"" Writer's Wanderings: July 2005

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 6

Cheryl seemed satisfied with her examination of me and we played some more before eating dinner. Whatever had transpired in those few moments is still a mystery to me.

Our boys were enamored with the idea of having a new little brother and sister.

"Just think," I said to Andy. "You won't be the baby anymore."

There was silence. I turned in my seat to see if one of the twins had a hand over his mouth. He was studying his hands.

"It's kind of nice to be the baby in the family," he said quietly.

Wow, I thought. What do I do now?

"Andy, you will always be my baby. Don will be my little one." (This weekend, the little one will be 27 and my baby is 31. They still enjoy the distinction I made.)

Andy brightened and the chatter continued all the way home.

We gradually increased the time that Cheryl and Don would spend visiting us. They came to our home for a long afternoon and then again for an overnight stay. Andy had volunteered to share a room with Don so we shifted beds among the boys, putting the bunk beds in the largest bedroom for Don and Andy. Rob made out in the deal. He got a new bed.

Cheryl got a new bed as well. We purchased a white canopy bed with dresser and nightstand. I busily set about doing a pink room. While it wasn't a pink nursery it was still fun putting together something for a girl.

They arrived in the early afternoon. Don bounced out of the car immediately when Sherrie opened the door. Cheryl, on the other hand, slid out very slowly and clutched Sherrie's hand all the way into the house. It seemed strange. When we had parted the last time, Cheryl had seemed very eager to come back and spend the night. Now she didn't want to let Sherrie go.

Was I in for a troubling time?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 5

Cheryl informed me that she could take care of herself. I held the door shut for her. I didn't want her to latch it and force me to crawl under it if she couldn't get out.

Altogether, we spent about two hours with Cheryl and Don. When we returned, we planned our next visit where our boys could meet their prospective brother and sister.

Sherry and her husband had cordially invited us to a backyard BBQ where the kids would feel more comfortable and could play together. It was interesting to watch our boys interact. They were quite comfortable with Don. They could do all the young male bonding things--play with Hot Wheels, throw and catch a ball, etc. When it came to Cheryl, however, they were stymied. They had no clue what you did with a six year old girl. Their girl cousins were all their own age.

Cheryl and I began playing together, running in the grass, kicking a ball, playing 'keep away.' I fell and rolled on the ground and suddenly found Cheryl on top of me. She sat on my stomach and peered into my eyes. Her crystal blue eyes stared into mine while time seemed to stand still. It was as if she were looking into my soul--looking to see who I truly was. Would she like what she saw?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 4

The waiting didn't last long. We were contacted and asked to consider a sibling group of four girls. One, who was 16 did not want to be adopted but wanted to be near her sisters. They went to another family who lived closer to the sixteen year old. When we received the news, it was with the invitation to come and see a video of a brother and sister who had just become available for adoption. (See The Presence of His Spirit posts).

After viewing the video and talking with their foster mom, we made arrangements to meet Cheryl who was 6, and Don, 5. We went to the foster parents' home a little more than an hour away from ours.

Don was all smiles. He proudly shared his cars and trucks with us and brought us books to read. Cheryl was a bit withdrawn, clinging to Sherry, her foster mom. Eventually, she ventured forward, fingers in her mouth, and let me read a book to her. Both kids perked up when Sherry suggested we could take them to McDonald's for a burger and fries.

We were having a good time at McD's. The two were wolfing down their hamburger and fries like they'd never been fed (something I was sure was not true). Then Cheryl said she had to go to the bathroom. Bob looked at me and smiled.

"Guess you get to make bathroom trips now."

With our three boys, Bob had asssumed the major restroom responsibility once they got too old to take to the ladies room. He wasn't entirely off the hook though. Don indicated, in his garbled speech (Don is developmentally handicapped), that he needed to go too.

Once inside the ladies room, I suddenly felt awkward. She's too old to need help, isn't she? Do I go into the stall with her? Do I let her lock the door?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 3

Whenever we talked about a family, Bob and I had always said that if the first two babies were the same sex, we would adopt the opposite to round out the family. Thus, we planned on three children. God has such a sense of humor...

With twin boys and a single birth resulting in another boy, we set out to find an adoption agency to begin a search for a daughter. The first attempt (when our youngest was two) fizzled when the social worker heard my children's voices in the background as I spoke with her on the phone.

"We're not accepting applications from people who have already been blessed with children of their own," she said stiffly.

I felt chastised. How could I have the audacity to ask for more children when there were couples who were childless? In my naivete, I hung up and did not pursue the issue further until the twins were 12 and Andy was 9, and I was much more savy about adoption and it's fit for our family.

I had no desire to adopt a baby. Bob would have loved it. He's the "baby person" in the family. I wasn't ready to take on diapers again and extend our initial parenting term another 10 years. We set out specifically to find a girl between 3 and 8 years of age. The other parameters we set included adopting special needs such as learning diabilities or slight retardation and/or a sibling group of 2.

We found an adoption agency in NE Ohio that dealt with "hard to place children" and began their orientation program. They explained the types of abuse the chidren placed in the system had experienced (basically: sexual, physical, and/or abuse from neglect). The other form of abuse came from just being "in the system"--shuffling from foster home to foster home, often for years.

The other part of their program was to get us to evaluate our strenghts and weaknesses as a parent. Could we parent a child who had been a thief? Sexually active? Usesd foul language? Was hyperactive? We discovered some things about each other that we didn't know before. I thought I could handle a thief but not someone who had been sexually active. Bob was just the opposite.

All this led up to our "white glove" home study, which really wasn't so bad. Then, we waited...

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Adoption--Bonding 2

As I looked through the window at the newborn cribs, I anxiously awaited news of my baby. The nurse returned to the back of the chair and began wheeling.

"Your little one is keeping all the others up." She gave a little laugh. "They put him in a private room with the lights out hoping he would fall asleep."

She opened another door that led to a room off the nursery and there he was, soft little sobs shuddering his body as he fell asleep. We left him sleeping so that I could get some rest before the nursing schedule began early in the morning.

They let me sleep until 6 a.m. before they brought Andy in for his first feeding. The disappointment of not having a girl faded with one look at the beautiful infant God had blessed us with. He was pink and perfect. And just to be sure he would wind my heart around his little finger, he immediately cradled his head against my cheek, cuddling into a little ball of baby softness in my arms.

The bonding grew with each of my babies as we interacted, "talking" to each other, touching, exploring the world together. They made me feel needed and, in return, I did my best to meet their needs.

That bonding was easy. They were so little and so dependent upon me. But what would happen when I became the mother of two children, already past diapers and bottles, and with their individual personalities already formed--partly from the abuse in their lives?

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Gwen commented on my previoius post about bonding with older children during the adoption process. I'm not an expert but I can tell you what I experienced and maybe that will help.

Cheryl was 6 and Don was 5 when they were placed in our home. We had three biological children, all boys. Ron and Rob were fraternal twins aged 12 and Andy was nine. I always tell people the reason we adopted was to have a cheerleader before we got a whole football squad. Don was a bonus. We would never have split siblings.

I remember the bonding process with my babies. Even though I delivered them and they were biologically mine, I felt a little awkward at first. Part of that was due to just being a new mom. They were lucky I knew which end the diaper went on. But as I cared for them, bathing them, feeding them, rocking them to sleep, I got more comfortable, it didn't take long before I was truly loving these little bundles--even through the crying in the middle of the night.

Then Andy came along. He was supposed to be our girl. Back then, 31 years ago, we didn't have the privilege of being able to know the sex of the baby through a routine ultra sound. The best the doctor could do was say his heart rate sounded like that of a girl (poor guy gets a lot of teasing about that). I was thankful he was healthy but, truthfully, a little disappointed that we didn't have a girl.

Down the hall, in the nursery, I could hear a baby crying as I lay in recovery waiting to go to my room. The cry sounded a little familiar. I dismissed the idea that it was my baby. After all, how could I know a cry I hadn't heard yet? As they wheeled me to my room, the nurse stopped to let me see him. He wasn't in the regular nursery. I panicked...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Presence of His Spirit 4

The question tumbled out of me.

"Sherry, you're a born again believer in Christ, aren't you?"

There. It was out. I held my breath as I waited for her response. It came quickly.

"Yes, I am. I have the feeling the two of you are as well." She was smiling and suddenly we were drawn closely together by the bond of a shared belief in a loving God who directed our lives.

"I want you to know," Sherry continued, "that our church has been praying for Cheryl and Don since they became available for adoption. We have prayed that a Christian family would find them and adopt them. You are an answer to our prayers."

I'd never considered myseslf an answer to prayer before. This was why God had so obviously directed our lives to this point. The three of us had felt his presence. It was as if He had physically placed his hand on our shoulders. By the prompting of His spirit I had sought the confirmation of Sherry's faith and she had received the answer she sought to her prayers for Cheryl and Don.

Our meeting took place 22 years ago. The presence of His spirit has been a comfort and a guide through good times and difficult situations as we parented our five children. His continued reassurance that I am never alone and that He loves me is a comfort always.

"...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Presence of His Spirit 3

My heart beat rapidly as fuzzy static turned into a picture on the TV. A very active six year old girl and five year old boy scurried back and forth in a playroom on the screen.

"What beautiful hair she has," I remarked. We had a difficult time seeing Cheryl's face. She managed to keep her back to the camera most of the time.

"He loves those trucks, doesn't he," Bob observed as Don, typical boy, was wearing out the knees of his pants pushing trucks across the floor.

The tape ended and I wished for more. They looked like wonderful children.

"As I told you before, Cheryl has some learning problems and is in a special kindergarten class," Joy began explaining. "Don does not talk well yet, and we know that he is delayed in his development. He is in a special Easter Seals program."

"What kind of progress could we expect from Don?" I asked.

"We can't tell you. We don't know. When he is nine or ten, they will be able to assess his future progress a little more successfully."

Sherry had been watching us as we viewed the video and talked with Joy. She removed some papers from a folder she brought and laid them before us.

"I thought you might like to see some of their school work." There were crayon drawings and kindergarten work sheets--mostly just marks on paper, although you could see the beginnings of some writing skills on Cheryl's work.

Sherry shared some of her experiences with the children in her home and answered questions about Don's language development. The more she talked, the more I began to feel I knew her somehow. I was certain we'd never met. Could the familiarity just be our common bond of motherhood?

The more we talked, the stronger the feeling of a bond grew. I became distracted from our purpose--unsettled.

"I have to leave for a moment," Joy said pushing her chair back. "I have a phone call to make. Excuse me."

We continued to talk for a few minutes. There was an urgency within me to ask a question I had never asked a total stranger before. I could feel my face redden with the anxiety as I opened my mouth to inquire...

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Presence of His Spirit 2

"I have someone I'd like you to meet," said Joy, our social worker as she entered the room with papers in her hand. She turned to a young woman with long curly brown hair. "This is Sherry. She has been Cheryl and Don's foster mom for the past four months."

Bob rose and shook her hand. "Hi, we're glad to meet you."

Sherry took a seat next to Joy across the table from us.

"Sherry wanted to come and tell you a little about what she's experienced with the children and answer any questions you might have about them," Joy continued. Sherry smiled at us with warm brown eyes.

Joy turned on the VCR and adjusted the television. "Let's have a look at Cheryl and Don first and then we can fill you in on more background...let you ask questions..." She fiddled some more with the controls and the machine finally responded.

We leaned forward to get our first look at the children that would soon become ours.
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