Thursday, November 3, 2011

A belated post about Nicholas

 Hello, everyone,
I should have posted this long ago. Nicholas b-day was in June--and we're in October already! By this time of year we expected we'd have both I-800A and I-800 approval for the adoptions of Maximilian and Philip--and stilll don't even have the first one! Things turned to be much more difficult than expected. Yet, I don't regret the move from CA to RI--but that will be the topic for a future post. 

For now, I'd like to devote this belated post to Nicholas.I must confess that I still feel guilty towards him because I know that it took me some time to get to love him. I met Thomas and Nicholas in person for the very first time on July 5, 2008, when I arrived to Children of the Promise, in Cap Haitian, on my pick-up trip, with not only the adoption decrees but also their visas already issued. Unlike Thomas, who immediately ran up to me, called me "Momma!", hugged me, and estalished an instant connection, back those days Nicholas used to have some sort of an almost blank gaze, lost somewhere in space. After coming to meet me for a moment, he soon lost interest and went back to a pile of toys. It didn't take me too long to make my own lay diagnosis and decide that he was showing autistic traits. I thought I was getting more than I had bargained for. Yes, no matter the thought makes me feel now, at that moment I wished I could return home with only one of them.

In reply to a desperate e-mail sent to my family, Catherine replied saying that "now he is your son and our brother, and together we'll make it work out." She added that she loved all the kids at the S.T.A.R. Program, where she had done her last doctoral internship and had been offered a job as a therapist, and where the population served is children with special needs, mainly with autism. Catherine closed her e-mail stating that "Nicholas will be our shining star."

In less than two weeks, Catherine and the twins had worked a true miracle in both Nicholas and Thomas--or, actually, God had worked that miracle on my two younger children (they were still the youngest then) through my three older ones. That's what gave the name to my blog. I entittled it "the miracle I witnessed" because I felt much more like a spectator than a true participant. When the two of them still had some ugly MERSA infections and a rebellious kind of fungus to their scalps, I was much more afraid of contagion than Catherine and the twins were. No matter how many times I'd tell them to be careful, they'd keep on hugging and squeezing their younger brothers non-stop all day long.

In no more than a couple of weeks at home, Nicholas' formerly blank stare had given way to an extremely expressive look. Nicholas would become interested in everything, involved in everything, willing to try everything.

Yet, for a short time, Nicholas would bite and hit. He would throw temper tantrums. He would pee on the floor every time he got changed. I must admit I couldn't love him yet. I was terrified of changing time to the point that Catherine, Gerard, and Warren would always volunteer to do it for me. Yet, all that, far from saying anything negative about Nicholas, only showed what an enormous capacity for love he has. He was loyal to his birthmother, who hadgiven him up for a better life but had kept all her other kids, and in order for people not to criticize her, had been visiting the orphanage with her other children dressed as little princes and princesses. We have a picture of Nicholas' little sister in a beautiful white gown that seemed to be a First Holy Communion dress.

All that Nicholas was doing was out of loyalty to the mother who, even if for a good reason, had kept his sisters and brothers and had given him up. For quite some time I got a new name: Lee-Anne, which was the best way in which Nicholas could pronounce Lillian. I was not mom yet. 

One day, about a couple of months following their homecoming, Nicholas did not want to get his bath, so I caught him and carried him to the bathtub while telling him and repeating, "I have a prisoner." Nicholas is typically a good loser, and once overpowered he does not get angry, but starts laughing at the situation. Yet, once he was finally in the tub, I thought I had gone too far with the "prisoner thing," and told him, "No, you're not my prisoner: you're my son." Against my expectation, his laughter immediately stopped, and he pushed me away. Rather than finding that a negative incident, I found it to be a very positive one--one that loudly and clearly speaks of Nicholas' loyalty, intellectual abilities way beyond some people's first impression, solid attachment, and need to bond.

It was one day by that time when I was having a migraine and feeling really unwell that Nicholas passed by my side, and we kind of ran into each other. I felt the warmth of his arm against mine--and will never forget that moment when I tthough that had he not been there, I wouldn't have had that warm feeling amidst the misery of my migraine.

Catherine, Warren, Gerard, and my mom loved Nicholas from Day No. 1. Catherine would repeat that he's the cutest child ever. I must admit that for a long time I was not of the same opinion. Slowly I started to get to love him, but still my only concern would revolve around future adoptions. Physically I was at home, but my thoughts were, and still are, very far away.

In December of 2008, when I came back from my first trip to Russia for an intended special needs adoption that would fail in the end, I was surprised when Nicholas jumped out of one of my older children's arms to throw himself into mine. Obviously, he had missed me much more than I could have ever imagined.

Nicholas kept on becoming increasingly bonded to all of us. Yet, it did not bother me to see that he was more closely bonded to my older children than to me. After all, they deserved his love more than I did. One day in May of 2010 during Mass Nicholas surprisingly came up to me, to hug me, kiss me, and show me how very much he actually loved me--something I had never fully realized before. My mom pointed out to me how very happy Nicholas had looked after I had hugged him and kissed him back--how badly he needed to know he did have a mom who loved him back.

Now it seems impossible to even think that at one point Nicholas could bite us. For quite some time when upset Nicholas would still go for his target, open his mouth, and then close it without using his teeth at all. He would smile as if saying, I was about to bite you--but I love you, and won't do it! Twice Nicholas prevented what could had the potential of ending up in a tragedy. At the beginning, when still new to his new home, Stephen would put objects in his mouth in order to scare us to death thinking that he could choke. Once I was working on the computer, and they were playing in the other room, separated by an archway, where I could not actually see them. Suddenly, Nicholas came up to me, grabbed my hand, and forced me to follow him. Initially I didn't pay attention, but my mom immediately realized that Nicholas really meant what he was doing. I followed him--and found Stephen with a toy in his mouth! Another time I had falled asleep on the couch, and Thomas was trying to climb the entertainment center to reach the remote and change the TV channel. Although Thomas had done it before, being able to use only one hand to hold, he could have falled down---on Stephen, who was right there. Both of them could have gotten seriously hurt. Nicholas woke me up just on time.

He is expressive, cuddly, loving, and covers us with hugs and kisses.What else can you ask for? There is something really special in the look in his eyes--the same as there is something really special in the eyes of my three older ones when they look at him. Today, 11/03/11, after the morning rush in which all of us had participated, as it was time for the school bus to come and I was trying to get some work done, Nicholas called me--and he would not go without hugging me tightly and kissing me repeatedly. No matter how much time may go by, no matter how long behind us those erroeneous first impressions of mine may be, there is that poignant sense of guilt of which I cannot get rid. I still keep on thinking I don't even deserve his love.

Opening birthday presents
Catherine is capturing the moment by making a video
Nicholas loves building--and Catherine loves videotaping!
Can love be any more obvious than that?

For now it's only the kitchen table (the antique furniture is still in storage in CA)--but the looks and the smiles are priceless!!!

Nicholas is very busy building something really big. Catherine bought that set for him, and he simply loves it!
This picture is from Nicholas' birthday celebration at school, towards the end of the 2010/11 school year. He does love school!!!

With one of the assistant teachers

Another school picture--the only problem is that the birthday boy is not in it!

Another b-day picture at school

He has many friends--but family is family!!!

Look how much they love each other! (Catherine took this picture at home)
Nicholas and Thomas look so very happy that Mommy got a moment to be on the couch with them. I wish I could have more of those moments. I wish I didn't need to be so busy all the time.

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