A year ago today completed – and began – an adventure in our lives that will forever be a highlight for our family… we met and adopted our son Isaac Muhoza Austin.
The adventure to get Isaac was full of ups and downs, but at the center of it was God clearly working from start to finish. While I can’t tell the full story right now, I think this illustration sums it up beautifully: a few weeks ago Jeff was talking with Mercy about how many people feel like God isn’t real because they don’t see Him doing miracles anymore. Mercy looked at Jeff in shock and said: “Well, of course He does! Look at how He gave us Isaac!”
As I said before, on April 14, 2011 we completed an adventure, but we also began an adventure. We received a beautiful baby boy and over this past year we have had the incredible privilege of watching this little boy transform. And before I say more I think it’s worthwhile to give a disclaimer: he did not transform because Jeff and I are such great, wonderful people. We hear that but we’ve made more than our fair share of mistakes, bad attitudes, and bad choices. He was transformed because God is good and because God has created children to be in families who pour love on their children. When children are put into an environment of love from a family, they blossom.
April 14, 2011: “Gotcha Day.” In the adoption world, this is the name given to the day you meet your child, because it’s the day we “got cha.” For many adoptive families, this almost takes the place of birthdays since they often don’t know the date of the child’s birth.
This picture is the first picture that Jeff and I took with Isaac. My mom told me recently that she calls this his cocoon picture. It was like he was wrapped in a cocoon, trapped in his own world. He was beautiful from the start, so sweet from the start. Yet he was so overwhelmed by all that was going on around him that he acted pretty lost.
Isaac was nine months old when we got him. He was 15.9 pounds. We were shocked by his small size, yet amazed when we found that he was born at 3 pounds and so had grown significantly by 9 months under the care of a hospital and his orphanage!
Here is the first picture of us at the airport in the US, when Isaac got to meet his sweet, excited older sisters for the first time:
Over the first weeks we had him, we were already able to see some pretty amazing transformations. He was growing – a lot! He went from only rolling to sitting independently. He smiled more and more, made eye contact more and more.
and he absolutely stole our hearts:
and he stole the hearts of his sisters, too. Here’s Mercy doing “show-and-tell” with him at school:
and some pics of him as he turned one in July:
At 12 months he finally started getting teeth (I think because of the nutritional deficiencies these just took a bit longer than most) and eating more solid foods. Then at 15 months (actually, on our 6-month anniversary of getting him) he started walking. And once he did this, he absolutely took off. Here are some pics of him at 13 – 14 months:
Having Christmas with our son was a blessing we were so grateful for. We had expected him home the previous Christmas, and so it made this Christmas with him all the more sweet. Here are a couple pics of him in his Christmas jammies:
And here are a couple more recent pics, where he is showing how he loves to get messy but also LOVES (I can’t emphasize this part enough) playing with water! He is constantly pouring water or sitting in little washtubs with his play food and cups.
We now have a little boy who is so different from last year. This morning he woke up and started repeatedly going, “mom. mommy? mom” (which is how I oftentimes wake up in the morning). We sat down and had some cuddle-time and then he said “cheese” for the camera…
Can’t you just see him saying “cheese” in that picture? I thought that was fantastic. Next, he went around the room saying “haven’s shoes,” “book” “morning…daddy!” and “hug.” He then did a little dance when his extremely sweet, loving sisters came running down the stairs singing “Happy Gotcha Day to You.”
Isaac is physically doing fantastic. When we got him at 9 months his growth was not even on the charts. Now he is average on the US growth charts (and above average on the world growth charts…which, um, is what happens when you put a kid in the Austin family!). He was also behind motor-wise. He could roll, which is about the level of a 4 month old. Now he is climbing up and down stairs (yes, this does terrify me – especially because the stairs are tiled!). He is even climbing more shallow stairs without holding onto anything. And he is sprinting everywhere after his sisters and the little boys who live down the road from us. He is learning how to climb up bars (again, not necessarily a good thing) and he just climbed into a baby doll crib that we have!
Verbally, our little boy is actually ahead! Which, er… now that I think of it is probably another result of being placed in our family in particular. In our family he would either have had to be really quiet or force his way in by talking as much as he possibly can! At 12 months he was saying what a 15 month-old should. And now, at 21 months, he is starting to have little conversations with us and is pointing out things he sees constantly. One of my favorites is that he’ll give us a five and then put his hand behind his back and go, “oo low!” (too slow!) He will repeat almost anything we say — which can be really funny. If I ask him to put something in the trash, or the hamper, he will (although I have to be careful because this will sometimes be switched).
Another area adoptive parents looks at a lot is attachment. Over this last week Isaac has started having a new woman look after him while I do homeschool with the girls, and his extreme anxiety and crying this week has shown us that we are still working through some abandonment and attachment issues for our son. Although, on the flip side, it also shows that our son is specfically attached to us. Isaac knows that I am mom, without a doubt. He’s a pretty clingy boy who largely wants Mom at all times. And, although I oftentimes feel overwhelmed by this, it is a beautiful blessing. This IS the area — although not as visual as the others — where we have seen the most beautiful transformation. A year ago Isaac was overwhelmed by two adults giving him attention. He could give us some eye contact, although he got overwhelmed with too much and would shut down and go to sleep. As time went on, though, he came out of that cocoon, as my mom put it, and changed into a beautiful little boy who loves getting tons of attention — particularly from his parents — and loves to get cuddles, high fives, and tons of eye contact. God made children to have a trusting relationship with their parents, and Isaac trusts us to care for him. He knows we are his, we know he is ours — and that is exactly how God made families to be.
So that is our little boy. Obviously, a huge part of these changes I’ve stated is that he’s gone from being a baby to a very active toddler boy. Yet, we know that if he were still in an orphanage he wouldn’t be nearly so healthy or happy. I remember back when we were still visiting him at the orphanage (we visited for almost a week before we took him out for good). He did not need one diaper change the entire time we visited, ever. Although he was very cared for, he just was not getting all the food and nutrition that he needed. His bone scans showed extreme malnutrition at one point. And when I reflect on that, and all of the above, it makes me so grateful that God chose to give us this little boy.
We are so grateful for our son. We are so grateful God has chosen to bless us so richly by adding him to our family. And we are grateful to see this transformation in our little boys’ life. Oftentimes people say “God bless you” when they see that we have adopted. Yet, we always feel compelled to respond, “He already has by giving us this little boy.”