Wednesday, July 20, 2011

what i didn't know: HIV

I recently found out about an organization called Project Hopeful, and I wanted to share a few things I didn't know before I read their amazing Frequently Asked Questions page:

*There has never been a case of HIV/AIDS transmission as a result of normal, family life. This means that children who are HIV+ do not pose a risk to other family members in the home. Using basic precautions when dealing with blood (i.e. injuries), which everyone should be using at all times with all individuals anyway, will always prevent transmission of the disease, and HIV cannot be passed by sweat, snot, urine, feces, tears, or saliva.

*HIV is chronic but manageable disease. Children with HIV who receive treatment have a completely normal life expectancy.

*In all likelihood, the biggest challenge that children in the US with HIV/AIDS (whether they are adopted by US parents or born in the US) will face is not health-related. The biggest challenge they will face has nothing to do with their white blood cell count or cold and flu season. The single biggest challenge that HIV+ kids will face in America is stigma.

*This stigma exists because Americans stopped learning about HIV in the '80s. We were terrified by Magic Johnson's diagnosis and Ryan White's death, so we froze with fear and stopped learning. Hello, people - Magic Johnson is still alive and kicking 20 years later and he is not that young! If you had asked me a year ago whether I would want my child to be on a sports team with another child who was HIV+, I would have at least hesitated, if not immediately said no. Why? Ignorance, fear, and misinformation. If my son was exposed to HIV from a basketball teammate we have other HUGE problems because that means they were either sharing needles or having sex. If you are not worried about those two things happening in your family, classroom, sports team, neighborhood BBQ, or play group, then you should also not worry about having an HIV+ child be part of those groups or activities.

What I don't know about all this could still fill a book, but I'm glad to be learning -- better late than never!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

family life and unmet needs

When we first brought Z home our biggest priority was to connect with him and meet his needs. We did our best to learn what his needs were and to teach him how to express those needs to us so that we could meet them. Keep in mind, this doesn't mean we gave him everything he wanted all the time, but we did use every opportunity we could to build trust through meeting his needs for comfort, food, sleep, affection, space, recreation, etc.

As you can imagine, this required (and continues to require) a great deal of our attention, focus, and energy, which has not been without consequence for our other two boys. Though I tried hard not to marginalize them, I didn't always succeed, and there were times where I unintentionally sent the message that Z's needs were more important than theirs. My 6 year old didn't feel this as much because he is older and can be independent with a lot of things, but my 3 year old felt it. He put up with it for a few months, but a couple of weeks ago he decided he'd had enough. He was going to demand his mommy's full attention again no matter what it took. So suddenly I had not one, but two very high-needs children in my home and life got... um, interesting.

Thank God for the wise people he has put in my life. My friend Chris also has a 2 year old and a 3 year old (and, ahem, SEVEN other children - she's amazing), so I shared my struggle with her at a recent adoptive mom gathering. "They both need the same thing from me all the time and I can't meet both their needs at the same time!" I whined. And do you know what she said? She said, That's OK. That's OK? What? But Z is adopted! I have to meet his needs! I have to build his trust! True, and I am doing those things. But Z also lives in a family, and in families we share, not only toys and books and food, but also parents. And that's OK. When he has to wait for D to be done snuggling with me before he gets his turn I am not rejecting him or letting his needs go unmet. I am teaching him how to live and love in a family. I am teaching him that, in our family, we are all valuable, we all need love and affection, and we all matter. It will take a few tears and fits, but I know it will be a lesson worth learning for all of us.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Today I sat next to my toddler as he cried and screamed and railed against all the injustices of his little life. I reached out for him, but he wasn't ready. I waited.

Today I sat with my toddler and rocked and cuddled and sang and wiped away the tears. When his dried, mine started as I thanked God for the privilege of holding this precious child, of watching him heal, of shepherding his heart.

Today I read this and wept. I cried and screamed and railed against all the injustices of this world. My preschooler crawled on my lap and wrapped his hands around my neck and we prayed together for Dani and his mama.

Today I picked a bowlful of raspberries and wondered why I am here, where fruit is ripening and falling into my arms, while others weep under trees with barren branches.

Today is a gift from the good Giver - confusing and precious, unjust and beautiful, full of grief and bursting with joy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

eye contact & the tickle game

We have been working on eye contact as a way to foster connection and bonding. Z hasn't had any issues with eye contact per se, but the way I see it we have two years of eye contact to catch up on so it's always good to work on it!

Here is a little tickle game we played today that turned out to be a great way to lock eyes with each other. We sat face to face with Z on my lap, then I climbed my fingers up his belly or legs making a little sing-song noise of anticipation. He would watch my fingers, but then I would pause and wait for him to look up at me. When he looked up I would tickle him like crazy and he would giggle and hold the eye contact for several seconds. It was way too much fun for both of us! Enough explaining, see for yourself (ignore the 6 year old reading loudly in the background):