hard on fundraisers and paperwork, it was time to take our little man from the institution where we had adopted Boden 18 months before. These boys were “Lost Boys”, living in a poor and rural village, shut away from the outside world. We arrived, exhausted and exhilarated, in Kiev and met our wonderful driver and friend Max, who immediately became our lifeline in country. He was great with the kids, and he was so helpful and smart! We were in Kiev for a few days as we had our DAP appointment to request and review “Pearon’s” file. We were able to get his referral later that afternoon. It included one or two baby pictures, and we were able to find out very little about him. The next day we rode with Jed Johnson (from Wide Awake ministries…They are a wonderful family from the US who have moved to Ukraine to work with sweet boys in an orphanage there) to Zhytomer, where they kept the kids so we could travel to “Pearson’s” village to meet, visit, and have court over the course of the next week or so. The Johnson family was such a blessing during this time, loving on all of babies while we went about the work trying to break their new brother free. Caleb and I rode a bus back to the capital city, excited to meet “Pearson” the next day.
Early the next morning, we met our wonderful facilitator, and began the 5 hour car ride to the small village. I think we slept much of the way, but when we turned off the highway onto the small country road that led into the town, we were so excited! It felt like coming home. We immediately went to the orphanage to speak with the director, and after what felt like an eternity, we were told that they were bringing in Pearson. A few minutes later, a short, cautious, freckle-faced little boy was led in by the hand by a nanny. In our meager knowledge of Russian, we told him hello, how sweet he was, etc. He had the most incredible smile! We gave him a spiky bouncy ball that lit up, and after showing him once or twice, he figured out if he hit it, the light would start flashing. The THRILL on his face that ball brought to him I will never ever forget. I have hidden it in my heart, and I ponder it often. We did notice that he was nonverbal, and very excitable, and “busy”. He was different than we remembered him being, and nothing like what was described in his profile. But we told the facilitator to proceed with his paperwork, and we accepted his referral.
Over the course of the next two days, we were able to visit him twice a day. The visits began getting harder and harder, his needs and institutional behaviors were becoming very obvious. Still, we stayed the course. We brought little toys like a travel magnadoodle, some twisty colors, his spiky ball, etc.
When we briefly saw Pearson when we adopted Boden, he was a different child. We believe now that he must have been heavily sedated, or in the 18 months that it took us to go back, he drastically deteriorated. We were no strangers to institutional behaviors. Boden had been home a little while then, and although we didn’t know it all, we had experience. Pearson’s behaviors manifested differently than Boden’s. He loved the toys (Boden didn’t even notice them), but was soon so overstimulated by them, due to never having played with toys before, that he would quickly become very hard to handle. He would break the toys, pick up potted plants and throw them, run away, spit, hurt himself, and head butt us. We could hold him still for a few minutes, sing, and try joint compressions, and he would be ok for a few minutes, and then the same behaviors resumed.
During this time our facilitator had noticed the dramatic change from the last time we were there, and repeatedly asked us if we were sure we wanted to move forward. We were brave and assured her that we were good to go. Only the thing is….we were lying to ourselves. Both of us, separately, had been thinking “how are we going to do this?”
Aloud, though we would encourage each other, and continued on. It was after our last visit however, that we reached critical mass. Pearson had been very aggressive, and we ended up just holding him in a safe hold, singing to him, as he tried to spit and pull our hair while he maniacally laughed. We looked at each other over his head…and I knew we had to talk. On the walk home, we opened up to each other about our reservations and fears.
International adoption is no easy thing. Every factor needs to be seriously considered and weighed. Like marriage, it should not be entered into lightly. We knew this, I mean, we were experienced pros now, right? We knew what to expect, but by all accounts, even what we had briefly seen of Pearson, his needs weren’t nearly as “severe” as Boden’s, he could walk, talk, was possibly potty trained, was sweet and compliant, and had a mild mental delay. It sounded like we could handle it.
When we adopted Boden, we had no children at home with special needs. Boden turned our world upside down. We have been stretched and challenged more than we ever thought was possible. It has been one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences of our lives. Our family dynamic certainly changed. We now had 4 kids, one with Down Syndrome and autism, who will not use the potty, who doesn’t walk very well (not at all by himself when we adopted him), with institutional behaviors and self harming tendencies, and our 3 biological kids who were still pretty little, and were adapting to our family change.(They have been doing fantastic, by the way, but change is always hard, and they’re kids, and we were really trying hard to home school them, love them fiercely, and make sure they were OK and not lost in the challenges.) As we walked down the warped sidewalks, past mounds of garbage and packs of stray dogs, we had to consider all of those things. We weren’t adopting in a bubble. It hit us that one of us would always need to be helping Boden with walking, diapers, spoon feeding….and one would be with Pearson helping to keep him from breaking things, hurting himself, hurting other people. What would be left for the other kids? We agreed that this was not Pearson’s fault, or anything that he had done. Sadly this is what the “system” does to these kids. This is why adoption is so important. So that kids are not turned into this.
We got “home” and cried and talked for a very long time, wondering if we were doing the right thing…..How would it affect the kids….could I do it all alone with Caleb at work….would Boden get lost….would the bio kids get left behind…..We agonized….we prayed….we cried….we called our pastor. And he gave us a bit of advice….I’ll never forget it. Actually he used the same advice during his sermon this morning while preaching on Matthew 19. It hit me in the gut, and I couldn’t help but tear up. The advice was a question he poses to premarital couples during counseling…..”If the situation as it is now will never change–it will ALWAYS be like it is now, and possibly even get worse–can you live with that the rest of your life.” Our counseling session was hard because the connection was so weak, but to have our pastor issue that question, pray for us, agonize, and grieve with us was such a blessing in one of the hardest moments of our lives. There was no way that we could sustain our family if we brought Pearson home. There was not enough of us. He could hurt our small children. We would forsake everything that God had already given us to be stewards over. And that’s the moment we lost our child. We were devastated….utterly destroyed. In my heart, he was mine. But everything we knew about him, and everything that was to be…just wasn’t anymore.
The next two days were accompanied by many tears, grief, sobbing, questions, prayer, devastation…you know that point where you can’t cry anymore…you just lay there, wrapped up in a blanket just staring into nothing….or sitting on the kitchen floor, and you can’t eat anything, you can’t speak, you can’t hardly think. The feeling you get when you know there is cannonball sized hole in your chest, and you know it will never close up.
We left him there. We couldn’t do it. I am trying to let go of the guilt of that. But the fact of the matter is this. He wasn’t ours. God gave us wisdom to make sound decisions, and he gave us 4 kids at home that we needed to think of and protect. And so we did. I mourn Pearson. My heart loves him. I want to hold him in my arms. I hate what that place did to him. That institution makes wild animals out of precious boys…it chews them up and spits them out. He is still there.
We couldn’t handle it because of what was going on in our family already. But I am praying there is a family out there that is equipped and in a place in life where they realize that Pearson is their son, and they are able to save him from that place, and give him the attention that we wouldn’t have been able to give him. The help he needs to come to life. Things that we couldn’t provide for him. We are committed to advocating for him. Praying and hoping to find a family for him. But we can’t yell for him yet. You see Pearson had a grant from RR of $9225. It was given to us to bring him home. We have been diligently working to repay that grant, so that a family can use that money to rescue him. We have been diligently repaying the grant, and have even had a very generous anonymous donation, and so we have $2798 left to repay. If you would like to give a tax deductible donation to help rebuild his grant so that we can advocate and yell for him, you can do so here.
I will say that after much prayer and consideration, we continued on to adopt another boy in Ukraine. He was not a replacement, but he also desperately needed a family, and had his own little set of needs. We wrapped up our adoption of Alex in July, and brought him home on July 15. He is so smart, funny, sweet, and helpful. It still has not been easy. There have been many growing pains, miscommunication, language barriers, culture differences, boundaries pushed, etc. We are in love with Alex, and are so grateful that God brought us to him. He has the most incredible laugh, blue eyes, and cowlick! It definitely has been bittersweet, but God knew what he was doing when he knit our family together. We are cramped into our house, have had so many doctors appointments (Boden was even hospitalized with pneumonia for a few days), ups and down, failures and victories. But we are surviving, and we hope that we glorify God through it all.
Please join us in prayer that a family will step up for Pearson. If you want to help us get the repayment of his grant out of the way, so we can advocate, you can click here.
Pray for our family as we continue to grow through another big change. God is so good….even through the hardest of times.