Check out this video of Cooper during dinner last night, our first night home from the hospital. (The reason there’s no food on his tray is because he only eats baby food and drinks nutrition drinks. He had already eaten, and was enjoying dinner time with his new family.) This shows the JOY of being in a family. I hate that Cooper’s and Conner’s first six years were spent in an institution where they were confined to their cribs pretty much 24/7. I LOVE this video of redemption.
However, redemption is a process most of the time. Today was our first full day home from the hospital. Both boys are doing well, but I need some advice from the pros out there who have walked this path of bringing older children home from institutions where their lives had purely been living in a crib with no stimulation 24/7.
Today was a bit overwhelming for all of us as we try to navigate this new family life. Although it went very well, we’re realizing we now have 6-YEAR-old special needs “twins” (they’re not biologically related, but only a month apart in age), but both boys are very much like 6-MONTH-old twins. This is going to take a little practice on our part to figure out what works best for institutionalized special needs kiddos whom we absolutely adore. The thing I’m struggling with most is my emotions toward what these boys lived for 6 years versus what I want to immediately give them: love, love, love, family, family, family, attention, attention, attention. Unfortunately, what I want to give them seems to be overwhelming them, rightly so, given what they’ve lived for 6 years. I hate institutionalism.
Both boys need to be fed baby food (and because they don’t particularly like it, this makes feeding times challenging ), both boys are in diapers, both boys cannot walk, and both boys seem to need a series of several naps or down times throughout the day, just like an infant. 6-YEAR-olds in 6-MONTH-old bodies, which is totally fine with us, we’re just needing to figure out how to best make life roll around here, easing the boys into life in a family vs. life in a crib 24/7 at an institution, plus figuring out how to best meet the boys’ needs. I hate institutionalism.
My day was spent focused on trying to make sure both boys got their daily intake of their nutrition drinks and baby foods, which, of course, takes a full day to accomplish. At the end of the day, I realized that our schedule is very much like bringing home infant twins. Drink, play, eat, diaper, drink, play, eat, diaper, drink, play, eat, diaper, drink, play, eat, diaper (literally, that many times), then bath, and then bed. Maybe I need to substitute crib time for some of the play times. I’m So.Very.Grateful for this opportunity to mother these precious babes. I just want to mother them in the way they need it, which may not be the way I see it.
If you adopted a bed-ridden, institutionalized child, what things did you do to ease the transition to family life? Cooper and Conner seem way overstimulated (rightly so), but I feel terrible at simply the thought of putting them in their cribs any other time than bed time. I want them with us at all times, learning, playing, singing, loving, catching up on 6 years that were stolen, but then I see that both boys seem totally overwhelmed at times. I guess my aching heart would feel better if I could just get it through my thick skull that the boys need a slow transition to family life, instead of tossing them right in to tons of love 24/7!!!
There are times that just holding the boys and singing to them seems far too much for their sweet little brains and bodies. Institutionalism stinks. My heart aches at the thought of leaving our boys in their cribs during waking hours, but my heart also hurts to see them overwhelmed and overstimulated. I need advice from those who have walked this path, and I know there are lots of you out there.
Should I begin this transition with set times for “detoxing” in their cribs, especially after high stimulation times in our day? Out of crib one hour/in crib 30 minutes--or out of crib 3 hours/in crib 1 hour--or in crib during traditional nap time and out of crib all other times--or something entirely different?
In hindsight, being in the hospital for 8 days not only healed Cooper’s and Conner’s physical bodies, but it helped ease them into life outside of their institution. They still hung out in their crib almost 24/7, but I was right there 24/7, reading them stories, singing to them, holding them in short intervals (because they were attached to IV poles and there were so many specialists always coming in and out), and, of course, watching educational videos on their DVD players when they were awake. Now, should I be doing something similar to this at home so that they’re not so overwhelmed with family life?!?!
OK, now that I’ve established just how much I hate the effects of institutional life, I beg you to PLEASE check out my friend’s HUGE fundraiser/giveaway, known as Mulligan Stew. Lots of people have been asking me how they can help, how they can serve, where they can start to make a difference in the lives of helpless, mistreated, neglected, malnourished orphans like Conner and Cooper. Click HERE to find yourself a great place to start making a difference today.
And thanks for praying for us as we figure this new family life out. I know God’s already got it all figured out, and He’ll gently lead us in the direction He knows we need to go. Grateful for all of the support He’s given us through people like you who are praying for us, loving us, sending notes of encouragement. Thank you!!!