Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Prelude, Cardiology, Trauma, and Randomness

As I CRASH after Ben's Cardiology appointment, I'm noodling an attachment post that I've already written (why is that phrase making me hungry?), but I feel like I need to verbally spew so much that my brain is melting.

I'm a little at a loss of even where to start though.

I've written like a million (slight exaggeration...only slight) posts that just didn't pass muster.  They stood at attention, but just weren't agreeable. 

There is just so much going on in my heart, mind, with Ben...with everything...that I'm having an issue getting it down in a blog post.  I just don't know where to begin or end.

I am now giving up on smooth and going for...written.  I've given up on any literary masterpiece (going for legible and with typing I think I'll knock that one out of the park).

Start with today? Ok, today sounds safe.  Today it is.

Today was our first visit with the Cardiologist.  She is WONDERFUL! (One of NINE in her adoptive family.  What are the chances of that?)

Ben curled up on my lap a little emotional today.  He did look super cool in my glasses though.

He laid  down with very little fussing for his EKG (the first stage of his cardiology work up).

Though the doctor didn't hear the murmur, there was a "blip" or interruption in his EKG.  This could be nothing or (as common with many children with DS) it could be a hole in part of his heart.  Often they close on their own, but with Ben being ten in just over a week...
The next step is a sedated heart echo which will be done when he is put under for his teeth (prayerfully in just a couple of weeks).  She cannot sign off on his heart (which would need to be done first) so work can be done on his teeth, so will now need to be at the teeth extraction to monitor his heart and do the echo.
Anna was again my helper today.  She a lovely goof ball. 
We actually spent just a few minutes today at another hospital visiting with my sweet friend (and fellow adoptive/big family parent) Jodi and her son Hagan (who had just had surgery).  Seriously, she is a fantastic mom/warrior fighting for her kids in any way possible.  (I cannot believe I didn't get any pictures!)
Side note: I do want to mention that we would appreciate prayers that we can get registered for a program that will help with costs just for Ben.  The hospital we are going to was not the one expected and the qualifications are a little more complicated than other places.  We have wonderful insurance, but the work on Ben's teeth is going to be extensive.

Now forget a little of the writing "safe".

I have so many contradictions going on in my heart...ones that will truly never be resolved this side of Heaven (and after that, I have a feeling I won't care about any contradiction). 

Thought: I love and miss the head of the institution and the caregivers where Ben was.  I genuinely like them.  I realize they work with little resources or training.  The situation is a systemic problem, originating from the government and baby houses on up.
Contradiction: They have placed my son in a shed.  He has been drugged.  He has been neglected, bitten, and will forever bare the scars of not being valued for almost ten years.  His teeth are rotting and the odor pervades everything as he sucks on his thumb and then goes on with life touching everything.  He reacts manically to rain (from being shut inside).  He doesn't know how to play with toys or how to express correct emotion.

Thought: The institution saved Ben's life.  The pictures from the orphanage where Ben was at before transfer showed Ben malnourished.  They covered him, but you can see the unnatural thinness of his neck.  You can see his tiny size for a 6/7 year old.  This institution fed him, even if he was chronically dehydrated and always hungry.  He is solid and is not starving.  He has muscle and was let out of a crib and learned to walk, even to a shed.
Contradiction: Jonathan deteriorated at the same institution...drastically...and died.  Benjamin had no real life or value.  They saved his physical life, but he will be forever scarred.  The drugs alone could have eventually killed him.

Thought: I miss the "U".  I miss walking the streets of a village we fell in love with and a people we fell in love with.
Contradiction: The memories of the guttural animal screams as a boy/man raged will forever haunt me.  Hearing the thuds as he swung a branch.  Little Maxim's (will share more later) face...holding a ball he didn't know how to play with...just looking at us shocked that we were speaking to him...will the etched forever in my mind.  Older men/boys whose faces with forever play in my mind.  They are trapped there.  The nightmarish memories of my son trying to rip my face off during drug withdrawal won't let go.  I don't want to think about the "U".

These are just a few of the explosions echoing through my brain.  They're like ping pong balls losing momentum and then speeding up again.

The word, as I lay in bed at midnight, that kept coming up was the word trauma. 

In the "U" we fell in love, with the country, the caregivers, and institution, and the small village we lived in for many weeks.  Then why can I not dwell on how amazing it was there?  Why do I feel like my brain is trying to circumvent truly processing?


As with every journey, we saw/heard/smelled things that are etched into our brain as our brain rebels. (As I write I can feel my blood pressure increasing and I'm having to take deeper breaths.)

We were brought to a realization of the deprivation of the human character.  We weren't before?  Oh, we knew...we'd seen...but...

Benjamin was the innocent.  He was born, through no fault...nothing he did, with special needs.  He lived a life so completely alone, abused and neglected, that the repercussion will last for the rest of his life.  We've seen the look of rejection even here.

Yet as many "experts" will tell you...trauma is often shared.  There's nothing compared to what Benjamin experienced...what our sweet Jonathan experienced...but we shared.

Four weeks for our second trip was a long time to be away from my children.  It doesn't seem like much in the big picture, but for a mom that has spent no more than two weeks away (in China WITH two of our kids), it was rough.  I also knew what 90% of all adoptive parents know.

When you leave, often life goes on  for our children at home without any serious behavior issues.  Yet, when you come home...often you are "paid back" for leaving.  This is not said in an ugly way.  Often children with rough pasts have, somewhere deep in their psyche, the fear of abandonment.  So, when you come home their insides are going crazy.  The fear explodes when you arrive home.  The anger that "you left me" comes out even (and often) in those that can't explain why they are doing these things.  This happens EVERY TIME we have left.  It originates in trauma.

This time though, things have been remarkably calm.

You know that feeling when all your kids are quiet...too quiet...in the middle of the day?  That's a little of the way it feels.

I hear behavior crickets.

Until, as I lay in bed trying to figure it out last night, I figured out something.

#1 God knew what the weeks in the "U" had created in me...brokenness.
#2 My children from rough starts realized that I had joined their ranks as the traumatized.

I didn't have the loss many of our children had, but am struggling to put some things down that I don't need to be carrying.

You see, I never got in a fight growing up.  No one ever hit me (though I may have got a swat now and then...which, let me tell you, I deserved...lol).  I was never attacked, hit....

Our son  (through...again...no fault of his own), in drug withdrawal and fear, would attack.  Sometimes he would be brought to us almost manic.  We never knew when (our very strong son) would haul back with all his strength and slap us across the face, spit at us...and laugh.  Often it was too many times to count.  We praised God when it was only 2-3 times in a 1-2 hours visit.  He would rake his fingernails across us, kick us (even in the face), pinch us, and (at it's worst) crawl up us in full on attack mode. 

I became hyper vigilant.  My body tensed for the next attack, even when they started coming less often.  The hyper vigilance became constant.  My body always ready.  There was an element (in the hyper vigilance) of fear as well.  I was NEVER afraid of our precious son.  There was a fear of when the next moment of pain would happen, of the next attack.

This is not how our son is anymore (the attacking, drug withdrawing boy).  His hits are usually attention getting (smaller pats) and the pinches and hair pulling are occasional when he gets overwhelmed.  Hair pulling is now usually also to get attention since he is mostly non verbal.  His self injuring behavior is MUCH MUCH better, though he does still smile when he does what he's not supposed to.  Even that is better though.  He doesn't know what proper emotions are and we are starting to see a flicker of the "Uh oh...I shouldn't do that".  The smile is not as big when he hits.  Things are SOOOOO much better.

Yet my hyper vigilance remains.  Driving around during nap time has gotten to be a habit.  Ben will fall asleep in the car and since he hasn't learned to sleep well without drugs, mommy needs it.  Once he's asleep we stop to do errands.  One of our older kids (or I) will run in to get something we need.  

Even in a store I have felt that intensity of waiting for the next attack.

Talk about an increased feeling of isolation.  As I will talk about in the next post, attachment work often brings that.  This increases the isolation feeling (that some, through no fault of their own, won't get).  We still have much healing to do.  I still have much healing to do.  I get at a loss of what to say.  I get fairly quiet...which (if you know me) is the BIGGEST SHOCK EVER (lol).  Many don't really want to know how things are when they ask.  They don't want to hear you describe the screams you heard or a boy/man out of your eyesight railing with a stick and wondering if that stick was hitting flesh.  They don't want to share that when you heard a thud you felt physically nauseous.  They don't want to understand the hyper vigilance, since it's not really happening anymore. 

So it's hard....and good all at the same time. 

Isolating and rewarding...

Healing and rending....

There is so much to process...

Here's the rundown....

Ben is doing so much better.  He learns new things each day.  Sweetness is his middle name.   He's started "cleaning up" a few things (putting them away).   He doesn't throw everything quite as much.  His flapping (stimming) and side to side head movement has diminished a lot.  He still is working on how to play with toys.  He makes institutional noises most of the time, but we are now recognizing what several mean (example: He has one when he's really tired and needs to sleep.) 

God's miracles abound though. As of Sunday, our nonverbal son IS VERBAL.  As Ben sat at our front widow, he turned around in a breathy croak, waved, and said, "Hi Baba" (Daddy in Russian).  He not only is saying "Hi!" and waving all the time, but he put two words together!

I must say there were tears.  We didn't know if our son would ever talk.  God has given us another miracle.  Our son speaks...at nine years old...he went from guttural moans and sounds...to speech.  ONLY GOD....

He's still only about 20% attached.   Why not walk out with a total stranger, not looking back?  Why not hug, climb up on anyone's lap, or cuddle with them?  This is what life has taught him.   There is no trust that we will be here in the morning.   The 20% is him occasionally looking for us if we are not in the room and being happy to see us.  The 20% is the instant he gets just a little unhappy when I leave the car for a quick errand. 

We firmly believe attachment will come with time (and work).

Some asked how Ben did in the hospital during our long day a week or so back.  He did remarkably well.  He has a very gentle spirit beneath the hard stuff that has been created in him.  Yes, he screamed occasionally (maybe once or twice) and hit himself a couple times when he was over tired.  He made his noises, and flapped his hands a little.  HE DID SO GOOD!

He rarely screams in public anymore or swipes at stranger's legs as we walk past. 

Life, though good, is still far from easy for Ben though.

One to two hours to get Benjamin to sleep is not an unusual occurrence.  His guttural vocalizations as he tries to sleep are a constant reminder of his past. 

After he finally conks out, it's not unusual to find him half sitting up, laying forward (folded in half)...sound asleep...ever vigilant.  When night falls it's not uncommon for the vocalizations to start.

Our beds are shoved together in our room to protect him and for attachment.  The smell of his breath, rotting teeth, is constant.  It's strong.  If you walk by him the smell is in the air.  Rotting...waiting for "the appointment" to finally happen the bring healing to this aspect of his life.

Yesterday morning he awoke early, which is usual.  He doesn't get enough sleep.  Sleep isn't easy for him.  He's used to medication coursing through his veins.  When he awoke, since our beds are side to side, I took his hands...hoping he would fall back to sleep.  He instantly started making the guttural sounds and going back to sleep.  This is not the first sign we had, but the one where the light bulb went on.  We believe, at least at his first orphanage, that he was tied to his crib.  This kept him still and from climbing out.  Sadly, holding his hands comforted him in a way that was familiar.  It's hard to explain, but was not the comfort I was hoping for.

Every morning I clean blood off his mouth as he bites his tongue, teeth sharply rotten, or his gums bleed.

He woke the other morning, and his young mind (2-3 years old) didn't want to follow mommy to the living room.  He was in the laundry room before I could blink...going toward the kitty litter. 

Days are somewhat unpredictable.  A few days ago Ben had been emotional.  He started sobbing earlier for no apparent reason.  He's was very cuddly, which is good.  He's seeking me for a little bit more comfort, which is good.  Yet he's still mostly non-verbal.  He can't tell me what's wrong and it breaks my heart.

I've eaten many cold meals in my life, many.  Feed the little one, and then yourself. It's a parent thing.  Thomas and I would often take turns.  For the first time that didn't work.  Ben is so focused on food, after hunger...daily...hourly...for nine and a half years....that we have to give him a bite, take a bite, give him a bite.  If  he finishes first he melts seeing others still eating.  He will run and take the other kids food, so we feed him very slowly so that he finishes last.  Even this is slowly getting better though.  He's beginning to believe food is coming.

He eats whatever we give him.  His breakfast consists of yogurt and baby food cereal and fruit.  Much of his meals are normal shredded, pureed, or soft food.  He doesn't chew.  Teeth, muscles, throat...we don't know yet.  He just doesn't chew.

"Mommy! Ben pinched/hit me me!" is happening less, but still daily.  It's not as hard and we have discovered that 90% of the time it's because he wants your attention and just doesn't know how to be gentle.  He's learning and his hits are no longer painful.   Sweet Anna got too close when he was in his car seat the other day and, for the first time since he's been home, he kicked.  Anna got it in the face and it hurt.  She wasn't mad.  The kids seem to "get it".  He saw her there and like a two year old, didn't think anything except to pull on his past and "sensory seek".  In a hot metal shed all day, a foot connecting with anything is sensory.  The was no anger or maliciousness in it.  Just a very young and hurt little boy.

Ben is also just at the beginning of a stream of appointments.  We still have another appointment this week (ENT).

 Thomas (my hubby) is pretty tired and struggling with a sinus infection and occasional migraine (maybe tied in).  He's recovering.  He loves being with the kids more than anything, though we both miss Jonathan and truthfully long to be parenting both our sons from the "U".

Our kids are doing good (pictures below).  Emotionally, they are adjusting better than I could have ever imagined!  They ALWAYS love and enjoys their new siblings, but they are also processing us being gone wonderfully.

Our oldest (Tom/18) has a beautiful (and sweet) girlfriend and is in the process of enrolling in our local community college (since he just graduated).
Our Sarah (16) is also in the process of a dual enrollment at the same college.  She's a senior this year and it will be nice for her to graduate with a few college credits to her name. 
Anna (12) is focusing on her permanent mandate of trying to convince me that she should be able to have another lizard.  She has three.  When I left for the "U", she had two...lol.
Max (10) seems to have grown up some while we were gone.  He seems more mature somehow.
Bekah (7) I was told was a "HUGE HELP" when we were in the "U".  She adores her little brother, though is our little one with such a gentle spirit that she occasionally struggles with how to be firm if her brother hits her.  ALL of us tell him "nice nice" and help him redo an action correctly when he hits.
Jael (5) is happy and just waiting on her new prosthetics with knees.  They should come in within a week or so (for a fitting) and very quickly we will be going to the hospital for a week to train her how to use them.
Rachel (3..almost four) has been the most cuddly since we got home.  She is little mommy and just happy happy happy.
Gabriel (3...almost four) struggles with getting his mind wrapped around that Ben is "younger" than him.  We explain that inside Benjamin's around two.  He and Benjamin are seriously close.  I think Gabe's just glad that he's got a "bro" his size.

So that's my prelude to our attachment post.  We continue to ask for prayers as we progress forward.

Ben~Emotionally: That he learnes to attach to us and love us quickly.  That he finds some "stranger fear". 
Ben~Physically: That we are able to get his teeth taken care of quickly through the hospital that is the best with (if possible, not our greatest concern, as least expense is possible as we have other unavoidable expenses coming up).  Also, that any issues are found quickly in the numerous appointments he has coming up. 
Ben~At Home: That he continues to seek love.  That he learns to stop aggression to himself and others.  That he learns the value of listening to mommy and daddy.   Finally, that he learns to play with toys (imaginative play) and be a child that he has never had a chance to be.

Me: For healing emotionally and for health...for patience and that I am not easily angered or critical.

The Family: Please pray for each child's emotional, physical, and spiritual health.  That Thomas feel's rested and for his professional life (blessing).    Please continue to pray for a vehicle (or a way for a vehicle) to present itself (see previous post about the unnamed prayer request).  Please also pray we find a new and hopeful "normal".  Finally, please pray not only that we can quickly get on the program that will help with medical (dental) for Ben, but please pray for finances as we have a few unexpected MAJOR expenses coming up and (in my humanity) it stresses me a little.

Many families right now are in the part of their adoption that should just a take a few days to a week.  Yet the "U" is now not processing passports (it was only supposed to last a week and it's lasted three) and these families are stuck in country, finances dwindling, with emotional (sometimes volatile) and physically fragile hurt children.  Please pray they start processing passports and QUICKLY.  Specifically, please pray for a sweet couple we met in the "U" (K and J) as they are just entering the passport stage of the process.



Ben curled up with Sarah who was curled up with me.  He looked so sleepy and so sweet.

It is usually a fight to get Ben to sleep, but this day he curled up on the couch, stuck his head in the couch and was OUT!

I just LOVED Jael's face in this one :)!

Thanks to a sweet friend, our family went out to dinner and a movie.  In the "U" we realized how much more we want to focus on making memories.   Though we rarely get out like this, it was a very special treat.

Thank you friend!

I love the "I'm not gonna laugh" look of Tom.  Ya, the girls are flocking.

Though Sarah and Anna were at the movies (not at lunch), they sat a couple rows back with Tom and his girlfriend.

Ben did remarkably good.  We were prepared to leave in a second if he needed it.  We thought it was important that we "try" to do this all together.  He curled up and rested part of the time and yes, we had the institutional sounds which are most of the time for our sweet "Been Jammin'", but the movie was fairly loud and it was not noticeable.  He even watched a little bit of the movie and didn't ever seem concerned.

Our oldest and his awesome girlfriend


  1. How long did it take you to write that post! LOL!! It takes me 3 hours to write my short ones!! LOL!!
    Make sure to brush Ben's teeth 2X a day! We found with Mosie, who's teeth are the worst- brushing and diet miraculously and slowly made the smell go away AND the bleeding! Both Jacob and Mosie bite their tongues in the night. Jacob's tongue is "split" :o(
    I loved your post!
    So much sadness. (((HUGS))) So much JOY! ((((HUGS))))
    sending prayers!

  2. Thank you so much for this wonderful post! It has meant a lot to me to "watch" Ben learn to be part of a loving family, and to see your other kids love and accept him the way they are.
    I hope I have time to send you an email later on, regarding Ben's "Institutional" sounds.
    God bless you all!!!!

  3. Your kids are so cute!

    Kat, I am scared... I am scared to become emotionally vulnerable and then get broken. So many people describe that experience afte being in an orphanage or institution, and that is the scariest part for me. What will happen to me when I walk into our girlie's orphanage? Will I be able to handle it? I have no doubt that I will love our daughter, but all the other stuff; I don't know what it will do.
    I suppose that I should be praying in advance for preparation, huh. I will pray for you, too!


In the joy of following our Heavenly Father, we sometimes choose to proceed with a whisper, a verse, or a downright shove...no matter how we follow Him, the momentum that follows is like nothing we've ever experienced before.

Join the momentum...it is a beautiful place to be. It's not always easy, but then the best things never are.

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