Why do they do this? Why do they put me in this room with this person I don’t know who does not look like any of my caregivers? Why are they all talking to me? Why do they want me to parade around?
Visits with young children, especially special needs children are almost all the same. You end up in some small room that the child rarely goes in and you try your best to not over-stimulate the child within the first five minutes of entering the room. Today was no exception after sitting down in a small room with the orphanage social worker we moved to another small room where Nikolai had been placed with a blanket – there’s the standard gym mat with the plastic-covered foam blocks. He looked content but nervous as I entered. I interacted with him as gently as I could, no talking, just smiling and gently touching him. I try not to pick him up because he’s not used to me and that seems to trigger his anxiety. It’s been a long time since his own parents held him and cared for him, before he got sick and they left him at the hospital. He has bright, inquisitive eyes, he makes sounds, a groaning/yelling of sorts. He has a couple of words but nothing beyond your basic moma, papa, baba, etc. He has a strong upper body and decent fine motor skills. His legs are also strong but his midsection appears to be weak, probably because he probably doesn’t spend much time outside of a few rooms in his orphanage. Sure he goes outside when it’s warm, but probably no farther than one of the elevated crib thingies, or in a stroller perhaps. He flails around, but not uncontrollably – he can easily take of shoes, he loves to open cabinets and he’s obviously not used to wearing anything with sleeves.
The back of his right hand is scarred from all the IVs from the times that he’s been in the hospital, fortunately it’s been a while since he’s had to be in the hospital. We go over his daily routine and we talk about his special medical needs. He has shown a lot of improvement over the past year and he is healthier than I expected him to be. He has even gained some weight and I’ll have to see if the clothes we brought for him will fit.
His eyes. They are so deep. When he is excited or upset he makes sounds or laughs a cackle of sorts. I spend time with him trying to not upset him – it’s easy as long as you let him roll onto his back and tickle him occasionally. He tires quickly – he sweats a lot… but it’s also hot… did I mention this room is small?
I have to stop and ask myself… why is this the normal routine for adoption visits with small children? It is horrible for them, it is horrible for us, and it really isn’t the good way to do it. Give me some space, give me some peace and quiet. Let me observe him in his daily routine without showing off all the things you want him to be able to do but he can’t do because he’s lived in a crib. Let’s be realistic here.
I remember my first time doing this – it was with Evan. Fortunately I still have the journal entries I wrote in Ukraine, but I don’t need them since I can remember it like it was yesterday. They handed him to us and had us go sit in this brightly colored room he never went in (we know this because we know he never left his crib.) The room was full of gym mats, padded shapes and posters on the walls. Every five minutes a different caretaker would come in and say hi, upsetting him repeatedly. We fed him cookies (which he loved), sang primary songs to him and did our best to love on him. We had a similar experience with Alayna (I wasn’t there), Lily and Alexis (was there for those), and then again with Benjamin and Thomas (wasn’t there).