The process of adopting Israel has been such a long, lengthy process. Almost two years of struggle to bring home this little boy. And now he is here…and it’s hard. It’s gut-wrenching, “Oh my God, have I lost my mind” hard. “I am never going to be able to raise this child, what have I taken on, I’ll never live a normal life” hard. But, a small voice in the back of my head tells me, you’ve been here before. Remember these waves, remember sinking, and every time I have been faithful to see you through. Look up, Stacey, I’m right here…give me your hand.
It was recommended in an international adoption book that I tell Israel’s story. I like that idea and feel that in order to give everyone a better understanding of the waves and the storm, I want to share his story. I think it will help you to interact with him if you see us and encourage all you prayer warriors to add Israel to your daily prayers. I have posted many pictures on Facebook and they do not tell you his story. So, in an attempt to create understanding and help you all relate to Israel, here is our son.
At birth, Israel’s parents were encouraged to allow the government to step in and care for him due to his medical needs. They were not bad people, they were people in a poor country that have zero help for a special needs child. I imagine they were heartbroken and it crushed them to give their child up. So within days he began his life in an orphanage with a diagnosis of Spina bifida. Within the orphanage he was a “crib baby”. A crib baby lays hours upon hours without stimulation or interaction. Israel’s head shape shows the length of time he spent lying down; this is not something that can be repaired. Israel also went through several surgeries to enclose his spine and also place his shunt. He did this without a parent or caregiver to support him.
He has lived 4 years in the “Section of Malformations” where he was the only verbal child. He was surrounded by children who were bedridden and locked within their own worlds. He had one friend named Rosa who was non-verbal due to cleft palate, but at his cognitive level. I do believe that he received some attention because he genuinely likes people and has some skills. He physically and developmentally is a 2-year-old, with some advanced self-help skills. We have read that when adopting a child from an orphanage, you should expect that the child’s developmental age will be half of their chronological age. We have found this to be very true. However he is quickly advancing to new skills and abilities.
He is hyper aware of being clean and organized (he is the only child in my house that seems to understand that dirty clothes go in the hamper). After my first visit, the orphanage placed him with a Baba(grandma), who visited each day to feed and play with him. During that 6 months, he was taken outside and allowed to interact with other children within the orphanage. The Baba taught him to feed himself; however he has only been fed purees and liquid. There is no medical reason for feeding him pureed food, only convenience. Children are easier to manage when they can eat quickly. He went from a size 18 months to a 3 after they enlisted a Baba. The theory is he needed to look good to be adopted to America. After visiting the pediatrician, we learned that Israel’s weight is not even on the growth chart for a 3-year-old, let alone a 4-year-old. However, his head circumference is perfect and he is tall.
He has speech issues because he has a very high palate. Couple this with learning a new language and it’s a process. His receptive language is excellent. I asked him today without any gestures to go get in his chair to eat and he crawled right to his chair and said “eat”. He understands a lot of what we say, even though he has only been home 1 week. The child can manipulate almost any toy we give him and he loves music.
Israel calls me “mommy”, but that is just a name. He has no point of reference to what a mom, dad or family are. He will learn, but in his mind we will eventually leave like all caregivers. He struggles to go into public places: it’s loud and scary. He is starting to venture outside; initially he got overwhelmed within an hour. The world is a big and scary place. We are keeping his world very small, but eventually he will be acclimated to a world beyond four walls. As far as interactions, we are asking everyone to do “friend” appropriate gestures (hand-shakes, high-fives and knuckles) unless you are family. He will hug and kiss anyone and we are teaching him age-appropriate skills. We don’t want him randomly hugging the mailman or the cashier at Bashas (although I like the cashiers at Bashas and our mail service is wonderful).
This has been one of the hardest leaps of crazy faith for us. I will not lie and say how easy and perfect things are. Daily I have to remind myself to take it a day at a time. I thank God for other adoptive families, they are in the trenches with me. It is scary and yet, I have never felt closer to God. I have always been so self-reliant and this is so far beyond my control, that I can’t help but reach for help. I am absolutely inadequate to take on such a broken child, yet that’s the beauty. I am not “fixing” Israel, I am not equipped to do that. God is the father to the fatherless. He is the restorer and redeemer. I don’t have to do anything but be His hands and feet. And that is so much easier. To love a small boy who has the silliest faces and a desire to learn. That is not so hard.
I have thought about the story of the blind man healed by Jesus. A friend posted it earlier this week. He was blind so that the works of God might be displayed in Him. I can’t wait to see the works of God revealed in Israel. I am so glad that each of you will get to witness God’s redemption and restoration, because His heart IS ADOPTION!
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”