Friday, June 13, 2008

Chet's journey part 1

OK we aren't simply built with love. That sounds trite and sort of Brady Bunchish and we are so not! :-) But we are glued together with love. We hang in there. Even when it is really hard. Our four children all have very diverse personalities and needs and learning how best to handle each one's needs will probably always be a work in progress.

For a long time I thought we could only have one child. Our eldest came home at 15 months from far away India. The wait was excruciating. We got a placement when he was 6 wks but it took that long for the paperwork to grind through two countries and get him here to his forever family. I remember how bad the wait was. We got monthly updates which were sort of a "good thing/bad thing". Reports that told us of the serious illnesses he had suffered frightened us and kept us awake with worry. Reports of the milestones he made reduced us to tears at the "firsts" we were missing. First tooth, first step, first word.

But he was finally home, a week before Christmas, thrust into my arms with the adoption agency head saying "all he needs is a room full of toys." And naively I believed her. Perhaps fueled by endless optimism, youth and the fact that I had no other children to compare him to, I was truly sure everything would be all right. There were signs I should have noticed and WOULD notice now as a more experienced parent. There were signs professionals should have noticed and i have no idea why they didn't.

When stressed he banged his head. While this is not necessarily an indicator of autism (though it can be) it also can indicate sensory deprivation for children who come from orphanages as he did. He had no "tickle" response and I remember that instinctively I did know that something should be done about that. I massaged him with lotion every night after his bath, varying the intensity of my touches until one day, he actually giggled and pulled his little foot away from me when I rubbed it.

He would become over excited very easily and screamed for at least 45 minutes non stop every afternoon. He raced from activity to activity while awake only to finally fall asleep practically after supper. He never wanted or even tolerated the concept of a nap. We adapted, actually I adapted happily. I had waited so long to be a parent that I didn't resent the fact that shopping trips had to happen first thing in the morning and that a trip to a restaurant would be at 4 p.m. at the latest. We carried a rucksack of toys and manipulatives everywhere we went to entertain and engage him. We read to him often, trying to immerse him in his new language and culture. I was sure if we could give him language that many of our difficulties would disappear. My partner was less sure that all was well. I had initially been the person who wanted a child. I had brought the idea of a "family" to her and sold her on this. Now this active, angry little person was part of our life and she was not always sure that she was happy about the changes that becoming a parent of a high needs child brought to us.

His high energy was not always a bad thing. We are very active and love to hike and from his youngest days we hiked. Part of the way he would be on my back in a carrier but many was the time the carrier was empty and he was racing along beside us. He did find language and he was a voracious learner. He liked to explore new things as long as they were not food--he had a remarkably small list of foods he would eat and a prescribed way that he would allow them to be presented to him. He liked music. But he still raged every afternoon and I would tell my exhausted partner that things would get better. We needed to find what triggered the outbursts, we needed to make a calmer environment and make sure he wasn't overstimulated. There was never a doubt that he was ours forever, and I was sure that somehow there was an answer there for us.

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