Click here to read our adoption story from the beginning.

Brain Connections

When I was pregnant with my first child Lucy about 15 years ago, I was anxious about being a new mother.  One of the things I did was search out parenting books at the public library and read them up in between fits of morning (all day) sickness.  Since I was going to college for accounting, I had not learned much about early child development.  One of the things that I found fascinating was the fact that most of your brain connections were made in the first three years of life.  From that research, I decided that I wanted to stay home with Lucy for at least her first three years.  I knew those years were so important to her development.  I also remember having the thought, "I don't ever want to adopt a child older than 3 years old."

James and I have just finished the online Hague adoption training that was required by our adoption agency.  The very first topic that the training tackled was brain connections.  I immediately remembered that thought from 15 years earlier.  Since we are requested a boy to adopt from Ethiopia in the age range of 3 to 7 years old, God has obviously changed my mind.

Here is how God changed my mind.  When Gabe was 3 months old, I decided I wanted to start helping with Sunday school at Citychurch again.  I started sitting in on the Preschool class as a helper.  The first Sunday I did this, a little girl named Lacy* was in the class.  She was covered from head to toe in bed bug bites, and she spent the majority of the class in the corner crying.  Her older sister and big brother were in the class too.  They were less of a distraction in class, but it was obvious that they're needs were not being met in an optimal way.  After class I found out that the brother was enrolled in Citychurch's preschool and the church was closely monitoring the family.  I soon took over teaching the class, and week after week, Lacy, her sister, and brother came almost every Sunday.  To say that there were obviously issues in their home was an understatement.  One day, the church received a call from CPS.  They were removing these three kids and their other 4 siblings from the home, and by the end of the day three families from Citychurch had stepped up to foster these 7 kids.  Fast forward to now.  Six of these kids are still at Citychurch.  Three of them were adopted into one family, the baby is being adopted into another family, and Lacy and her little brother are being adopted into the third family.  Through court cases and talking to the children, the church found out that the amount of abuse that these children had gone through was off the charts.  I will not describe anything I have heard from these families, but I was dumbfounded.  There were "punishments" handed out to these children that I couldn't even dream up in a million years.

I still get to see Lacy every Sunday (and sometimes in between.)  She is a beautiful, overly sweet little 6 year old who loves wearing frilly dresses and hands out hugs.  The other children have blossomed as well.  The older boys have been Baptized, and they love their comic strip version of the Bible.  God has performed miracles and healing in these childrens' lives.  The three families that, at a moments notice, took in these children have been an inspiration to me.  They are living examples of the church at its best.

So is there this magic cut off date at three years old where all of the brain connection building stops?  Of coarse not.  Our adoption training has made it clear that we can still build healthy connections in our adopted child's brain.  It is done through hard, consistent work.  The good news it that this hard work consists of loving our child, meeting their needs, and giving them experiences that engage their senses while providing an emotional event.  Some examples of this "hard work"might include baking cookies with mom, hikes with dad, playing in the water with mom, playing ball with dad, playing with sand or playdough with mom, going for a bike ride with dad, or painting pictures with mom.  I don't know about you, but I've heard of harder work than this.

Should I be worried that the trauma that my adopted child has caused him to not be able to change his brain in any positive way?  Absolutely not.  I know the God that made his brain.  It is the same God that told me to bring him into my family.  It is the same God that asks me to keep challenging my brain by renewing my mind.

Yesterday I had my complete physical that is required for our adoption paperwork.  I was seeing a doctor with a Korean last name.  From that fact alone, I naively assumed he would be supportive of international adoption.  During the physical, he asked me what age the child we were adopting would be.  I told him of our request of a 3 to 7 year old boy.  He immediately looked concerned and told me that he would strongly recommend that we stayed closer to the three year old end of that range.  I knew exactly what he was thinking about.  He was thinking about brain connections.  In that moment, I tried to reassure him that I knew what we were getting into, but I don't think he was convinced with my rattling off of key words from our adoption training.

It's ok.  I don't have to convince my doctor.  God has already convinced me.

I am thankful that God overcame my close minded response 15 years ago.  I am thankful that God can still change my mind in a positive way, and I am thankful for the work that He will do in our son's mind once he comes home.

"Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God."  Romans 12:1-2 HCS

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of these children.

(James reading to Lucy in early 1999.  I had learned how important it was to read to your babies early and often in those parenting books.)

(Lucy and I having dinner with our family of three in early 1999.  This was towards the end of my vest phase.)