* This is a post in the adoption/orphan care series I’m doing in honor of National Adoption Month. I did not write today’s post. Today’s guest post is by Meredith Lind, a friend who has adopted an “older child” from Africa and is 6 months home. She was kind enough to let me “interview” her about her experience, and her answers were amazingly heartfelt and honest. Though this post is long, it is incredibly worth the read! Meredith writes about bonding and emotions in the adoption process.
We are Ryan and Meredith Lind and have been married 16 years and live in Knoxville, Tn. Ryan is an Electrical engineer and Meredith is a soccer mom, nurse, cook, maid, private tutor, stay -at -home mom. We have 4 boys who keep us very busy! Isaiah 13, Randall 11, Anders 6 and Ujulu 5.
How did you know you were called to adopt?
We had always talked about adopting a child but God had other plans for us first. He gave us our three biological sons and our lives became busy with them. In late 2009, God began to stir in our hearts and we realized that our family wasn’t complete. God then put us on a journey of meeting people that were adopting, meeting people that had adopted and then attending an adoption benefit in early 2010. It was that night at the benefit that our hearts broke for the children of Africa and we were made aware of the orphan crisis. We had been living a comfortable life in the suburbs and God was calling us to much more!!!!! The Lord took us on an amazing journey of International Adoption to Ethiopia, which can be anything but comfortable. God had stirred our hearts and we stepped out in faith and obedience. “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed. Psalm 82:3”
- April 2010- Got information packet from All Gods Children International, then prayed about it for a couple of months
- June 2010- Sent our Pre- Application; Signed contracts with All God’s Children International
- July 2010- Started our Dossier/ Homestudy
- October 2010- Finished our Dossier / Homestudy; Sent our Dossier to AGCI for approval; Had to make a few revisions and sent it back
- November 1, 2010- Made it to the waitlist with AGCI; First numbers were # 64 for a boy age 3-5 yrs old
- December 2010- Fingerprints in Nashville,Tn; December numbers # 63 for a boy age 3-5 yrs old
- January 2011- Referral phone call !!!!!!!!!! January 27th, 2011
- February 2011- Received court dates for April 13th
- April 2011- Traveled to Ethiopia for court and meet Ujulu for the first time! We passed court!! He is officially a Lind!!
- May 2011- Received Embassy clearance to travel back and pick up Ujulu
- Came home – May 20th, 2011
What has the bonding/attachment process been like for you? And for your family?
For bonding with our child we decided to “ Cocoon” for 8- 12 weeks. For our family , this meant we stayed at home a lot. We limited people in our home. We kept our home quiet and simple. We were there to get to know Ujulu and make him feel safe and secure in our home and with us. We wanted to be the only people that hugged and kissed him and met his basic needs for the first few of months. I did at least 30 minutes of “Hold Time” a day with him. We would look at books, rock in the rocking chair, listen to music, eat a snack during this time. I also took care of all his bedtime routines, for example: bath time, brushing teeth, lotion, reading or looking at books with him. I felt like this was crucial to our bonding. He has bonded to me well so far. He makes really good eye contact with me and now he willingly hugs and kisses me. We have a long way to go but feel good about the positive progress he has made so far.
For Ryan, this process of bonding has been more difficult. Ujulu did not feel comfortable with Ryan at all. He pushed him away all the time and would not make good eye contact with him. Ryan also struggled with having no feelings for Ujulu. In fact, he was bothered and irritated by him. This was very hard for Ryan and he felt terribly guilty. We had read that this can be normal, for one parent to feel very disconnected and that with time and trust this can build. Six months later, Ryan and Ujulu have made huge strides in their relationship. Ujulu now sits in his lap and lets Ryan read to him. The biggest hurdle Ryan has conquered has been a goodnight kiss! Ujulu will now let Ryan kiss the top of his head! Ujulu’s trust of Ryan is growing everyday and Ryan’s love for Ujulu is evident and growing.
Bonding has also been difficult between our youngest bio son , Anders(6yr old) and Ujulu(5 yr old). The first six weeks home were very difficult and Ujulu was demanding a lot of my time away from my other boys. Anders suffered the most. I had Ujulu grieving, crying and throwing tantrums for hours a day and then I had Anders crying and acting out because he felt pushed aside. These feelings quickly turned to hatred flowing out of Anders. Ujulu was also not being very kind to Anders and he was competing for my affection. It was rough!!! We had a talk with our post-adoption counselor about how to handle this. We felt like all this hatred could drive a permanent wedge between these two brothers. Our solution was to have the boys get on their knees and pray for each other and then to really buckle down on discipline with Ujulu as best as we could with the language barrier. Slowly, God has healed this relationship between Anders and Ujulu. Now, you hear laughter and silly whispers coming from their room . The best part is hearing them thank God for each other daily and seeing their faces light up when they hear it!
How has the whole process been for you/your family emotionally? Any emotional surprises?
For us the whole process was extremely emotional! From driving to the post office to turn in our AGCI contract to holding and rocking Ujulu to sleep just last night as he cried and grieved. Every part of this process has been an emotional roller coaster!
During the wait for our referral, the emotions I dealt with was FEAR! I was fearful of the big change taking place in our family. I was fearful that I would not be able to handle a child with deep traumatic wounds. I was fearful that we had made a mistake choosing older age parameters. Satan was having a grand time with me!!!!!! I was not trusting in our Great God! I was not believing that He is Sovereign and that He had this plan for our lives.
Our referral day was January 27th, 2011 and what an amazing day that was! About two weeks prior I had a dream about our referral phone call. The dream was that I received our phone call in the hallway of Anders school. I quickly dismissed this dream as crazy! We had only been on the waitlist for 2 .5 months. Well, On January 27th at 1: 40 my cell phone rang and it was our case manager. I did not think anything about it because we were due for our Monthly update call. She asked if it was a good time and I said not really because I was in the hallway at my sons school picking him up. She then said well ,“ I have a little boy that I need to talk to you about”! I immediately remembered my dream!!!!!!!! I quickly responded with I have plenty of time!!!!!! In that moment, hearing about this 4.9 yr old boy named Ujulu , all my fears of age and traumatic wounds went away. God calmed my fearful spirit and I cried and jumped around saying” No Way- I can’t believe this!!!” . That afternoon we said “ Yes” to this amazing, beautiful child across the world that God had hand- picked to be in our family! Amazing and Beautiful!
The next emotional time for us while we were in Ethiopia on our second trip. We had the amazing opportunity to meet Ujulu’s birthmother. That morning, I was an emotional wreck and did not think I could hold it together to meet with her. I started crying at our hotel and cried all the way to our agencies transition home( where Ujulu had been living for 5 months). God gave me the strength to pull it together and not let this precious moment slip away. Ryan and I were able to love on her and ask her some important questions about their difficult life. Ujulu was able to see her one last time and they shared some sweet moments together. We know she loved him very much but unfortunately did not have the means to provide for him any longer due to health issues. It truly was the MOST emotional day Ryan and I had ever experienced in our lives( I am crying again as I type this). As hard as that meeting was, it was the most beautiful thing I have ever been a part of.
The emotional part of being home has been wading through Ujulu’s deep heart wounds. It is so hard to hear the details of his story. I have wept with him many times and have wept privately in the shower! It is so hard to try and comfort a child that has been deeply hurt and won’t let you in and pushes you away. I have been asked “ Do you ever think- Why did we do this” My answer is “yes , sometimes I do but I would do it again and again” What I can rest in daily is Gods goodness in ALL THINGS. There may be pain but God always has a purpose. We see God working daily in Ujulu’s life and healing his heart wounds. I pray daily that Ujulu will come to embrace God’s great everlasting love for him and that he believes he is beloved child of God and let God heal his wounded heart. What a joy and priviledge to witness this.
Advice for people who are interested in adopting?
What I hear the most these days is “ Awww- he is so cute. I have always wanted to adopt. It must be so fun. Does he love America? “ Please, don’t adopt because you want a cute child to make you look like Angelina and Brad’s family!!!!!!! Adoption is hard parenting!!! We have plenty of cute, fun moments but these children struggle with deep emotions.
Advice in choosing an agency for International Adoptions. Do your research! Make sure you use an agency that is Hague Accredited and licensed. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and talk to families that have gone before you about the agency.
After you are home, what is the BEST way that someone can be there for you?
I would say that for us the best way people were there for us was with meals. We had meals for the first 5 to 6 weeks home. They came from our church family, friends and neighbors. I did not think that meal would be helpful – afterall he was not a baby and I was not going to be nursing. But, the meals we received were such a blessing! Ujulu was not a newborn, he was 5 yrs old when we came home and he was all over the place! I had to watch him constantly! Everything was new and he did not know boundaries and dangers. The meals allowed me to spend my time being very near him at the beginning and not stuck in the kitchen. It also allowed me to sit and comfort him in the beginning when he was having tantrums and crying for hours upon hours. So meals are a MUST!
I would also say another way to be there for a newly adoptive parent is to just be a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Do not try to give advice (unless you have been through it with an adopted child), do not judge them for how their child is behaving or how they are handling things in their home. Just listen to them, pray with and for them and be a good friend.
Any adoption resources (websites, blogs, books, seminars, etc) that you have found helpful and would like to pass on?
Books that I would recommend are: Parenting your Internationally Adopted Child, Twenty Things adopted Kids wish Their Adoptive Parents knew, Choosing to See, A Passage to the Heart, Adopted for Life .
I will be attending a retreat this January 2012 for adoptive parents/foster parents in Atlanta. It is called “Created for Care” . It was started in 2010 by an adoptive momma who recognized the need for encouragement, education and fellowship for adoptive moms. I can’t wait to attend! Check it out!
If you are interested in International Adoption I would be happy to talk to you and answer any questions you may have. I will give a plug for our wonderful agency– All God’s Children International. They truly are a great agency who cares about the children and missions. They were with us every step of the way with a listening ear, praying for us and Ujulu, and now that we are home we are still supported by them until Ujulu is 18. I can not say enough good about this agency!
Meredith Lind and her family life in Knoxville, Tennessee. They have been married for 16 years. Ryan is an Electrical engineer and Meredith is a soccer mom, nurse, cook, maid, private tutor, stay -at -home mom. They have been blessed with 4 boys (3 bio and 1 adopted), Isaiah 13, Randall 11, Anders 6 and Ujulu 5.