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Wednesday, October 24, 2007 I received an email from our adoption agency letting us know that 2 1/2yo Daniel, whom we adopted from Kazakhstan at age 14 months, had a “little brother” who had just been released for adoption. The agency asked if we were we interested in adopting him. My husband, Pat, and I were floored as we did not see that coming from a mile away (we were 39 and 43 with 4 children ages 8 and under already). After we recovered from the shock, we began talking and immediately we were both surprised to hear that the other was actually considering it. This was unusual because up until then we both felt that we were done, complete, and had full plates.
Remembering back to our last trip to Kazakhstan, when we made an oath in court that we would return for Daniel’s twin if he ever became available (and still thinking this was a baby brother), I thought… if by some chance it were the twin we have to go. An hour later I got an email from our agency – it was the twin!! My heart sank, soared, and froze all at once! I knew all along it could be the twin but felt like it was a remote chance. I immediately called Pat and gave him the “twin” news. After a bit of a gasp it was quiet on the phone. We both knew what we had to do. I asked if he remembered the oath we made in Kaz. Yes. Do you want me to confirm with the agency that we are committing to this adoption? Yes. There was nothing more to say. A minute later I was emailing the agency. Ten minutes later I was bawling from the emotion of it all. 1) we had made a decision and it was final 2) fear over the money and how in the world we would do it with no resources at all to pull this off and 4 young children at home and 3) sheer joy that Dan would grow up with his twin and not have to wonder if he was dead or alive.
Nine months later, upon arriving in Kazakhstan, we went into the Baby House director’s office. Without warning, little Nick was brought in. Pat was sitting by the door so he saw him first and he gasped. I turned to see our son. He was shy and very tiny and I couldn’t get over how much he looked like Dan. I thought he would be closer to Dan’s size according to the medical information we had gotten earlier, but he was smaller. At age 3 ½, he wore size 18 month clothes. I wanted to snatch him up, but not knowing if he had seen our pictures or was told if we were coming, wanted to be respectful of his personal boundaries. They kept telling me to take him in my lap but I just spoke to him in a few Russian phrases like ‘don’t worry,’ and ‘I am your mama.’ Then I pulled out a cookie, a fleece blanket I had made, and a cuddly stuffed dog and I got a little smile out of him. I gingerly picked up his tiny frame and sat him on my lap. He looked secretly happy but shy. I kept catching myself wanting to call him Dan because it was like I was holding a younger and smaller Dan. When it was time to go, they spoke a lot of Russian which seemed to be directed at him. They seemed to be telling him we were leaving and would be back tomorrow because he suddenly looked very sad and I thought he may cry. It broke my heart. We were told that, after watching many other kids get mommies and daddies, he was very eager for his own. He was so glad it was his turn.
When Nick and Dan were born, Dan went to the Baby House, where we adopted him at age 14 months. Nick stayed with his birth mother until he got sick at age 19 months and had to go to the hospital. He must have been under-nourished enough that the hospital contacted the authorities. He spent a year and a half at the Baby House before we arrived. I know the Baby House did the best they could with the money they had, and Nick’s health improved somewhat, but he was not getting the quality of nutrition that his twin was getting with us at home. Due to orphanage life, Nick was delayed in speech and motor skills, and he was tiny.
The kids in Nick’s group usually ate a lot of veggies and clear soups with bread. I did not see anything thick or rich (fat that young kids need for their brains). Come to think of it, I didn’t see much protein, either. The food was really stinky (rutabaga and turnip type smell) and the kids weren’t excited to eat it. We did our best to fill Nick up with food during the weeks we visited him.
Finally, seven weeks after we first laid eyes on him, we took Nick home to meet his family, including his twin, Dan. Their reunion was very sweet. Dan was excited to see his brother because we had been talking to him about it for 9 months (yes – it took exactly 9 months to complete this adoption!). All of the kids ran up to him and showered him with hugs and kisses and he seemed to enjoy it, as tired as he was. We had the twins dressed alike when they met so we had people asking us if they were twins. You have no idea how much joy it brought us to say “Yes! They are twins!”
My first goal with both boys was to fill them with healthy fats. Dan is still on the small side but he is a healthy weight and looks healthy. Nick is tiny and did not look healthy for quite awhile. I filled him with nuts, peanut butter, whole milk with Carnation Instant Breakfast (recommended by my doc), whole cheese and butter as well as rounding it out with fresh fruits and veggies. After several months home, he still had not gained weight, but his hair and skin started showing a big difference as well as his general demeanor. I know the environment helped, but I think part of it was good nutrition – I just think he felt better…. more alive. My doc says he probably did not gain weight in his first months home because 1) his body was depleted and it was using all of the nutrients and 2) he was much more active. I had him climbing, running, jumping, and pulling himself up on big objects whenever I could.
Nick has now been home for two years and the twins are very, very close – as if they had never been apart. Nick is doing very well. His language is good and he is happy and healthy. He seems to have very few emotional scars from his rocky beginning in life. He is still small, but we are working on it. I call him the kissing bandit because he likes to sneak up on you and kiss your leg or hand (whatever he can reach) as he says “I love you, too.” It is so sweet. When I put the boys down for a nap and see them sleeping in beds next to each other, I often feel overwhelming gratitude and completeness.
- Kim Zomer (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/blessingfromkaz/)
Read more about the diet in Kazakhstan, including common foods and recipes: http://adoptionnutrition.org/nutrition-by-country/kazakhstan/
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