The next few weeks, I will be updating my post on Adopting out of birth order, two at once, or an older child. It is consistently one of my most viewed posts but is now a year old. I’m going to break it up into two separate posts. Today, I am sharing a guest post from Elizabeth who is sharing her experience adopting two unrelated children at the same time.
Funny things happen on your way to adopt. We had decided on one minor needs girl and ended up with two not so minor needs girls. Why did we adopt two? We knew we wanted more than one child and thought it would:
A) Give the kids someone to go through the experience with (good for mental health?)
B) Save money
C) Save time
D) All the stories of adopting two were rainbows, glitter and the things fairy tales made of.
E) It seemed like a good idea at the time.
We saw a girl on an advocacy list in October of 2014 and for some reason this kid just stuck with me. Mind you, there are oodles of kids on the lists and we looked at files of several kiddos. We had decided her needs were too big and scary for our family (severe heart issues). So we continued to search. Then on December 1st I saw a little girl with albinism and vision impairment. I called them and asked for the file. The agency said there were 7 families in front of us. I asked to be on the list anyway, because anything is possible. I continued my search. On December 15th we got that file along with a couple others. I sent two to the IA doc for review. We sent our agency application and the fee in via Fed Ex December 19th. We sent LOI right away.
I was still watching that little one with the big heart issues. I read every update, saw that several families had reviewed and declined her file. I watched every video and questioned her advocate. She was at a different agency. I don’t know why I was so stuck on this kid, I had dreams about her at night. Finally my husband said “If something happens to her, will you blame yourself?” I said yes, so he told me to see if the agency would transfer her to our agency. It was a real rollercoaster. They did not transfer (Even though the time was just about up and they had nothing but declines after families viewed the file). Her file was pulled by the CCCWA and we lost her for weeks. My agency found her one night in January and snatched her from the shared list. We wrote LOI the next day.
Our adoption was expedited due to the severity of my then 2 year olds heart.
As background we have three (much) older kids, I worked with kids for years and have an Early Childhood background as well as a medical background. Earlier on I had custody of newborn twins and prior to that a sibling set with behavioral issues. So I was not a new parent or new to special needs/medical issues. We were confident we could handle this with no issue, we did the classes (which are useless and do not prepare you to adopt a gerbil let alone a child with significant trauma). It does not give you a good picture of the reality of life with a trauma kiddo.
We adopted Izzy with Albinism (“19 months” at pick up) which is seen as an “easy need”, then we adopted Gabby (33 month old) with TOF/PA (not sure if she would be operable).
People say “HARD” this is the understatement of the century. Brutal is more accurate. You have just no idea “who” you are picking up until you arrive. Izzy was in a Half the Sky program in her orphanage but she was suffering far more than our child with oxygen in the 60’s. Since we both had read the book the founder of HTS wrote, we were foolishly not very worried about her. We were really worried about the heart baby in an orphanage with no NGO.
As a first time adoptive parent we had no idea what condition the kids would be in. Everyone says the kids may act crazy, bite, hit, kick, scream etc. They rock and have lots of repetitive behaviors. Emotionally they often shut down. Some are really sick, so we had no idea what condition our kids would be in, if they would need immediate medical attention in China or when we landed in the US. When we brought Izzy to the hotel room that first day she looked blind and autistic to me. I thought “What did we get ourselves into??” You have 24 hours (the Harmonious Period) to decide, we signed and left the next day (expedited) to get daughter #2 from another province. I have read a million stories from other adoptive parents with the same sort of story but most of those kids came home and did well, they caught up and are on track.
Gabby is neuro typical and wants to play with her sister but Izzy routinely attacked her with scratching, hitting, biting. This took at least 6 months to ease up at all. Every morning I’d need to play referee as Izzy swiped at Gabby. Izzy had been SEVERELY abused and neglected, she was malnourished and her files were a flat out lie. She could not even bang two blocks together. She was non-verbal, could not walk, eat solid food… nothing. The nanny was contacted from the HTS program (by the orphanage rep who was the only one to show up that day) and she had said she let “Izzy do her own thing”. It turns out she left her in a small area (as evidenced by her vision test and how her vision is testing now) the majority of the time.
Kids in an orphanage are pretty regimented and do not “free play” much, so as a consequence they have no idea how to play independently. It took MONTHS before I was able to get dinners made with any regularity. They are very needy. There is NEVER enough of you. I felt (and still feel) like I was failing miserably, things could have gone much better with only one so they could soak up the attention rather than always trying to split my attention between the two. Then do a boomerang adoption when we were ready. My husband even had paternity leave and was home for 4 months, it was still really rough with both of us there. Attachment probably took longer because we were not able to pour everything into one child. They both want to be held, they both want your attention, they both need your attention.
Our 3 year old needed heart surgery, we did it in November. Gabby was very sick and we lived in the hospital for a month trying to juggle the girls. One of us would spend the night with Gabby and the other would go home with Izzy, then come the next day at lunch time. It was hard on everyone but especially hard on Izzy. We were really drowning for a very long time. The orphanage behaviors are pretty rough. This was NOTHING like my bio kids. Please don’t be fooled, I know you will hear a lot of rainbow and unicorn stories (I did too) there have been precious few rainbows here I tell you.
Because Izzy was so mistreated our life is nothing close to normal. If we go to the zoo for instance we will pay for three days straight with tons of screaming (even though she has been worn). A family BBQ or visiting relatives (who do not pick her up) cause a huge upset and 2-3 days of screaming. This is great when you have more than one child. Izzy will be 24/7 care forever and will never be independent. We were not prepared for that. We did therapy 6-8 appointments a week for the two girls (1-2 for Gabby and the rest for Izzy), some weeks even more. I was not prepared for how isolated you are when you cocoon, or how much I would really miss my husband while he was right there. The kids suck up every moment, every ounce of energy.
It is far more work than it seems like it will be. Ask yourself: What will you do if they hate each other? What if you have one like I do with severe cognitive/sensory/behavioral issues? Many problems are not even apparent until the kids have been home for a while. What if one is a bully to the other?
I have a lot of regrets about this adoption