Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Daughter Who Changes

Tomorrow we celebrate the sixth birthday of a very special daughter who has changed our lives.  This post is not only dedicated to her but to those who are reluctant to consider adopting a child with special needs.

Hailee only weighs about 22 pounds, but hey, that’s fifty percent more than this time last year when we got her from Ukraine.  But what’s impacted our lives isn’t how much plumper she’s grown but how much she’s blossomed emotionally.  She’s a real person, not a vegetable we merely feed and put to bed.

Sure, Hailee has Down syndrome and some form of autism, institutional or clinical.  Wow.  Double whammy!  What kind of life can she possibly have?  I’ll get to that.

When we were fundraising for our second adopted daughter Haven, I met the Christian music artist Geoff Moore.  Accompanying him to a concert Geoff gave in our small mountain community was one of his best friends.  This man was a former professional baseball player (like Geoff’s dad was, incidentally), who loves the Lord and who had a daughter born with Down syndrome.

At that time Adéye and I weren’t even thinking about more adoptions because we were focused on bringing home our precious Haven.  Little did I realize at the time that God would use a conversation with Geoff’s friend to someday sway my heart differently.

As the man was telling me about his daughter, he could hardly compose himself.  This big burly guy started shaking his head and fighting back tears, saying, “Oh, you just don’t know what my daughter does in my life.  You just don’t know.”

It made me want to know.  So Geoff’s friend isn’t here.  But can I tell you so that YOU know?

When I first held Hailee at the airport in Kharkiv, she limply lay in my arms against my chest.  Wow, I thought.  It doesn’t get better than this!  She was so frail but so cute.  I didn’t see any telltale characteristic of Down syndrome, like almond eyes, but it was only because she was so skinny that she looked atypical. 


Our first moments together.

Minutes later, Adéye had to tell me Hailee was groggy because she just got “her drug.”  Her drug was a strong med given to adults with psychosis.  Her orphanage administers it to all the kids they can’t cope with because it makes them catatonic.

As the drug wore off, I saw a different Hailee.  Agitated.  Tense.  Not wanting to be touched.  Avoiding eye contact at any expense.  Crying.  Did I say “crying”?  I meant SCREAMING!!!!  Never smiling.

Now here is the Hailee of today:

She can’t get enough hugs.  When she sees me at the computer or on the couch, she waddles over to me (she couldn’t walk or even crawl when we got her!), climbs up on the couch or chair, squirms onto my chest, smiles, bounces up and down, and screams.  But oh how different these screams are!  These screams are ones of delight.  The kind that tells me to never stop bouncing my legs so she can have a fun ride.  The kind that says, “Oh, Daddy, I love you so,” without her having to use words.


Today’s Hailee knows what she wants and needs from each family member, and it’s all different, depending on who it is.  Because she knows I love to kiss her cheek, she gets in my face and forces her cheek against my lips, then smiles.


Because she loves to play with her brother Kellan in a special way, she sneaks up behind him while he’s sitting on the floor, pulls at his shirt collar from the back of his neck, then pulls him down to lie on top of her, which she loves!

Because her mom represents food to her, when Adéye enters from the kitchen with so much as a morsel, Hailee does the Frankenstein walk toward her table seat, bugs out her eyes, and screams with anticipation.


Today’s Hailee rocks less, doesn’t bite her fingers anymore until they bleed, doesn’t avoid eye contact as much as before, and loves, loves, loves to have fun and EAT!  When we were in Ukraine, we had to actually take her to a hospital because she wasn’t eating or drinking much at all, and she hadn’t pooped for days.  Today she acts like Noo Noo on the Teletubbies, sucking up anything and everything she can find.  And poop?  Well, let me just say that would be too much information!

When I’m gone during the day or first wake up, I cannot wait to see and to hold and to kiss my little Hailee.  She is changing.  But more importantly, she is changing all of us.

Hailee's turning six, alright.  But age is so irrelevant.  I don’t stress about her being or not being “normal” some day.  I am relishing today.  TODAY.  Today’s Hailee.



10 comments:

  1. Beautifully written. Beautiful Hailee!!

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  2. Good words brother - there is nothing quite like the love of the innocent!

    hugs - aus and co.

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  3. Thank you for sharing so much! It's precious!

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  4. Happy Birthday Sweet Hailee! Wonderful tribute Anthony. I'm slowly but surely catching up from the beginning of your blog debut. Life has been busy around here for various reasons. I'm glad you started a blog--I'm really enjoying your perspective! Hope to see you and your family soon!

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  5. Happy birthday Hailee...
    Everything I could wish you, you already have. So there is just one thing left. God bless you.
    Kind regards
    Jessica

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  6. As a mom to one where age is also irrelevant, really beautiful post.
    Happy bday pretty girl!!

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  7. What Angels you have! So sweet, my boys are on the autism spectrum, they are so loving too! I love reading your posts from a dads perspective. Are Hailee and Harper twins?

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  8. Hi, my Aussie friend. No, they're not twins. The real blonde one, Hailee, is actually six years old! And Harper is 3 1/2.

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  9. I can't wait for you to meet our little ones - especially Dusty! Dusty sounds like Hailee was in some ways - he is now coming out of his shell little by little. I am looking forward to seeing how far he will come by this time next year! Thanks for sharing your story and your love for Hailee!

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