Friday, April 18, 2008

Our Johnny

I've been struggling with writing about our experiences when we brought John home and everything that happened, especially that first year. I had started writing and posted it up here and then decided to take it down. Partly, I think, because it's not just my story, but John's story, and I feel uncomfortable writing the intimate details of his early life for everyone to read.
He didn't get a good start in life, and trying to deal with all of the baggage he brought with him was not easy, and more than we had bargained for.
Suffice it to say, however, that I am forever grateful that he came to us as Beth's First Communion miracle. Knowing that he was Michael's biological brother, and knowing that he was the answer to Beth's prayer, got me through those difficult times. I knew that he was meant to be with us; I knew that this was God's will for his life and ours. He was meant to be our child.
Adopting a newborn, and adopting an older child who has been neglected, are two completely different experiences. We also didn't have a social worker who was experienced in an older child- special needs adoption, and she made things worse for us.
But the dear Lord got us through; I prayed for love and patience and He gave them to me. Not instantly, but He taught me that love is a choice, not just a feeling; that patience is learned by practicing it.

One thing does stand out in my mind that I feel comfortable sharing.
Because John had been severely neglected, he had attachment disorder. He had never been attached to anyone and it resulted in some unusual behavior for a little one. I struggled with feeling attached to him because of it and other circumstances, and I begged the dear Lord for some guidance on how to feel attached; to feel like his mother.
He did not like for me to hold him. When we brought him home (at age 21 months), his bone age was about 7-9 months and he weighed around 16 pounds. So he was very small and it seemed natural to want to hold him. He didn't like it for too long. I kept thinking that one way that we become more attached to our babies is by holding them so much.....that physical contact helps the attachment strengthen. It came to my mind that I should try holding him more. Once he had been at our house a while, and was being well-fed, he became a little bundle of energy. The only time he would let me hold him was in the evening when he was getting tired.
We had a habit of saying a family rosary in the evening. We decided that the best thing would be to say family rosary right before bedtime. We would turn out the lights, light a candle, and I would hold John on my lap while we prayed.
At first he fought me, but I made him stay on my lap a little more each night, rubbing his arm, or his back, or his leg and gradually he stopped fighting me and relaxed. The soothing prayers, the darkened room, the candlelight, his tiredness worked their magic. Soon he would automatically come up to me to be held during our rosary time and he would fall asleep in my arms.

Those blessed family rosary times helped me become attached to my Johnny and him to me...

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