Wednesday, November 26, 2014

For our family and friends.

This Thanksgiving has our hearts overflowing with gratefulness!  Our sons our home!

These past four years we have been overwhelmed by the support of our family and friends as we waited for the arrival of Thomas and Samsel.  The road that brought us together was long, arduous and like nothing we ever expected.  And through it all you held us up.  We are grateful.

Tomorrow, Thanksgiving will mark two weeks home and after seeing many of your beautiful faces at the airport we haven't seen many people.  We are sticking close to home as much as possible and learning how to be a family of five.

Bringing adopted children into your family is glorious but there are some differences than welcoming home your baby from the hospital or ever a baby adopted at birth domestically.  These children swiftly learn who their primary caregivers are and attach to them quickly.  Children who come home through international adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process.  The loss of a child's first family can be a major trauma on their little hearts.  The good news is that we can now, as Thomas and Samsel's forever family, rebuild attachment and help them heal from these emotional wounds.  Right now, everything is new to our boys; including the dynamics of a family.  God's design is for a child to be raised with a mother and father and not in an orphanage.  Thomas and Samsel need to learn how to be part of a family and form healthy attachments with us.  The best way for us to form a parent/child bond is to be the ones to hold, snuggle, instruct, comfort and feed them.  As we continue to meet these needs, they will be able to learn that parents are safe to trust and love deeply.  Essentially, we are recreating the newborn/parent connection.  Once Thomas and Samsel start to establish this most important bond, they will then be able to branch out and create other, healthy relationships.

We will have what seems like a lot of rules and boundaries when it comes to the boys.  Please know that these decisions are prayerfully and thoughtfully made choices based on immense amounts of research and instruction from trued adoption mentors.  We will do what we believe is best to help heal their hearts and create healthy attachments.  We're sharing this with you, our friends and family so you can help us help our sons.  Here are a few ways you can help:

The first is to follow a few physical boundaries.  It will help us immensely if adults limit what is considered normal physical contact with Thomas and Samsel.  This will (for a while) include things like holding, excessive hugging and kissing.  Children from an orphange setting are prone to attach easily to anyone and everyone - which hinders the important primary relationship with parents.  Waving, blowing kisses and high fives are perfectly appropriate and welcomed!  If you really need to give someone a hug, give Gabe an extra one!  His world has changed a lot too! 

The second are is redirecting Thomas and Samsel's desire to have their physical and emotional needs met by anyone to having us meet them.  Orphans often have many caretakers and as a survival mechanism become overly charming towards all adults.  A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit.  This may appear harmless and just that they are "very friendly" boys but this is actually quite dangerous for the child. Asking this of you is difficult for us because we have snuggled, cared for, fed and loved so many of your children.  Please understand that we want nothing more than to have Thomas and Samsel know you and be hugged, cuddled and cherished by you.  But until they have a firm understanding of family, we would be grateful to you if you directed them to us if you see they need food, affection or comfort. 

We are incredibly blessed to have so many loved ones around us and so many people that love our sons. We are so thankful for each and everyone of you.  Thank you so much for your love and support over the past four years. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!  XOXO

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

And then there were 5.


What a crazy past 8 weeks! While blogging has certainly taken a back seat to living this beautiful life we've been given, there are somethings we just don't want to forget.  So I write. 

On October 5 we left Gabriel with my parents and boarded our long awaited flight to Ethiopia.  13 hours was nothing compared to the 4 years we've prayed for this day or the nearly 8 months when we saw our sweet sons faces for the first time. 

We landed in Addis on Monday October 6 and headed to our guest house to get cleaned up before meeting our sons.  We were completely exhausted but much to excited to rest. After showering and eating lunch we anxiously awaited the arrival of our beloved driver Wass.

Pulling up to Hannah's Hope was surreal.  I could not believe we were actually here, that our sons were just mere feet away.  After speaking briefly with the director, the time had come. And we will never forget it.  

The cold tiles on our bare feet, the quiet murmur of children waiting, the sweat pooling in my hands.  

Wass opened the door and there they were! Our beautiful boys. After a brief second Thomas ran and leapt into my arms.  If I close my eyes I can still feel his bony arms around my neck that first time. How long we had waited for this moment!  How long he had needed a family to come for him.  Samsel was a bit slower to warm up; after 9 months at Hannah's Hope he was very attached to his caregivers.  Eventually he scuttled to the floor and checked us out.  

We were able to spend 5 glorious days with our sweet boys; enjoying them, learning about them, letting them learn about us.  These are just a few of the photographs we took.  Many of our photographs include other little loves whose families have yet to meet them.  

Besides spending time with our sons we were able to enjoy our sons birth country.  Two shopping trips, a traditional Ethiopian dinner out and many car rides that allowed us to see the city.

We also had the very important court date on October 9th when Thomas and Samsel were legally made our sons.  

Leaving Hannah's Hope on Friday was one of the hardest things we've ever had to do.  Thomas cried each day when we left and not being able to tell him when we'd be back was heart breaking.  We were told to expect 6-8 weeks in between trips and we left praying it was quicker.  

We arrived home to our sweet Gabriel and although our hearts were aching, we continued on with life as usual.  Zoo trips, therapy, hair cuts, lunch dates at Chicken Cow (Chick Fil A) visits with friends, final prep on our house for two more little boys and Gabe's first experience of Trick or Treating were on the menu! 

We lived big in this last part of the wait! 

Then came the email our hopes had been hinging on. I woke up shortly after Matt left for work on November 3.  I did the dishes and then browsed the internet.  I remembered I'd used our family email for my Land of Nod order (baby boy's room needed a rug!) and logged in to see if I'd received an order confirmation.  It was there but above it was another email.  One totally unexpected.  At the top of my inbox read the subject LaGorga Family Case Cleared.  And on came the tears.  Before reading it all the way through and seeing our embassy appointment was already made for November 10, I called Matt.  Of course he initially thought something was wrong but we quickly sorted it out and he was booking our tickets to Ethiopia.  

A whirlwind week commenced of finishing off the baby's bedroom and repainting Thomas and Gabe's room.  Thursday night we were up late putting together a crib, sorting clothes and packing to go to Ethiopia! 

Friday dawned early again and after a quick flight to DC, breakfast (dinner?) at Chipolte we boarded our final flight to go get our sons.  It was time!  Anxiety and excitement was high but thankfully we both were able to sleep some on the flight.  Good thing to because after a quick shower at the guest house we were on our way to pick up our boys!  

I was flooded with a million emotions.  Joy, excitement, relief, nervousness.  You name them, we felt them.  One of the strongest emotions I felt was grief because as excited as we were to bring our boys home they were losing a lot; their home for the past 9 months, their country of birth, their language. Adoption, while beautiful, stems from loss and that is ugly.  And hard.  

Both boys were excited to see us!  Samsel even let me pick him right up.  Considering he pretty much despised me the first trip this was huge.  Quick hugs and goodbyes and we were on our way. 

Introducing Thomas Uchan and Samsel Ukelo! 

We spent the next few days getting to know each other at our guest house.  Certainly not the easiest days of our lives and by Wednesday when we had the boys visa's and passports everyone was ready to head to the airport to begin our final journey home.  

Both boys did amazingly well on the airplane; like slept for 10 hours or more amazingly well!  After a 5 hour layover in DC and some more Chipolte we were on our way home.  To Gabe.  To being a family of 5.  

Our arrival home was amazing.  But more on that later.  

" Do not be afraid, for I am with you; 
I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west." 
Isaiah 43:5

Thank you, Ethiopia for your sons.