Monday, May 24, 2010

One Month Home!

Saturday we celebrated Zoya's one month home anniversary! We celebrated by letting Zoya eat her first cupcake...what a mess! It was like she knew what she was supposed to do with it (meaning smash it all over her face and not eat it lol).  She took it and shoved it close to her mouth and then took her hand and rubbed the frosting EVERYWHERE!
In so many ways, it seems that we were in Ukraine in a whole different lifetime, not only a month ago. Sometimes, it seems like Ukraine didn't really happen sometimes.  One look at our pictures reminds me it did happen.  I still get a sick feeling when I look at some of the pictures from the orphanage....and remember all we saw there.  I remember all we felt there too.  I haven't allowed myself to think a whole lot about all of these things since we've been home.  Maybe I haven't had time, or maybe every time it pops into my head I try to push out the thoughts and think of something else just to not have to feel the sadness of what life is for all of those left behind. Most of the time, Ukraine seems like it happened in a dream. Except Zoya is a living reminder that it was not a dream. Sometimes I have flashbacks to just being in the orphanage and staring into the room filled with parentless children rocking themselves and moaning and crying and flashbacks to the children so desperate for parents that they would run to us and call out "Mama," "Papa," flashbacks to things I still cannot write or talk about most of the time.  When I allow myself to think about it my stomach hurts and I just want to cry. If it was too much for us, grown adults, to feel and see, can you imagine how horrible it is for the children that feel it and see it and live it every day of their lives?  Yes Zoya is one of the lucky ones because she doesn't have to live out the fate that all those other children do, but my heart aches thinking that she was ever a part of a life like that.  Although she is adjusting well overall, she still demonstrates behaviors which remind us that her life was not good.  Some days, like today, when I feel like a failure, I remember where she came from and know that in giving her my best, even when it doesnt seem like enough some days, at least she is loved and valued...and love is what will heal her.

Zoya has done so much in a month's time. Sometimes I feel like I'm too hard on her and expecting too much of her, but when I see the changes that are brought about by holding her to a higher standard, I remember why I expect so much of her...because she is capable.  For almost the first 2 years of her life, she had nobody that expected her to do anything. Nobody held her to any standards. Nobody thought she'd be anything other than another mouth to feed. Nobody cared enough to teach her right from wrong. Nobody cared enough to put her in time out (yes she is learning all about time out here lately). Nobody cared enough or loved enough to ever teach her anything. Zoya had to fight every day of her life for an ounce of attention, and so she learned unacceptable ways to get attention...and that worked for her there.  She learned that she could take toys from other kids and be rough with them because nobody was watching anyways and she had never seen any other example of how to be gentle or kind. She learned that when she isn't getting enough stimulation she can throw herself back and smack her head off the floor (which has mostly stopped thank goodness).  She learned that to grind her teeth when she is feeling anxious.  She learned to obsess over food because there were not enough caregivers to feed all the children at the same time so she learned to obsess and beg at every sighting of food, fearing her turn would not come. She learned so many things that no almost-two-year-old should ever have to learn.

So has it been easy this past month? NO! In a lot of ways it isn't as hard as I thought it would be, but in many ways it is way harder.  Zoya doesn't have nearly as many orphanage behaviors as some older children who've been adopted, so we know it could be much worse.  But, there are still many frustrating moments.  Do I lose my cool sometimes? Yup....I guess just like any parent.  I think part of the reason it has been harder than I thought is because of how I've been feeling since we returned from Ukraine. I didn't expect to feel so sad for what we left behind.  It is exhausting and draining, which is probably why I try not to think about it, but the thoughts are always floating around.  The dreams still wake me up.  I didn't expect the experience to haunt me like it has. I thought I could leave it all there. I can't.

The hard part is that I feel like since we chose this path (and all the difficulties that we know would come along with it) it gives me less of a right, that any normal parent would have, to vent or complain or stress about any problems or stresses we are having with Zoya.  Because overall, it's great, but of course on top of typical child behavior, we are also have problems of a child whose lived the life of an orphan and issues related to her Down Syndrome....just as we planned for.  Did we know all this and choose all this? Yes, but that never meant we thought it would be easy.  So you see, since we chose this and knew that it would be the hardest thing we've ever done, I feel like I don't have the right to vent because I don't want others to get the wrong idea and think I regret our decision.  Really, in the big picture, the things that I'd even be venting about are so small, but they are real and "in the moment" type stresses that every other parent has the right to vent about.  So I will try to allow myself that same right and not feel guilty about it.

Zoya is the best thing that has ever happened to us.  At the end of each day I ask God if he really thinks we are worthy enough to be Zoya's parents.  I just can't believe it.  I still look at her at least once a day and think how lucky I am to get such an up close look into such a beautiful little world of innocence and happiness, despite all she has gone through. Just as we are teaching Zoya a new way to see the world, she is teaching us the very same thing.

The girl who has taught me more in one month than I've learned my entire life....


  1. Zoya is the best thing that happened to the two of you and YOU TWO ARE THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO ZOYA!! You are an awesome, loving mother who gives her best every day...a failure?No way! Parenting is the hardest job you will ever have...and the most rewarding. Love, Liz

  2. I was on Reece's Rainbow and came across Zoya's picture and saw the link to your blog. Your story has really touched my heart. Our youngest daughter, Brennan (17 mos old), has Down syndrome. She has brought so much love and joy to our lives and we thank God every day for her. I look forward to learning more about your precious little girl!

  3. Please don't feel guilty about venting!! No matter how you chose to grow your family you are still a first time mom and that is a big crazy roller coaster ride of emotions. You need to allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and no one should judge you harshly just because you chose to adopt.
    I have a 10 year old and a 14 year old and I still need to vent sometimes and I am still on the roller coaster and I wouldn't want it any other way. I think you are doing an amazing job with Zoya! The changes in one months time has been amazing to see. Keep up the good work you are doing a great job Mom!

  4. Aww, hang in there Sarah :). You're doing an awesome job! And YES you have every right to vent frustrations!!! Being a mommy is as tough as it is rewarding. Along with everything else she's been through, now Zoya has to go through the "terrible two's" stage, which means so do you! So VENT AWAY!!!! ;)

  5. So great to hear that you've been home for one month! Wow...amazing how far you have come and how far Zoya has come!!!
    I have a small something for Zoya I'd love to send to you...a small token of thanks for all your help and support in our adoption of Sofia and being so well prepared for our experience in Ukraine. Please email me your mailing address so I can send it :)!!!

  6. She is such a beautiful child. I love seeing her pictures and how comfortable and healthy and happy she is. I think you should keep the blog real like you have and if that means complaining or venting so be it. I think people can learn that this is a life altering decision and it is not all peaches and cream. I think then the disruption rate would go down if we all kept our experiences real. People need to hear it all so they can make the decision based on facts and not fairy tales so that when these kids come home they stay home and dont get shipped off to foster care or worse. I think you are doing great and looks like Zoya is too. be blessed

  7. You guys are doing a great job! It is hard to get acclimated to parenting--especially when you have just brought home a toddler with "special" needs who doesn't speak your language, and who has spent all her life in an orphanage.

    Trial by fire :) have just jumped in neck deep :)!

    On top of the emotional and physical toll of the past few months, I would be shocked if you didn't have tough moments. We all do!

    Be kind to're doing awesome! Expect things to wax and wane with Zoya. There will be tough days and great days, and everything in between. Love the great days and try not to linger over the bad ones. One foot in front of the other during the difficult times. Soak in the beautiful, sweet, triumphant moments.

    You are all so blessed :)!

  8. I started reading your blog close to when you brought Zoya home and have so enjoyed hearing about her accomplishments and the frustrations. Remember you owe it to yourself to vent. Being a parent is frustrating at times. Also, those frustrations help families and couples that are thinking about adopting to have a better idea of what issues they may face.

  9. What a joyous celebration, first month home, the beginning of many firsts to come for Zoya.

    I look forward to seeing how she reacts to a birthday party in her honor.

    We will certainly be thinking of her while we're traveling to NY from VA thru PA next week to go and celebrate Izzy's 2nd birthday with relatives in Western NY (just south of Buffalo area). Last year she had not a clue what we were doing for her 1st birthday but this year she knows she is turning TWO as she yells it at us.

    Take heart that whether you're a seasoned parent or a first time parent we ALL have those days and those moments of frustration.

    Zoya is doing amazing! We look at your pictures every day thru Ms. Izzy's request to see "baby oia", she can't get the Z yet. The bond and love that she has for each of you is nothing short of breath taking. The look in her eyes as she's looking at you it is like she is taking in every moment as a special one.

    Enjoy her 2nd birthday celebration!

  10. Already a whole month home with your little angel! Time runs...
    Life in general has always both sides, the tough ones and the bright ones, and sometimes it changes pretty fast from joy to sadness, we all know that. And with parenting it is the same. It is HARD work! And, Sarah, never forget that you did not start like most of us, by the very beginning with a childs life. You jumped right in this nice and exhausting twoosie age..:) with Zoya with her special background. Then you do carry this heavy backpack with everything, you experienced in Ukraine, which, how you wrote it, you can not just go back to "normal"... Sarah, you DO absolutely wonderful with your sweet girl. I like your posts and looking forward to them, because they are authentic and real. Be kind to yourself and allow you to vent when ever you feel so. It belongs to real life.
    BE BLESSED Christina

    By the way: it is so much fun to see your PA-girl with those PA-bibs...:):)