Kathryn is my amazing friend and neighbor. She is also the crazy talented mama who owns Rocking Baby. We met just a few weeks after we brought our girls home from Ukraine last year. A while back Kathryn asked me if she could share her story about her blossoming relationship with our daughter Miss Hailee here on my blog. I absolutely said, “YES!” Why? Because so often people just don’t understand how children with disabilities (especially those with profound delays, like Hailee) can learn to connect and relate to other people. How they CAN learn, and grow, and recognize, and interact, and totally bless the socks off those who choose to get to know them. Sure, it does take time to win little hearts over, but for those who are willing to persevere and not give up trying….the end result is worth more than any gold could ever buy, as you’ll read below.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked, “Were you afraid that your adopted children with special needs would be unable to show love (to you or others), or love you back the way you hoped they would?” Truthfully, no! It has never been a concern. I believe that ALL children are capable of showing love–all in their own unique and amazing ways. It’s one of the wonders of God–a person does not need words to communicate love. I see that now through my children who don’t have words…only the sweetest, biggest hearts. Every kiss, every cuddle, every laugh, every eye that looks for me across the room, every arm that reaches up to be held…that’s what says, “I love you!”
Read how Hailee bonded with Kathryn.
When I thought about Hailee turning 6, I asked Adéye if I could write something about how Hailee has affected me.
I am a neighbor that was not “in the know” about this fabulous blog and met the Salems without any knowledge of their history. Actually, it is talked about in the Salem household, about that day our lives collided. I kept seeing all of these children about a block away. After a couple of weeks, I thought…”they can’t just be visiting for this long!” Kellan was in the park walking their dog, and I stopped my car to ask him who all of the children were. He quickly told me that he is one of 7, and gave me a run down of the family. When he got to the part about their family coming together through adoption, I gasped with excitement! As a mother of 4; 2 adopted from Kazakhstan, and 2 biological kiddos, I couldn’t believe I had such a family move in just a block away! Later that day, I made my way over to their house, and excitedly, visited the Salems (the kids seem to remember it as me “barging” in or something of that nature!). I quickly spoke, and then heard introductions of all nine members of their household. Adéye is so amazingly sweet and welcoming into her home (I know that is NOT hard for you to believe!), and I couldn’t wait to get to know them all.
I come from a family that has advocated for special needs children, and definitely loved seeing Hailee and Harper hanging out in the middle of a loving, happy home. After exchanging our stories, I knew that this was going to be a family that I couldn’t wait to get to know more.
The next several visits, I wanted to learn more about Hailee. Harper is an amazingly high functioning little girl with Down syndrome. She clearly is thriving and quickly began to develop. But, Hailee seemed so complex, with so many questions about her size, her age. I can’t believe it was just last summer that sweet Hailee would move herself against the wall, just to bang her head. She would rock back and forth scratching her ear until it bled. She would cry while being consoled. She would resist your affection and desperately want to be out of your arms. But, the one thing is for sure: there were several arms waiting to hold her when she was ready; even if it was for just a couple seconds at a time.
I spent a lot of time around Hailee this year, and didn’t have any idea how our relationship would develop…and, SHE did it! I am ashamed to even write how I just thought about how Hailee was going to be affected by others, and not how she was going to create change in others lives. After a few months, I started to notice Hailee being less agitated, and even smiling often. I remember walking in one day and she was resting on Adeye’s chest; just enjoying her Mama. What? Hailee basking in affection? I stuttered in amazement. After that, her growth has been exponential. Hailee RARELY rocks, certainly does NOT find a wall to bang her head on, rarely cries (ok, unless you take her to a outdoor festival where they have really LOUD music…), and SEEKS OUT affection.
There were a couple of times that I walked in the door and within a couple of minutes, I noticed Hailee at my feet. I would pick her up, love all over her, and go on my way. It took a couple more times for me to realize that she was recognizing me when I walked through the door of her house. Hailee would be all they way in the back of the house, and scoot to be in my arms. I would ask Adéye if she did this for everyone? She assured me that she does not; which was so fascinating to me. That meant that she absolutely had cognitive skills. Now that she is walking, she walks over to me every single time I visit. Hailee has blessed me so much. Hailee is the one who put effort into our relationship. I was too busy thinking about how I could affect her, and didn’t realize that she was working on affecting me.
What a wonderful journey it has been with Hailee. I can’t wait to see what this year brings. But, one thing I do know is that I have a completely different perspective on her. We have a relationship, and we are affecting change together.
What a complete blessing she has been in my life!
I am so thankful for friends like Kathryn–people who have gone out of their way to make my children feel special, like they belong, like they have such an important place in this world…because they sure do!
Thanks, my friend. I think Hailee’s pretty crazy about you too. We’re so thankful for the day you “barged” into our home.