Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Precious Sezim

During our trip to meet Altynai, I had the pleasure of meeting and evaluating Sezim.  She was a little over 2 years old at the time and she melted my heart.  She was the oldest of the children that I examined and through her I learned a lot about orphanage "developmental" milestones.  I was fascinated that day to learn that the orphanage staff, doctors included, have a VERY different developmental expectations for children that are being raised in an orphanage.  I would ask "isn't it odd that this two year old has little to no words?" The answer was "no, she is fine"  but when I then asked if it would normal for a child NOT in the orphanage, the answer was "why, yes that would be quite concerning!" Another interesting deviation from normal is that most children learn to walk between 9-15 months and past that, as pediatricians, we become quite concerned.  Not so in an orphanage.  Little Sezim learned to walk just a month or two before I met her ( very late ) but shockingly, she was already climbing stairs with ease within that short period of time which was ahead of schedule for that gross motor milestone.  Essentially, once the staff knows that you can ambulate on your own, you become self reliant due to the simple fact that no one will carry you anymore.   The kids walk late but climb and run early.  

Life in an orphanage is not one filled with love but one filled with need.  Of course, they need the obvious - food, water and shelter ( all of which were suboptimal while I was there) but they also need love, support and stability.  Children need these staples to reach their potential and without them the potential is simply LOST!  Imagine this - there are 148 orphans in the world, orphans whose potential will never be met.  It is the loss of one of God's greatest natural resources and that is incredibly sad.

Please take time to read Lisa's story about her two daughters, Sezim and Caitlin.  The striking difference in their lives is astounding!

My adoption journey started as it has for so many: I wanted to open my home and heart to a child. I come from a large and loving family. I am an Aunt to 11 nephews and helped raise four of them while in high school and college. When I was ready to become a mom, adoption seemed like a natural fit for me.
I adopted my daughter Caitlin from Kazakhstan in March of 2003.  When I saw her picture, I knew instantly she was meant to be my child. The connection was instant; the love, undeniable. When she came home, she was malnourished, and both physically and developmentally behind. I started physical and speech therapy right away, and worked with a therapist twice a week to ensure Caitlin was receiving all the help she could receive to get on track for her age.

Caitlin performing in the Nutcracker
Caitlin completed her physical therapy within six months. Her muscle development was quick, and she learned to walk and run at record speed. Speech therapy has taken us six years to work through. Her therapist has been nothing short of phenomenal, and I will be forever in her debt. 
Caitlin is an active child. She loves musicals and plays, which we attend on a regular basis. She has been in ballet since she was two. She loves performing and lights up every stage she is on. Caitlin is outgoing, vivacious and has a love of life that is infectious. She is the light of my life, a  true blessing from the Lord.

When Caitlin was four years old she asked me if she was going to get a little sister. We had talked about adding to our family, but I was candidly not ready given the commitment I had to her and her developmental needs. I wanted to be absolutely sure I could give another child as much love and attention as I had been able to give to Caitlin.

When Caitlin turned five, I felt we were both ready to add a little sister to our family. I went back to Kazakhstan and started the process again. The agency I selected had a strong back ground and experience in Kazakhstan; I was told the wait would be about nine months to bring a child home.  As I waited for my adoption process to start, many events were going on behind the scenes with my agency. In December 2007, after waiting almost two years, we were told our agency was closing its Kaz program.

I can’t begin to share the sadness that filled my heart and soul. Sharing this news with Caitlin brought more tears and pain for us both and our family. I knew though that I could not give up; I could not let our belief that there was a child out there for us to adopt be forever lost to us. I reached out to another adoption agency and started the process again to find a little girl in the world who was meant to be part of our family.

As I restarted my journey to adopt, I was offered a number of different adoption programs to review. I chose Kyrgyzstan as I felt connected to the country and the people instantly. Caitlin and I started our journey to bring a little sister home with as much love, excitement and joy as we had before.
Sezim came into our lives within a few weeks after starting our journey. As with Caitlin, when I saw her picture, my heart opened up instantly and I knew she was my child. When I reviewed Sezim pictures and video, it was very evident she was malnourished and developmentally behind. I asked for a specialist to review her files and the report back indicated she was definitely a special needs child and would require ongoing therapy.

Knowing what that level of support would entail for Sezim, I had no fears or concerns.  She was and is my child, how could any challenge be too big for me? I worked fast and furious to get my paper work completed and in as soon as possible. I didn’t want my child to wait to feel my arms around her, to see my smiles as she woke up to a new day and the joy of having so many to love her and care for her.
As I headed over to Kyrgyzstan to complete my bonding period with Sezim, I was filled with such excitement and joy. Each day I spent with Sezim, we took walks picking flowers and smelling their sweet scent, the memories of how her eyes would light up when she sniffed each flower is a memory I will always cherish. I would pull leaves and run her fingers over them for her to feel their grooves and shapes. Sezim laughter filled my ears, and consumed my heart. We colored pictures, and I read her stories. We played puzzle games, threw rings and played hide and seek. I shared pictures of her family with her; her sister Caitlin, all of her aunts and uncle, her grandpa along with the never-ending pictures of her 11 nephews, all waiting to welcome her in to the Reickerd brood.  My 10 days with her were magical. I headed home, counting the days until I could bring her home.

Little did I know as I kissed her good bye, telling her I loved her — would always, always take care of her — that I would be waiting three and a half years to bring her home. I can’t describe the pain, sadness and helplessness that I have felt during this journey. The anguish of seeing her grow up without her family is one I can’t even begin to describe. Caitlin and I have never missed a birthday or Christmas holiday. We have sent Sezim care packages full of clothes, coloring books, story books, dolls and supplies. I want her to always know she is still loved and wanted. I will continue to walk this journey to bring her home for as long as it takes. I believe with all of my heart she is meant to be my child.
Little Ms. Sezim 

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