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Monday, April 22, 2013

10 Days Home with Holden

Today marks our tenth day at home with Holden, and, to be perfectly honest, this whole parenthood/adoption thing, has been:

(and now I prepare to duck under a table while moms everywhere, both adoptive and not, hurl pureed food and vomit-soaked clothing at me)
                                                               much EASIER than I expected.

     Yes, we are still fully in the honeymoon stage of this adoption, and I realize that 3, 6, or 12 months from now, Holden might get really comfortable in our love for him.  He might start to really get that we love him no matter what...all the time...forever; and he might really test what that actually means.  It's a pretty common phenomenon in adoption (although often with kids a bit older than  Holden).  So I am still prepared for difficult times ahead. 
     I also know that at this point, most adopted toddlers are in full-blown grieving mode.  They cry often and for long periods.  They don't sleep well.  They are angry, and tantrum-y.  They are destructive.  They refuse to accept affection and comfort.  Holden does none of these things.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I still need to filter our parenting through the adoption standpoint, because it's already hard for me to remember that he came to us differently than most families.  We fit together so seamlessly. 
     I was also prepared to feel differently about this whole adoption/parenting thing than I expected.  I read up on post-adoption depression, on feeling like you were just babysitting a kid, feeling like you had a tiny invader in your home.  I read up on being a parent to a child with special needs -- that it can be stressful; you can feel isolated and discouraged.  Again, I don't feel any of those things.  I still have a lot to learn and experience, but being Holden's Mom just feels very natural to me. Also, being a Mom to a child who is differently-abled (got this phrase from Laura, and love it!) hasn't really affected our lives too much yet.  Yes, we still have a load of specialists to go see.  We will soon have physical therapy and occupational therapy.  Holden will get fitted for a wheelchair.  I'm still pretty confident that to us, Holden will just seem like a regular kid who gets around a little bit differently.  We're bound and determined to give this little boy the most unlimited life possible. 

     I've had to do 5 of the first 10 days with Holden solo as Chris has been out of town for work, so don't be too jealous of me, mothers of the world.  Also, I'm fully aware of the fact that I can take no credit for how awesome Holden is doing or what an incredible little kid he is.  I keep saying this over and over, but Chris and I truly are the lucky ones in this arrangement.  I'm pretty sure Holden has had his second thoughts about this whole thing once or twice! 
Little things that tell me Holden is adjusting well:
- He calls me Amma (the word for mother in Malayalam) and Chris Daaa.
- When he wakes up from naps or in the morning, and we come to get him, he greets us with a smile and outstretched arms, ready to be held.  (Seriously, favorite parenting moment ever, this was the kind of stuff I dreamed about before Holden came into our lives.)
- He accepts kisses, hugs, and "I love you's" from us.
- He accepts our praise and encouragement and often claps, and gives a "yay!" right along with us when he does something awesome (which is every other minute, as far as I'm concerned :)
- When I leave the room to do a quick chore (I always tell him first, "Mommy will be right back") he often calls for me or starts crawling to where I am.  He likes to keep tabs on where I am at all times.  (This might seem too clingy for a typical toddler, but for a newly adopted one, it's a good sign.)
- He accepts comfort from us when he is sad.
- The longest amount of time he has ever cried is 5 minutes.
- He sleeps really well at night.
- His appetite is starting to pick up.
- He is always laughing and joking.  I'm telling you, this kid is going to be the class clown.  I'm determined that he'll be a kind, respectful class clown, but still, he just loves to get a laugh out of people.
- He is eager to learn English, and often repeats after me on things we see in books, at the store, or on walks. 
- He plays often and has tons of fun doing it. (Many newly adopted toddlers are too stressed to really play with their toys.)
- He is eager to please Chris and I, and when we have to set limits and tell him, "no" he often gets a little sad and puts his head down.  (And yes, it makes me feel terrible to see it, but I know it's a good sign.  I'm thankful that at this point, a stern "no" is enough consequence for him not to do something again.  We haven't had to do any sort of time out/time in, taking away toys/privileges because a simple "no" stops this child in his tracks.)

     There is so much more I could say about our time with Holden, and hopefully I'll start picking up on this blog stuff again and keep you informed of all his adorable escapades.  For now, I'll leave you with this thought:  adoption can be really hard and take a ton of sacrifice, but it can also be really wonderful, and an incredible blessing.  Sometimes, it seems like people only hear the hard stuff about adoption, under the auspices of being "transparent and real" and too many are scared to even start the journey.  I'm here to tell you that our story is just as real and valid as anyone else's, and it has been an absolute joy.  I don't want anyone to think that every adoption is this easy, but I also don't want you thinking that every adoption is super hard. 

Prepare for the worst, and then be pleasantly surprised when it doesn't come your way... 

It certainly hasn't come our way..... yet! 

And now I'll leave you with some family photos. 

Thanks to Laura Mustio of for these beautiful photos of our very first day together as a family of three.


Did a little tear just form in the corner of your eye? 
I thought so.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

What do you give to the woman who gave your son everything?

I've thought and prayed often over what I would say or do in that fragile, life-altering moment when Holden's foster mother says goodbye to him, and I become his mother. What do you say to the woman who rocked your son to sleep at night? How do you thank her for giving him unconditional love, and showing him that trusting others is possible and good? This woman, Ammini, is so beautiful and kind and incredibly good. She loves Jesus and prayed with Holden and read the Bible to him. She fed him, clothed him, cleaned him, and cuddled him. She let him know how special and beloved he was. She showed him that being different was ok, and being differently-abled would not define him.

I am completely convinced that Holden is a smart, kind, confident, social, affectionate boy because of her love.

What can you possibly give this woman who has given your son everything?

India has strict laws about gifts when it comes to adoption, so even if I had wanted to make a pathetic attempt to repay this woman, I would not have been allowed to do so.

Instead, I made her a photo album with pictures of Holden. On its pages, I let her know that Holden is happy because of her love and care. I told her that her love and kindness would never be forgotten. I thanked her, from the bottom of our hearts.

I wrote her a thank you card that attempted to tell her how incredible we think she is. I told her that she displayed Jesus' love to Holden and so many others. I told her that Holden's life and our lives were forever changed because of her.

I attempted to tell her in person, despite our language barrier, how grateful we were. I told her we would love and care for Holden with everything we had.

When it was time to say goodbye, we took pictures of her with Holden. Then, she handed him a bag of cookies, gave him a sweet, little kiss, and she was gone.

So what do you give the woman who gave your son everything? A photo album, a thank you card, and a solemn vow to love and cherish this little boy for the rest of your life.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

First Day with Holden

My first day with Holden, as in the day I became a Mom and get to take care of him and love him forever, went unbelievably well.  As in, better than I thought possibe, as in, I'm expecting my sweet boy to have a breakdown any second because up to this point, he has been amazingly resilient. 

Can you believe I spent a whole day with a two year-old and no tears were shed? There was not even a hint of whining. How is this child so perfect? No seriously, I am so convinced at his perfection. I think he is the best at everything and every little thing he does is adorable. Even when he burps, it is perfect and adorable! I told Laura that I will probably think his farts are the best ever too. Watch out teachers of America, I can already see myself as one of those obnoxious parents who comes storming into your classroom in a blind rage because their child is perfect, and clearly the fact that they have just pooped in the corner and smeared it all over every child's artwork is all YOUR FAULT. I mean, what other explanation is there?

How did a post that was supposed to be lovely and beautiful and life-changing start off with poop in the first paragraph? I don't know, but we're going with it. It kind of represents how I feel as a new Mom. I feel like I have been given the most incredible, beautiful, perfect gift, and my biggest fear is that I will mess it all up. I am continually on my knees asking God to show me how to do this.

The day started off with a long cab ride. I kept myself busy trying to scribble out a thank you note to the staff at Vathsalya Charitable Trust (the orphanage that oversees Holden's care and files all the paperwork for his adoption). I think sometimes I intentionally procrastinate so I can keep myself busy in the moments leading up to a big event. It prevents me from becoming a sobbing mess. I was all excitement and joy as we got out of the car.

Laura and I walked up to the third floor where the offices are, and sweet, little Holden was there sitting on the couch right in front of me. I went over with a big smile and told him it was so good to see him. I am very cautious around Holden right now. I feel like he is this fragile, little faun that I don't want to startle. What I wanted to do was whisk him up into my arms immediately and squeeze his eyeballs out. What I actually did because I thought it would be better for him was kneel down in front of him, talk in gentle, slow tones, and pull some toys out of the elephant backpack I brought him. Within a few minutes, Mary Paul, the orphanage director and one of the kindest women you will ever meet, was calling us back to her office. I picked Holden up and just said, "It feels so good to hold you again." We went over some paperwork, and then I received the most wonderful gift from VCT, a scrapbook of photos from Holden's time with them. There were many photos in the book I had never seen before. Holden just loved flipping through the pages. We will protect and treasure this book forever.

We also took pictures with Holden's foster mother. More on that later. This incredible, beautiful, sweet woman deserves a post all her own.

One of my favorite moments of the day came when I realized that Holden knows I am his Mama. I still can't believe this part of our day really happened. I left the room with a spunky little girl named, Shilpa, because she managed to get a little mess of something on her hands. As I held her hand out and walked off to find a way to clean it, Laura was still in the same room as Holden. She said he kept leaning over and looking out the door to where he could see me down the hall, and would say "Mama". He kept looking at me, then up at her, the. She said, "Yep, that's your Mama... Go see your Mama" Holden started crawling toward me, and Laura called out to me and told me what had just happened. My heart was this big, melty pile. I looked at him, and said, "I am your Mama." I wanted to scoop him up into a big hug, but another little rascal decided it was her turn for some attention and kind of blocked my attempt ;)

For a much better take on the story, check out Laura's blog post:

Before we left the orphanage I thanked Mary Paul and hugged her and told her how very much I appreciate all of the hard work VCT does, and the way they make finding loving foster homes for their children a priority. I told her that Holden is a happy, wonderful boy because of the work they do and the love of his foster mother. We both teared up, and she said, "thank you for noticing all the work we do, because not many people appreciate that." It made me so sad to hear that, and I realized how easy it is for us as adoptive parents to just demand, demand, demand, without ever saying thank you. We always want more info, more pictures, we want to know what's taking so long. Meanwhile, the sweet women at VCT are buried under a pile of paperwork, taking little kids to court, trying to recruit and train more foster mothers, and the list goes on.... They have no more control over the speed of India's government agencies than we do. I promised Mary to send pictures and find VCT on Facebook. I also assured her that we would definitely be back and would show her what a wonderful, young man Holden was becoming.

Little man fell asleep on the car ride home, and I laid him down for a nap as soon as we got back to the hotel. He slept much longer than he usually does, but he had understandably had a big day. I kept sneaking over just to watch him breathe. Knowing my little boy was sleeping peacefully in the same room as me, knowing that I get to love him forever- it was just (and still is!) such an amazing feeling. I kept saying silent prayers, thanking God for this beautiful blessing that I don't deserve.

When Holden woke up, I could tell he was nervous and confused. He looked at me, thinking, "you're not my Ammina. She's the one who gets me up after naps..." I just held him and said, "Mama's here." Then I pointed at him and said his Indian name, then pointed at me and said, "Mama". I tried to make conversation with him in happy tones, then we played cars on the floor. I was sure the tears were coming at any moment, but they never did. He played very quietly and timidly at first, then gradually warmed up to me again.

Laura brought us take-out for dinner, and Holden ate like a champ. He does seem to have a little trouble chewing up chicken. I swear he still had chicken bits lingering in his cheek a few hours later! I'm gonna have to do some finger-sweeping on this boy.

We played with all sorts of things including Laura's wallet and phone. She is such a good sport! We both wondered when Holden would give us a great, big laugh. He is so quiet and serious sometimes. Not too long after that I was chasing him around the room as he crawled around on his hand sandals (a genius invention, I will show you a pic later), and I would get him and tickle him. He started laughing like crazy! It was the sweetest sound I have ever heard. It got to the point where he would collapse on the floor and start laughing before I even got to him. Love this boy so much.

Laura said goodbye for the night and we planned to Skype with some family. As soon as I sat Holden on the bed for skyping, he just collapsed. He lifted his head a few times and gave a wave, but he essentially said, "I am wiped!". Little guy was ready for bed an hour early. He is still sleeping peacefully beside me - most beautiful sight in the world.

Daddy arrives really late tonight!! Can't wait!!!!