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This child is a seven-year-old boy from Bulgaria (same country as my Nasko). Ryan was 11 pounds when his family adopted him two months ago from a place of extreme abuse and neglect. Today they are confirming their fears that Ryan has no physical issues or limitations which have caused him to be underdeveloped. His body is damaged purely because of abuse and neglect.

With her permission, I’d like to share what Ryan’s new mama wrote about his condition yesterday:

His blood tests, fecal tests, urine tests, and biopsies are all back. He has no chromosomal abnormalities. No syndromes. He does not have Hirshsprung’s disease, celiac, crohns, etc… No diseases. He does have a very common parasite that hasn’t contributed much to his condition, but it is being treated and cleared out.

He’s been cleared of lower GI issues. His bowels are fine; upper GI is a different story. His esophagus and stomach are toast. They are inflamed, scarred, and severely damaged. 

Ryan can’t eat by mouth because he gulps air, which fills his stomach and leaves no room for food. He swallows incorrectly due to gulping fluid that was poured down his throat in the orphanage.

Every single issue he has is a direct result of neglect, abuse, and starvation. 

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None of this is genetic — he has no condition. This is what seven years of fighting to stay alive looks like. He destroyed his own body trying to survive. 

He gulps air because it makes his feel full. When he eats by mouth he throws up his feeds back into his mouth over and over again so he can keep re-swallowing the same food, to trick his body into thinking it’s being fed regularly. When he throws up, stomach acid comes up with it, this has caused the damage to his esophagus. 

So, how to fix it? There is no way, honestly. He will have to “unlearn” these behaviors the same way he learned them. Once he figures out that mom and dad are a forever thing, that being hungry and starved will NEVER happen again, that being cuddled and loved is his new normal, that abuse and abandonment are gone forever — once all of those things are secure in his mind, once they are unquestionable facts in his mind — then and only then will we start to turn a corner. It could be weeks, or months, or years. 

But, no matter how long it takes, he is our family — family is forever — no one gets left behind. 

He will come home on a tube that feeds directly into his intestines. We will have a home health nurse. We will all have to figure out a new normal for our family. 

Thank you to everyone who has been praying, calling, offering help, donating, and sending cards. I try to be strong for Ryan and for my family. I usually say we don’t need help, but today I’m asking for help. That is hard for me. It’s humbling and I’m not good at it, but I don’t know how long my son will be a shell of a person. I don’t know the person looking back at me in the mirror. I’m not an angry or vengeful person but all I feel is rage for the people who did this to my baby. 

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I need your prayers. For Ryan, and for me. I really need to find a way to hold on to my faith and be strong for my boy. 

Right now I don’t know how to do any of those things.

Ryan’s new adoptive mama is now dealing with the same rage and hate that I feel everyday when I think about Nasko’s condition.

I don’t honestly believe that Nasko was born with autism. I never have. I believe abuse and neglect has caused it. 

Realizing this fact, and dealing with his frustrating behaviors that come as a result of the abuse, frequently cause a bitterness and anger to grow inside of me. Sometimes I even misplace that hate upon Nasko, but most days I remember the institution and the caregivers who hurt him are to blame.

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Still, almost four years later, I have not forgiven the people who hurt my son. 

They have made him who he is, and while I strive to love him unconditionally, I know that his life could have been very different.

Had he not been abused, maybe he could communicate more fully. Maybe he wouldn’t seek to victimize others. Maybe fear would not drive his every decision. Maybe he wouldn’t resist physical touch and eye contact. Maybe his brain wouldn’t be so hyper-focused on knives and electrical outlets and fire and harming babies, but it would have more space for learning his colors and numbers and shapes.

Had he not been abused, maybe he would be easier to love. 

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Please pray for Ryan’s new mama, and pray for me, as this journey to forgiveness actually gets harder, not easier. This is a side of adoption that is rarely discussed. We share the “Coming Home” videos, and we post the updates about the children’s physical progress, but we rarely give a full picture of the adoptive mamas’ (and tatys’) hearts.

Bitterness and anger threaten to overtake our hearts, as we think about what could have been. The animals who have caused harm and torment to our children could easily breed hate in hearts that are otherwise filled with compassion.

Everyday we must choose love. We must actively decide to forgive, and hopefully we’ll carry that forgiveness over to tomorrow and the next day as well.

Please pray for the adoptive mama’s heart.

[Click here to follow Ryan and his story on Facebook.]

If this post has touched you, please share it, as my goal is to give a voice to the voiceless. Please partner with me in making the stories of the orphans heard.

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