Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bottle Feeding in Adoption

I realize this may seem like a strange post, but one of the major places we've seen progress is here.  It is a major attachment tool and a measure of how far we've come.  I want to share a little about it because I would never have understood this if I wasn't an AP (adoptive parent) myself.  This is specifically D Suhbin's story (who I am going to shorten to DS for the remainder of the blog) and every child's experience and adjustment is different, but it will give you an idea no matter what.

DS was in a foster home in Busan from when he was 10 days old until 4 months old.  Then he went to the SWS Baby Reception Home.  At the Reception Home the babies have their bottles propped on blankets. No one holds or cuddles them.  They learn to fall asleep on their own with bottle propped, and I believe that this is when DS learned to hold his own bottle (he was there for about 5ish weeks from 4-5 months old).  When he got to the foster family's house in Seoul he was able to hold his bottle and cuddle his Mong-Mong (his stuffed puppy) and he would go right to sleep on his own.  A foster family who is meeting the needs of a child for a short time would probably appreciate that they could get a few things done while he went to sleep. DS likes to be held a lot, he is wary of strangers, and FM said that he really struggled when he first came to them.  So I believe that the chance to put him down with a bottle was a much needed break for FM.  I am so thankful for all that they did to love on our amazing guy!  This is not judging what they did, it made sense for their family and they did SO much for DS!

But that being said, our son has not been held or cuddled like a baby (in the position you would give them a bottle in) since he was 4 months old.  So at 16 months old this couple comes and takes him and wants to hold him like a baby and give him a bottle!  That was not his idea of a good time!  The first 2 weeks we didn't try.  We let him fall asleep the way he was comfortable.  At 2 weeks I started doing more with trying to make eye contact and touch his feet, and sing to him during the bottle.  At 3 weeks our SW came and encouraged us to really move forward with bottle feeding more.  My amazing friend Becky had the idea of giving him a bottle in the morning when we weren't trying to put him down for a nap and our SW thought the morning was a good idea since there was an increase in hitting and tantrums in the morning, getting some nutrition in him immediately might help.  So we started.

He did NOT like it one bit.  Being in my arms was completely uncomfortable for him.  But he really likes the bottle so once he realized that was the only way he'd get it was to have me hold him, he did let me, but he avoided eye contact with me pretty much the whole time and asked to go up to his room several times.  I tried again and naptime and I only got tears.  So I put him down and just made myself as present as possible while he was in his crib.  I put my hands through the slats to touch him, sang to him, and tried to make as much eye contact as possible.  Then one day when I was about to go upstairs with DS and the bottle he pointed to the chair we had been doing the morning bottle in so we went and rocked together while he drank the first half of it.  From then on I was able to give him about half of his night time and nap bottles with at least a little eye contact.  During the bottle we do things like "find Umma's koh (nose) or nun (eyes) or eep (mouth), I sing songs, I try to engage him in as much eye contact as possible.  He gets fussy if I do too much at once so I engage him then give him a break, then engage him again.

About two weeks ago I realized that he was doing better and better with the bottle feeding (more eye contact, less fussing, staying in my arms longer before asking to go to his room, sometimes even relaxing enough to fall asleep in my arms!).  So I decided to start the next part - touching his bottle.  This boy has a DEATH GRIP on his bottle!  When I even laid a finger on it he would pry it off and push my hand away.  So I had to start small.  I'd been trying, but until now I hadn't been consistent with it or pushing beyond his comfort zone at all.  It took me a few days (and a pep talk from Becky) but I started consistently putting my finger on the end of the bottle.  He'd tolerate it for a while then push it away.  After he pushed it away I counted to 10 then told him that I was just going to put one finger on the end of the bottle.  He'd tolerate it a while then push it away again - we did this throughout the bottle.  After a few days of this I'd start out with a single finger but eventually ease my fingers around the edge of the bottle.  When he pushed it away I'd start with a single finger then slowly move to the edge of the bottle.  Each day I'd push a bit more/further.  Eventually I was to the point of somewhat holding the bottle with him.

2 days ago I talked to him.  I told him I would always be there and that I would always take care of him.  While I realize this is a difficult concept, I figure it's never too early to start telling him.  I told him that I loved him and that he could relax whenever he wanted and I would hold the bottle for him.  AMAZINGLY my son looked right at me and let go!  For about 1 second.  Then the death grip resumed and he pushed my hand away.  But he TRIED!  He is trying!!!  He wants to trust me!  He trusts me more than he did and is relaxing his standards.  In the past 2 days I've realized that when he pushes my hand away I can tell him "We're going to hold it together" and put my hand back.  He fusses for a second but then just grabs Mong-Mong's tail and allows my hand to stay (I think he's trying to act like he's ignoring me, but it's still a step).  Baby steps leading up to when my child will trust me so much, and relax so much, that he will allow me to feed him.  I can't wait for that day, but I am so happy and encouraged by the progress we've made!  It truly is amazing - and LOTS of answered prayers!!!!  Thank you God!  And thank you to all of you who have been a support through this!  There is such a learning curve as an AP - even when it's not your first child!  You're constantly questioning if something is adoption related or not BECAUSE - how you respond to it matters!  If he is grieving you have compassion, if he's throwing a fit or hitting b/c he's 1, you discipline or ignore it.  You have to be well attuned to your child so you can respond appropriately and you're constantly second guessing yourself.  

ETA: While this will seem unusual to most people in the US - we plan to bottle feed until at least 2.  It is a fantastic tool for attachment and bonding b/c it forces close, intimate time, and there tends to be a lot of eye contact.  This has been highly recommended by our Social Workers and by pretty much any book I've read, so that's our plan.  I know most people might read this post and think - why are you even trying with an 18 month old, so I thought I would explain that. ;)

So that's what's been happening in our household!  Thanks for reading.  If you got this far you are dedicated b/c this is LONG. :)  Thanks!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

7 weeks: Progress

I want to paint a quick picture of the progess we've made.  I hope to write more soon!  Some of the big victories after adoption would seem small to others, but they are truly to be celebrated!

We celebrate:

A mother able to hold her and cuddle her son while he drinks his bottle
     before he didn't want to be touched or even looked at while he drank his bottle.

A father who can gently toss his son in the air to huge smiles and laughter
     before it was met with terror and tears.

An older brother who can hold his younger brother on his lap
     before he had to always stay an arm's length away.

A sister being led (dragged) by the hand to play
      before his only physical contact with her was to hit her.

We still have a long ways to go, but these are milestones to celebrate!  I really want to sit and write more about our adjustment so far (the good, the bad, AND the ugly!)  but there is a giggly boy who wants Umma so it'll have to be later. :)

7 weeks home picture:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

6 months, 1 month

6 months ago today, after waiting 2 years 1 month, and 3 days, our phone rang!  It was one of the most amazing days ever.  It's a boy!!!  We have a son waiting for us in Korea!

1 month ago today, we walked off a plane and our youngest son met his brother and sister! 

In the past month we have come far, and we still have a ways to go, but we are thankful for our family!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Seoul Day 5: First full day with D. Suhbin

Suhbin slept pretty well last night and we actually woke up before him.  A couple of times during the night I went onto the floor to comfort him a bit, but he went back down well.  Once Suhbin was fully awake we decided to go downstairs and pay for the hotel breakfast.  It's a buffet so we could try several things with him, and we know that they have Juk so we hoped to find food he would eat.  His favorite ended up being eggs.  He ate a little of the Juk (rice porridge) but now I realize it was too bland and I should have added some kimchi, etc. to it.  We spent an hour or so at the buffet because he was really enjoying it.  It was quiet and we could play with him there.  After eating we headed back to the hotel room, as we passed by the doors to the outside Suhbin started asking to go out (pointing and putting his hands together for "jusaiyo") and saying "bahng" which means truck.  He loves walking out there to look at the traffic!  I'm afraid leaving the city life for the middle of nowhere AZ is going to be tough for him!

We went back to the room (with just a little crying) to get the carrier and the diaper bag packed to set out.  We decided to head to the Coex and were hoping to meet our new friends and their little boy there to go to the Aquarium but their little boy had a fever and they couldn't make it out.  We didn't end up going to the Aquarium b/c Suhbin was sound asleep in the carrier by the time we got there so we just walked around for a while until looking at things until he woke up.  We enjoyed some coffee at 7 Monkeys which was a local coffee shop we saw several places.  It was good.  Our pictures didn't turn out too well though.  We also exchanged a book.  One of the books we bought didn't work (they're electronic and say certain words in both English and Hangul - fantastic books - I highly recommend them to other APs).  The exchange was actually pretty easy which was a bit relief.  When Suhbin woke up we saw a place that sold Bingsoo and I was so excited!  I enjoyed Bingsoon in VA with my friends Sandra and Grace and couldn't wait to introduce Brian.  Sadly they ran out just before we got there.  We found another place that had it though it was a little different (no rice cake, red beans instead) and it was delicious, but I still can't wait to bring Brian to the Shilla Bakery in VA when we move back!   Suhbin enjoyed some of the Bingsoo but he was getting restless so we decided to leave (after picking up some Mandu to go).  We walked back to the hotel instead of taking the subway and it was a beautiful walk.  Suhbin played on the steps outside of the Coex for a while, but wanted to be carried once we were outside the enclosed area which was great b/c it was crowded so having him walk would have been less than ideal.

On the way back we stopped by Paris Baguette (our new favorite) for some more food to go with our Mandu and figured we'd be in the hotel for most of the night.  So we dodged more scooters/motorcycles on the sidewalks (I can not remember if I mentioned these earlier, but they drove on the sidewalks instead of the road to avoid traffic.  McDonald's delivers and they have their whole set of delivery scooters parked on the sidewalk).  They definitely made me more nervous once Suhbin was in the carrier on me and I felt more vulnerable wanting to protect him.  Plus it was a bit harder to see what was around with a 1 year old in the carrier.  I know it will become more natural, but right now it's something I have to get used to.   Here are some pics, unfortunately they don't necessarily load in order and I'm not fixing them right now but enjoy!

Waiting for the subway (that's the subway glass, it's not real)

Daniel's first subway ride with us.

After the craziness riding the subway before - People pushing others out of the way to get a seat - I'm actually sitting, at least 5 people JUMPED up when I got on the subway holding Daniel and offered me a seat.  I felt bad since we were only going one stop.

Running around outside is fun! :) I love his smile!

It's hard work playing, I'll sit and rest here.

Hyundai Department Store.  WOW!  Department stores are not what we have in the US.  When you walk in, instead of being bombarded by make-up and perfume, you're greeted with FOOD!

We saw a bunch of Preschoolers and Kindergarteners going to the Aquarium

Brian was trying to take pictures without looking creepy, but it just made us think of what his life may have been like.
Brian in front of the aquarium (I have to occasionally show that he was there too!).

Seven Monkeys Coffee - yum!  Sleeping boy - aaawww

McD's delivery scooters! 

Standing under the Korean flag.  Bitter sweet.

Our 2nd attempt at finding bingsoo at Paris Baguette - but I think we ordered the wrong one...Suhbin wasn't a fan.

Yummy food at Paris Baguette - it says "Croissant is an Alien" - not really sure about that.

Sweet snuggly boy.

Can I say "YUM!"

Suhbin is thinking that it looks good!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Seoul Day 4 Part II: Family Day!!!

The 4 of us walk off the elevator as 2 couples one last time, the next time we enter we'll have our children in our arms.  It was very surreal, and very nerve wracking.  Immediately upon entering the main office we saw Suhbin and his Foster Mom and Foster Dad.  I know that we are incredibly blessed that we were able to meet his Foster Father twice - I think that they were very close.   They greet us and we talk to him.  He's fairly happy, much better than yesterday anyway.  Not that he necessarily wants to be in a waiting area of some office, but he hadn't just woken up so that was good!

We are immediately ushered into another small room on the other side of the office.  Our Social Worker goes to get the rest of the documents and we try to interact with Suhbin some more.  It is very difficult and awkward to be in a room with people who do not speak the same language as you, yet you share a love for this child and you desperately want to tell them how thankful you are that they took such great care of him over the past 11 months!  It was hard but we managed.  Basically all attention was just on Suhbin and he's pretty good at demanding attention so it worked out OK. 

When the SW got back she got down to business.  She showed us the important customs documents (DO NOT OPEN THIS ENVELOPE!!!) and his placement report, which was basically his immunization record and a quick update on his health and stats (84 cm, 12 kg).  She invites the family to give us the things that they brought for Suhbin.  There are bags of snacks, clothes, everything we sent to Suhbin in his care package (they said that the 24 month clothing was too big!  Hurray!), Mong-Mong, a few pieces of clothing and some mittens and a hat that her children had made for him (sob!).  We also got a book of pictures (that I just looked at this week, more crying), and a CD of pictures.  We finally have pictures of him younger than 10 months old!  They took custody at 5 months and she has pictures from the day they took custody.  It was such a gift!  We are so thankful to have these things.  SWS also gave us formula, bottles, a Korean flag, and CD.  We were weighted down with stuff!  It was amazing.  Also on the way to the elevator, one person who I had brought a gift came out with a beautiful jewelry box for me.  I'm not sure if that's customary but it was wonderful and beautiful and I hope to give it to Suhbin one day for his home (OK, to his wife...).  Brian became a pack mule while I took some pictures of Suhbin and his foster family getting him ready one last time.  We were told what to expect - the hand off would be at the elevator, after we got on.  The doors opened, we stepped in, I turned around and Suhbin's FM handed him to me.  We both choked back tears as she waved goodbye and I held a screaming, unhappy boy!  The elevator doors closed and we started the longest elevator ride of our lives!  It stopped at maybe the 3rd floor?  Someone was about to get on with their baby, but saw what was going on and said to go ahead.  Thank you!  He continued to try to arch out of my arms, push away from me, and scream.  I patted his back and said "Kwen chan ah, Mienhamnida, O gee mah" which are the things FM told me she would say to comfort him (they mean "It's OK, I'm sorry, and don't cry").  It was heartbreaking and I was a bit freaked!  But the elevator doors eventually opened and we walked into the blessed construction!  Our boy was fascinated and stopped screaming or fighting immediately!  Brian said he wished we could take it with us.  We headed out and he cried a little more but then we got to where we could see the cars and trucks going by (the main road) and he was fascinated again.  He was so interested in all that was going on, what a blessing!  We hadn't fully figured out the carrier yet, so hadn't had time to put it on at SWS, and I was trying to carry him best I could.  We felt like we had to hurry out of there in case the foster family came down right away, we didn't want him to see them at that point, it seemed that would be even harder.  We made it around the corner and our hotel was just a block or so away so we just walked as quickly as we could.  He was interested in the inside of the hotel, but the moment we crossed the threshold to our room they crying started again.  We dropped everything off and Brian entertained him by looking out the window for a few minutes while I cleaned up a bit and tried to figure out the carrier.  Then we got him in the carrier (quite a bit of trial and error - poor boy was NOT happy still) and wrapped Mong-Mong around my neck and we hit the street with our newest addition!  We walked to a very nice park that had terrific walking trails.  It was quiet and he loved being outside so it was a great walk!  We mostly just let him see what was around.  Here are a few pics of our first night:

The tiny little elevator (don't let the mirror deceive you!)

Our boy napped in the carrier.  Foster Mom said he hadn't had a nap that day.

Sweet sleepy boy.

At the park we found!  He woke up and enjoyed it.  We tried to let him walk once, but he wasn't having any of it.

Back at the hotel, looking out the window (his favorite spot in his not so favorite hotel room) with the Paris Baguette snack we picked up!  Sweet Potato filled pastry!  He was a fan! :)

Looking out at Seoul.

Leaning against Daddy and keeping Mong-Mong close!

Umma, Suhbin, and Mong-Mong

Perking up for a little bit!

It actually took him a day to fully figure out the whole sippy cup thing.

Silly people - nothing is coming out!  How do you expect me to drink this?!?
Taking his bottle on the floor (he didn't want to have us near him while he drank his bottle.
     He actually slept fairly well.  He called out a bit, but slept better than I expected for the first night.  Of course we haven't hit the jet lag yet...    
Sound asleep!  See that monkey blanket?  His FM said it's his favorite!  It's the one we sent in the care package!

Tomorrow we will see how a full day together goes....


Seoul Day 4: Part 1

Waking up this morning all we could think about was that tonight a little one would be sleeping in here with us.  I want to say we were excited, but I think we were mostly nervous.  The meeting yesterday went so poorly and we were going to have an unhappy child with us for the next 36 hours and THEN travel for almost 24 hours with that child.  We were not brimming with confidence.  Plus we were just so heartbroken for him.  He didn't really know what was about to happen to him and it was just so sad.  He was leaving everything he knew to be with us.  There is so much about adoption that is truly heartbreaking and difficult.  Though the end result is usually a happy family, it's always born from difficult situations and way too many transitions for a baby to have to have gone through!

We were going to Namdaemun Market today.  We figured shopping wasn't going to be easy with a little one in tow so this was our last chance.  We got moving and out the door fairly quickly and grabbed coffee and some breakfast at Angel-in-us Coffee shop. 

Angel-in-us coffee shop.  I was a bit stressed out and Brian made me sit and relax.  It was a nice place to do it.

Exit sign at subway and some other public places.
Then we hopped on the subway.  And I took a picture of one of the exit signs, because I want to remember little things like that.  And we headed to Namdaemun.  I have to tell you that I am in awe of the subway.  So clean, things to see and do at each stop, crowded, but I didn't get sick (I often got nauseous on the DC subway) and we often traveled for 45 minutes.  We never had to wait long for a train.  It was so well done!  

We got to Namdaemun and started off with a snack.  :)  Yum!  This was really good.  We ended up buying another toward the end of our time there.  Then we hit the streets.  I had some major shopping I wanted to do.  Hanboks, name chop (completely failed), Korean Air toy plane, Pororo stuff, gifts for friends/family at home, etc., etc. and we only had a few hours before we had to head back to take custody.  Sadly, I didn't get the number of pictures I wanted to because of this. :(  But I have a few.  It poured while we were there so we went underground for lunch and I have a lot of pictures of that.  It was a HUGE market with groceries, make up counters, all kinds of things you could buy, but the pictures are mostly of the food area. :) 
Yummy Snack
This creepy clown was our landmark, when we got to him we knew were where we had been before. :) 

It POURED while we were there so we went underground.  Look at this place!  Here is the make up center, but we moved on to yummy food....

Lunch was a bunch of snacks, here are some DELICIOUS meat skewers!

This was Korean-Chinese food - that black bean sauce is delicious. The shrimp fried rice was quite good with it. 


This place was huge - here's the Johnny Rockets inside. Everything else we saw in here was Korean, then there was a Johnny Rockets, it made us laugh.

More food!


A pictures of the marketplace.

So we enjoyed this and then came the trip back filled with tons of emotions.  I really felt like I was going to throw up!  My stomach was in knots.  We went to the hotel and changed into our clothes.  We headed to SWS and as we were walking up we saw our friends  A & A (I didn't ask permission to put their names).  A (wife) and I agreed that we both thought we might puke before we got there.  It was so unreal.  I can still imagine how I felt.  Not really how I thought I would feel after all this time waiting.  So nervous, sick, sad, very little of me was excited even though I wanted him so much.  It was very strange.  We walked in through the construction and up the tiny elevator one last time.....

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2 1/2 years and 2nd meeting

2 1/2 years before our second meeting with Suhbin we walked into an office and met with a woman who told us all about the Korea program at Barker.  That day we paid the first payment and filled out the preliminary application. The official start to our adoption process.

2 1/2 years later, half a world away, we stepped off an elevator and walked into another office.  We were greeted by our Social Worker and told that the van wasn't back quite yet but that they'd be here soon.  We waited.

Before I tell you how the second meeting went, I want to post about what we did earlier in the day.  We had plans to meet our new friends for a quick lunch before their meeting with their son so we took it easy in the morning.  We checked out the Coex to see what was there.  We walked there and stopped by Paris Baguette for some tasty treats on the way.  It was a beautiful walk (have I mentioned that I love the green!  Seoul made me realize how much I miss seeing grass and big full trees).  We went in and checked out some of the stores, saw the movie theater and food court, our favorite spot was the book store.  We really just walked through and figured we'd come back at some point since it's so close to our hotel and has a ton of restaurants (some really yummy looking Korean places as well as American chains).
My husband hates being in pictures but I had to show that I was not in Korea alone! 
This was one of our favorite places! :) 

A yummy treat from Paris Baguette

A sweet potato donut!  This was AMAZING!  We couldn't find it again after that day, but wow - YUM!

The green walking guy!  This picture is for B and E - whenever we cross the street we look for the white walking guy - but in Korea it was the GREEN walking guy! :)  Made us think of them every time.

This was the directory at the Coex Mall - interactive.  Very fun! :)

For E - The Hello Kitty Store! :)

MEGABOX was the Movie Theater - but right in that area were the concessions and the food court.  Kind of fun.

I don't know if you can read any of it, but more reasonable concession prices than in the US!

Weird, so I took a picture! :)

Thought this looked like a fun place to take Suhbin after taking custody.

GREEN!  And FLOWERS!  It looks like home (the east coast is home to me)! :)

We left the Coex to walk back to meet our friends.  All of us were really nervous about our second meeting so we met at McDonald's.  Brian and I split a bulgogi burger (strange but not bad, not amazing either, I'd rather have bulgogi or a burger) and french fries.  It's also one of the few places I could get a decent Diet Coke.  Most importantly we could pass the time with new friends while waiting to see our sons.  Sadly, we didn't get any pictures of us together.  We'll have to meet up sometimes so we can do that! :)  Plus we'd love to get our boys together.  They were both born in the same month and I hope they can meet one day.

We walked A and A to SWS and then walked back to our hotel to change. On the way we stopped by the 7-Eleven to pick up Soy Milk - which wasn't easy to identify but eventually we found some.  Subin's FM told us she mixed soy milk in with the formula.  So once we changed and regrouped for a few minutes we walked to SWS for our meeting.

So back to the waiting.  While we waited I took a picture of the white board that has their schedule for the next two weeks posted.   It was all in Hangul so I was trying to figure out where Suhbin's info was written. :)

Then Suhbin and his Foster Mom walked in.  It was great to see them but he was not very happy.  Our poor baby fell asleep in the van and was quite groggy and fussy.  I now know enough about him to know that he wakes up hard!  We went into the room with the tiny pink chair (which is so little - you don't realize it in the pictures - I think I assumed it was child-sized, but it's baby-toddler sized - really small).  That room is awful!  We spend a torturous hour with our sweet boy.  Once or twice he started to engage and play with us but then seemed to remember that he didn't want us and stopped.  Then he went and sat in his Foster Mom's lap and anything we touched (toys, etc.) he would pull aggressively out of our grasp and try to scoot further into his FM's (Foster Mom) lap.  It wasn't physically possible, but he tried!  He knew something was UP!  That boy was NOT happy!!!   I was ready to cry the entire time.  It was SO hard!  I can't even think about that time without feeling like I might cry.   Eventually our Social Worker said that if he's not really engaging we might as well end for the day.  This was the most merciful thing she could have done.  I left and then started to cry.  We were both so depressed.  We went back to the hotel to try to regroup.  We'd had plans for that night and I didn't want to do anything at all.  I knew that wasn't an option but I was so depressed it was really hard.  Eventually we decided to walk back to the Coex for dinner.  Our stomachs were in knots.  We ate at Outback.  It was OK.  Honestly I hardly tasted the food.  It took quite a while for me to calm down.  We had fun talking, but it was really not as much fun as we hoped since we were both a bit emotional.  OK, I was a lot emotional and even Brian was a bit emotional. 

The next thing we had planned and I almost said that we shouldn't bother b/c I was emotionally exhausted, but we decided to go.  We got a cab to make it easier on us and we went to N Seoul Tower.  I'm SO glad we did!  Our cab driver got quite lost and it took a while - at least 45 minutes to get there - and it cost about $15!  Amazing to us that a cab could be that cheap!  And that was the most expensive one we had!

OK, so we arrived and took the cable car up.  It was a beautiful ride and looking down it looked like a beautiful walk!  A LONG walk, but a beautiful one if you had the time (and emotional energy).  I'm still looking for the picture, but there were lights under the trees along the way and it was just gorgeous!  The stairs we did walk up were still plenty and beautiful.  N Seoul Tower was the perfect last date night for a while!  We loved it!  And ended it with Ice Cream at Cold Stone! LOL!  :) 

This was a beautiful gazebo when you got to the top of the stairs. 

Putting a lock on for Suhbin.  We are your family FOREVER! 

N Seoul Tower!

One view from the top

Many locks

The size of towers.  I really liked this! :)

Towers continued! 

We miss you all in DC and NY!

We ended up having a terrific date night!!!