Saturday, October 20, 2012

Just the same...

I thought that maybe raising a child with Down syndrome would be a bit different than raising children who did not have DS.
I expected some challenges but I had planned on meeting those head on and doing my best to make sure that we would never treat them any different. And maybe it is because they are still so young... but...
Veronika and Gavyn are just the same as my children without DS.
We have some behaviors that we have never had to deal with before, such as Gavyn twisting his wrists and staring at his hands, or Veronika feeling like she never gets enough food, but these are from the orphanages, NOT because they have DS.
In just a few months time, we went from having two babies who had never been able to play on the floor for tummy time, and one who could not even hold his head up, to BOTH of them crawling, and even standing up!
Veronika regulally pulls to a stand, and today, with the help of a step on the floor she was able to climb up onto the sofa all on her own! She also learned how to drop the ball into one of her toys so it comes out from another area, after being shown only a few times!
Gavyn has been smiling because he is happy lately, and not just because we are tickling him or tossing him in the air. He is starting to notice things and wants to grab and touch things, just like a regular little baby!
Every single day they amaze me!
They have enriched our lives, and I guess if anything, they make us realize there is nothing we can't do with love, care, and prayer.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Little Princess

From the day we met her, we knew that Veronika was a diva. She was always very expressive and never for a moment left you wondering what she wanted. She has always had a way to get her point across.
She is spunky, and fun, but she can certainly scream loud enough for everyone to hear her. She is always on the go, doesn't like to sit still much, and is sensitive to others. If Gavyn starts crying, she will burst into tears as well or try to make faces at him to get him to stop crying.
I have been able to catch so much on camera and I am very glad, because unlike Gavyn, Veronika is very aware of people outside of our family.
When the physical therapy team comes around, she does not give them her sweet smile, or her little giggles like she does for us all the time. My dear friend took pictures of Veronika and Gavyn and could hardly get any smiles out of our little Miss V.
Veronika is very aware of others and likes to make her family smile and laugh. She makes all kinds of faces just to be silly.
She was blessed to be in a better baby house (orphanage) than Gavyn. However, it was not until she was home that she had ever had real tummy time. Since being home, she has learned to sit up, army crawl, rock on all fours, stand with support, walk with support, eat from a spoon, sign "more" and drink from a straw.
She seems to pick up on things so easily, and just WOWs us every day.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Day the Lights Came On

I have talked a little here and there about our journey to rescue Gavyn and Veronika from the orphanage, but I have not told you everything.
I feel it is very important to do that, not just for me, but for others who are in the process or considering adopting.
It all started back in October of last year when we saw Veronika (listed as Sydney on Reece's Rainbow). We already knew we wanted to adopt two little ones, but wanted them to be close in age. We found out another child was available with Veronika but this little girl, as precious as she is, was several years older. We did not feel comfortable putting a preschooler almost kindergartener in a room with an infant. We wanted them to have a connection and we did not feel like it would work out for us to bring home that little girl. We did a lot of praying, but in the end we decided that if another child was not listed before it was time for us to travel, we would go blind to adopt a second.
A month later, we saw Gavyn (listed as Lucien on Reece's Rainbow). After weeks of waiting we were told he was able to be adopted with Veronika, so we committed to him as well.
The next months were filled with paperwork and fundraising and we did not have time to think of much else. Of course we kept up with everyone's blog and while we knew that a lot of kids that were older and had been moved to an institution would have delays, we did not expect too many with us going for infant, after all, Gavyn was just 9 months old when we would be meeting him and Veronika was 11 months old.
We finally ended up with a travel date and in country, all the excitement was catching up to us as we explored the city and walked around trying to soak it all up. Because they were at different orphanages we could only see one child first and would have to come back later for another appointment for the second referral. We saw Veronika first, we figured she had waited longer and we did not want her to have to wait another second. I also think God had a LOT to do with that choice, but I will explain that in a little bit.
On June 11th we finally met Veronika.  We found Veronika in good health, and well taken care of. There were a few issues, but all minor. We had heard good things about Gavyn's orphanage so we expected to find him at the same level as we were seeing Veronika. While there were several delays (she could not sit up, she could not crawl or creep, and it seemed she had never been put on her tummy to play with toys) she was a bundle of energy and a pure delight.
After our second appointment we were finally able to meet Gavyn for the first time on June 20th.
The orphanage looked lovely with flowers growing everywhere and the director seemed very nice, it was all very promising. We were sure that Gavyn would be just as well cared for as our little Veronika. A nanny brought him in and handed him to me. The first thing I noticed was that he was SO floppy and he could not even hold his own head up. It was like holding a new born, only Gavyn was 9 months old. The second thing I noticed was that he was burning up with a fever. The third thing I noticed was a cough that was so powerful his whole body shook when he coughed.
I asked if he had a cold, and was given a puzzled look and was told no he was fine. I explained he was hot, and I was sure he had a fever, and his cough was horrible. The doctor was called in and he dismissed it all saying it was because he has down syndrome. Now... I might not have ever been on the Dean's List, but I AM smart enough to know that having Down syndrome does NOT mean you have a cough or a fever.
I only got to hold him for a few minutes before our facilitator demanded that he be examined and his needs met. We were taken to a small exam room where the looked him over for a few minutes. All the while I was trying to hold back the tears. This was certainly NOT what we were expecting for our first meeting.
The next day they let us visit him for 30 minutes. He no longer had a fever but he still had a cough. We tried to get him to look at us, engage us, smile at us, something, anything. But it was like his body was there, but there was no spirit, no life. HOW could this have happened in only 9 months???
We went back to our apartment, emotionally worn out, scared, worried, shell shocked. This was not what we expected. We wondered if he would ever find his way back. If he would ever look at us, if he would ever be able to function. If he would ever find his way out of himself, we feared he had buried himself so deeply inside himself that we might never reach him.
Every day we looked for some sign of hope, some life in him, some light. Gavyn would not look at us, but would wave his hands all over, staring at them, and as he did, he would retreat more and more into himself. We prayed so hard every day. It was so hard to go from seeing Veronika all bouncy and smiley at us, to seeing Gavyn so unresponsive.
This is where I will explain why we are actually glad we met Veronika first. We had no idea going in that WE would have to choose who to see first. We thought we would just be told who we would see first. But we were told to "choose". How can a person choose? So quickly, we said a prayer and asked God to help us make the right choose. We ended up going to see Veronika first. Because of her care at her orphanage, while we missed her like crazy for the days we did not see her, we knew she was in good hands. If we had seen Gavyn first, there would have been NO WAY I could have left him knowing the care, or lack thereof, he was getting. So we really feel like God pointed us towards Veronika first because he knew I would not have been able to leave him even for a day once we saw him. He needed our love and our care more than anything, even if he didn't want it or know it yet.
Either way, we knew we were bring them BOTH home.
Mark left after court and I stayed the rest of the time, bringing Veornika and Gavyn home by myself on July 19th.
Since then Gavyn has been making some strides, he is more responsive, he is more engaging. He desires to be around people, he loves to eat solids, he is able to hold his head up, sit up on his own, and then today.....
The Lights Came On!!
It is like a whole new child woke up in Gavyn's bed today. Veronika has been army crawling for a couple of months now but ever since Gavyn learned how to sit up a few weeks ago that is ALL he wants to do, sit. And if he does not have a toy or it is out of reach, he would sit there and watch his hands twirl around. Every single time he would play with his hands he would seem to revert back to not really "being there". But today... today when I went to get Veronika and Gavyn out of bed, he had pulled up and was on his knees peaking over the side of the crib and he smiled at me, when he noticed I was coming over, he laughed with joy! My heart felt like it was going to burst I was so happy. But it did not end there! Nope, we put him on the blanket (a twin sized comforter) on the living room floor, with toys scattered around the edges, praying that today will be the day he tries to get a toy. His favorite toy was on the other side of the blanket and for the first time ever...


But the Good day did not stop there!!
Gavyn managed to get himself over to ANOTHER toy and even pulled himself up into a kneel to play with it! But that is not all! Nope that is not all! Since being home, Gavyn and Veronika have noticed each other, but never played with each other. They have shared toys, and have played with toys at the same time, but never really actively played with each other for any length of time...

Today, they looked at each other,

babbled at each other...
and even grabbed for each other.

Not only that... but for the first time ever, Gavyn splashed in the tub!!! Before, he would sit and play with toys he could reach, or that floated by, but today he reached out for the toys that were not very close and he splashed!!

What a glorious day!!! So, I guess my main purpose of this post, was to celebrate how far he has come! And to also share the fears I had.  You see....
 A little boy, who had given up. A little boy who lacked the desire to try anymore. A little boy who's future was uncertain...
 A little boy, bubbling with life and personality. A little boy, ready to take the world in his hands, and who's future is his for the taking!

Every day, we are awed and amazed by Veronika and Gavyn. They have come so far in so short of a time. And we are blessed to be their parents!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month!! Most of you who are following my blog more than likely know this already.
So for the rest of the month I want to share with you some things Veronika and Gavyn are teaching me ...
Sharing is optional at a year old.  (Veronika had the ring but Gavyn wanted it... Veronika decided to share it with him and picked another toy instead)

Big blue eyes staring at you like this, when they should be sleeping, can make you melt and let them stay up a bit longer to play.
Smiles like this can brighten your whole day and remind you, it's ok to stop washing dishes for a while just so you can play ball

Holding hands is a sure way to get momma running for the camera
Making silly faces is a sure way to get those around you laughing

OH And you Know those Myths about Down syndrome?? That Kids with Down syndrome are always happy?? .... 
They can be Stubborn
And Bored
Worried or Uncertain
And Angry

People with Down syndrome are just like you and me. They have feelings. They understand when they are being teased and their feelings get hurt. They can fall in love, and can have suffer a heart break if it doesn't work out. Just like you and me. People with Down syndrome are the same as we are, the ONLY differences are that they might take a little longer to learn something and their facial features might be a little different. BUT, let me ask you this... are Our facial features all the same? If you are from Africa do you like the same as someone from Asia? If you are from England do you look the same as someone from India? So really, when you think about it, we ALL look different. When I went to school, there were some people who were a LOT smarter than I was, and then there were some people that I was smarter than. It is the same all over the world. Even in my own family, I speed read and can finish a book with more than 400 pages in a day, where some of my kids take days to finish a book that size. We all have things we are good at, that makes us stand out, that sets us apart. And it is those things that help make up who we are. 
Down syndrome is NOT who someone is... it is a PART of someone. 
Veronika and Gavyn are NOT Down syndrome... Yes they HAVE Down syndrome, but it does not define them....
Veronika is...
A Diva
A Quick Learner
A Mover

Gavyn is...
A Talker
 Routine Oriented
A Quick Learner
A Sitter

Veronika and Gavyn have opened our whole family's eyes. They enrich our lives with their very presence and we are blessed because they are part of our lives.