I’m an avid jigsaw puzzler, always have been, always will be. Unlike a lot of people, I’m totally fine with doing a puzzle over and over and over again. Even after a sibling has chewed the piece that completes the center of the red chrysanthemums (I’m looking at you, Andrew) or a few edge pieces have gone the way of the vacuum rendering the puzzle eternally incomplete, I will be content with the end result.
This honed life skill has held me in good stead as we’ve met our adoptive children and received tiny pieces of their puzzles in small doses. Puzzles come together best late at night when you have a hot cup of tea and you are letting your mind wander through the pieces. Slowly, oh so slowly, you start to see connections and effortlessly 3, then 4, then 5 pieces all match up and begin to form a recognizable picture.
That’s where my mind is right now as I ponder all we know about our son Roman. Here are pieces I’ve put together, they form parts of the picture. God see all the pieces, I see only a few, but the pieces we have been given tell a story of selfless love and God’s providence.
Roman was abandoned at birth at the hospital. It turns out his bio mom did not name him, as we first heard, and his name tag simply said “boy, birthdate” until a nurse assigned him a name. I’m glad we did not know this; while we pondered name scenarios I knew for certain that if our child had been randomly given a name by a stranger, we would not keep that name. We would have changed Roman’s name in heartbeat, and lived to regret that decision as other pieces came to light.
This little nameless boy was shuffled to a corner of a packed hospital room; if he cried too loud, the nurses would put him in a distant corridor so that they would not have to hear him. Eventually he stayed in the nursery because his cries had become too weak to disturb anyone. I know this is shocking for Americans, but an abandoned child with special needs in this country is seen as worthless. No one would file a neglect case if they saw this happening, these things happen every day and are seen but unseen. I want you to know this because this is happening to other children today, right now, children who are unnamed, who were abandoned due to their differences. It is such an ugly piece of the puzzle, I hate to see it in Roman’s story. I have a hard time picking up this piece, laying it on that table and acknowledging it – but hiding the truth will not help all the other children we are leaving behind, the ones who are still waiting. It is the darkest piece of the puzzle.
A nurse from the hospital posted on her social network page how sad she was to see a newborn so completely abandoned. Another woman happened to read the post, went to the hospital, saw Roman in his baby bassinet, and there “where his mama should be, there was no one” she told me through her tears. This woman, who had her own firstborn 2 month old child waiting at home, could not leave this baby alone to die. She told me his diaper was overflowing, he was too weak to cry; she knew in her heart that if she did not do anything, this child would die.
But what could she do? She had her own child who needed her at home. She had no means to adopt a child. It was clear that the hospital had already given up on this newborn. What could she do when medical professions, the ones who swear to do no harm, would do nothing? She prayed God would provide.
That same day an older woman posted an ad stating she was looking for a job; she was happy to be a nannie, and she listed her price, a small sum. Olga, the woman who had first visited Roman, hired her to be Roman’s nannie at the hospital. I do not know how she managed to find the money while she was also supporting her own newly grown family, but God provided.
It turned out that Helen, the woman hired as Roman’s nannie, had been unable to have children though it was her heart’s dearest wish. She did not have family to rely on as income dwindled, she was searching for a way to support herself in a society that treats the elderly just as poorly as they treat children with disabilities. It seems like the mentality here is, if you are no use to society, society has no use for you – you may was well roll over and die. She posted the ad and prayed God would provide.
Roman was her lifeline and she threw every ounce of motherly love she had bottled up for years into bringing him back from the shadows. She spent 3 months staying by his side every day, sitting where the mother should be. The nurses soon learned not to overlook that little boy, the one who should have already been dead, because that Baba would give them hell if she came in and found him in a soiled diaper. On days when he was too fragile and weak to be held, Helen would rest her head beside him and kiss his fingertips. She told me she didn’t want him to think he was alone.
After two months of gentle care from Helen, Roman was strong enough for the doctors to attempt the first surgery to prevent further damage from his hydrocephalus. It was at this point that Olga decided Roman should be baptized, but who would be the Godparents? In this culture, being a Godparent is a big responsibility, you do not enter into it lightly. Olga was ready to be Godmother but she did not know a man who would step up to be God father to an abandoned child. You know what? God provided.
He provided an incredible man who has three sons and one daughter of his own (which is twice the size of the average family here, 1 kid is enough, 2 is a lot, 3 is huge and 4…4 is madness). This father’s heart opened to Roman, a scrawny fatherless infant, and he stepped into the role of Godfather with gusto. Soon, in addition to Helen’s constant presence and Olga’s motherly visits, the God father would stop in at the hospital with chocolates for the nurses and additional baby supplies for Roman. He would track down the doctors and go through the medical updates, always asking what more could be done, how could it be made to happen, always pushing for the best care (as every caring parent would do for their child) and always reminding the staff that this little boy was NOT forgotten.
Roman spent the first 3 months of his life at the hospital, surviving 2 intensive surgeries, and slowly coming back to life thanks to the care of people who had come together to provide for him. When he was deemed medically stable enough to be discharged, he was transferred to an institution to be one of 12 babies in his group, one among hundreds of children at the orphanage.
At this point of the story his angels could have walked away believing they were no longer needed. People in this country are told that institutions are prepared to care for children with special needs; if you have never walked through one of these orphanages, you wouldn’t think to doubt the official word. But they came and visited him, they saw the silent toddlers zonked by sedatives lined up cribs against the wall in a room that was freezing in the winter and sweltering in the summer. Collectively they did what they could, they brought supplies including diapers and formula, strollers and fresh food. They were a constant reminder to the staff that this little boy, who lived in his own world and did not light up when you came in the room or giggled when you tickled his chin, mattered even if the caretakers did not want to bother with him. It is much more gratifying to pick up the babies who will coo and cuddle, but his Godparents and Helen continued to visit him with steadfast selfless love, love they gave even when they did receive a shred of recognition from his wide blue eyes. For two years they visited him and through all this they prayed, they prayed God would provide.
God provided 31 June, a charity that helps children with neurological needs receive medical support. Last autumn this charity took Roman and another child from his orphanage to the Neurological Institute for tests to make sure his shunt was ship shape. While there, Roman received other interventions including massage and physical therapy. They also happened to take him on an outing to the zoo where they snapped a few pictures of him thinking about deer. Later these pictures were shared (without giving away the child’s identity or location). I must tell you that the people in this charity are truly amazing. They do all they can to change the culture here from the inside out, they provide families with support to help them keep their children and, if that fails, they work hard to keep children in orphanages alive and healthy while they wait for families. When they have done all they can do, they pray. They pray God will provide.
Meanwhile, across the globe, my husband and I were praying that God would provide for us to adopt Angelina. We prayed He would make a way, and He did and then some. As 2015 came to an end we ran the numbers and realized we were fully funded, in fact, through anonymous donations, we had more than enough. It was then I remembered a little face I had seen one day back in November. I scanned through facebook threads until I found it, a little boy waiting in an orphanage who had spent one day at the zoo where he smiled on the inside but showed the camera a somber thoughtful face. We ran the numbers again, seeing if we could add a second child to our family, and we prayed God would provide.
He did. God provided an international community that swelled around my family and supported us in every way. As I prayed that God would provide love for Roman while he waited for us, his surrogate family prayed that God would provide a family for Roman. All along God was providing, we just didn’t have enough of the puzzle pieces to the see the picture, until now.
On the day we met Roman’s angels and everyone shared their piece of the puzzle, we began to see how everything worked with God’s providence. God provided for Roman to be born in a hospital where there would be one nurse who would share Roman’s need. He provided one mother’s heart to respond to the need. He provided one grandmother’s love to nurture this boy. He provided one father’s strength that demanded the best care. He provided one orphanage that allowed non-family members to visit Roman. He provided one charity to follow up on his medical needs. He provided one family from across the globe who came to be his family.
This story revolves around Roman, but the pieces the spread out to each life he has touched, so far I have not found an edge piece, this picture just keeps getting bigger. I don’t see the entire picture, but I can see that it is a big picture. The effects of this one life have rippled around the globe and I believe they will continue to spread. Roman’s Godmother has a daughter, and Roman is her heart-son. We will stay in touch, she will never be forgotten in our home. His surrogate grandmother has a whole village of people back at her hometown who call to see how Roman is doing, he is the child she always longed for, we will stay in touch and always tell Roman about his loving Baba in his motherland. When her lifeline job as his hospital nannie ended, Roman’s Godfather hired Helen as the nannie for his own children. The lives of these strangers who had never met before are now a network of support, not just for Roman, but for one another. Roman became a poster child in this country for the plight of children who are abandoned, even having a tv talk show episode dedicated to him and the needs of children like him. The hospital staff will not soon forget the little boy they tried to forget but who was precious in God’s sight. The nurses won’t soon forget the chocolates, the mama bear, or the heaven-sent Baba who’d give them hell. The nurses will remember how complete strangers cared for a little boy that society deemed worthless; I pray they think on that the next time they mentally try to unsee the neglect. The orphanage was blessed by the sponsorship of Roman’s surrogate family. When his Godfamily learned that Roman didn’t go outside because there weren’t enough strollers, instead of providing one stroller for one child, they provided six strollers for good measure. That means that when Roman was taken outside on nice days for a little stroll, five other children were able to feel the wind on their face too – before they had only the four walls and a ceiling. When Roman leaves the orphanage, he will leave behind six strollers, and the memory in the staff’s mind of a child who was abandoned but not forgotten. It is unheard of in his country for strangers to act this way towards a child with disabilities. The fact that God provided so many people, in so many different ways is nothing short of a miracle.
It is a miracle that will not soon be forgotten and I believe the ripples are still spreading. The pieces of this puzzle stretch as far back as God’s love for humanity and I pray is spreads forward for generations.